Student bridges the generational gap through foundational work

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With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, Caitlin Brookner ’16 wanted to help tackle the issue by transforming the health care system in a financially sustainable way. This past summer, Brookner pursued her longstanding commitment to bridging the generational gap by interning at the John A. Hartford Foundation.

“The Hartford Foundation is dedicated to improving the health of aging Americans through championing grants in five focus areas: leadership in action, linking education and practice, developing and disseminating models of care, tools and measures for quality care, and lastly public policy and communication,” Brookner said in an email.

A private, nonpartisan philanthropy based in New York City dedicated to improving the health of aging Americans, the Hartford foundation was a “natural fit” in Brookner’s words.

Brookner, who is double majoring in English and philosophy at the College, says she has “always had a passion for effectuating positive change.” Her passion shows through in her involvement with community service opportunities at the College.

Besides tutoring students from the Waterville community as part of the Colby Cares About Kids program, Brookner also volunteers at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter and the Waterville Humane Society. Brookner also manages a website that connects Washington, D.C. high school community service requirements to the needs of senior citizens.

This past summer, Brookner served as the sole intern at the Hartford Foundation, where she was able to improve her research by attending site visits and conferences. “During the summer I was given several responsibilities.  For example, I wrote a blog series on their 2013 annual report, I completed extensive research reports on the benefits of electronic health records and I was involved in the writing of several grants.  I was also given the opportunity to attend several site visits and travel to conferences with the team,” Brookner said.

“On the site visits I was able to meet interesting people and see first hand how the grant money was being put to use.” She continued, “Additionally, it was truly an amazing feeling to see weeks of preparation for various conferences come to life within a presentation [given] to hundreds of people.  Being immersed in a room with passionate people striving to make a difference in the lives of others is an empowering feeling.”

Brookner is grateful for the ways in which the internship impacted her: “[It] was an incredible growing experience for me, both academically and personally. … I learned to think both critically and creatively when [approaching] expansive issues,” she said.

Brookner continued, “I also honed my ability to tackle large quantities of reading and decipher the most important points within a short time frame.  Additionally, as I was constantly writing and editing, my writing ability inevitably improved as well.”

In addition to the ways in which working at the Hartford foundation impacted her academically, Brookner also claims that she gained valuable life lessons through living in New York City this summer. “Personally, I learned to live alone as I stayed in a studio apartment this past summer.  I was able to truly experience the life of an adult, one I can very much imagine having two years from now,” she said.

Brookner’s internship also solidified her interest in working towards positive change as a non-profit lawyer. She said, “As I was working alongside people who truly live and breathe the Hartford Foundation’s mission, it was hard not to become fueled by their overwhelming passion.”

In the future, Brookner hopes to continue her work in the area by helping to create dramatic improvements in the quality of health care while simultaneously reducing the costs.

To students who have similar interests, Brookner advises taking advantage of Colby’s Career Center as well as talking with other students, family members and former employers about their past experiences and potential connections. However, Brookner explains that she was lucky to have found a position that suited her interests. “I have always had a passion for changing the lives of others (specifically older Americans), so I had known of the John A. Hartford Foundation for many years.” She added, “I completed research regarding their internship program and was fortunate when applying,” she said.

For Brookner, researching companies and foundations online and reading their blogs during her free time was a helpful way to stay updated on their current news, projects, and focus areas. 

Brookner is more than happy to provide advice and guidance for students interested in nonpartisan or nonprofit work. Brookner said,  “More than anything, I would recommend talking to other students, family members, and past employers regarding their past experiences and potential connections.”

Brookner added, “If you are interested in working with passionate and dedicated people, learning to tackle large issues and being a force of change, then the John A. Hartford Foundation is the right place for you.”

She advised, “During any free time that you may have, begin researching companies and foundations online…. I would recommend then emailing a member of the company’s team with general questions or specific internship inquiries; by doing so you come off as a strong self-advocate. If anyone has any questions regarding the Hartford Foundation or general foundation work, I am happy to speak to you.”

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