Intern Testimonials & Success Stories

Our internships are highly organized, fast paced, powerful professional development experiences for people who wish to enter the environmental education field, or “round out” their backgrounds as they prepare for science careers.  We at the Alliance mean business…and business is good!

The Colorado River Alliance has several internships available for the spring and summer academic terms. Internships are unpaid but are available for academic credit. Interns are expected to commit at least 15 hours a week, unless specified in the listings below. For policy or graphic design internships, be prepared to submit a portfolio or writing samples along with your resume and application. Download the INTERNSHIP APPLICATION. For more information about interning with CRA, please contact geoff@coloradoriver.org.

Spring 2015 Redbud Programming launches with our new Interns!
After a record-setting fall 2014 attendance, the Redbud programs are set to reprise their success with a fully booked spring 2015 season! Our fantastic interns were carefully chosen from a competitive group of candidates to support this spring’s field trips and environmental outreach events.  Read their “Life as an Alliance Intern” testimonials below:

Fall 2014 “Life as an Alliance Intern” Testimonials:

Spring 2014 Internship Success Story:

AMAZING INTERNS

Katie Cunningham, University of Texas Hydrogeology Major
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On the first day of my internship I arrived a little overdressed, slightly nervous, but truly excited. I (thankfully) was greeted, however, by a jean-strutting staff all sporting warm smiles.

In preparation for our first Green Gardening event, I worked with another intern to complete multiple tasks to help the event run smoothly. After a few awkward phone calls, we developed a rhythm to calling local nurseries to ask for plant donations and created a plant “wish list” that we could hopefully plant in out garden. In this process, I came across an organization that donates free milkweed plants to schools and non-profits, which has now become my most recent project. I’m getting first hand experience at grant writing and the research required to running an effective non-profit organization.

In addition, as the lead intern for our Creek Restorations this semester, I have already attended and now assessed this spring’s first restoration. We had over 20 volunteers, and with all the extra hands we collected numerous bags of trash and recycling and removed multiple invasive species. Before this event, I hadn’t known about creek restorations or that the plants we removed were invasive species. For the upcoming restorations, I hope to lead the next group of volunteers and educate them about the impact they have on our creeks, and sequentially, our river.

The first day observing a field trip was incredible! I was so amazed at the students’ knowledge as well as how quickly they were able to learn new things that they hadn’t known before. My favorite station thus far would have to be the watershed station. The enviroscape demo is so exciting to use, and the kids love it! The students are really able to visualize where pollution comes from and how it pollutes our river. By the end of the field trip, all of the students were buzzing with excitement, and eagerly shouting out answers to questions.

From my first day as an intern to where I am now, I can truly say that the experiences I’ve had at the Colorado River Alliance thus far are a promising future for the remainder of the semester. I couldn’t ask for a better life as an intern.

Andrea McCuistion, University of Texas Human Development and Family Sciences Majorandrea_mccuistion_final

I never imagined that I would be an environmental educator. I love the outdoors, but this was a title that I never thought that I’d be. It’s so funny because now I find myself nerding out with people about the Colorado River and our programs here at the Alliance. Interning at the Colorado River Alliance this spring has given a wealth of knowledge that I can’t wait to share because I know that what we teach and learn here makes a difference for our community. When you meet the staff here, it’s impossible to walk away without their passion rubbing off on you towards the river and promoting awareness of how rich of a resource we have. I feel very privileged to be a recipient of this passion and to get a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of this awesome non-profit.

One of the main things that I will do this spring is teach our YES (Youth Experience Stewardship) Program to 3rd – 5th graders. It’s a new experience for me, but it has been really cool to see them engage with science and water concepts in a way that is interactive. My favorite station is our Colorado River Station that takes them through a series of models that demonstrate the Highland Lakes and the dams. They get to spin wheels and see how different kinds of dams work. We end this station with our very own models of Lake Travis, Lake Austin, and Lady Bird Lake. The kids get really excited about this part and they’re pumped up as we take them to our lookout to see the Tom Miller Dam. Through all of this, it makes me feel like I am learning too along with the kids. I have been learning not only about the topics that I teach, but also about them, how they learn, how to engage them and communicate with them.

