Taking a Bite out of the Big Apple

Now that I’ve had some time to settle in to New York City, all I can say is that this is one of the most incredible cities I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. It is vibrant, dynamic, and surprisingly beautiful. While I’ve seen a few rats in the subway, I’ve also seen gorgeous skylines, intricate facades, and lovely parks.

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The view from my apartment window

Life here goes by quickly – I can’t believe I’m almost halfway done– but I am appreciating the ability to explore New York slowly, and get a taste of the different neighborhoods, all with a very distinct flavor (and now that I can navigate the subway, I can actually go places, instead of wandering around for hours on foot). I could wax poetic about this city for hours, but it’s one of those places that you have to visit to appreciate.

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The city that never sleeps is just as beautiful at night

One of the greatest perks about spending the summer in New York is the proximity to young professionals and recent college graduates. Don’t believe it when people say that networking is hard: I have been blown away by how friendly and helpful the majority of people are when I reach out to them. I also cannot emphasize enough how useful it is to get real, honest answers to questions about life after graduation. Informational interviews have helped me decide what career I want to pursue, while I still have time to change my mind. I’ve also met some amazing people who I genuinely want to stay in contact with.

I recommend going to the Alumni Crawfish Boil, as it was a lot of fun and I got to eat some mudbugs.

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Mmmmm crawfish.

In addition to everything I’ve been learning in my free time, I’ve had a great time at my internship so far. Success Academy Charter Schools is one of those rare non-profits that is operated like a for-profit company; they are results-oriented and performance driven.

It is organized like an imaginary web: the network office is the central hub, with each of the 32 schools branching out from the network. Curricula, practices, and personnel are shared across schools. If a person or a process needs improvement anywhere in the network, management figures out a way to make it more efficient, with the ultimate focus on the kids (who are referred to as scholars). As a result of this insatiable desire to improve, Success Academies have proven, well, successful.

Although the model is controversial, I have never seen a more respectful, mature, and curious group of second graders than when I visited Success Academy Union Square a few weeks ago. They were all sharp as a tack, and each one could definitely beat me handily in chess (which is a daily part of the curriculum). I was impressed.

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Success Academy scholars excel at chess – they even go to national tournaments

 

 

I feel exceptionally grateful to have the opportunity to intern with Success. I get to spend every day with engaged, dedicated people who are passionate about their work. It’s a very close-knit community, motivated by the desire to make a difference in education reform. I genuinely like my supervisors and my fellow interns, and I enjoy the work that I have been doing. Granted, it has been a lot of Excel work, but it has definitely improved my knowledge of spreadsheets and shortcuts.

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Goofing around on my lunch break with Autumn, another Success intern and Tulane student

Beyond the tables with literally hundreds of rows, I have been fortunate enough to work on some interesting projects. I read municipal bond proposals to raise money for a teacher training institute; proofread the business expense policy handbook; and attended meetings with auditors to improve internal controls. Since Success receives public funding (albeit at a lower rate than district public schools), they are subject to substantial government oversight, so we have been working a lot on preparing our budgets for approval. I am learning a lot about corporate finance and the charter school model in general, and I’m also improving less tangible skills, like time management and punctuality.

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Am I professional yet?

I am greatly enjoying my first foray into the real world. Stay tuned for more updates!

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