By Madalyn Ciampi
I was finishing my Master’s Degree at Brown University when I began working at Civic Nation. As an Urban Education Policy graduate student, I knew I wanted to find an internship that would expose me to large scale movements in education, but I had reservations about leaving my new home in Providence, Rhode Island.
That’s why finding Better Make Room (BMR) and the College Promise Campaign (CPC) at Civic Nation gave me the best of both worlds.
Over the course of nine months, I worked jointly with BMR and CPC from Providence on the issues of the access to and the affordability of higher education—both of which were of paramount importance to me as first generation college student.
It all started in September when I began interning with the College Promise Campaign, diving right into the exciting work being done. With PromiseNet 2016 just around the corner, a lot of my time was spent preparing for this enormous convening of stakeholders, the discussions that were to take place around community economic development models, and local, placed based scholarship initiatives. Not even two months into my internship I had the opportunity to make my first ever trip to Washington, D.C., to staff the team’s conference. There, I was involved not only in the logistical background happenings of the conference but also in facilitating group breakout sessions with leaders from across the nation, sitting in on the National Advisory Board meeting, and meeting Dr. Jill Biden, and of course, her amicable husband, then Vice President Joe Biden.
As my work with the College Promise Campaign continued, I took a strong interest in the use of Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs)—officially called 529 plans—that allow families and other members of communities to save money on behalf of children. Since the literature was limited, I took this opportunity to work with stakeholders in Indiana’s Wabash County to learn more about how they leveraged these accounts in their community to inform and encourage college-going cultures in K-12 institutions and beyond.
Simultaneously, I worked with Better Make Room to gather and analyze data on their Up Next mobile messaging campaign. After the launch of this texting program, which provides important information about the college application process, financial aid, and student loans, Better Make Room wanted to determine the strengths of the program and how it might be tailored in the future to better fit the needs of students and district and school staff. While a large portion of this work was quantitative analysis, I again partnered with stakeholders at the local level, learning how BMR’s mobile tool was utilized to supplement college-going cultures in K-12.
In the midst of this exciting research and work for CPC and BMR, I started hearing about an incredible new program; Providence Promise. That’s right—a Promise initiative right here in my beloved Providence was just getting organized. And the best part? Providence Promise’s model incorporated CSAs!
Unable to contain my excitement, I reached out and was offered an internship immediately. So I began working with Providence Promise while continuing my work with Civic Nation. As I learned more about Providence Promise and its proposed structure incorporating Children’s Savings Accounts, I found myself well-equipped from the research I had been doing for the College Promise Campaign. I was able to make crucial recommendations for the future of the program, and I introduced the team in Providence to stakeholders of the successful model in Wabash County. After learning best practices and considering recommendations, Providence Promise solidified its structure and committed to utilizing 529 CSAs to help leverage a college-going culture and increase the accessibility to higher education in our city.
Not long after beginning my internship with Providence Promise in February, I was offered a full-time position effective after my graduation this Memorial Day weekend. I eagerly accepted.
My work with Civic Nation, and especially with the College Promise Campaign and Better Make Room, equipped me with tremendous knowledge and quantitative and qualitative research skills that ignited a fire in me to tirelessly utilize these skills to drive our local initiative to become part of the national movement to make post-secondary education a reality for all students.