I entered Northeastern Illinois University in the Spring of 2017 as a 25 year-old undergraduate. After stumbling from one career choice to another, I decided to finally focus on area of study that also brought joy to my life: English Literature.

There where moments when the realization that I’m still working towards my degree caused anxiety. It wasn’t until I met Becky Sarwate, an adjunct instructor within NEIU’s English Department and then-President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, that I learned anything is possible – and we all have our own timelines.

A professional late bloomer herself, Becky epitomizes what IWPA is all about. She inspires and embodies the confidence and support this organization offers all communicators. When she announced the opportunity to intern for the organization during one of our final class sessions, I jumped at the chance. Becky’s can-do attitude was a direct influence on my proactivity. That’s a skill I continually work to better – to create opportunities for myself rather than waiting for them to be offered.

From the initial summer intern meeting, to the very last check-in call, the IWPA experience has been a crash course on the professional communications world. I was treated like an able adult. My ideas and opinions were taken into account and executed. The guidance and support through the various projects I was assigned, like writing for the website’s blog, completing a marketing campaign from start to finish, and representing the organization at the annual Printer’s Row Lit Fest, left me feeling confident in my abilities and happy to be trusted with the mission of such a vitally important organization.

My time with IWPA this summer helped synthesize educational ideology and applicable real-life scenarios. Writing for the IWPA blog, I was able to apply my research abilities. I designed a marketing email that incorporated aesthetics as well as words. And my public speaking confidence improved greatly from a single event that required countless introductions and interactions with others. Learning so much about myself and my abilities may be the most important outcome of Summer 2017.

The opportunity to support IWPA has been an invaluable experience. I have acquired and sharpened skills that I’ll be able to apply to all future endeavors.  I thank the mentors who allowed me to get involved, and provided assistance throughout my learning curve.