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Internal Combustion

Internal Combustion

I keep running into these young adults who look a lot like kids I used to know.  I will stare for a moment and ask where I know them from and very politely they remind me I am friends with their parents.

While Southwest Florida enjoys a vibrant season of winter residents who infuse our communities with resources, time and talents, we also have a summer infusion of youthful energy when college students return home for the summer, are out of classes from our local colleges and universities or have graduated and are starting their careers back in their hometowns.

These familiar faces are the young people I formerly knew as children but somehow overnight are all grown up.

As coursework and graduations wrap up for the year, students begin to make way their way back to home base.  They reunite with friends, look for work, and re-engage with their community.

I remember my post-secondary summers being spent trying to work as many hours as possible as a lifeguard and swimming instructor to earn money for the following year.  I must confess that I did not give much thought to using the summers to expose myself to experiences that would bolster my future career.

So somewhat naively I found myself asking these familiar adult/children what they would be up to this summer and I was blown away by their responses.  Most all of these post-secondary students are continuing certifications they have started in technical schools or are engaging in some type of meaningful internships with local businesses.  This is in addition to working part time jobs to earn the money for next year’s coursework.  Even students who have graduated see internships and volunteer positions as a valuable tool in the job market.

This impresses me on more than one level.  In our new economy both students and business owners are embracing the concept that internships provide our region the opportunity for growth.  The interns are gaining valuable skills not only in a particular field but also the fundamental skills employers are looking for in a team member.  Businesses are able to offer opportunities that directly link a student’s coursework to a future career.  As our region continues to examine and frame the tie between curriculum and workforce these internships provide an important link.

It has also been interesting to learn that it is never too late for an internship opportunity.  Sometimes we consider students in only one age bracket but the reality is many of our local college students are adults returning to classes to finish a degree or obtain a new certification.

Just last semester the Southwest Florida Community Foundation welcomed a fantastic intern from Florida Gulf Coast University that was attending school via the GI Bill after serving his country.  He is married with children.

This summer the Foundation is getting ready to welcome 4 summer interns of our own through  a fantastic partnership with a donor who has established a summer fellowship for students pursuing a career in public interest communications – which really means communications to promote a cause or issue.  They are arriving in a couple of weeks but we won’t be keeping them to ourselves.  Each one will be imbedded for the summer in a nonprofit organization the Foundation funded last year.  They are here to help develop communication plans and tools to spread the word on the results of the nonprofits great work in the region.

This will be hands-on experience for the students in their chosen field and a great opportunity for the nonprofits in our region.

As this focus on workforce opportunities expands in Southwest Florida, we are seeing more donors who want to fund these types of internships and fellowship programs.

Much like our scholarship donors who want to give a hand up to a student pursuing their dreams, these new types of donors we are working with want to provide for the holistic student experience beyond tuition and books.

It looks like we are all growing up together.

I would love to hear from students who are home for the summer or local students that are involved in internships here in Southwest Florida.  If you are business who engages in internships I would be interesting in hearing about your experiences as well.  Please reach out to me at [email protected].


As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $88 million, the Community Foundation has provided $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $400,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.


For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit


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Sarah Owen
Sarah Owen

Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, leads a passionate and diverse team dedicated to driving regional change for the common good. The Foundation is committed to engaging the community in conversations and action that creates sustainable positive change and provides the funding to make those changes a reality. More