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The Symba Spotlight Part 10: Nia Hill

Written by Anika Pasilis on August 17, 2020
4 min read

The Symba Spotlight Part 10: Nia Hill

Nia Hill recently graduated from Howard University and will be attending Columbia University this fall. She completed two remote internships this summer at the Lefkofsky Family Foundation and the John Howard Association of Illinois. Nia is an accomplished intern and student, and she completed several exciting projects and is on a path towards opening a reentry center. Read more about her incredible story below.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Nia Hill and I am a native of the West Side of Chicago, Illinois, and recent graduate of Howard University where I studied Accounting and Sociology. This upcoming Fall, I will start classes at Columbia University School of Professional Studies where I will be pursuing a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management as an HBCU Fellow (i.e. – full ride). One of my goals is to start a reentry center that will provide resources to those who were formerly incarcerated, including but not limited to, mental health services, job training, and transitional housing. This goal came to mind after indirectly experiencing the effects of mass incarceration, as well as interning at a start-up that did the same thing, except electronically. Aside from spending time with my loved ones, in my free time, I love to indulge in self-care, like going to the spa or watching a movie on Netflix.

Tell us about your remote internship. What is your title, and what are the projects and daily tasks you work on?

At JHA, I was a Prison Monitor Intern. My responsibilities included: researching nationwide COVID-19 related probation protocols for future advocacy work; orchestrating a social media campaign to introduce summer interns to the organization’s network; reviewing and summarizing, 20 prisoner letters from across Illinois to be used by the organization’s prison monitoring staff, and representing the organization at advocate meetings.

Additionally, I attended a personal branding experience called MyGPS (My Guided Personal Story). This experience was divided into three sessions, and I was able to connect more with my fellow interns and overall had a great time discussing my story and the impact I would like to have in the world.

Nia Hill

What are you enjoying most about your remote internship?

What I enjoyed most about my remote internship were the networking opportunities. One of my main goals coming into the internship program was that I wanted to meet more people who worked in the nonprofit sector in Chicago, as I will start my nonprofit there. My supervisors helped me achieve that goal by introducing me to people, who introduced me to more people. Furthermore, I took the initiative to set up informational interviews with anyone whose career path intrigued me. I was able to connect with professionals from the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, Youth Guidance, and more organizations.

I was also able to intern at both a nonprofit (JHA) and a philanthropic organization (LFF). From learning about where each organization gets its funding from the execution of different initiatives, I was able to get a better understanding of the difference between the two.
What new skills have you learned so far? 

The main skill I was able to learn was research skills. As an Accounting major, I did not have many opportunities to conduct thorough research on issues that I was interested in and provide some analysis on that research. I communicated that goal with my supervisors prior to even starting the internship.

As mentioned earlier, part of my responsibilities at both organizations was engaging in research projects. At LFF, I did research on comprehensive sex education, gun violence, and civic education. My research will potentially help the executive director make some decisions on what to fund in the future and how much. On the other hand, at JHA, I did research on current probation protocols during COVID-19. This research will help determine which area(s) JHA will advocate for in the near future. I worked on these research projects throughout the entire summer, so I can say without a doubt that my research skills have been developed, and this will prove to be beneficial in the future as I start my program at Columbia.

How have your company and internship manager supported you through your internship? 

I had done an online internship once before, so I was prepared to some extent. However, it was different this time, especially under the circumstances we were under. Interning online at a new company during a pandemic while taking summer classes? I honestly did not know what to expect.

That being said, my internship managers were extremely supportive throughout my internship. They communicated with me effectively, helped me achieve my professional goals, were intentional about developing our relationship, and ensured I was productive throughout the entire internship. I did not receive busy work; I was able to complete meaningful tasks.

Additionally, my internship managers gave me a chance. Usually, those who may be successful in getting an internship at a foundation or a nonprofit such as JHA are Psychology majors, Sociology majors, or Criminal Justice majors. I recently graduated with a degree in Accounting. However, I told them about my future goals and how passionate I was about reducing (and ultimately eliminating) recidivism. I believe that is what led me to successfully getting two internships at amazing organizations.

What advice would you give to other interns about to embark on their first remote internship?

I would give a few tips to those who are about to embark on their first remote internship.

  1. Keep an open mind and remain patient, as many companies are still learning how to create a worthwhile remote internship program.
  2. Take initiative and connect with anyone you have a desire to speak with. I was able to speak with CEOs and Directors of Donor Relations, despite being a summer intern. I simply reached out, told them a bit about myself, and asked to speak with them for about half an hour. All of them said yes.
  3. Develop your time management skills. As you will be interning at home, it is very easy to become idle. Create a routine in which you are completing the tasks that are assigned to you promptly to make a good impression on your managers and to advance the mission of the organization.
  4. Have fun! Yes, interning remotely during a pandemic is very different. However, you should still be able to enjoy yourself. Try participating in (or leading) virtual happy hours or game nights. Continue to bond with our fellow interns and managers. Make sure you still have fun and make memories.

By Anika Pasilis

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