By Lindsey Siferd
My internship this summer at The Vegetarian Resource Group has been such a rewarding learning experience for me. I can’t believe that I have been here since the end of May– and that two and a half months has gone by so quickly. I am amazed at what I was able to accomplish over this time, and all that I have learned and encountered at the VRG. I was a committed vegetarian before interning, but my commitment has been strengthened, along with a new understanding of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles.
My first day involved a tour of the office, in which I met Charles, Debra, Sonja, John, and Mary, the other staff members that I would work with over the next two months. I got to see the extensive library and learn about the important role that each person plays in the office. Over time, I was also able to meet the other two summer interns, Jessica and Yasmin, both of whom it was great to work with, and Eric, a volunteer who was often in the office. All of these people proved to be important to me over my time at the VRG.
During my first week here, I worked on writing and sending out a press release about the two most recent high school scholarship winners. As an English major, I was excited to jump into writing for the VRG. I was immediately impressed by the dedication that several high school students have shown to activism and promoting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. I also learned how much time it takes to effectively find the email contacts of every top newspaper and local flier in two US cities.
Throughout my time interning at the VRG, I worked on several different projects, both with Jessica, and by myself. Some articles I worked on during my internship were:
- A Vegan Easter and Lent– This article involved a lot of research into the VRG’s extensive recipe database, as well as thinking about all of the meals and traditions that are a part of Easter and Lent, and how they could be modified for a vegan lifestyle.
- Vegan Food at College Campuses– In this article, Jessica and I compiled a list of vegan options at several college campuses in Maryland. We learned about variety of ways in which college campuses interpret “vegan options,” some of which are for the better and some which are for the worse.
- Vegan at College 101– As a follow-up to our previous article, Jessica and I interviewed 13 vegan college students at campuses around the country and asked them questions about their lifestyle at school, along with their advice for other students.
- A Vegetarian Action on Tina Fox and Vegetarian for Life– This article was a piece to be featured in the Vegetarian Journal. Charles helped me get in touch with Tina Fox, the head of the UK group Vegetarian for Life, which works with vegetarian senior citizens. It was exciting to interview someone from “across the pond” and I can’t wait to see my article in print.
- Veggie Bits– This was one of the more fun aspects of my internship– reviewing vegan food for the Journal. For these I worked with Keryl, the editor of the Journal, and she helped me send requests to two different companies, which then sent me delicious samples to try. Look for my reviews of Mareblu Naturals and Helen’s Kitchen in a future issue of the Journal!
Besides working on writing, I was also able to explore some of my side interests in art and design. One of the projects that I am most proud of from my internship is a coloring page and full-color design page of the My Vegan Plate. My design was based off the new MyPlate, which the USDA created to replace the food pyramid. I made a vegan version with the help of Reed Mangels, PhD, RD and I definitely put my Photoshop skills to the test. Another project I worked on was designing a t-shirt and other products for the VRG to sell online. Hopefully soon people will be able to sport a “Vegetarians Have Good Hearts” t-shirt!
One of the most rewarding aspects of my internship was working at various VRG outreach booths around Maryland. Through this, I got to meet Dorothy, another dedicated VRG volunteer, and work with both Mary and the other two interns to share VRG materials with members of the community. I was lucky enough to be able to work three booths during my time here:
- The Federal Hill Jazz and Blues Festival in Baltimore– This booth was my first one, but I had Mary and Dorothy to show me the ropes. I really enjoyed talking to members of the Baltimore community about their experiences with vegetarianism and answering their questions.
- The 32nd Street Farmers Market in Baltimore– For this booth, Mary and I braved some nasty weather to talk to farmers market patrons about vegetarianism. Luckily, we got some delicious Ethiopian food out of it.
- The SHIP Conference in Towson– Working this booth with Jessica and Yasmin was really rewarding. We spoke with health professionals within the school system, experienced a professional conference, and were able to spend time getting to know each other better.
Along with the articles, designs, and booths, I also worked on several other projects in the office. These included:
- Converting articles into HTML for the website and blog– Thank you so much to Heather for her great HTML pointers.
- Aiding Sonja with the Restaurant Guide– This was one of my favorite things to do; my mouth would water at the delicious food on a restaurant’s website, only to find out they were across the country. I’m up for some traveling, though!
- Starting to compile responses to a survey of students’ top 5 favorite vegan foods on campus– Jessica and I spent a countless amount of time searching for the emails of student veg groups across the country.
- Researching and learning about grant proposals– I learned about unique new grant options such as Kickstarter.com, and even attended a free class on fund-raising at the Baltimore Public Library.
- Composing a direct mail letter that was sent out in the July issue of the email newsletter
- Being interviewed by US News & World Report about how my school is vegetarian-friendly
- Participating in a VRG promotional video– I even roped my boyfriend into this one; I can’t wait to see how everyone’s acting debuts turn out.
My internship at the VRG this summer over these past two months has been invaluable, and everyone I worked with made it so much more memorable. I am thankful for all of the opportunities I was allowed at this internship, and working with a non-profit has helped me learn so much. I know that my experiences from this summer will help me in my future work, wherever I end up going.
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