This is part of a monthly “My Student Experience” series in which the NC State College of Education highlights the student experience through profiles, stories and videos.
After earning her associate’s degree, Erika Allen ’23 took a gap year to discover her calling. She ended up serving as a children’s youth director at her church; and through that experience, she found a love for teaching.
“The funny thing was, I was the last one to see it. Though I was teaching all grade levels within my church, I didn’t realize how much I loved teaching until others made me aware,” she said.
Now enrolled in the NC State College of Education, Allen is majoring in elementary education with plans of turning her passion into a career. As a native of Johnston County, Allen wants to pour into the future generations of her community and make a difference in her hometown.
As one of two students selected to participate in the College of Education Summer Internship Program, she’s been able to do just that.
Allen spent her summer working as an intern with REACH Mentoring Ministry in Smithfield, North Carolina, an organization that works with youth in the foster care system. In her role, she was responsible for mentoring, developing a sustainable mentoring and training program, meeting with local organizations and professionals to form partnerships, and assisting with administration duties.
“I grew up in rural Johnston County. It’s been my home for most of my life and has given so much to me,” she said. “It’s where I received my public education, where teachers selflessly poured into my life through encouragement and support though I could not give anything back. I desire to serve the future generation of my community as the ones before me did.”
The College of Education Summer Internship Program is a competitive, eight-week summer internship program that provides financial support for two undergraduate students within the college who serve as interns at organizations in high needs communities that support education, such as schools, community centers or educational nonprofits. Preference is given to students who complete an internship in their home community.
The College of Education Summer Internship Program appealed to Allen because it allowed her to serve her home community and because it was established in honor of Chantal Warfield ‘19, who died in October 2019 as a result of a car accident.
“I believed it was such a beautiful way to honor Chantal Warfield’s name by serving our youth in this fashion. I am so grateful to help carry out her mission,” Allen said. “It was everything I wanted in an internship — to be able to serve my community and children while choosing the organization I would be a part of.”
As a future educator, Allen says her internship experience has prepared her to best serve her future students, no matter their background. She got to work up close and personal with youth “who are resilient in the face of adversity, having faced massive trials and overcoming them.”
Allen developed the organization’s mentorship program and met with local professionals in an effort to help students grow in building their skills and interests.
“As a teacher, I will be doing the same thing but rather than connecting them with professionals, I will be the professional,” she said.
For Allen, this internship experience has taught her a lot about herself and has impacted her as a person, as an education student and as a future teacher.
“This internship has shown me the beauty of how warm smiles, consistently showing up and gutsy ambition can change lives. I was overwhelmed when I looked at the tasks ahead of me, but I soon realized that I didn’t need to be the smartest or most strategic. All I needed was to be willing to do the work,” Allen said.
Being a part of REACH Mentoring Ministry has given Allen experience in how to be a mentor to youth, how to run a nonprofit and how to organize local members of the community to best help an organization — all skills she will take with her into her future classroom.
Building relationships with the youth in the program, pouring into their lives and helping them explore their passions and interests is an experience and a skill Allen will use in the future as she prepares to be a teacher and make a difference in her local community.
“I can’t imagine pursuing another career other than the field of education. I believe it is the most empowering tool you can give to an individual in all areas of their life,” Allen said. “It is where achievement gaps are closed, when ears are opened to truth and how lives are changed. I am so honored to be pursuing a career in education.”