The world of WaterFire keeps spinning long after the fires burn out. If you visit the organization’s office on any given day, you will find people moving nonstop — answering phones, typing away at computers, running down to the Shop, holding meetings and conference calls, filming videos, updating social media, and so much more. While WaterFire is a small nonprofit, the scope of its production is quite large, which means that help outside of its 17-member staff is necessary to the success of the organization.
Enter: WaterFire’s Internship Program. This summer, 16 interns are working alongside full-time staff to plan and put on each magical WaterFire event. That’s almost one intern per staff member!
The current crop of interns kicked off their season with an Intern Orientation on May 20, hosted by Volunteer Coordinator Alex Brinckerhoff. Ranging from 19 to 26 years old, the interns hail from diverse locations: North Carolina, New Jersey, China, and of course Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Working in all different departments, including Development, Special Operations, Social Media, and Volunteer Management, everyone keeps busy working on new projects to improve and expand the organization. On event days, interns help set up and break down, as well as work with their departments to make sure each WaterFire runs smoothly. With so much hands-on experience, it’s never a boring day at WaterFire, in the office or on the river.
A WaterFire internship is not your average internship. Interns are treated like part of the team: their input is valued, they have a great range of responsibilities and learn a variety of new skills, and no one is sent on coffee runs because there is a fabulous Keurig machine in the kitchen (which is also great for making hot chocolate, even though the average temperature in Providence right now is 90 degrees).
While [interns] are certainly there to support and learn from their department heads, they are going to be placed in a position to leave their mark on the event and organization as a whole,” said Alex Brinckerhoff. “As WaterFire is a one-of-a-kind event, the type of projects that interns might be working on and the situations they may be faced with are also one-of-a-kind, but in the kind of way that will prepare them for anything.”
As the nonprofit management intern, I work closely with Managing Director Peter Mello and learn how operations run on the business side of WaterFire — it’s really interesting to see the complex ins and outs of a nonprofit organization. I’ve worked on a variety of tasks in my short time here: researching, proofreading and even writing a few grants; working with the fantastic social media interns to maintain our intern blog (check it out!); corresponding with WaterFire’s Board of Directors; and attending staff and department-specific meetings with the WaterFire team.
Danielle Casadonte, one of the Marketing & Development interns and a rising senior at James Madison University, has been busy this season working on fundraising and community outreach. On event days, Danielle works with the Development team and fellow interns at the Brazier Society reception tent.
It’s actually kind of scary,” she said of her internship. “For me this is my first time in an office setting. To be thrown into it right away, it’s a great way to learn, but it’s also intimidating. You get the title of an intern, but you do so much more than people think interns do.”
Video intern and rising senior at Clark University, Andy Doig seconds Danielle’s sentiments. “It’s different than I expected. In a broad sense, I had an idea of what I would be doing. I knew there would be PSAs to edit to go out to sponsors and for TV and radio…but there have been lots of other projects, such as behind the scenes filming, blogging, and social media.”
One of Andy’s favorite parts about interning at WaterFire is working event days. “I knew I would be working with [Associate Media Producer] Tim Labonte, but on event days, I get to work with a whole variety of different people…The energy from the people working the events is amazing. It’s like an adrenaline rush the whole way through.”
Working WaterFire events has also been a memorable part of my summer internship. Each lighting, I have the privilege of working different sections of WaterFire, such as the merchandise tent and the Brazier Society reception tent. I’ve even helped the Special Ops team during our Gaspee Day fire and a more serene basin lighting. Interning at WaterFire has been a well-rounded and exciting opportunity that has allowed me to learn more than I ever could have imagined.
While all of the interns have been working on exciting projects and developing new skill sets, our work is also a huge help to the WaterFire staff, according to Alex Brinckerhoff. “While [interns] work in different departments and utilize different skills, they also have had the opportunity to work together on larger projects and really leave their mark on the organization, long after they have left,” he said.
WaterFire’s internship program runs every season, and offers positions in a variety of different departments, including Branding and Merchandise, Arts Management, Videography and Media, Nonprofit Management, among others. For more information about internship opportunities, please visit the internship page of our website.
About the author
As the nonprofit management intern this summer, I've only been working at WaterFire for a short time. I'm a rising senior at Connecticut College, majoring in English and American Studies with a strong interest in journalism. A local of the area, I've attended WaterFire events for years, so I'm very excited to be a part of the WaterFire team and lend a hand this season.