During this eight-week internship with Seven Generations Ahead, Scott Williams was “never not busy doing something,” he said.

Because the Oak Park-based nonprofit facilitates and manages multiple sustainability initiatives, Scott worked on not one but two programs during the summer. One of his assignments was helping promote the Illinois Farm to School Network.  That assignment took him out of the office on several occasions.

Working in the field

His big trip was to Springfield, where he helped Diane Chapeta, program manager, and Mary Hosier, program coordinator, with Great Apple Crunch and Harvest of the Month signups.

That trip gave Scott a chance to interact directly with people interested in farm to school.

“We had lots of small, small districts schools that were signing up,” he said. “I mostly focused on small schools. A couple of new teachers had no idea that we even existed. Usually it’s the bigger schools that know that we have a program in place.”

On another occasion, Scott visited Mooseheart for a case study on their successful community garden. And, he helped Diane and Mary again at the Illinois School Nutrition Association Conference & Expo, held in Oakbrook, Ill.

tyson intern
Scott Williams visits Mooseheart

“Scott was a great asset to SGA,” Lisa Daleiden-Brugman, SGA’s office coordinator who also provides program support, said. “He designed new materials, worked on a website, and registered participants at our tabling events. Not only did he support our Farm to School program, he also jumped in on work for the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition.” 

His work with the Coalition involved compiling a list of local grocery stores that do composting. The goal, he said, was to try to integrate the stores into We Compost, a recognition program that promotes businesses and institutions that participate in commercial composting. Scott said he did a lot of “cold calling” to verify stores’ composting efforts.

Scott worked also with other interns to revamp the Coalition’s website. “It’s been a huge project.”

Scott’s time at SGA went beyond giving him valuable, hands-on work experience. It made him more aware of ways he could incorporate sustainable practices into his own life.

Another side of sustainability

“I’d never been exposed to the food side of sustainability and knowing the nutritional side of how bad processed food can be, not just for people but that it takes a toll on the environment as well,” he said. “I actually changed my diet to be a vegetarian during the duration of the internship.”

But will he stick with that diet? “Yeah, if my doctor says it’s alright,” said Scott, who trains twice a day to stay in shape for the cross-country team.

Scott wrapped up his internship in early August and is back at North Central College in Naperville for his senior year. His internship received support from Tyson Foods in conjunction with Illinois Campus Compact, a partnership involving 34 Illinois college and university campuses dedicated to preparing college students to advance the public good in their communities.

The environmental studies major plans to write his capstone paper on the Illinois Farm to School Network. “I am integrating my internship with my capstone.”

Asked to sum up what it was like working with an organization like SGA, Scott said: “It plays a vital role within the Chicago area. And, it hosts a lot of events that help other organizations connect to one another as well as being in charge of major programs around the city.”

—Cassandra West