Category: Financial Aid & Student Success, Giving News

Title:With $5M gift, Idol family enables more first-generation and low-income students to experience summer internships

Screenshot of participants in the 2020 Idol Family Fellowship Program meeting over Zoom
Participants in the 2020 Idol Family Fellowship Program meet regularly over Zoom to support one another and discuss challenges. The program was adapted to ensure it could continue virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A newly expanded summer program at Georgetown University provides first-generation and low-income undergraduates with financial and programmatic support as they participate in summer internships. This summer’s session has been adapted to ensure everyone’s safety during the ongoing health crisis, with students living around the world—rather than only in Washington, D.C.—and participating in remote internships.

The Idol Family Fellowship Program was made possible by a $5 million gift from the Idol Family Foundation. John Idol, father of Christina (C’14), is a former member of the Board of Directors, Board of Regents, and College Board of Advisors.

“Our family believes that education and access to professional development opportunities that serve as a training ground for future employment will help create advantages for first-generation students at Georgetown,” shares Idol.

By assisting students as they identify internship opportunities and providing financial support to help students manage the costs of living in Washington, D.C., for the summer, the Idols hope to help a diverse group of students seize opportunities that will enrich their professional and personal development.

“As a University committed to the formation of our students, we remain deeply grateful for the enduring leadership of John and the entire Idol family and their shared dedication to making these extraordinary learning experiences possible for our students, regardless of socioeconomic background,” says Georgetown President John J. DeGioia.

“The expansion of this program, a reflection of the Idol family’s thoughtful engagement and vision, provides greater opportunities for our students to develop and reach their fullest potential.”

Transitioning to virtual learning for summer 2020

In February 2020, the program had selected its cohort of summer 2020 participants and was finalizing activity plans when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Most schools and businesses switched to remote work in order to comply with social distancing recommendations.

While many internship programs were suspended because of the pandemic, Georgetown and the Idol family were committed to adapting the program so that it could continue virtually. The Georgetown team worked with each Idol Fellow to ensure they were able to secure an internship that would allow for remote work and made appropriate changes to the summer curriculum to reflect this new virtual reality.

In future summers, the participants will commute, share housing, and attend social events together, but in summer 2020, the participants will follow social distancing guidelines and participate from their shelter-in-place locations. There will be professional development workshops related to virtual onboarding and virtual networking to help students adapt to new business protocols during the pandemic and beyond.

Alleviating financial stress

The Idol Family Fellowship Program was designed to support students with high financial need as they decide how to spend their summers.

“Every year, many driven Georgetown students have to make the difficult choice between a coveted-yet-unpaid internship with an organization like the Department of Justice and going home to work at the same job they had in high school,” explains Missy Foy, director of the Georgetown Scholars Program. “Every year my staff and I see students struggle between the short-term need for money and the long-term benefit provided by these internships.”

The Idol Family Fellowship Program was designed to cover the cost of housing and transportation for the Georgetown students while providing a modest stipend for living expenses. This summer, in recognition of the fact that Idol Fellows would face financial stressors stemming from the public health crisis, participants received a larger stipend that incorporated the funding that would have gone toward housing and transportation.

“John and his family want to see more students achieve their dreams,” adds Foy. “I am really thankful that fewer students will have to make tough decisions about summer work.”

“I am really thankful that fewer students will have to make tough decisions about summer work.”

Missy Foy, GSP director

Identifying opportunities

The Idol Family Fellowship Program is collaborating with the larger Capitol Applied Learning Labs (CALL) initiative run by Georgetown’s Designing the Future(s) of the University initiative. This partnership will provide each fellow with access to professional development seminars, networking opportunities, mentoring, community service options, and off-campus social events while they undertake a full-time internship.

“We worked closely with Cawley Career Center in designing customized workshops and personalized coaching to help the fellows apply for and secure their internships,” says CALL Director Abigail Lewis. “Overall, we aim to build and expand students’ professional capital, which in turn levels the post-collegiate playing field and allows students to match their ambitions with their job prospects.”

Preparing for leadership

Even though the Idol Family Fellowship Program is in only its first year, Georgetown and the Idol family are already discussing ways to further deepen students’ academic, professional, and social opportunities in future summers. Ideas include courses focused on leadership, communication, and navigating the nation’s capital as a young professional, as well as skill-building workshops on topics such as financial fluency and public speaking.

The Idol family will work closely with the fellows, GSP, and CALL to collect feedback on the student experience with an eye to program expansion.

“The generosity of the Idol family gift allows us to seamlessly bring together two strategic priorities of the university,” says Randall Bass, who leads the Designing the Future(s) of the University initiative. “We can support first-generation students in achieving equity of experience in all that Georgetown has to offer and also advance the development of the CALL and the Capitol Campus as a key location where our students can meet the world, and develop both professionally and personally as future leaders.”