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A summer internship took one Huskie to the White House

October 5, 2015
Samantha Sandoval

Samantha Sandoval

A summer internship at a food pantry in Joliet took Samantha Sandoval all the way to Washington D.C. for a field trip of a lifetime.

“Getting to enter the grounds where the president lives was a once in a lifetime opportunity in my eyes,” Sandoval said. “The highlight of the trip was definitely getting to tour Michelle Obama’s kitchen garden.”

Sandoval, who will graduate in May with a degree in nutrition and dietetics, interned at Warren-Sharpe Community Center throughout the summer as part of a NIU practicum course.

As an intern, Sandoval helped create nutrition-related projects, as well as assisted with emergency food distribution to more than 800 low-income families that rely on the center for food. The NIU senior also conducted food tastings using foods that were readily available but rarely selected as a way to encourage healthy eating.

“When I was not working in the food pantry, I was teaching children who were a part of the summer camp about nutrition,” Sandoval said. “I taught different nutrition-related activities along with cooking lessons and garden visits.”

The center has its own urban farm where they grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. It’s for that reason a group from Warren-Sharpe was invited to Washington to specifically tour Michelle Obama’s White House Kitchen Garden.

“The fact that she received an invitation to the White House says a lot about how highly the food bank thought of her and her performance at practicum this summer,” said Judith Lukaszuk, didactic program director and professor in the Department of Family, Consumer and Nutrition Sciences. “The practicum experiences are important to give students hands-on work experiences in a wide array of nutrition-related areas.”

Samantha Sandoval (far right) and the Warren-Sharpe students.

Samantha Sandoval (far right) and the Warren-Sharpe students.

Sandoval said that, in addition to the memorable trip to the nation’s capital, the internship provided an opportunity to take what she has learned in the classroom and apply it in a real-world situation.

“I learned so much from this internship,” Sandoval said. “Teaching children about nutrition and having them actually understand and remember what I taught them was an incredible feeling, especially because I never saw myself in a teaching role. I also gained more knowledge about how little people actually know about nutrition and how much a community nutritionist can actually impact a community.”

by Jane Donahue