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Meet the Fab Four: Benetech Summer Interns

2015 Benetech summer interns from left: Alyssa Aliotti, Paige Borwn, Michelle McLaren, and Mitchell Mankin
2015 Benetech summer interns from left: Alyssa Aliotti, Paige Brown, Michelle McLaren, and Mitchell Mankin

Benetech’s Summer Internship Program has been going strong for three years. Each summer, several college students work on Bookshare-related projects and learn about Benetech’s programs in the areas of global literacy, human rights, and Benetech Labs. Read on to learn about our four fabulous interns — Alyssa Aliotti, Paige Brown, Michelle McLaren, and Mitchell Mankin — as they describe the valuable work they accomplished.

My name is Alyssa Aliotti and I am entering my second year at UCLA. I plan on double majoring in Economics and International Development Studies. When I was looking for summer internships I was very excited about Benetech’s mission of harnessing the power of technology for social good, so I decided to apply. As an intern I gained valuable knowledge about the inner workings of nonprofits and tech companies in Silicon Valley. I attended company-wide meetings and met key members of Benetech’s team. My favorite meeting was with Collin Sullivan who talked about Martus, the technology at the core of Benetech’s Human Rights initiative that documents human rights violations around the world.

Alyssa AliottiAs the Customer Service Support intern I spent a lot of time organizing member data and getting it online. I also revamped the Help Center portion of the website so that members can have their questions answered effectively. Additionally, I expanded the Bookshare collection by proofreading scanned books and writing image descriptions for children’s books in Benetech’s image description tool, POET.  I have been so inspired by all of Benetech’s work — from global literacy to accessibility for the disabled to human rights — and am so grateful for this opportunity.

My name is Paige Brown and I am entering my sophomore year at Tulane University in New Orleans. I Paige Brownplan to major in finance. My role was to improve the documentation and instructions for volunteers with the goal of making volunteering at Bookshare a smooth and easy process. I also created a newsletter and a call to action for volunteers to increase volunteer engagement. One of Bookshare’s goals was to get the top 100 children’s books published and online with image descriptions. I also spent time working on Salesforce, POET, and the Bookshare website to make sure that books were properly uploaded and documented.

I learned what it is like to work at a tech company and a nonprofit. Attending meetings on a variety of topics allowed me to see all the different aspects of the company. It was fascinating to hear about the Human Rights and Benetech Labs programs. I really enjoyed working with Benetech and found the employees to be very inspiring.

Michelle McLarenMy name is Michelle McLaren and I’m a rising sophomore majoring in financial accounting at the University of Portland. I learned about Benetech when I was looking for summer internship opportunities and became fascinated with its mission, core values, and different branches of work including global literacy and human rights.

I interned for the collection development team, the core of the Bookshare initiative. I learned how to properly describe images in children’s books, worked with the POET image description tool, and learned how to dismantle and scan a variety of books. My main contribution to Bookshare included documenting how a book gets published, from the moment it reaches the Benetech office to the time it’s removed from the shelf and recycled. I also worked on the organization and labeling of the collection development bookshelves.

I’ve had the opportunity to develop professional skills such as interpersonal and business communication and creative thinking. One of my favorite parts of this internship was the variety of meetings that I attended. Most notably, I learned how Martus works and how 3D printing is revolutionizing Bookshare. I’m incredibly grateful to Benetech for the amazing opportunity to work with such a dedicated group of people who are focused on making the world a better place.

My name is Mitchell Mankin.  I’m a rising senior studying International & Global Studies and Mitchell MankinEconomics at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. I’ve been a book fanatic since I was five years old, and I’m very interested in nonprofit management, so working with Bookshare seemed like a good move. During the first half of the internship, I worked with Benetech’s POET image description tool.  I also collaborated with the other interns on improving the instructions for scanning and proofreading books and describing images. During the second half I designed and implemented a survey for Bookshare volunteers to identify ways to improve the volunteer program.

I’ve had the good fortune of working with Madeleine Linares as my supervisor, and she’s been nothing but helpful and supportive throughout my time here.  I’ve learned a lot about the operations of a large, multi-project, and multi-departmental nonprofit organization. Attending departmental meetings, product demos, and info sessions has been an especially interesting bird’s-eye view of how Benetech works. Thank you to everyone for making this internship possible!

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