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I’ve spent my entire life living in Rhode Island. I’ve grown up here, gone to school here, spent most of my time here, and ultimately been influenced by this place. Remaining in the state or leaving indefinitely both seem like equally plausible scenarios, considering my age and the line of thought that encourages young people to go out and find opportunities. However, this decision has been made more difficult for me because of experiences that have shifted my perspective on what it means to stay within the state.

I have come to believe that there is, in fact, much opportunity for me to grow and develop here–opportunity that coincides with my interests in the environment. It has been through educational experiences such as volunteering on a farm, completing an honors project, and interning at Clean Water Action that I have come to understand at a much greater depth what environmentalism means in Rhode Island.

My internship at the Rhode Island Clean Water Action office was the so-called “next step” forward for me. Although I don’t think it’s possible for me to quantify exactly how this experience affected me, there are things that I am certain it has done.

First and foremost, it has taught me more about our state, which is something that I have a strong interest in understanding. This includes state and local level politics, the environmental community, our state's geography and demographics, and nonprofit organizations. More specifically, I have learned about and experienced firsthand how environmentalism intersects with the political world, the power of democracy, people, and organizing. It has given me a glimpse of how much work goes into pushing towards the environmental community's shared goals.

I have started to understand more so the power of working locally mostly through my interactions and communication with others, but also in other simple ways such as walking down the street to the Providence office. This idea of local connections and interactions is core to the domain of sustainability and sustainable development. Sustainable development is the very subject that has driven me to pursue many of these important educational experiences, and thus I consider the learning experience to be extremely valuable.

Over the past five months, I have spent 12 hours per week “experiencing” this internship. In this time, I have continued to learn much about myself, such as my keen interest in casual attire at work. Prior to this experience, not only had I not known the benefit of wearing sneakers on the job, I had no real experience working at an office, working at a nonprofit, or interning. While I most certainly could have taken an educated guess at what it would be like, the experience itself I found to be far more enjoyable.

It has helped me to continue to clarify what I would like to do with my life. It has also reinforced old thoughts, ideas, lessons, and beliefs that have manifested themselves in entirely new and different ways.

Overall, my interest in the environment has been fueled and strengthened in my time at Clean Water Action. I have interacted, worked with, and befriended people at the forefront of many environmental issues that we face today as Rhode Islanders. It has helped me to continue to develop the framework that I use to understand the world, and it has changed me for the better, leaving its imprint.

I owe many thanks to all of those who have helped enrich this experience for me. I hope that this motivates and encourages anyone to get involved at their local Clean Water Action office. To contact us to learn more and get involved, click here.