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Internship Offered Inside Look at Nonprofit Work

Nicole Patterson

Crouse feature

Mount St. Mary’s University senior Miriam Crouse’s experience through the Maryland Public Service Scholars program this spring brought her closer to determining the type of public service work she wants to pursue after she graduates in May 2022.

“I chose to apply for the Maryland Public Service Scholars program in order to experience different forms of public service,” she wrote in a reflection essay about her internship. “I want to use my experiences to plan my future career in the hopes that I can choose a life of service that I enjoy and can positively impact many people.”

Crouse, a triple major in international studies, French and Italian with a minor in history, previously completed an internship in the Maryland General Assembly and a 90-hour summer research assistantship in Latin American development working with Associate Professor of Political Science Amanda Krause, Ph.D.

Through the Walter Sondheim Jr. Maryland Nonprofit Leadership program, Crouse, a native of Annapolis, Maryland, interned at Mid-Shore Pro Bono Law Firm located in Easton, Maryland. She experienced how the firm delivers equal access to civil justice by pairing volunteer attorneys with qualified families in need to provide free access to legal services.

In addition to completing her spring semester in person, Crouse worked virtually for 12 hours per week to help Mid-Shore with the immigration project they created in 2016 to keep track of updates on state and federal legislation and policy changes. Her work included updating the “Know Your Rights” information as reform passed, translating education and outreach information into French, and researching foundations willing to fund immigration projects and the impacts of COVID-19 on local immigrant populations.

“It was interesting to learn how underrepresented immigration law is; it’s confusing, constantly changing and it’s contentious,” she said. “There’s a lot of systematic racism.” Crouse was surprised to learn that she could apply her French language skills to communicate with Haitian Creole speakers. “I have lived in Maryland my whole life and I never knew that we had a large population of Haitian Creoles on the Eastern Shore,” she said. She admits immigration is an important issue to her because her sister’s friend is a DREAMer. “Hearing news stories that personalized immigration issues was moving; it’s a hard issue for the nation to face,” Crouse added.

Part of what she liked most about Mid-Shore was that they did a good job of recognizing the human dignity of each of their clients, serving them and respecting them. She took the internship to see if nonprofit work could empower her to help as many people as possible—or if she could find fulfilling government work. “I wanted to see, in action, the clients you take care of and hear some of their stories,” she summarized. “I think working in government would make it harder to hear the human stories. I don’t want to think about people as numbers.”

Crouse believes she was able to better analyze and understand some of the complexities of her work thanks to her Mount education, specifically a political science methods course. She says she utilized many principles from general international studies about the southern border to readily understand the vocabulary surrounding some changes under the Biden administration. Finally, she says she worked to continually improve and develop skills such as synthesizing large and evolving volumes of information and flexing her critical thinking, writing and communication muscles.

As an Honors student and Fellow, she is looking forward to creating her application to become a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant to South Korea. She’s also planning to apply directly to the French government for their teaching assistantship as well as the State Department. This fall she will work to complete this application with the help of Professor of Spanish Literature and Culture Christine Blackshaw, Ph.D., associate director of the Office of Competitive Fellowships, and Associate Professor of History Jamie Gianoutsos, Ph.D., director of the Fellowships Office.

Thanks to Chair and Professor of World Languages and Cultures Marco Roman, Ph.D., Crouse says she recently added Italian as another major. “He is amazing, and he makes it fun,” she added. Last year, Roman asked her, and another student, to teach French to some girls at The National Shrine of Elizabeth Ann Seton. She found the work rewarding and reinvigorated a deep-seated desire to rekindle her early dreams of becoming a social studies teacher. After being introduced to American government in high school, as a senior at Broadneck High School she procured an internship with Maryland State Senator Roger Manno (D). Those choices, she recollects, led her to international studies at the Mount.

Service, she says, has and will always be a part of her life. Growing up, she attended Catholic Heart Work Camp and gleaned lessons as a Girl Scout. “I learned about service in little ways,” she wrote in her reflection. “The Girl Scouts have a motto about leaving things better than when you arrived. Typically this motto is applied during camping or hiking trips but as I grew older that lesson slowly began to apply to more important, and not always physical, things. It began to apply to the world in general, people and the locations of our community service.”

“At times, it is hard to imagine one person like me making a difference in the world, but my goal in life is to positively impact people around me, leave the world a better place than when I started and leave a ripple effect that creates positive change even after me,” Crouse said.

A 2019 recipient of the Monsignor Hugh J. Phillips Prize for members of the freshman class who have attained the highest grade point average, Crouse was also awarded the 2019 Maryland Student Legislature Most Outstanding Resolution R026-1819 from the Maryland State Legislature. The resolution addressed the equal access and accessibility of emergency contraception on public university campuses. She is secretary of the French Culture Club and a member of the women’s soccer and astronomy clubs.

Coordinated by the Shriver Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) for the State of Maryland, the features of the Public Service Scholars Program include experience, exploration, exposure and practice.

Nicole Patterson