07/03/2012 02:36 pm ET Updated Sep 02, 2012

Volunteers & Summer Interns: Not Just a Short-Lived Gig, But Careers in the Making

Steve Jobs. Brian Williams. Betsey Johnson. Steven Spielberg.

All are defined by successful professional careers. But before they became household names, they started as interns.

The late Steve Jobs, who co-founded Apple Inc., began his career interning at Hewlett-Packard and fashion designer Betsey Johnson interned at Mademoiselle magazine. In addition to an internship with President Jimmy Carter's administration, Brian Williams served as a volunteer fireman in his hometown.

I strongly believe in the value of internships, but also community service. Signing up to volunteer is a great way to gain experience in various jobs while testing waters for a potential career. I have volunteered for many years and my experiences have provided expert training, exposed me to a network of professional contacts and helped me find work.

At the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, where I work as a volunteer services manager, our mission is to remember and honor the thousands of innocent men, women, and children killed in the terror attacks of Feb. 26, 1993 and 9/11. More than three million visitors have come to the 9/11 Memorial since September. Full-time employees, and volunteers as well as interns help to carry out our mission. To sign up to volunteer or learn more about internships, please visit

I have said that volunteerism is important and valuable for self-development and career building. Internships parallel volunteerism. The rewards are incredible for students who want to get involved as well as gain work experience. Interns, like volunteers, have a chance to develop their professional skills and gain insight related to their studies or career goals while making an impact.

This summer, the 9/11 Memorial staff has the pleasure of working with a great group of interns and student volunteers. They are all are gaining experiences related to their professional pursuits and interests. They are:

  • Alex Clavijo, whose interests are closely related to his areas of study, is pursuing an anthropology major with a business minor. The way that the 9/11 Memorial unifies people appeals to Clavijo's interest in cultures and human interaction, and he hopes to create positive change for future generations.
  • Lucas Fitcher, a finance major who previously interned with the United Nations, wanted to build his professional skills in research and tourism. We're helping him fulfill that goal while using his fluency in Spanish to his advantage when communicating with international visitors.
  • Annamaria Primiani has finished her freshman year as a criminal justice victim services major. While she has volunteered at a senior center and attended the National Youth Leadership Forum in Washington D.C., her desire to support families and friends of 9/11 victims brought her to the memorial.
  • Elena Hart, who already has a bachelor's and a master's in education, is pursuing another degree in art while working for the New York City Department of Education. Her experiences as a volunteer guide at Alice Austen House Museum and Rockefeller Center as well as an interest in museum work led her to volunteer at the memorial. She believes the memorial is an important, historic place where she can play an integral part.

We are excited to help volunteers and interns achieve career goals and pursue their passions. At the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, we are always looking for volunteers year round. I hope our summer interns' experience with us will be rewarding and inspire them to turn to community service and spread word of our volunteer program.

To learn more about our volunteer program, please visit