Persistence in public school education

Categories: General News Tags: Student Life

Mariah Manley wasn’t planning on getting an internship last summer, especially after her first year in college. The Honors College student knew that it was difficult for freshmen like herself to receive summer internships, and she planned on working hard her freshman year so she could enjoy her summer. There would be time for internships when she became an upperclassman.

Manley is majoring in health systems management with a minor in public health and Spanish. She plans to graduate in May 2025 and eventually work in the management side of a hospital or a clinic.

“I have a lot of medical conditions, so most of my life I have been visiting doctors offices and seeing different specialists who have helped me along the way,” said Manley. “So when it came time to decide what I wanted to major in and do with my life, I wanted to be on the side of helping physicians help their patients.”

Obtaining an internship is an important step in any student’s pathway to a career. Manley is determined to have a career that is meaningful and impactful on the lives of others. So when she opened her email inbox one day in February with an email from one of her advisors advertising more than 40 paid internships with North Carolina nonprofit organizations, she knew she had to try.

The Nonprofit Internship Program through the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation partners with nonprofit organizations in North Carolina to offer paid internships to Pell grant-eligible, North Carolina college students. The goal is to expand paid opportunities for students to explore the nonprofit field and diversify the pool of young nonprofit professionals in North Carolina over time.

Manley was one of 43 students selected for this program, but her path getting there wasn’t so easy.

She originally applied for three of the internships and received two interviews but no offers.

“I did get upset, but instead of me being sad, I have a 24-hour rule where after 24 hours of feeling that way, you have to get over it,” said Manley. “We have to move on. We have to get back to the mentality of applying for more.”

And that’s exactly what she did. She kept applying to additional internships. In March, she received another email from the foundation announcing five additional internships. She applied again and received an offer from Public Schools First NC which ended up being a perfect fit for Manley.

Public Schools First NC is a statewide nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focused solely on pre-K through 12 public education issues. Manley is a fierce advocate for public education. She was raised by a single mother, Shannon Manley, who has been an English teacher in public schools for over 20 years. She attended public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, and now as an honors student at Charlotte’s great urban public university, she credits many of her successes to her public school education.

Manley jumped into her role as a research intern for Public Schools First NC headfirst on June 1. Much of her work over the eight-week internship went toward helping the organization educate the public on the value of public schools and bring awareness of current issues in public education. She synthesized information from articles and turned them into educational posts and videos for social media, increasing the organization’s followers on Instagram and Facebook.

Through a Spanish immersion program at her elementary school, Manley became bilingual at age 10, a skill she put to use at her internship translating the organization’s newsletters into Spanish in order to reach a broader audience.

The highlight of Manley’s internship happened in late June. A fellow nonprofit organization, Every Child NC, hosted an “Opportunity for Every Child” rally in response to legislative efforts to expand private school vouchers in North Carolina. Manley had mentioned in her interview with Public Schools First NC that she loves public speaking. Her bosses asked Manley if she would like to speak at the rally on why the impact of public schools on her life and why it is essential to not fund private schools at the expense of public schools.

“I had never been to or spoke at a rally before, but I am a proud public school graduate,” said Manley. “I think it is beneficial if you have someone who is at college, especially someone who was valedictorian of their high school, to tell people that if you put your kids through public schools, they can do extraordinary things like me.”

Manley’s speech at the rally was featured in an article on EdNC.

Her first internship ended up being better than she could have imagined. She learned new skills, honed old skills, was covered in the media and she even took part in a podcast discussing her appreciation for public schools. To top it all off, Public Schools First NC asked if she would be willing to stay on in a part-time capacity through her fall semester.

Now a sophomore, Manley has several tips for students who are looking to get an internship of their own this year:

  • Make sure you have at least one professor who really knows you. Manley credits Andrew Keener, her professor in the honors-level Critical Thinking and Communication course, with serving as a reference and helping her through the application process.
  • Talk to your advisors. They have access to a lot of information that can help you.
  • Put anything you’ve accomplished on your resume. Don’t forget your successes.
  • Use the University Career Center
  • Make a LinkedIn, and make it professional.
  • Talk with upperclassmen about their experiences. They may know someone who is hiring for an internship and can always give great advice.
  • Check your email. Check your UNC Charlotte email. Many colleges and advisors will forward internship opportunities to you during the spring semester.
  • And finally, just apply. Even if you aren’t sure if this specific internship is exactly what you want, it is good to try something different.