When Luisa Salazar, of Randolph, a communication major at County College of Morris (CCM), envisioned a college internship she pictured working at an advertising agency or radio station. What she found instead was an internship with the New Jersey AIDS Services (NJAS) that turned into an unexpected opportunity for personal growth.
“I was the only communication major there,” says Salazar. That meant that, with the help of supervisors, she had to establish what communication tasks would best benefit the organization, which provides HIV/AIDS support services, housing and education.
“I did a lot of revamping of their website,” she says. “It hadn’t been touched in several years. I updated it and made it more aesthetically appealing.” She also supported event activities, making flyers for World AIDS Day and coordinating donations of food from local restaurants.
“HIV and AIDS are very stigmatized in our society,” Salazar reflects, “Before interning for NJAS, I didn’t know much about it. It was a completely new environment to me. It was rewarding being there every Thursday and Friday, spending time with the clients and the social workers at The Eric Johnson House in Morristown.” The Eric Johnson House is a residential house for homeless men and women with HIV and AIDS that helps them get back on their feet.
“The residents live in the house and we have an office space on the first floor,” explains Salazar. “The other interns and I got to spend a lot of time with the residents. They’re just amazing people. They talk about their life lessons and try to pass them on to you.”
The internship taught her more than communication skills. “You can never give back too much. It’s so important because there are so many people out there who need help and assistance, and any sort of aid is always welcomed and appreciated.”
When the three-month internship ended, Salazar found she had grown quite attached to the people and compassionate environment. It transformed her world view. “I always wanted to do entertainment news. Now I want to involve myself with more hard-hitting news that will affect people,” she says. “I’ve grown so much. I saw how hard the social workers work every day—their passion for their clients. I want that type of passion for what I do in life. I absorbed that from them.”