Summer success: Lutes spend off-months working hard, pursuing vocational goals
By PLU Marketing & Communications staff
TACOMA, WASH. (Aug. 10, 2016)- Typically, summer allows college students to take advantage of free time that's hard to come by during the academic year. But for many Lutes, summer is a time to work hard and continue their vocational endeavors.
Students travel, work internships and pursue professional development opportunities beyond PLU’s campus to continue their academic goals. The Lutes featured below represent three stories of the hard work done by PLU students and recent graduates this summer.
Kendra Saathoff ’17
By Brooke Thames ’18
Since 2014, the Krise Endowed Internship Fund has provided students with opportunities to gain experience in career fields related to their studies. This year, the Krise Internship helped one student take her education from the classroom to the courtroom.
Kendra Saathoff ’17 spent her summer interning at the Crystal Judson Family Justice Center in Tacoma, marking the third time she’s worked there. However, this was the first time the Krise Internship funded the opportunity. As a result, she received $1,500 in financial assistance for what was otherwise an unpaid internship.
“I learn a lot through observation,” Saathoff said. “(This internship) has exposed me to people and realities that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.”
The center provides domestic violence victims and their children an array of legal and counseling services. Saathoff says her work at the center changes day to day, but interaction with clients remains her number one task. Her work mainly consisted of speaking with and caring for domestic violence victims.
In an average day, Saathoff listens to clients’ stories of abuse, logs cases in the center’s confidential database and helps clients fill out petitions for protection orders.
Saathoff also spends much of her time in the Pierce County courthouse, supporting clients during their protection order hearings. Her participation in court cases, Saathoff says, exposed her to a new interest in law.
“Although it can be tiring to hear so many cases and testimonies, it is extremely fascinating to see our legal system in action and very rewarding when that system can offer protection and safety to our clients,” Saathoff said. “It has inspired me to think about a future as a lawyer and using it as a platform for helping others.”
As a sociology major, Saathoff already possessed a passion for social justice and advocacy work. These interests ultimately served as a gateway to her job at the Family Justice Center.
Jennifer Warwick, a former victim advocate with PLU’s Center for Gender Equity, recognized Saathoff’s vocational call and directed her toward the internship; Saathoff first applied for the opportunity in 2014.
“I got really lucky in that I had a mentor who knew me well enough to connect me with an internship that I love,” Saathoff said, “and with co-workers at the CJFJC who are incredible and so supportive.”
The Krise Internship is open to all PLU students interested in applying. Only one student earns the award each year.
The Krise Internship Fund partners with Career Connections to help students gather their recommendations and craft their essays and resumes. Saathoff says working with Career Connections helped ease anxieties throughout the application process.
“The main piece of advice I would give to anyone applying would be to write your essay like a story,” Saathoff said. “Make it memorable and more interesting than just listing off what your intern duties would be.”
Moving forward, Saathoff’s internship with the Family Justice Center ends as she begins her senior year at PLU and prepares to study away in Oaxaca, Mexico, in the fall.
“I am so incredibly lucky to have received this fund,” Saathoff said. “(I) am so grateful to the Krises for their support and belief in me.”
Janet Dela Cruz '16
By Natalie DeFord ’16
Janet Dela Cruz ’16, who graduated in May, says things have come full circle now that she has started her first full-time job this summer. “It’s a little scary getting my first job out of college,” she said, “but it’s definitely preparing me for what I want to continue to do as I grow professionally.”
Dela Cruz is working as the Mentor253 coordinator, matching mentors and mentees in the program that pairs youth with positive adult members of the community to form strong, lasting mentor relationships in the greater Tacoma area. It’s a part of the Northwest Leadership Foundation.
Such a relationship takes time and dedication, she said. Dela Cruz, who grew up in Tacoma and always wanted to go to PLU, was once a mentee herself in eighth grade. Then she became a mentor as a student at Lincoln High School.
“It’s changed the trajectory of my life,” she said. “I don’t know whether I’d be where I am now, but I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed the journey so much.”
She kept in touch with her mentor, Melody Rodriguez, who is now the director of Mentor253, throughout the years. Rodriguez kindly pointed out job opportunities to Dela Cruz, including the role she has now. DeLa Cruz said her role model became her boss.
“I just really feel things have come full circle,” Dela Cruz said. “I get to do this work because someone invested in me and I want to do the same.”
Through the Mentor253 program, and also her time at PLU, Dela Cruz said, “I have learned to be a leader and a community member.”
Dela Cruz double majored in history and literature. She also studied away for a January Term in Manchester, England, and a semester in Oaxaca, Mexico. She said she hopes to go to graduate school in a few years to study student affairs. Eventually, she hopes to work at a university in academic advising or leadership, specifically to help students of color and first-generation students.
She said he is always thinking about her one wild and precious life, thanks to her time at PLU. “That keeps me motivated,” Dela Cruz said. “What I do is in service to others.”
Angelo Mejia '17
By Genny Boots ’18
Most students spend the summer recovering from the busy academic year. But Angelo Mejia ’17 spent two months in sweltering heat, preparing for his future career in the military and for his senior year at Pacific Lutheran University.
“It was hot!” Mejia remarked, referencing the month he spent in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and the month in Fort Benning, Georgia. “One evening, in Fort Benning, we went for a night run at 3 a.m., in full uniform and it was 70 degrees out,” he said, “and humid.”
When he is not sweating the summer heat, Mejia studies graphic design at PLU. While he enjoys art and photography, he came to PLU to fulfill a dream of serving as an officer in the U.S. military.
“I’ve always wanted to join the military and at the same time, I’ve always wanted to go to college and become an officer,” Mejia said. “It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, for a long time.”
A requirement of the national ROTC program is to spend a summer between your junior and senior years at the Cadet Leadership Course (CLC). Cadets from ROTC programs around the country travel to Fort Knox to learn necessary skills to plan missions and events for younger students at their universities. It is a mentorship chain that starts with the seniors.
“The seniors are mentoring the juniors, while the juniors are mentoring the freshman and sophomores,” Mejia said. “So, basically the goal for CLC is to prepare you for your senior year, learning how to work with TLP (troop leading procedures) and to use that for making plans and training happen.”
Mejia says his time with PLU’s ROTC program prepared him for a lot of the Fort Knox tactical trainings.
“A lot of schools are moving away from basic tactics. Not everyone will become infantry officers, so Cadet Command wants many different trainings,” Mejia said. “I think PLU does well at balancing tactical with other trainings.”
After his time in Fort Knox, Mejia traveled to Georgia to job shadow an officer. He was able to participate in training activities, assist the officer and get a real sense of what military life is like. “It’s nice to actually get into what an officer does and what a unit does and how they operate,” Mejia said.
While at Fort Knox, cadets must take exams that help determine whether they will serve in active duty or reserve duty once they graduate. Mejia hopes to be placed in active duty for the Army Signal Corps, which is responsible for Army communication and information systems.
Despite the heat, and the 3 a.m. runs, Mejia’s take-away from his summer ROTC commitments is simple: “I learned a lot, and had fun,” he said.