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Interning with harp-weaver

Intern Kylie Sokoloff presenting the Employee Handbook, one of her projects, to staff

By Kylie Sokoloff

My name is Kylie Sokoloff, I am a junior at Temple University majoring in English and minoring in Information Sciences & Technology. This summer, I had the privilege of interning with harp-weaver, an experience that has bridged the gap between my studies with Temple and the tangible realities I have witnessed throughout this internship.

Being a college student in Philadelphia often feels like navigating a paradoxical existence. Within my English studies, the critical examination of texts requires a deep understanding of their cultural and historical context. At Temple University, I find that my professors excel at imparting a curriculum that resonates within my inner world and often relevantly reflects the essence of this vibrant city. However, this experience can be as disheartening as it is captivating.

For instance, one noteworthy aspect of my poetry courses is our exploration of local Philadelphia poets. This city has a rich poetic tradition, and one unforgettable poet is Ewuare X. Osayande, an influential Black artist based here in Philadelphia. Osayande's poetry embodies the essence of the Black Arts Movement, which aims to reclaim art from traditional Western styles and oppressive forces, creating art by and for Black people. Over a span of a few months, I had the opportunity to delve into three of his complete works alongside my professor and fellow classmates—just a small group of eight individuals. In the confines of that classroom, as we dissected these powerful and intimate verses, it felt like we were partaking in a quiet revolution. The power emanating from this local author, his haunting words piercing us, promised to ignite a change that would extend far beyond the walls of the university.

And yet, here lies the contradiction. Stepping out of the classroom, that flame tends to dissipate amidst the bustling crowds of the city, fading amid the blaring sirens and the disheartening sight of people seeking refuge on top of vents. There's also the more digitally pervasive influence of an infamous student-run Instagram account that perpetuates fear and unfairly blames Philadelphia for their own culture shock.

That being said, I decided that it was time for my years of confined and abstract experience to translate into the real world. When I was offered a Summer Intern position at harp-weaver, I wasn’t sure what to anticipate. Having never interned before, my previous work experience had been limited to situations where the stakes were as trivial as someone’s impatience while waiting or the unavailability of the tuna salad. I investigated the company for some insight, but like most companies that claim to work towards a better world, their mission seemed somewhat vague. However, the reality surpassed my expectations.

After arriving at the charming and inviting stone building, I was greeted with an even more welcoming staff. Without delay, my projects were presented to me, and as I familiarized myself with the world of harp-weaver, I gradually grasped the weight of the responsibility entrusted to me. During my internship, I had the privilege of attending meetings alongside Teresa Rodgers, the founder and principal of harp-weaver. One meeting stands out vividly in my memory—an online gathering with Prevention Point, a remarkable Philadelphia-based nonprofit committed to providing housing and medical assistance to individuals battling homelessness and addiction. It was an intimate gathering, where Teresa's genuine connections with long-standing clients were evident.

Throughout the meeting, Teresa would occasionally mute herself, taking the time to introduce me to these individuals and educate me about the intricate workings of the organization. Initially, the business side of nonprofit work flew over my head, but the drive behind Prevention Point’s navigation of city-funding, legalities, and lines of credit was palpable. Amidst all the legal chatter, they kept returning the conversation to the meeting’s one purpose: how best to obtain more beds and more medical resources for those struggling. Conversations periodically shifted to the issue of the opioid crisis, and I listened, realizing how vigilantly the organization's leaders kept themselves updated on the latest turns and newest medical information within the crisis. They were proactively trying to obtain the most efficient treatment. I was witnessing the tangible results of progressive work, work that actively combated the very issues that had often extinguished my optimism for meaningful change in the past.

I was a spectator for dozens of similar meetings with such diverse clients, and it heartened me in my own projects. For my most significant undertaking, I was tasked with assisting the company in entering the assessment stage of becoming B-Corp certified. B-Corps (Benefit Corporations) differ from traditional corporations regarding their purpose, accountability and transparency regarding their societal and environmental impact. During the preparation for the B-Corp application, I created the first employee handbook for harp-weaver, drafted comprehensive company policies, and delved into extensive research to determine how best to reach our goal. This project and its mission perfectly embody harp-weaver’s values, and I take pride in contributing to their success. We have officially submitted our application and are eagerly awaiting the results and next steps as we strive to cultivate a better company with a sustainable and conscientious influence.

I have also been assisting Teresa with communications in forming a sustainable system for collaboration between local nonprofits in order to foster more opportunities for visibility and recognition for the vital work that they do. It has been a pleasure making connections with and learning about the amazing organizations within my corner of the world.

Interning with harp-weaver has broadened my horizons and honed my professional and collaborative skills in numerous ways. However, my deepest gratitude to harp-weaver lies in the opportunity it provided me to witness real manifestations of principled and charitable work. I look forward to following harp-weaver as they continue their meaningful mission, and I am very grateful to have been a part of such a forward-thinking environment.

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