Expanding Access to Internships
Julia Pershan ’92 supports the Domestic Summer Award Program
Claudia Gaither JE ’20 spent last summer helping to bring science to life for school children. For eight rewarding weeks, Gaither, who hails from Athens, Georgia, was an intern with CitySprouts, a nonprofit organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts, providing garden-based learning for middle schoolers. Claudia was part of a team using the cultivation of fruits and vegetables to teach ecology, biology, chemistry, and other scientific subjects to fourteen students, ranging in age from ten to thirteen.
“I used the previous summer for laboratory research,” said Claudia, an ecology and evolutionary biology major, “so for me, this was a whole new take on science and education. The best part was watching kids take pleasure in growing things. The hands-on approach really sparked their curiosity about the world, and I loved it.”
Preparing students for a positive impact
Claudia was able to take full advantage of her CitySprouts experience—an unpaid internship—thanks to an innovative new program available to Yale undergraduates. Marvin Chun, dean of Yale College, launched the Domestic Summer Award (DSA) program to ensure that students who qualify for financial aid during the school year can also afford to participate in meaningful summertime learning and service opportunities.
“Yale College seeks to prepare students to make positive and lasting impacts in every community in which they will engage throughout their lives,” said Chun. “By creating this award, Yale enables more students to gain direct experience with organizations and individuals whose work is focused on the common good.”
In support of this mission, Julia Pershan ’92 and her husband, Jonathan Cohen, have stepped forward with a gift to partially endow the DSA program.
“We are very happy to support the DSA program for Yale College students,” said Pershan. “These summer internships are a great way to teach skills and engender a passion for service—lessons that benefit students, their employers, and the world at large.”
“I am grateful to Julia and Jonathan for their generous gift,” said Chun. “Their endowment opens the door to valuable and potentially career-defining opportunities for students who otherwise cannot afford to work for a summer without pay.”
Learning beyond the campus
The DSA program offers grants of $4,000 to cover living expenses for Yale undergraduates on financial aid who have secured an unpaid and service-oriented summer internship. For its inaugural summer, Yale solicited applications from first-years, sophomores, and juniors. Over 200 students applied, and 190 were approved.
Students must work at least thirty hours a week for eight weeks or more at a nonprofit, government entity, non-governmental organization, or arts apprenticeship within the United States. The first cohort of DSA recipients participated in a wide range of internships: 59% with nonprofit organizations, 15% with educational organizations, 14% with branches of the government, and 12% with practicing artists.
The DSA complements the Yale International Summer Award (ISA), which provides support for students on financial aid to pursue international experiences during the summer.
“Whether in the U.S. or abroad, experiences beyond the campus can foster independence and help students think about their long-term goals,” Chun said. “The DSA and ISA programs ensure that this learning is open to everyone.”
For Claudia, a summer dedicated to helping others was a powerful and eye-opening experience. “Before my internship, I hadn’t considered teaching,” she said. “I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. CitySprouts taught me so much about people and working with kids, and I am grateful that the DSA made my experience possible.”