What’s it like to be a Royster Lawton Fellow?
Ask Frank Valdez, who interned at Comp-U-Dopt in Houston, Texas.
This summer I had the opportunity to intern at Comp-U-Dopt in Houston, Texas. Comp-U-Dopt is a non-profit that provides technology education programming for elementary, middle, and high school students and donates laptops to economically disadvantaged students after the completion of one of their programs. Comp-U-Dopt focuses on disadvantaged communities to close the gap in technology and after school programming accessibility in the Houston area. I pursued this internship because I have always been passionate about education accessibility. I give a lot of credit to where I am today to the non-profit academic programs that supported me growing up. I hoped that this internship would give me exposure to the non-profit industry as I have always dreamed of opening up a community center in Houston to connect underprivileged communities with the resources they need to persevere. Instead, I received a lot more. I started as a Program Intern where I helped with the logistics of the summer programming and coordinating the program celebration. I ended up also being a teacher assistant and a teacher when I was needed. It was a very rewarding experience to be able to teach and mentor high school students. I learned that I have a strong passion for mentoring. Many of the people I worked with were former teachers which opened my eyes to the education field. I realized how much of a difference a teacher can have in a student’s life. Teachers have the power to inspire and empower students directly. I have lived in Houston for over 19 years; however, I have never seen it like I did this summer. I have always noticed the poverty and the inequalities between communities, but this summer I witnessed more hope and empowerment than ever.
I also enjoyed working in a small non-profit environment. I was fortunate enough to work with a group of ambitious and energetic individuals who were passionate about their work. It was fascinating seeing how a non-profit runs on a day to day basis. I was able to observe the process of applying to and receiving grants. I was also able to sit in on meetings with other non-profits in the Houston area. Through this experience I was also able to learn about the historical issues involving the gentrification of Houston neighborhoods and the problems that it has left to this day. Learning about this made me realize how access to quality education needs to be tackled in various ways. Programs that empower disadvantaged communities are amazing, but it is also important to work towards a permanent solution so that the future generations of that community do not face the same problems. During my time at the internship, I was able to connect with community leaders working towards making policies and laws to protect the members of the community. I have lived in Houston for over 19 years; however, I have never seen it like I did this summer. I have always noticed the poverty and the inequalities between communities, but this summer I witnessed more hope and empowerment than ever.
As I return for my second year at the University of Virginia, I hope that my summer internship experience gives me a new perspective in my studies, especially in the field of Economic Development. I hope it makes me a better critical thinker when it comes to understanding how to erase the disparities in a community without pushing out the underprivileged population.
Spend your summer working towards an impact. Apply here!