Cyrstal Cox with her internship mentors Wendy Allman (left) and Mel Steven-Cosnek (right)
at the YWCA Pittsburgh.
I was impressed right away with her focus and organization skills. She’s very mature.” That’s how Wendy Allman, former Director of the Women’s Resource Center at the Greater Pittsburgh YWCA described student intern Crystal Cox. As an experienced mentor she would know. “I felt very comfortable asking Crystal to help us with certain tasks.” she adds. “I could tell she was a good listener and organized. It’s what makes her so effective and successful. A go-getter. . . she would come to me and say, ‘I’ve finished this. It didn’t take me as long as I thought it would. Would you like me to work on something else? What else can I help with?”
Crystal Cox, now in her senior year with an astounding 4.25 cumulative GPA, completes a fantastic internship that is an asset to her resume.
For this City High student, now in her senior year with an astounding 4.25 cumulative GPA, the internship was a fantastic opportunity. She recalls, “In career development class, I knew I wanted to do something that involved community outreach for my internship. Something involving nonprofit work – organizations that work with minorities or women, because these are things that I’m passionate about.”
During her 13-week internship at the YWCA, Crystal showed her skills in three different areas, including Human Resources, the Women’s Resource Center, and the Center for Race and Gender Equity.
In the Human Resources office, a small but important office, the job entailed serving the employees of the organization. So Crystal did a variety of things: working with new hires to make sure they had clearances, helping with ID badges to keep the building secure and all the necessary paperwork that goes along with that.
Ms. Allman, who did oversee the Women’s Resource Center notes, “As an intern, you get to see different sides of a work environment that you may not think about. Coming in, you think that it’s all fun. . . it’s cool. . . you get to work. But then there’s the paperwork and filing, and data entry – stuff that you have to do because it’s part of the job.”
It wasn’t an issue for this City High student, “It helped me learn how to stay organized and focused. It can be tedious work, so I made sure to put extra focus on the tasks at hand.”
Crystal also assisted Mell Steven-Cosnek in the Center for Race and Gender Equity, who echoed the sentiment. “Crystal came into her internship with a lot of strengths already – she was focused definitely, and I think her willingness to do whatever was assigned, was helpful. It wasn’t always fun stuff – but she did what was asked of her. She got the job done and did it with a good attitude. Those were definite strengths that we saw. And she learned quickly. When she was given a project, she might have to be shown once or twice how to do it, but then she was pretty much given the freedom to go ahead and get that accomplished without a ton of interaction with the staff. Maybe just a follow-up at the end.”
Perhaps Crystal’s favorite part of the internship was assisting in the annual Racial Justice Awards event. According to Ms. Steven-Cosnek, “Every year we honor organizations and individuals within the community that have made a positive, lasting impact in helping to dispel racial inequities. We have a big event each year. This year it was a luncheon. Crystal was able to attend and help out with that. It’s an incredibly inspiring event. These are people you might not see on the news or hear about, but once they are acknowledged for these awards, you realize the incredible work that they’re doing out there in the community. . . and the difference they’re making.”
Crystal Cox with her internship mentor Mel Steven-Cosnek.
Racial Equality is also a pet interest of Crystal, so this was a perfect fit. Her graduation project focuses on racial injustice in America and she even proposed a student union at City High to stimulate open dialog on racial diversity and create a forum for students to express their shared experiences.
Armed with her internship skills and the solid foundation gained at City High, Crystal plans on a degree in business management – hopefully at Howard University, her parents’ alma mater. She moved to Pittsburgh and joined City High in her sophomore year. And even that was all business for Crystal. “When I moved here from Philly, my mom asked me where I wanted to go to school. So, I did my own individual research about schools in the area. I found out that City High was a “business school”, so I chose to go there because I want to be a business major and it would be good to gain the skills that I have.” Valuable skills indeed… whatever the future holds for this confident and passionate young woman.
About YWCA Greater Pittsburgh
The YWCA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. It is one of the oldest and largest multicultural organizations promoting solutions to enhance the lives of women, girls and families. So, it is an ideal business partner for City High. Crystal Cox was one of just a handful of students to intern at the facility. Only one other high school in the region has had another intern in this program.
According to YWCA veteran Wendy Allman, Director of the Women’s Resource Center, “We serve all kinds of people. Even though we are a women’s organization, we do serve families in Allegheny country. Now, some of our programs and services are specifically for women only, but in a lot of what we do, we’re serving the whole family.”
The Organization was founded 150 years ago after the civil war by a group of caring, perceptive women who gathered for prayers and to sew for the relief of Union Soldier families. Simple as their work seems now, it was a bold, pioneering venture for these Pittsburgh women. Women’s clubs were unknown, social agencies were non-existent, and women had little part in civic life. The YW’s inception and growth were sparked by this unmet need for women’s leadership. From its proud beginnings, YWCA has worked to empower women and girls, promote fairness and equity, and challenge racial and social injustice.
Today this secular group serves more than 70,000 area women, children, and families every year, providing education and the tools necessary to challenge racism and provide quality early care and education for children from low-income families, giving them the best chance for lifelong success.
The mission is to help erode health inequities by connecting families to affordable health care and navigating disadvantaged women toward improved health. The YW offers comprehensive services to struggling women and families – including affordable childcare and supportive housing. It also nurtures girls’ educational ambitions, encouraging interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
As Ms. Allman says, “We see people from all walks of life. Probably the majority of people we serve here tend to be lower-income individuals. But sometimes in the women’s Resource Center, you may find someone who’s in the middle- to upper-class income bracket. But something has happened in their life and they don’t know where to turn for help. Maybe it’s a divorce, the death of a spouse, something along those lines, and they need help. So, they will find us and we’ll help them with what we can and we’ll connect them with other organizations and resources in the community.”