By Jade Anthony
Leadership opportunities come in many forms at the Wisconsin Union. One of the Union’s newest forms of leadership is a partnership between the Union’s Willis L. Jones Leadership Center (JLC) and Porchlight, a Madison-based, nonprofit agency that strives to reduce homelessness in Dane County.
As part of this partnership, which began in 2017, the Union hires a University of Wisconsin-Madison student to serve as a JLC communications and special events intern. This position is dedicated exclusively to working with the Porchlight team on communications strategies and special events. The intern’s work supports Porchlight’s programs and services, including providing emergency shelter, food, employment services, counseling, and housing to more than 8,000 people each year.
The intern works closely with JLC Interns and Mary Russell, the Union director of education and art programs, to explore areas of collaboration and ways to incorporate JLC’s leadership mission within the intern’s Porchlight work.
“The Wisconsin Union is partnering with Porchlight because we are realigning our values of community and providing students with a chance to gain community-based work through an internship program,” said Iffat Bhuiyan, the 2017-18 Wisconsin Union president.
The internship gives a student the chance to make a difference in many areas of the non-profit’s work, including within Porchlight Products, a program that gives formerly homeless individuals with disabilities the opportunity to learn new job skills. Revenue from this program helps the Porchlight team continue to make a difference in our community.
“There was a strong push from students to create a partnership with a community-based program,” Bhuiyan said. “They wanted to expose students to the issues that various Madison communities are facing.”
One key effort with which the most recent intern played an important role is Chef Tasting, the primary fundraiser for Porchlight Products. The event includes chef-made culinary creations and an auction of dinner packages. The student intern helped to create a buzz surrounding the event by garnering earned media, generating social media content and coordinating auction items. This year, the event raised $40,000 and drew 250 attendees. The student intern assisted Porchlight in other projects, as well, ranging from improving overall sales of Porchlight Products to writing about the agency’s success stories.
With this partnership, the Center’s vision to inspire students to positively transform their campus communities and beyond is being lived in a new way. And this new opportunity is positively impacting those whom Porchlight serves while providing hands-on learning experiences for the Porchlight intern and other JLC interns.
The JLC team’s efforts would not be possible without the support of our community, including UW-Madison students, staff and faculty; Wisconsin Union members and donors; Wisconsin Union Association trustees; and the thousands of guests who visit us each year. This support continues to create positive reverberations throughout the community and beyond through this and so many other Union efforts.
To learn more about the ways to support the Union’s role as the UW-Madison Division of Social Education, please visit union.wisc.edu/donate.