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Internships and Leadership

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Brian Brown

Mariah Golden, in only a few short years, has come full circle.

Golden, an El Pomar Fellow entering her second year, serves as director of El Pomar’s summer internship program. She has a remarkably concrete idea of the kind of difference she wants to make in the world, and a conversation about her background reveals some thought-provoking reasons why.

Mariah was raised in Colorado Springs, and she stayed there to attend school at Colorado College. Mariah carries with her a sense of noblesse oblige—to whom much is given, much is expected—but for her, that doesn’t translate into a desire to start a billion-dollar corporation or help orphans living a continent away. I am very locally focused,” she observes. “This community has given me a lot of opportunities—in high school, at Colorado College, and so on—and I’ve always felt I wanted to return those gifts in any way I can.”

This attitude is increasingly common in what is known as the Millennial generation. People in Mariah’s generation tend to want to be connected. Mariah, like many of her peers, is not particularly political—but while she is reluctant to engage in abstract debate, she is committed to her community and the people around her. Where the Baby Boomers protested, she volunteers. Where they sought bigger and better things, she seeks to turn around and help people the way others helped her. She believes the El Pomar internship is an outstanding way to do that. “There are incredible people who have mentored me, and it’s really cool to be on the other side; to help give direction to these undergrads who have a desire to give just like I did.”

A quiet worker, Mariah shares an office with two more gregarious colleagues—yet amidst the bustle, she stays focused at her desk. A few weeks ago, she finished orchestrating the selection process for the 2011 interns, and can tell you all about them (right down to their four separate start dates). It is unsurprising to learn that she was once an El Pomar intern herself; she believes strongly in the value of the experience and wants to make sure others have it even better than she did.

“I had a stellar experience here, and that was true of my entire class. People left feeling they had grown an immense amount. All the interns have different goals about how they want to give back, and one of the great things about the internship is that it arms you with tools that you can use anywhere.” (Click here to read former interns’ perspectives on how the internship affected them.)

Mariah’s face glows as she talks about the arrival of the incoming intern class (which will begin arriving next week and stay for 6-10 week periods over the summer). She has put weeks of work into constructing a professional development curriculum for them. Not only will they gain skills through their actual work; they will also get training from some of the best nonprofit leaders in the area. After all the work that has gone into preparing the experience, Mariah is thrilled to see the interns finally begin it.

That said, she thinks leadership means viewing the interns as more than beneficiaries—she insists the benefit of the experience goes both ways. “I look forward to the interns’ enthusiasm about being here, and all of their ideas and goals—what they want to achieve both here at El Pomar Foundation and beyond it. It’s always a privilege to have fresh perspectives and ideas at an organization.”