The Impact of Internships: Lea Hilton

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Lea Hilton
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Lea Hilton ’21 of Kannapolis has been volunteering for nonprofits for as long as she can remember. As a Francis Scholar at Pfeiffer University, she received a Francis Service Scholarship, which obligated her to complete 60 service hours each semester.

Her service included volunteering for such nonprofits as Meals on Wheels, Salisbury Block Works, Angel Tree, Food Lion Feeds, and Habitat for Humanity. What’s more, because of the volunteering, “I gained a love for nonprofits that made me want to work at one in the future,” Hilton said. “That’s why I interned for nonprofits as well.”

Specifically, Hilton interned at two organizations beginning in January: Shepherd’s Center of Charlotte and Human Rights Campaign Charlotte. The former seeks to enrich and improve the lives of senior citizens; the latter fights for LGBTQ equality.

Hilton is majoring in Counseling and Human Services and in Communications (she’s a member of Lambda Pi Eta, which is the National Honor Society of Communications). The skills and knowledge she has gained from both these disciplines came in handy at both the center and the campaign.

Hilton’s main charge at the center was improving its communications. She helped develop marketing materials for center programs, and she redesigned the center’s website to make it easier for users to learn about, register for, and underwrite center-sponsored events and services. Among other things, the center offers seniors assistance with tax filing; rides to medical appointments; “Adventures in Learning” programs ranging from music therapy to jewelry-making; and opportunities to join a book club or play bridge. “Travel Adventures” take seniors to everything from an aquarium to a dress rehearsal of a performance by Charlotte Ballet.

Hilton was already familiar with web design before her internship at the center, having made it a sideline. However, her center internship also enabled her to grow outside her comfort zone. That’s because Holly Whitfield, the center’s executive director, made her a grant writer for the first time in her life. Hilton wrote a grant for $12,500 and she’s finishing up work on a grant for $10,000. She credits her proficiency in grant writing with Whitfield’s assistance and encouragement.

As for her internship at the Human Rights Campaign, much of this was done in the center’s offices – with the blessing of Whitfield, who is also a member of the campaign’s steering committee. Hilton worked in support of the campaign’s gala, an annual fundraiser at which attendees bid on items as part of a silent auction. She called attendees of past galas to urge them to come to this year’s event, which was held in February. She solicited donations from those who couldn’t attend.  

She also created most of the gala’s posters, each of which advertised a different item for attendees to bid on. These posters reflected Hilton’s talents as a punster. A poster advertising a short vacation in Greece read: “What Athens in Greece Stays in Greece.” A poster advertising Auto Bell Car Wash read: “Don’t Miss Out on this Sparkling Good Deal.”

“I have nothing but good things to say about the abilities and strengths Lea has demonstrated during her internship with Shepherd’s Center of Charlotte as well as with Human Rights Campaign,” Whitfield said.

This fall, Hilton would like to intern for Human Rights Campaign Washington, D.C., having been accepted into Pfeiffer’s Capitol Hill Internship Program. After that, she’ll be looking for administrative positions at nonprofits. Her goal is to become an executive director – which is likely much closer to reality because her internships have given her hands-on experience with important nonprofit operations.

While nonprofits focusing on hunger relief and the LGBTQ community are among Hilton’s interests, “I’d consider working in most any area,” she said. “I’m very open-minded when it comes to that.”

Hilton, then, has a bright future ahead of her, and the interning she’s done at Pfeiffer is a major reason. How did Hilton secure her internships? Certainly, the connections she has forged were helpful. Whitfield, for example, got to know Hilton and appreciate what she might offer because she took two courses that Whitfield taught as an adjunct professor this past fall: Business Communications and Program Evaluation.

Hilton, whose institutional aid package is being underwritten by the Jacquelyn Burrage Lafferty Endowed Scholarship and the Judy C. Hash Endowed Scholarship, also credits her internship opportunities with making herself well known around campus – not only as a volunteer but also as a peer mentor, as an orientation leader, and as a poetry editor of The Phoenix. She’s a Pfeiffer Life Student Ambassador and the Vice President of the Student Government Association. She played volleyball and lacrosse.

Pfeiffer’s students “need to make themselves known,” she said. “If they do, they’ll open themselves up to wonderful opportunities and find that Pfeiffer really helps them find exactly what they’re looking for.”


Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.​