Also, I have been learning a lot in the office. There are several projects that the interns get to lead and coordinate. We work together to plan for our outreach creek clean-ups, creek restoration events, and our green gardening days. The main project that I will work on is planning our Green Gardening Days. These are outreach events where we invite the public to volunteer to help us plant and maintain our gardens that we use in our tours and our YES program. We teach our volunteers about sustainable gardening practices and the various types of native plants. This has really been eye opening to me as I am learning how to plan and coordinate for these days from creating a schedule, to planning the work that we will actually do in the gardens, asking for donations, and I look forward to seeing this event come together.

Being a few months into this internship, I feel that I have gotten more of a grasp on all the things that this organization does. There’s so much going on all the time, and it’s exciting because it always keeps me on my toes. I look forward to all that I will continue to learn and am thankful for all the growing opportunities that I have been able to have through this internship. I know that this will prepare me as I plan to graduate from UT Austin in May and I hope to continue to build upon all the skills and knowledge that I’ve gained from the Alliance.

Austin Reynolds, Texas State Environmental and Resource Management Major
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Non-profit organizations and those who govern them have always interested me. Wrapping up my final months of college, I knew ambition in the workforce can only get you so far, you need experience. In the fall of 2014 I began to search for work opportunities pertaining to the environmental sector. My knowledge ranges from water resources and policy to statistics and data entry.  I hoped to find an established company to sink my teeth into utilizing all these skills I’ve acquired while being a geography major at Texas State. Sure enough the first job fair I attended in my college career the Colorado River Alliance was there. Sarah introduced me to the Alliance, and what exactly their vision for the Austin community was all about. Becoming an environmental educator to the kids of the Austin community quickly began to grow on me, and I accepted the offer to be a spring intern.

My internship with the Alliance has challenged me to evolve the knowledge I’ve gained through school and utilize it in a workplace. Working in a team setting, public speaking, data entry and management, time management, and increasing knowledge on the environment are all things I come into contact with every day through this internship. These all are intertwined to help acclimate you into a business field while helping the Alliance continue to grow and produce positive results. I’ve been given special data analysis projects to show trends in the activities going on with the alliance, such as the number of seasonal volunteers and the average number of hours they work per season. This project was given to me with manageable instruction by my supervisor, while allowing me to be creative. Finding interesting results in this data is not uncommon as every result uncovered reveals information that can further help the Colorado River Alliance to better accommodate educating the community about water. Having a job becomes a lot easier when the day to day tasks and connections you encounter are producing positive benefits for future generations.

Educational docents of the Alliance’s Redbud Program provide a great means of hands on education for young minds. As a docent you get to see kids learn outside of the classroom, and truly enjoy and question the content we teach. For me water is the greatest resource, because everyone needs it. Being rich or poor, black or white, Catholic or Muslim we all must have water. Seeing the knowledge of this resource bringing kids together and allowing them to see who all shares the water of the Colorado River is an amazing feeling. The RedBud Center’s model of the highland lakes system provides all types of kids the opportunity to witness the connection of the river and the dams that control its waters. Some of these kids may never have the opportunity to make the drives out to these individual dams, and would never understand the numerous benefits they provide for the city of Austin and the surrounding areas. This internship has given me insight into what makes a productive non-profit, its being innovative with ideas, remembering why you started in the first place, and do something bigger than yourself.

Juliet Hunter Jefferson, University of Texas Geology and Geography Major

Many of my friends espouse the saying, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Prior to my becoming an Intern for the Colorado River Alliance, I never thought I’d be lucky enough to land the kind of “dream internship” one sees in films; an internship that enables one to learn, create, and interact with others in a positive, fast-paced work environment, all while gaining invaluable work experience! My experience as an Alliance Intern, while pleasantly challenging, is a very far cry from the monotonous grunt work one might associate with a stereotypical internship. What I do here is too enjoyable to be considered “work”! Each week, I get to make meaningful contributions to a fantastic organization that does amazing things for Austin’s environment and communities!

One of my chief responsibilities as an Alliance Intern is to help set up and run Redbud Program Field Trips, during which Alliance staff, interns, and docents teach grades 3-5 schoolchildren about the Texas Colorado River, the water cycle, watersheds, and water conservation. I love interacting with the kids, especially since I meet such a variety of different personalities. No experience teaching a group of students is ever the same as another! Keeping the kids behaved and engaged can sometimes be a challenge, but this provides ample opportunity for me to come out of my shell and practice good communication skills. I look forward to analyzing data from the kids’ pledges, pre-tests and post-tests, which are administered during field trips. While data analysis may not sound very exciting, it’s fascinating to think about how children’s different socioeconomic backgrounds may influence both their understanding of water science concepts and their willingness to take steps to conserve water. Learning how to use advanced statistical analysis software is definitely an exciting prospect as well!

