A Gettysburg College education extends beyond the classroom -- and beyond our historic location -- to all corners of the globe.
The Heston Summer Experience, made possible by a generous gift from alumnus James Heston ’70, connects students and host organizations to provide immersive domestic and international internships focused on social change. These experiences have deep and long-lasting effects on both the students and communities involved.
Participants in the Heston Summer Experience, which is coordinated by the College's Center for Public Service (CPS), focus on community development, sharpening their understanding of the day-to-day complexity of social issues. By placing students in local and international contexts, the program allows them to learn by acting, forge strong friendships, and tackle some the world’s most challenging problems.
Sarah Angello ’10, currently a third-year ethnomusicology doctorate student, a marketing and development assistant for the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, and director for the New York Giving Circle for Social Equity, believes her 2009 Heston internship in Uganda had a significant influence on her career and further developed her passion for women’s empowerment.
“Before the Heston Summer Experience, I was preparing to go to law school after college. After a summer working with women's groups in Uganda, I realized that I had the passion, as well as the skills, to completely change career paths. The Heston Program was the most difficult, exciting, fun, and challenging experience of my life – I really do owe my career to that summer.”
Angello, a music and political science double major, now utilizes her campus and Heston experiences to identify how music is relevant to culturally-sensitive and sustainable development, as well as to fund projects for women’s health education in Kenya and a microenterprise to bring microfinance to impoverished communities in India.
“I learned so much from the women I worked with—they were remarkable managers, terrific budgeters, and able to turn the vague idea of a microfinance fund for women into a working project within three months. That’s really amazing business development, and it was done without electricity or water,” Angello said. “There was no fetching coffee or making copies in this [Heston] internship. I was completely in the trenches, making real decisions that had consequences for the women in the community.”
John Jordan ’09, a political science and Spanish double major, is taking what he learned as a Heston intern in Nicaragua and applying it in a different Central American country.
After his stint as an HIV/AIDS trainer in Nicaragua in 2007 during his Heston Summer Experience and graduation, Jordan joined the Peace Corps and got sent to Honduras to be a Health (HIV/AIDS) volunteer – a posting he received based on the work he did during his time in Nicaragua.
“When I went to Nicaragua it was the first time I left the country, and by the time I returned I knew that I wanted to go into the Peace Corps. When I was invited to serve in the Peace Corps, I was assigned to Honduras. My time in Nicaragua led to me being assigned to a larger city with greater responsibility, helping local NGOs design their HIV education programs and improving services at a local HIV clinic,” Jordan said.
In January 2012 the Peace Corps left Honduras because of increasing violence in the country, but Jordan stayed and got hired on by La Alianza Rural de VIH as the National Project Coordinator. He coordinates all of the Alliance’s activities within Honduras, focusing on advocacy work to increase access to education about HIV prevention and get treatment to people living in rural areas and indigenous populations. His work has included serving on the drafting committee to revise Honduras' anti-discrimination laws and revising the national health curriculum with the ministry of education.
Environmental studies major Tara O’Shea ’10 spent her 2008 Heston experience in a rural village in Nicaragua implementing projects related to public and environmental health – including a fully funded grant project to sustainably and locally produce clean cook-stoves that burn coffee bean shells rather than firewood.
She is using the environmental awareness and passion she developed on campus and abroad in her work with global nonprofit Code REDD, which aims to save the threatened forests of the world through market-based approaches, scaling the demand and supply for high quality REDD (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation).
“The Heston experience opened my eyes to the interconnected problems of environmental degradation and unsustainable economic development, and encouraged me to begin exploring these larger problems more systematically,” said O’Shea, who earned her masters degree in Environmental Management and International Development at Duke University. “It also taught me that we need more holistic approaches to sustainability challenges – approaches that create the systemic changes we need to truly align environmental integrity and human well-being.”
As a philosophy and political science double major, Mike Lahoda ’11 was drawn to the Heston Summer Experience in 2010 due to his interest in creative problem solving and social justice.
Today, Lahoda employs the interpersonal skills he learned when building water tanks with Ugandan citizens to serve at-risk students in Seattle for City Year, and organization dedicated to ensuring students remain in school and graduate through providing programming and support in cities that account for two-thirds of the nation’s urban dropouts.
“My Heston Experience in Masaka, Uganda has undoubtedly had a profound impact on my decision to continue a life of service. While in Uganda I came to learn so much about myself and my passions and without this experience I am confident I would not be serving to the extent I am currently,” said Lahoda, whose work at City Year includes guiding in-school service projects at a local middle school. “[The] experience showed me how incredibly powerful relationships and connections can be formed among diverse groups of people working toward a common cause.”
“[The internship] led me to travel across the country to serve in an unfamiliar community with the hope of learning through sharing cultural experiences. I am so grateful for the Heston Experience and am thrilled that this is still an opportunity at Gettysburg. I can safely label it as the highlight of my college experience after witnessing its impact on my current career path and I am certain it will be the same for future Heston participants.”
Read more about past Heston Summer Experiences on the blogs and other resources from 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007.
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition that includes Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate and other distinguished scholars among its alumni. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Contacts: Mike Baker, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6521
Nikki Rhoads, senior assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803
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