Alum of the Month
MAY 2013: Haley Pitonyak
"Mikva Challenge was one of the first experiences I had that gave me a really good look at how local government works. Not only that, but the skills I was able to gain through the internship with Mikva Challenge helped me out at my current job."
What did you do with Mikva?
I found out about Mikva Challenge through Ms. Lent at Whitney Young from which I graduated in 2010. The first program I participated in was the Student Election Judge Program, where I was placed in Gage Park. I found the experience to be interesting and challenging. It was a long day, where I had to get up very early and stay pretty late into the night, but it was an enjoyably long day. Something that I found very important was that the adult staff at the polling place didn't treat me as a child. I was treated like any other staff member and given the same responsibilities. I think the Student Judge Program is a great way to give teenagers an inside look at how the voting process works. The teens are also gaining some work experience, which never hurts. I was a student judge twice.
After my stint as student judge, I did the Summer Fellows program where I got the opportunity to intern with Ald. Burke (14th Ward) during the summer of 2010. I was nervous to enter on my first day, because it was a REAL job. It wasn't just retail or food service. I had very specific adult duties like speaking with constituents and doing database work. I gained some great skills, and my nervousness subsided since all the people in the office were nice and friendly. I actually ended up staying as an intern during my first two years of college.
What are you doing now?
I am currently a student at DePaul where I major in Political Science. During my first two years, I continued to intern with Ald. Burke, until an opportunity opened up with the U.S. Department of Commerce. I currently work there as the International Trade Specialist Trainee, where I am building on the skillset I obtained at Ald. Burke's office.
How has Mikva informed where you are today?
Mikva Challenge was one of the first experiences I had that gave me a really good look at how local government works. Not only that, but the skills I was able to gain through the internship with Mikva Challenge helped me out at my current job where I counsel small and medium sized businesses who want to export to overseas markets. I now am working at the Federal level of government, and Mikva Challenge piqued my interest and desire to see how a different level of government works. Mikva Challenge has also taught me that you don't need to go into politics to make a difference. In the future, I would like a career where I can directly help people and make a difference. That is what Mikva Challenge taught me to do, and that is why I love Mikva Challenge.