What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?

I recently spent two mornings in a row sorting through old paperwork, filing and refiling old receipts, invoices, and timesheets. I labeled and alphabetized nearly 100 folders, plunking them into small file cabinets one by one. The day before, I had folded 300 printed brochures, 150 each in Spanish and English, pressing the seams flat with a pen I found in a drawer. In a word: tedium, the opposite of what I initially anticipated when I applied for an internship with the Eastside Legal Assistance Program.

But among the dusty slips of paper, sandwiched between the menu for last year’s Breakfast for Justice and the lease agreement for ELAP’s offices, I found drafts of client success stories. Court documents. Printouts of jubilant emails about how the ELAP team saved a block of rent-controlled condos from demolition. Reminders of the ways that ELAP has a direct, positive effect on the community. And reminders of what keeps a nonprofit organization running, behind the scenes.

Older friends always warned me about getting one of those internships, the ones all of the career guides and college counselors shuddered about. The internships spent doing administrative “busy work,” filing papers, and running errands. Those internships were...

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