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Students, administration reflect on 1st session of U. Summer Service Internship Initiative

University President Jonathan Holloway first announced the Rutgers Summer Service Internship (RSSI) Initiative in November 2021.  – Photo by Zeete / Wikimedia.org

The Rutgers Summer Service Internship (RSSI) Initiative, a program that provides paid internships to Rutgers students, recently completed its inaugural summer session.

Heather Escalona, assistant director of the RSSI program, said University President Jonathan Holloway first introduced the program publicly in November 2021. 

The program then commenced in May with a networking event for participants to meet each other and Holloway, and continued through the summer, she said. The participants will also be able to participate in a celebratory event this September. 

Escalona said that the program offered internships with 71 different organizations in different fields, from climate justice to immigration. Each internship followed a two-part structure: one consisting of the formal internship, and the other consisting of an asynchronous course.

For their participation in the program, students received a $5,000 stipend and tuition remission for the course’s fees, she said.

By the end, interns completed a minimum of 200 hours in their positions, learning professional skill sets, expanding their understanding of civic engagement, understanding differences and developing solutions to social issues, she said.

Zaib Nageeb, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said that her service project in the RSSI program was with the Ocean Inc. Head Start Program, where her role was to help guide students and families living in poverty to resources. 

Nageeb said that while the work was time-consuming, it was worth it to connect families with resources that could change the lives of children and families for generations to come.

“What I have noticed over my time interning at Head Start is that there are generations of families in this program with many of them graduating college and entering the workforce,” she said. “It is proof that this program does in fact give students a head start in their education.”

Nageeb said that her experience aligned with her public health major and helped her get glimpses of real-world problems that different communities face. She said that she was able to directly connect with members of her own community and gain motivation to combat the hardships they face.

Professionally, the program allowed her to enjoy the experience of working with the logistics of outreach events and working with families and children, she said.

“This program allowed me to understand the needs of my community and opened my eyes to ample resources and volunteer opportunities within my own community which I never knew existed,” Nageeb said.

She also said that the RSSI program served as a good example of a space for college students from different backgrounds to work together toward a common goal but wished that she could have met with her cohort more often.

Escalona said that the program’s cohort included 94 students from all three of the University's campuses, with the majority coming from the New Brunswick campus.

She said the majority of students self-identified as being either Asian American/Pacific Islander, Black/African American, Latino, Middle Eastern/North African or of mixed race.

She also said nearly three-fourths of the participants use she/her pronouns while three students use they/them pronouns, and the remaining identify with he/him pronouns. 

Escalona said that applications for next summer’s cohort will be released sometime in November, but that they will only be open to individuals who have not participated in the program before due to the amount of interest students had this year. 

She said that students in their sophomore and junior year who meet the 2.5 GPA requirement and have a desire to help others are invited to apply. 

“We have heard many positive stories from internship supervisors of the impact students have made on their organizations and communities they served,” Escalona said. “Some students were invited back to intern again or were asked to consider applying to their internship placement for a full-time job after graduation.”


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