TOCA Marketing Internship: My Extraordinary Summer Experience

By Kayla Kingston, TOCA Marketing Intern with Project EverGreen

This summer, I was presented with the fantastic opportunity to be TOCA’s first marketing intern, spending ten weeks honing my communication skills with Project EverGreen, a national nonprofit based out of Mentor, Ohio – a suburb of Cleveland – that is dedicated to creating a greener, healthier, cooler Earth through the revitalization of green spaces.

In March, as I was quickly approaching the end of my sophomore year as a Communication Major at the University of Dayton, it felt as if finding a summer internship was utterly hopeless.

However, I learned about the TOCA marketing internship a few days before the application was due and knew it was the perfect fit for me.

Throughout the humid summer days in Mentor, I updated the community project pages on the Project EverGreen website, wrote news articles and blog posts, interviewed GreenCare and SnowCare for Troops volunteers and helped manage Project EverGreen’s social media accounts.  Thankfully, I was never asked to pick up coffee, though I personally could have used the extra caffeine somedays.

One of the greatest experiences I had with Project EverGreen was traveling to Detroit, Michigan for phase II of the Pingree Park makeover.  Pingree Park had become a rundown green space, but the area has recently been reinvigorated with renovations done by Project EverGreen in partnership with Detroit-based corporations, local businesses, community groups, neighbors and landscape professionals.

While in Detroit, I had the honor to meet with the board members of Project EverGreen, take pictures of the beautiful work volunteers were doing in the hot sun and talk to the community members who were endlessly grateful for the positive impact that Project EverGreen’s hard work and dedication has had on their neighborhood.

The feedback I received from members of the East Detroit community made me realize that Project EverGreen’s work is truly changing lives.  I was proud to be able to partake in Project EverGreen’s initiative, even for just a summer, knowing that I was tying in my passion for human rights with my marketing skills, which allow me to share remarkable stories like this one.

Project EverGreen’s award-winning programs also showed me how much of a difference this nonprofit is making across the country.  GreenCare and SnowCare for Troops, which provide free lawn care and snow removal services to families of active-duty deployed military members, were two programs that I became familiarized with very quickly.

The more I learned about GreenCare and SnowCare for Troops, the more I wanted to do to make sure that awareness of this program is spread far and wide.

At this year’s SIMA Snow and Ice Symposium, which took place at the Huntington Convention Center in Cleveland, I was able to meet with GreenCare and SnowCare for Troops volunteers.  Hearing the powerful stories about why people choose to volunteer and how their volunteer experiences are positively affecting the lives of the military families was unforgettable.

This internship provided me with hands-on experience that I do not receive in the classroom.  I learned how to work in a professional setting every day, how to conduct an interview, how to write for a public, online platform and so much more.

Most of all, my internship gave me insight as to where I plan to go from here.  When I first arrived at the University of Dayton, my major was undecided.  Even after realizing that the field of communications was right for me, I had become used to the mantra of “I don’t know what I want to do in the future.”

After working with TOCA and Project EverGreen, I have decided to focus on Public Relations for the rest of my time in school.  My hope is to continue to work with nonprofit organizations, joining forces with initiatives that aim to inspire growth in society and give people something to smile about.

I will continue to take the lessons I learned from TOCA and Project EverGreen to other jobs down the road.  Having a solid foundation in the marketing world of the green industry is a chance that few encounter this early in their career.  I honestly have no idea how I got so lucky!

I would like to thank TOCA for offering me the opportunity to be their first marketing intern and for inviting me to the TOCA Annual Meeting in Cincinnati, another wonderful learning experience that provided a much needed break from finals week at the University of Dayton.

And, of course, a big thank you goes out to Cindy Code, Ki Matsko, Nici Trem and Jeff Fenner for taking me under their wings for the entire summer.  Between setting up a desk for me to work at, giving me snacks when I did not pack a big enough lunch, keeping an eye on me in Detroit and introducing me to new experiences and contacts in the green industry, everyone at Project EverGreen made this summer internship extremely memorable and tremendously valuable.