International student becomes first intern for Ameren Illinois partner
by Kendall Trump, Class of 2013
Marketing major chosen for "cool" internship
As temperatures climb during the summer months across Central Illinois, so do power bills as residents attempt to cool their homes. These costs have a particular impact on low- and moderate-income homes and providing assistance for these costs is the aim of Warm Neighbors Cool Friends, an Energy Assistance Foundation Program that works in partnership with Ameren Illinois. The program supports citizens in need by offering energy efficiency and billing assistance to more than 100,000 homes in the region.
This summer, Warm Neighbors Cool Friends selected Millikin University senior Gaelle Kinja as the first intern in their foundation’s history. Kinja, an international student from the Democratic Republic of Congo is taking what she’s learned as a digital media marketing major to her role as social media and communications manager in Warm Neighbors Cool Friends’ marketing department.
According to Raphaella Prange, vice president of student affairs at Millikin, Kinja will be managing the foundation’s social media channels, updating website content and supporting outreach efforts. “Gaelle is excited to be able to assist with social media and marketing, which are both part of her degree program here at Millikin.” In addition to the hands-on marketing experience, Kinja is also looking forward to gaining professional and industry insights. “I’m expecting to learn more about energy efficiency and how to make informed decisions,” Kinja said.
Kinja was connected with Warm Neighbors Cool Friends through Prange, who has been a member of the foundation’s board for two years. Prange said that in her role with the Energy Assistance Foundation, she has been able to educate the foundation on the energy needs of the emerging adult population and, specifically, Millikin students and graduates. “We have been able to offer assistance to many of our students over the last two years, removing financial barriers and providing access to much-needed energy efficiency resources.”
Prange also aided Kinja with a research project about housing insecurity in Black communities, which led to Prange considering her for an internship.
“During her research this spring, I could tell she would be a great fit for Ameren and the Energy Assistance Program due to her passion and skills,” Prange remarked.
Going into her internship, Kinja said that she feels well prepared because of the research and Performance Learning opportunities in which she’s taken part. “Millikin offered me the fundamental knowledge I needed to do this internship,” she said. “I had specific classes to complete before I was ready, and those classes have been very resourceful.”
As an international student studying in the United States, Kinja’s memorable experiences and growth reach far beyond academics. “It’s hard to pick a single memorable experience after three years at Millikin,” she said, mentioning how the amazing people she has met, and her caring professors have been exceptionally helpful to her journey.
Prange explained that Kinja, who learned English in addition to the several other languages she speaks, has grown immensely in her confidence and grasp of the English language. “Millikin is so happy to have her here.”
After Kinja graduates next spring, following the conclusion of her internship, she hopes to enter the professional world with independence and equipped for continual growth.
“I would like to see a positive concrete change between the time I came here and when I leave.”