Julia Friedberg ’23

Berkshire Bridges-Working Cities Pittsfield, Pittsfield, MA

This summer I was fortunate to work as a community strategist intern for Working Cities Pittsfield, a nonprofit organization that specializes in community engagement, particularly in under-resourced neighborhoods, and advocates for innovative solutions for problems that might be affecting the community. My position encompassed a variety of different duties—I helped write grants to provide funds to keep the organization running; I researched community issues; and I tabled in person at a few community events.

Tabling at a community event.

The crux of my position this summer was to investigate the American Rescue Plan Act (also known as ARPA) and, with a team of other interns, research and propose strategies for how that funding could be used innovatively within the city of Pittsfield. Since the American Rescue Plan Act is uniquely broad in its design, and Pittsfield will receive over $40 million in funds, we were able to come up with some interesting proposals, including a Universal Basic Income Pilot, a financial literacy course, a first-time homebuyer program, and a restructuring of a former program to bring awareness of poverty and precarity. The culmination of this research was a 90-minute presentation to the mayor, city hall officials, community leaders, and other interested individuals. Though we do not know if the mayor will decide to move forward with any of these ideas in particular, we hope that these ideas promote innovative usage of these funds.

This internship gave me the opportunity to learn new skills, refine existing skills, and gain clarity on the type of career I may want to pursue in the future. I had never had the opportunity to do any sort of grant writing before, and I now feel significantly more comfortable with that type of writing. I also gained experience with office-type interactions and working environments. My internship was hybrid, so much of my communication was over Zoom, but I still got to experience regular team meetings, progress reports, and internal presentations. Much of my work was also done collaboratively as a group, which gave me valuable teamwork experience and helped put into perspective what working on a long-term project with a group might look like. My experience tabling at community events definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone as I tend to find public speaking daunting, but I’m glad I had the experience. In the future, I definitely can see myself working in the nonprofit sector and writing grants, although I think I may prefer a more behind-the-scenes type of role rather than a public facing one.

I am very thankful to the Class of 1972 who helped make this exploration possible. This internship taught me so much about the nonprofit field, how to best support individuals in poverty, and has provided extremely valuable insight as to the type of career I may want to pursue in the future.