When I’m not at the Redbud Center teaching water science concepts, I’m usually in the office working on Redbud Program Education Kits, social media support, event coordination, and assistance with office tasks. I’ve been given lots of creative control over my side projects, particularly with the Education Kits, which include hands-on lessons and experiments that enable students to have fun while learning about water science! I’m currently editing and revising the contents of the Watershed Wonders and Drop-by-Drop kits, and plan to create a new lesson to be included in Watershed Wonders! Social media support is also a blast because—let’s be honest—who’s ever tried Instagram without immediately developing a severe addition to amateur photography? More importantly, it provides an excellent avenue for communicating to Austinites about exciting volunteer opportunities and about the importance of conserving water and protecting the environment.

For me, the biggest contributing factor that makes working as an Alliance Intern such a great experience is the positivity of Alliance staff and the office’s friendly atmosphere. Each staff member adopts a cheerful and encouraging attitude that lasts all day despite their being burdened with heaps of responsibility. The other interns and I are treated with the utmost kindness and respect, and we’re constantly made to feel appreciated for the work we do. What’s more, our work environment is clean and professional, yet cozy and laid-back. Staff members and interns frequently tease and joke with each other, as well as collaborate together on projects and events. This creates a wonderful sense of community and camaraderie, and encourages frequent communication. I’m never afraid to share ideas or ask for help!

Each member of the Alliance is clearly passionate about protecting and raising awareness about the Texas Colorado River and the animals—including humans—that depend on it to live and thrive. All this, in addition to the projects and assignments I’m given, make me feel as though I’m truly making a difference for my environment and community by contributing to the work of this stellar non-profit. My experience as an Alliance Intern has helped me to develop clearer career goals than I’ve ever had before, and I feel confident that I will pursue work with similar non-profits in future! I also hope to volunteer with the Alliance for as long as I remain in Austin! Thanks for giving me the most positive work experience I’ve ever had, Colorado River Alliance!

Sarah McConnon, University of Texas Biology Major

Intern_mcconnonAs an intern at the Colorado River Alliance, I am always doing different things each day. While my focus within the internship is environmental education, that certainly does not completely encompass my activities there. It is an entirely dynamic atmosphere within the office. My day with a field trip consists of teaching children about the Colorado River, interacting with educational docents, and coordinating and cleaning up my respective education station once the kids leave, and that is all before lunch. I then do a myriad of things including data entry and organizing for various events. My role in organizing events is specifically focused on green gardening and creek restorations, both events which foster sustainable solutions in conjunction with community building. Organizing entails the details of the event- when is it, what will we do, who can help us (volunteer and/or donate), what is our budget, etc. It also encompasses how this fits into the overall goal and mission statement of the Alliance and how what we are doing constantly reflects what the nonprofit focuses on. It involves paying attention to the little details as well as the overarching themes so that the event flows seamlessly into the Alliance’s core values.

Besides the interns, the Alliance has a core group of hardworking staff that focus simultaneously on maintaining the current programs and looking for new ways to grow. This is no easy feat. It is evident that the folks who work here care a lot about what they are doing, about the mission of the Alliance, and also about each other. This interaction has been very interesting to observe as someone from both the outside and inside in discovering more of the ins and outs of a small environmental nonprofit and my role within the organization.

Overall, it is clear that at the Alliance there is always something to do. Nothing is perfect and something can always be improved upon. Everyone who works, interns, or interacts with the Alliance knows that the folks here wear many different hats and have many roles to play. This nuance of the job, though slightly overwhelming at first, transforms the routine of a typical office into an energetic atmosphere. As an intern, this is an expectation and a joy to be held to the same standard of multiple roles. With great input comes also great rewards- the satisfaction of a successful event, the joy in knowing a child has learned something because of what I taught them. The internship is a good example of how to understand the role of an environmental nonprofit in a community and the importance of each role within an organization to its overall success.

In my life, this internship has been a great way to understand how a small nonprofit works and gives me a better understanding of their role in a community and in the larger context of society. When I graduate, I hope to perhaps go into nonprofit work that benefits a community in the form of sustainable agriculture or child nutrition, so this is a great place to get a feel for nonprofit work. The Alliance is a great place to be!

