Center for Community Engagement

Internship Postcards: Emma Vaimberg '14

Vela Scholars

August 2011—story by Jenny Morgan

Emma Vaimberg ‘14 (pictured fourth from the left) was an after-school tutor for the Vela Scholars program during the spring semester this year, and she eagerly jumped at the opportunity to join the team of interns who brought the summer program to life.

This summer, 150 students interned in twelve states and thirteen countries around the world through the Center for Community Engagement’s summer internships programs. Each day this week, we’ll share a different internship postcard. The first postcard is from Emma Vaimberg '14, who, along with eight other Amherst College students, interned with the Vela Scholars Program in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Emma Vaimberg ‘14 (pictured fourth from the left) was an after-school tutor for the Vela Scholars program during the spring semester this year, and she eagerly jumped at the opportunity to join the team of interns who brought the summer program to life. Based at the Amherst Regional Middle School in Amherst, MA, the Vela Scholars program (formerly the Pipeline Scholars) is an academic enrichment program that partners with Amherst College to encourage middle school youth to reach their full academic potential. The program’s new name, which means to “rise and grow,” comes from the South African language Xhosa. Vaimberg, a pre-med sophomore from Westport, Connecticut, says the internship surprised her. “Working with the kids is not what I expected. It’s tiring, but it feels really good at the end of the day. When a kid really wants to keep working on a project, you feel accomplished.”

The summer program consisted of three hours of classroom time in the morning and two hours of afternoon interest-based activities. The nine Amherst College interns supported the four morning classrooms in pairs, with Vaimberg floating between the classes. From researching social justice issues to designing rollercoasters, the Vela Scholars were engaged and excited by the curriculum—much to Vaimberg’s delight. “I think it can be hard for a 12-14 year old student to come into school during the summer, and have to do schoolwork, and I was surprised by how excited they were about the projects.” During the afternoon, the interns gave the students structured time to explore their creative sides through “passion projects” and clubs for aspiring filmmakers, music aficionados, and everything in between. The afternoon program was designed entirely by the interns, who wanted to provide the perfect amount of structure to support the natural curiosities of the students. The only rule for an assigned research project was to find something they were interested in. “We figured that if we gave them the option to research whatever they wanted, they’d be a lot more excited about it,” Vaimberg explains. Vaimberg doesn’t plan on becoming a teacher, but she will tell you enthusiastically that she plans to continue tutoring in Vela’s after-school program and is open to another internship with the summer program.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's postcard from Alex Gomes Pereira '12, who interned at the Center for New Americans in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Jenny Morgan is a staff writer for the CCE. She welcomes any questions or comments at jmorgan[at]amherst[dot]edu.