My name is Sophia Hettler, I’m a rising junior, international affairs major and economics and Italian double minor. Before summer, I was looking for summer internship opportunities at NGO’s or non-profits by browsing the Handshake website. After months of searching and applying, I was lucky enough to be offered a position as an intern at the City of Saratoga Springs Office of Sustainability and Planning. It wasn’t what I was expecting to do but I am so grateful and happy I chose to dedicate my time this summer to working with this department, because I ended up gaining valuable experience, had a wonderful boss, and learned a lot. My boss, Christina Carton, was one of the busiest yet most dedicated and hardworking people I have ever met. She was assigned countless projects and grant applications for her to spearhead yet she was always so calm and composed. The two major projects we worked on this summer were creating a project called the “Missing Sidewalk Links Project” and writing grant applications for a new sustainable and green parking structure and park to be built in downtown Saratoga Springs called Flat Rock Centre.
The Missing Sidewalk Links project aimed to construct sidewalks with ADA certified ramps on streets where there were incomplete sidewalks, or none at all, in an effort to better connect people to schools and the downtown area no matter age or ability. My responsibilities for this project were creating an budget spreadsheet, designing a map to help visualize where the improvements would be made, and assisting in the grant writing process. My boss and I also did some field research where we walked around the proposed streets, and took notes on the area and potential obstacles. In addition, I also got to look at old engineering documents for each street and take notes on how certain issues might affect construction in specific areas.
The proposed Flat Rock Centre aims to combine the sustainability efforts the city has committed to with more accessible parking which is much needed, especially during the summer months. The structure will have solar panels on the roof, electric vehicle charging stations, bikeshare stations, as well as a pocket park with an old revitalized spring–Flat Rock Spring. For this project I was able to sit in on a meeting with the city’s landscape architecture partner group and go over the plans and design of the building, in addition to the different ways the structure could be sustainable. I also did a lot of research on Flat Rock Spring which was destroyed some years ago. Including a revitalized spring into the parking structure emphasizes the city of Saratoga Springs’ character and its cultural identity. In order to learn more about Flat Rock Spring my boss and I met with the historical director at the welcome center and took a trip the Museum of Saratoga Springs to find out more information. This project specifically helped me with my research skills, and I was also able to gain experience writing grant applications for this project as well.
My favorite thing about working for the city this summer was being able to start and finish a project that I will get to see implemented in the place I live in eight months out of the year and will positively impact the community. I also really enjoyed working with the people at city hall, specifically my boss who’s work ethic I truly admire and hope to emulate. What I hoped to learn most from this experience were grant writing skills, policy implementation, as well as specific research methods that I can eventually bring back and use for my studies at Skidmore, which I feel this internship has given me. Without the Summer Funded Internship grant I would never have been able to gain the valuable skills I learned while working in Saratoga Springs, nor would I have been able to make the connections I’ve made that will help me in my future job searches.