Summer 2023 Intern Spotlight

Join us as we say "Thank you!" (တၢ်ဘျုး) and good luck to The Center Summer 2023 Interns - Che Ku War Kyet and LJ Kehler both from Colgate University. Read the reflections on their experience. 

This Summer we welcomed two interns from Colgate University, one a former refugee whose family The Center resettled. Below, in their own words, Che Ku War Kyet and LJ Kelher tell us about themselves, and reflect on their time at The Center. 

My name is Che Ku War Kyet. I am a rising senior at Colgate University. I am majoring in Molecular Biology and minoring in sociology. Furthermore, I call Utica my home.  The Center holds a special place in my heart as they helped my family and I resettle in 2008. The Center helped us tremendously with resettlement. This summer I worked with Jennifer VanWagoner, Manager of Grants and Community Engagement. 

The project that I have been working on revolves around the CenteringPregnancy Model. The CenteringPregnancy Model is focused on group prenatal care rather than individualized care. This model has been successfully implemented within MVHS hospitals. MVHS is now hoping to expand this form of care to refugee women. Therefore, I have been tasked with researching traditional prenatal care and birthing practices of refugee populations in Utica in order for MVHS to provide culturally conscious care to these populations. The goal of this project is to provide MVHS with recommendations on how the CenteringPregnancy model can be adapted in order to provide care that acknowledges and celebrates the cultural differences in care between the US medical system and these refugee populations. 

This summer has been one of my most fulfilling and meaningful experiences. Being able to work at the place where it all began for me has been an invaluable experience. I learned about the process of resettlement and the village that it takes to bring the refugees over to the US and then the help that is required to get them resettled and  learn how to make Utica their new home. Tasks as simple as grocery shopping go miles in helping the new refugee residents feel as though they have finally found a safe place to call home. I am more than grateful to have been given this opportunity to be involved with such an important organization for the Utica community. My experience at The Center is invaluable. It has helped to further fuel my desire to go into the medical field in hopes to provide conscious and intentional health care to impoverished and underprivileged communities. 

My name is Laurajane (LJ) Kehler and I am a rising junior at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY. I am a Molecular Biology major, and minoring in Global Public & Environmental Health. This summer, I had the great privilege of working with The Center through a fellowship offered by The Upstate Instittue at Colgate. Prior to my fellowship, I volunteered at the front desk at The Center where I was able to gain a good perspective on the operation of refugee resettlement- certainly a complex, yet extremely beneficial service which often gets overlooked.

My project this summer was to develop a database to track the donation process at The Center, but I took it another direction to ensure that my work would be both applicable and sustainable to The Center. Since nonprofit agencies like this are subject to fluctuating conditions, I designed a model which can be applied to the donation process in any context. The four-part framework I developed was designed and applied using a past donation drive at The Center which focused my attention on refugee resettlement. All in all, I felt proud of my final product which I presented in a poster presentation, but it was also profoundly eye opening to interact with clients and paint a space which will be used to store donations in the future. 

I will bring this experience with me as I continue to expand my knowledge and refine my future interests. The nonprofit realm is gratifying, yet severely overlooked for funding and assistance. In the future, I truly believe that I will work in a space that provides assistance to vulnerable populations like the refugee population. At the very least, I predict that I will be involved in advocacy work so that refugees can be supported with more concerted effort by the government and local communities. 

This summer was truly incredible, and I am very grateful to have worked with Elise, Jen, and The Upstate Institute. For anyone considering working with The Center, I could not speak more highly of the experience you will receive and the satisfaction that will come with public service.

For more information about volunteer and internship opportunities at The Center contact Elise Incze, Volunteer Coordinator,