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Summer Interns Bridge the Gap Between Lecture Halls and Professional Careers

The 2023 class of Arnold Ventures interns reflect on why they joined the company and their work to meaningfully move the needle.

Image of five student interns at a conference table.
Arnold Ventures Summer Interns (top to bottom) RJ Wicks, Kathya Correa, Wendy Olivares, Diego Castillo, and Serenity Hamilton photographed in Washington, D.C. office. (Valerie Plesch/For Arnold Ventures)

In the heart of the bustling policy world, Arnold Ventures stands as an exceptional haven for interns aspiring to contribute to meaningful change via philanthropy. Brimming with in-house experts spanning numerous issue areas and a steadfast commitment to non-partisan and evidence-based policies, the institution distinguishes itself as a catalyst for essential change. This year’s interns got not only a front row seat, but hands-on experience on the everyday work of maximizing opportunity and minimizing injustice.

United by a shared passion for driving positive change, this year’s intern cohort at Arnold Ventures formed a close-knit community, fostering an environment where growth and collaboration thrive. As they joined forces with the philanthropy’s amazing staff, their aspirations aligned, and the interns’ once hypothetical potential morphed into results and valued output. Armed with theoretical knowledge gleaned from classrooms, they eagerly immersed themselves in real-world scenarios, witnessing theory take shape in practice. Moreover, the connections forged with mentors and industry insiders serve as invaluable lifelines, offering insights and wisdom that extend beyond the confines of textbooks and lecture halls.

With evidence-based policies as their compass and a supportive community by their side, these young interns are well-equipped to embrace the challenges of the policy landscape and set their sights on a future where their collective efforts can shape a better world. Read about their summer at AV:

Diego Castillo

Diego is a rising freshman at Brown University and is considering a major in economics and public policy. This summer he served as the intern for the Communications and External Affairs teams, with the Chief of Staff for Communications and External Affairs Sara Hudson, along with the Vice President of External Affairs Sebastian Johnson, serving as Diego’s program managers.

Diego’s interest in an internship at Arnold Ventures was piqued by the opportunity to see policies being crafted and congressional coalitions being built to help materialize systemic change. As a former debate kid, we made a lot of hypothetical arguments about the government passing specific policies and what the downstream impact of that could be,” Diego says. But interning at Arnold Ventures would allow me to see how this process actually happens in real life, and there’s no way I could turn down that opportunity.”

One of Diego’s projects involved integrating a public affairs database and software into the existing strategies of the External Affairs and programmatic teams. This work involved building issue dashboards and teaching other team members how to use the platform. Diego also wrote dozens of briefs and backgrounders for team members to use as they attended interviews, meetings, or conferences. 

Kathya Correa

Kathya is a rising junior at Boston University, pursuing a major in psychology with a minor in education. During her time at Arnold Ventures, she has worked on the Contraceptive Choice and Access team under Contraceptive Choice and Access Manager Yolanda Barnes. 

Kathya was drawn to Arnold Ventures because she wants to create change for communities like hers. Knowing that her work will help improve conditions for those most in need has helped spark a real passion for her projects with the CCA team. 

I have been personally touched, having witnessed firsthand the injustices AV is actively working to minimize,” she says. 

Much of her work has focused on two landscape analyses that detail contraceptive access in different cities and states. Kathya really appreciated this project, she says, because it has helped her gain a larger understanding of the experiences of youth outside her corner of the country. 

Serenity Hamilton

Serenity is a rising junior at Brown University, majoring in political science, and is the intern for the Community Safety and Policing teams, which falls under the broader Criminal Justice portfolio at Arnold Ventures. Her program manager is the Director of Criminal Justice Mark Krupanski. 

Serenity’s passion for social change along with her appetite for trying new things are what ultimately brought her to Arnold Ventures. She was eager to learn about the process of how policies are designed, packaged, and implemented. “[I like] Seeing the impact of the work that you’re putting in, even if it’s at a higher level or more on the ground level,” she said. I really enjoy the fact that there are so many avenues to create change.”

In her role, she produces weekly updates for the Policing team to send to the Board of Directors and has also worked to identify potential partner organizations and officials in priority states, helping the team better understand and prepare. In this role, she is able to take part in conversations that shape AV’s larger strategy. 

What I’ve most enjoyed doing is participating in discussions focused on developing our advocacy strategy for our police accountability portfolio, because the policy priorities mean a lot to me and there’s a lot to do in 2024, I really enjoy being able to help plan for that.”

Wendy Olivares

Wendy is a rising senior at Connecticut College, double-majoring in human development and educational studies, with a minor in psychology along with a certificate in community action and public policy. She is the intern for the Healthcare and Advocacy teams, working under Advocacy Chief of Staff Caitlyn Morrison. 

Wendy decided to intern at Arnold Ventures to learn more about the philanthropic sector. I wasn’t really familiar with what a philanthropy was, so I was very interested in learning what it looks like on the ground,” she says. Though she understands that change is slow, she finds meaning in her work each day by thinking about the impact it’ll have on people’s lives. 

During her time at AV, Wendy has worked on a landscape analysis to help her team gain a greater understanding of the feasibility of their policy goals. In addition to this work, Wendy has loved the opportunities to have a seat at the table and learn about niche issues that she likely never would’ve learned about, such as how Medicare or drug pricing works. 

RJ Wicks

RJ is a rising senior at Pepperdine University, majoring in political science and education with a certificate in conflict management. He is the intern for the Higher Education team at Arnold Ventures, working under Higher Education Manager Jessica Taketa.

RJ was attracted to Arnold Ventures’ unique position as a non-partisan, evidence-based philanthropy. He’s also really appreciated the vast breadth of work that the company works on. 

I love that AV works in so many different issues,” he says. Not only being on the Higher Ed team, but also learning about Health Care, Criminal Justice, Advocacy, and all of these different spheres of influence that AV has – it has been really interesting for me to learn about these over the past couple of weeks.”

During his internship, RJ’s main project was a literature review and memo on student success for the Higher Education team. RJ also wrote for the AV website on higher education issues.