Students may choose to intern at Building Blocks for credit to count towards their majors or minors. It is the students’ responsibility to make sure interning at Building Blocks follows the internship guidelines and requirements set by the school. All students with an open mind, energy, and willingness to learn are encouraged to apply, but these are common major/minors:
  • Communication
  • SocialWork
  • Nonprofit Leadership
  • Sociology
  • Political Science

In all of these majors/minors, it is worth talking to an academic advisor to see how this internship can count towards graduation. Apart from using the internship to satisfy particular requirements, many students value the experience as a way to develop additional organizing/leadership skills, to widen their experience working with diverse people, and to deepen their understanding of urban problems—all of which can translate into improved opportunities for employment as well as civic involvement.

Majors and minors may require different competencies to be learned throughout the internship, so it is the students’ responsibility to let Building Blocks know the required learning objectives and help integrate them into the internship. Building Blocks also encourages students to tailor the internship based on self-interests. Here are some internship responsibilities:

  • Fundraising opportunities
  • Event planning
  • Annual appeal
  • Student organizer (spring semester)
  • Site assessments (spring semester)
  • Grant writing
  • Social media
  • Marketing
  • Committee work
  • Post-program evaluation (summer and fall semester)
  • Long-term site assistance (summer and fall semester)
Student Organizer:

Building Blocks Organizers are integral members of the organizing team, and as such will share major responsibilities, both for helping to coordinate/plan target site programming, and for carrying out specific tasks supportive of Building Blocks’ goals.

Specific Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Join with the site supervisor in coordinating overall target-site programming and ensuring the overall success of the project.
  • Share in the monitoring the success of activates and in taking responsibility for the successful realization of project goals.
  • Share in evaluating the project activities.
  • Help develop plans for recruitment, resident planning meetings, larger goals of mobilizing resident energies and developing strong resident networks.


The Building Blocks course:

Building Blocks has been offered as a community organizing course in the Social Work department at Western Michigan University. At this time, only internships are being offered, but it is likely that the course will be offered again in the future.  

Please check back to see if the course will be offered again in spring of 2017. 


Student Testimonials:

“SWRK 4650 is the best opportunity I took advantage of while at WMU. Never before have I been in a class where I truly had to apply everything I had learned in all my courses to problem solve. Community organizing in the Fairmont Neighborhood changed me in so many positive ways and taught me more than I could ever imagine. I learned about leadership in the real world and became aware of skills I didn’t realize I had. This class forces you to really think of all options when solving a problem. The class is both empowering to the Kalamazoo residents students are paired with and to the student organizers as well. The class focuses on mobilizing a collection of people to become a community, and I’m proud that because of our work in class, our site became a community.”

~ Erin Kaplan, Senior Major, Non-Profit Management Program

“Social Work 4650 (Building Blocks) turned out to be one of the best courses I have ever taken throughout my four years at Western. I found that the Building Blocks program and the residents I worked with taught me more than any traditional class ever could have. I was able to develop my leadership, problem-solving and organizational skills in a hands-on setting with extremely rewarding end-results. This course helped me to truly appreciate the city of Kalamazoo and its residents. I would highly recommend this course to any student interested in breaking away from a traditional class room setting and working hands-on with residents of Kalamazoo. SW4650, in conjunction with the residents of Building Blocks, has taught me many skills and life-lessons that I plan on utilizing for years to come.”

~Kelsey Karbowski, Graduating Senior, Political Science

My experience in Building Blocks was unlike any other I’ve had. Going into my own community and organizing residents that didn’t know each other seemed like too much for me at first, but as I got into the swing of Building Blocks, I quickly found my passion. Building Blocks has helped me begin developing priceless skills I will carry throughout my career. Not only has Building Blocks been an experience that run-of-the-mill classes can’t match, but I actually felt like I made a difference on my street.

Within a short eight weeks my team partner and I organized the participating residents of Minor Ave to materialize a budget and plan of action to implement reasonable and realistic home beautification projects. During our process of implementing the residents’ projects, we faced challenges with both the individual residents and the program as a whole. There were times I thought working with some residents would prove impossible; however, our in-class lessons were extremely helpful. We learned to empower our residents with strength-based planning, and it was effective. By the end of the program, we saw our residents feeling more confident about themselves and learning that they could do a lot more than they had originally thought.

In the end, I was more than just a student that helped the residents make improvements to their house, I felt I had made close personal relationships with the residents of Minor Ave. Driving past all of our completed projects and seeing all that a group of strangers did was the most satisfactory part. Not to mention how great Triscuits go with cream cheese, the official snack of Building Blocks. If I could, I would take Building Blocks over and over.

~Adam Poole, Senior Major, School of Social Work

My participating in Building Blocks, provided me with valuable and practical experience, as I continue my journey to become a social worker. Although I have been a part of several student organizations and held various leadership positions on campus, Building Blocks has taught me many valuable lessons that I have not learned anywhere else.

Working with the residents on my street as we organized various projects for the summer, proved to be a challenge. Our street had many renters, so getting adequate participation was an initial issue for us. However, being faced with this issue and finding ways to overcome it, will provide me with valuable experience in the future. This type of problem solving allowed me to apply the knowledge I have gained from classroom studies. In the future, I will participate in other organizations that may face similar challenges. Implementing a solution, will then prove to be much easier.

Overall, I feel very privileged to have been a part of Building Blocks in its first year at WMU. The insights and experiences that I have gained, have already proven to be an important part of my education.”

~Sarah Hepner, Senior major, School of Social Work