Ford Fund Interns Wrap up Their Summer

Erika Denver and Justin Walters summarize their internship experience

DEARBORN, Mich. — For the past 11 weeks, Erika and Justin integrated themselves as members of the Ford Motor Company Fund team. Jumping in without hesitation, they have worked on projects both big and small. We invite you to learn more about their internship experience through this video and their insights, below.

What is your biggest takeaway from this internship?

Erika: The professional relationships I've built with many here at the Ford Fund has been one of the most valuable and meaningful takeaways I could've asked for. Each individual project Justin and I completed required us to be one on one with the leaders of that specific program, working alongside them throughout the whole summer. The employees here at the Ford Fund wanted to hear our input, wanted to help us grow as individuals, and wanted to use the work we contributed to help their program and projects. Because of the professional relationships built this summer, I was guided in the right direction as a professional and that's exactly what I dreamt of an internship to be.

Justin: One of my biggest takeaways was to be mindful of maintaining a sense of purpose wherever I go or whatever I work on. Working with nonprofit partners made me feel fulfilled and as if what I did at the Ford Fund truly affected the communities that I deeply cared about in a meaningful way. When I first met with Ford Motor Company Fund President Jim Vella at the beginning of the internship, he challenged me to gain a better understanding of the world of nonprofits and more importantly, my role in it. Understanding that the Ford Fund is not just its own entity, but a part of a larger ecosystem of making lives better across the globe made this internship even that more exciting. I know now that no matter where I go professionally, I will always be sure to take empathetic steps in my walk of life.

Justin Walters (left) and Erika Denver in front of the Ford Motor Company World Headquarters
Justin Walters (left) and Erika Denver

What are your plans after the internship?

Erika: I am actually continuing my internship here at Ford Fund with my mentor Farah Harb, who is in charge of the Global Education Programs Analyst at Ford Fund. I will be continuing classes during my extended internship all while being an active member of Wayne State University's PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America).

Justin: After the internship I plan to return to Eastern Michigan University (EMU) to receive my undergraduate degree in marketing. During my final year at EMU I also intend to spend time focusing on helping the campus community through volunteering and involving myself in multiple organizations on campus that reflect my identities.

What was your most memorable moment from this summer?

Erika: The most memorable moment I've had this summer are the times Justin and I were able to leave our desks to volunteer in the surrounding communities. Whether it was helping build a fence for the goats and sheep at Kensington Metropark or passing out assembled backpacks to children at Matrix Human Service. Being involved and in the community was a new experience for me and it is something I will take with me throughout the rest of my life.

Justin: My most memorable moment this year was being able to assist with the Ford Community Fellowship. All of the fellows were very inspirational, passionate and talented individuals and it was my pleasure to get to spend an entire week with them. This event not showed Ford's genuine commitment to making lives better around the globe and it gave me confidence that this internship was going to give me an experience I couldn't find elsewhere. Additionally, I loved being able to go out and visit projects within the community such as the Tiny Homes at Cass Community Social Services. It was important to me to see the impact that Ford was having in the neighborhood communities of Detroit that I care about deeply.

Do you have any advice for future Ford Fund interns?

Erika: Believe in yourself. You can do it. As simple as it sounds, the right mindset can allow you to accomplish things you never even knew you could do. Take in everything, whether it be small lessons or big. This is your time to grow, learn, make mistakes, fix them, and become an improved version of yourself by the end of the summer. Many warned us that the internship flies by and we can confirm that it really does! So, make sure to take every day as it is, knowing the Ford Fund team picked you as an intern for a reason and they want to help you learn and grow.

Justin: Learn and experience as much as you can. As an organization, the Ford Fund has a lot of moving parts and it is very easy to get wrapped in the great work that you are doing. However, this is your time to branch out, network and make some great connections. Ford is such a large and diverse place that you should try your best to connect with individuals, you might be surprised at what you find out and who you meet. Along with this, just be ready and open to learn. You will not know everything coming into this position (Erika and I certainly did not), and that's okay. Just be willing to learn, listen, and adapt when things aren't working, and you will be fine.