Alissa Rasheed,  University of Texas Human Development & Family Sciences Major (Pre-Med)

intern_rasheedLife as an intern at the Colorado River Alliance has been absolutely fantastic!! Choosing the Alliance as my practicum site is probably the best decision I could have made this semester. Working for a small non-profit has given me opportunities to do many things that I have never done before, and I am always learning every step of the way. On a day-to-day basis, everyone is always on the go. There are always multiple things going on at once and everyone stays busy, which is what I love! I know that at the end of the day, all of my hard work that I put into my job as an intern is for a good cause, which is why working for a small non-profit is so rewarding.

One of the biggest perks of working for the Alliance is how much information you learn each day!! I have learned so much, as an adult, about the Colorado River, water conservation, and even watersheds! The curriculum that we teach here at the Alliance is fascinating and so very applicable in everyday life. I always enjoy speaking with our environmental educator here at the Alliance because she always has fun facts about the Colorado River and Austin’s water supply. There are also many other perks to working at the Alliance. I recently got to attend SXSW Eco exhibits and learn about new and emerging sustainable technologies as well as participate in some cool science activities!

At the Alliance, my role as an intern means that I get work with everyone in the office and not just a couple of people. My day-to-day tasks include a variety of things from teaching, to data entry, to marketing, to providing an extra set of helping hands during off-site events! This allows me to interact and work with everyone here at the office as well as many people in the community. The entire staff is so welcoming and helpful, which made the transition into the Alliance so smooth and easy, it feels like I’ve been here for years! My biggest role here at the Alliance is helping with the field trips and after school programs as and educational docent. Working with the students and teachers that visit the Redbud Center and teaching them about water conservation, the water cycle, watersheds, and the Colorado River is so fun! The students are always so eager and enthusiastic which makes my job tons more fun and exciting! There is also a lot of behind the scenes kind of work. I get to team up with my fellow interns throughout the semester and plan and implement our community outreach programs such as the Bouldin Creek Cleanup and the Green Gardening Day. The Green Gardening Day was a great experience because I got to learn about sustainable gardening while simultaneously teaching others about it as well.

Eventually, down the road, I wish to become a surgeon. My experience here at the Alliance is really essential in shaping me to be the best that I can be. I have had plenty of experience working in the healthcare field but the experience that I am getting here at the Alliance is different. I am learning how to complete a variety of tasks that I wouldn’t normally do while shadowing a doctor, and I am learning how to teach, learn, and interact with people of all ages. The knowledge that I take from the Alliance will truly help me to develop my career later on in my life.

Spring 2014 Intern Spotlight: Shannon Mazzei

Shannon was a spring 2014 Environmental Education Intern, who has excelled in working with grades 3-5 school children.  She has also served as an ambassador for environmental sustainability by leading the Alliance’s spring Green Gardening events, speaking on behalf of the Alliance at a Round Rock Express baseball game, and supporting our annual Family Water Festival.  She recently was accepted into a fantastic Environmental Graduate Degree Program for fall 2014.

Shannon Mazzei was looking for an internship that would combine both real world experience and her passion for bringing water conversation to the public. She knew right away that the Colorado River Alliance was a great fit. As one of the Alliance’s spring 2014 Interns, she has had the opportunity to show children the importance of protecting the Colorado River.  Morgan Grubbs, the Alliance’s Program Coordinator said, “Shannon has a wonderfully positive attitude which energized our staff and volunteers. I have never seen her have a bad day. She is always eager to get out there and teach about the environment.”

The highlight of Shannon’s internship has been the opportunity to coordinate the Alliance’s Green Gardening days, where volunteers help keep native Texas plants healthy and beautiful. This spring she worked extensively on native butterfly and herb gardens.

When asked about her favorite part about interning at the Alliance, Shannon said “I love how committed everyone, especially volunteers, are to making the field trips a positive experience for the kids.  It’s awesome to work with a group of passionate people who are trying to make a difference.” When she is not at the Alliance, Shannon enjoys hiking around the Greenbelt or exploring the state parks around Austin. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Geography and Natural Resource Management. Next fall, Shannon will continue her career by matriculating into a Master’s Program in Geography and Water Resources at the University of Wyoming. Thank you Shannon for all your great work with the Alliance!

The Alliance has three Environmental Educator Internships per school semester. We also have internships in the summer covering topics such as education, event planning, graphic design, and communication. Anyone over the age of 18 and able to pass a background check can apply for an internship with us. Interns must be able to commit to 10-15 hours per week within a given semester.  If you know someone who is interested in an internship, please have him or her send a cover letter and resume to geoff@coloradoriver.org.

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