The NLC Intern Experience

For many years, students who attend the National Leadership Conference have had the opportunity to sign up as a conference volunteer and intern. These experiences have been available in several areas and offered over 500 students annually a chance to participate.

In 2019, a new, enhanced program was introduced to NLC participants which opened up an exclusive internship opportunity for a select number of students in addition to continuing expansion of the much needed volunteer program.

Under this new program structure, students serving as NLC Interns received hands-on learning and mentorship, a behind-the-scenes look at what is involved with key areas of the conference and the opportunity for a little career exploration. Additionally, each intern was matched with a BPA Alumni and National Staff member for mentorship, on-site training and a unique learning experience throughout the conference.

This blog post shares the experience of one of this year’s NLC Interns:

My Experience as a BPA NLC Intern
by: Gabriella Schaffer, 2019 NLC Marketing & Communications Intern

I applied for the internship because I was excited to see what I could learn and to have the experience. I placed in the top 10 in my event at state, but barely missed qualifying for nationals. My advisor knew how much I had worked and gave me the opportunity to attend, but we still wanted the trip to be a learning experience for me. This led to me finding out I could be an NLC Intern as well as participate in the Bank On It Tournament sponsored by the AICPA.

I was stoked to see what opportunities I could be given by attending the conference. Before I arrived at NLC, I was not really sure what I would be doing. My advisor did not know either. The experience was a total surprise. I figured that I would be helping out with marketing since that was the intern title. I assumed that I would be helping in various aspects of NLC, such as the store, event registration, as well as assisting with behind the scenes aspects of the conference.

Going into the internship without a clue of what I would be doing and when I would be busy, was a crazy experience. But, it also allowed me to be surprised and excited every time I got a new task. I loved the flexibility I had with the schedule because it allowed me to still attend tours and explore California without being confined to always having to be working as an intern.

I arrived to Anaheim, California Tuesday afternoon (April 30). The next morning I met with National BPA Alumni Division President, Angie Benson and National BPA Director of Marketing & Stakeholder Engagement, Heather Bunning. I also met Anna, another intern who also participated at last year’s NLC in Dallas. In this first meeting, we learned what we would be doing as interns at the conference.

Later that afternoon, I met Anna and Heather in the Grand Plaza where they placed the new 3D BPA sign. This is where I also met Dr. LouAnn Ross. She asked if we would take a photo with her by the giant BPA sign and we did. After the “photo opp”, we went to the Arena to see the setup of Opening Ceremony. We met many people who were in charge of putting on the show.

Thursday (May 2), I met with Heather at 1:30pm. We helped set up the tables for one of the BPA University Workshop Sessions: The Incredible College Exchange. We also went to the BPA store to get t-shirts for the college panel to hand out to people asking good questions. Once we finished that setup, we went to the boardroom (National Staff Office) to help Angie staple papers and prepare materials for the National Alumni Meeting. As soon as we were done getting everything ready for the meeting, Anna arrived and together, we worked on creating posters for the Walk for Special Olympics. This was a ton of fun and I enjoyed showing my creative side by making encouraging signs for many BPA members to use and see the next day.

Friday (May 3) was my last day to help with intern work, which was sad. It was also my birthday, which was an incredible experience to have at NLC! We started the day by assisting BPA members sign in for the Walk for Special Olympics. Then we were asked to stand at the end of the Walk with signs to cheer on the walkers, but another National Staff member, Jonathan Smith, had other plans. He tasked us with leading a group of walkers. I loved cheering everyone on and motivating them. We got to high five other walkers as they were passing by the other side. The Walk pumped me up and got me excited for the rest of the day!

At the end of the Walk, a group of people sang me Happy Birthday, and I had lunch with Anna, who is now one of my new-found friends, before going back to my chapter for a tour.

The BPA internship program was an experience that I will never forget. Along with everything I did as an intern, I learned more about myself and BPA as an organization. It helped me grow my network, which I was not expecting.

Before the conference, I was very shy and not very sociable. I now have new contacts in my phone and on social media. Both my advisor and myself were very proud of how social I became through the experience. I was given an opportunity to step out of my shell, which is not something I would usually do. I now know that when I am put into a new situation, I can be social and I should not be afraid. This new skill will help me make friends in college and be a better communicator in my future career.

I also learned more about who ran BPA and what that entailed, which was really cool. I participated much more this year, because I understood what it meant and why there were other activities. I wanted to get something out of the NLC experience, and I can now proudly say that I had an extremely beneficial experience.

My mentors taught me so much and I cannot wait for what the future will bring if I attend NLC again next year as a Post-secondary member and help out again.