HomeNewsSummer intern spotlight: Right Track

Summer intern spotlight: Right Track

Last week, we introduced you to our Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program interns. IonE also hosted four interns from the Right Track program this summer. Right Track, which operates out of the City of Saint Paul Department of Parks and Recreation, connects young adults, ages 14 to 21, from underserved neighborhoods with meaningful summer jobs and internships, giving them opportunities to learn professional skills. Right Track aims to celebrate St. Paul’s diversity, while fighting the achievement gap in St Paul Public Schools.

During their time here, Mohamed Abdi, Tina Thao, Mellisa Ofori and Jaraide Dossavi, worked on a variety of projects, ranging from compiling a literature review to a creating an information dossier to be distributed when two dozen Brazilian scientists, policymakers, and agro-industry representatives came to IonE as part of the USDA’s Cochran Fellowship Program.

In addition to building their workplace skills, all four cited the relaxed atmosphere at IonE as one of the best parts of the job. We checked in with them to see what else they learned.

What was your primary project this summer?

Mohamed: I have been working on literature review, and now I’m working on a big project where I’ll be writing a solution about how climate change affects livestock production and what strategies farmers can use in terms of climate change.

Tina: My primary project this summer was to make sustainability education and the sustainability studies minor more accessible for high school students.

Mellisa: My primary project this summer with the Natural Capital Project was working on creating a fusion table, which takes data from spreadsheets and pinpoints them on a map. With Acara, I’ve been working with student information and helping bring diversity into their classes.

Jaraide: I helped support the Cochran Fellowship Program, which involved creating a site-visit and information document for the Brazilian fellows who will be touring the United States to learn about environmental issues.

What was your favorite part of working at IonE this summer?

Mohamed: Meeting people, getting to know people personally, interviewing them and learning more about their experiences. Being able to set my own schedule was nice too.

Tina: Meeting new people, going into new places and learning new skills like setting up meetings and emails.

Mellisa: My favorite part was being able to explore different jobs and tasks – and the interaction between the co-workers. I got to learn more about what everyone does.

Jaraide: My favorite part was meeting new people and seeing how a professional environment works together as a community.

What surprised you? Did you learn anything that you didn’t know before?

Mohamed: Something that surprised me is how people are so eager to talk to you, answer your questions, and show you love. I have learned a lot – one thing I learned that I didn’t know before is a lot about climate change. Before working at IonE, I really didn’t care about climate change, but now I do, because I learned a lot about it.

Tina: I was surprised by how laid back IonE is and by how amazing the people are. It’s an atmosphere that I really like. I also learned a lot of skills, like how to write professional emails and using Google calendar and Google sheets.

Mellisa: I was surprised by the friendliness and the curiosity that everyone had. I also learned a lot about software that I was unfamiliar with before.

Jaraide: Something that surprised me was how relaxed the environment at IonE was – I expected it to be more rigid.

What are you looking forward to this fall?

Mohamed: I’m looking forward to going to college for computer science and also to finding a job, since now I have work experience, and know it will help me in the job search.

Tina: Starting my senior year and making it the best high school year yet!

Mellisa: I am looking forward to my first year of college and exploring more of Duluth – trails and parks especially.

Jaraide: I’m looking forward to applying my new skills in school and seeing how my schoolwork will change.

Why do you, personally, care about the environment?

Mohamed: Since I learned a lot about the environment, I care because I care about my health and quality of life.  I care about the air I breathe and the water I drink.

Tina: There are a lot of problems with the climate, the environment, and Earth in general. These problems are becoming more dangerous and more serious, so I would like to change the environment for the better if I can.

Mellisa: I care about the environment because I want to preserve it for our future and find ways to reduce waste production.

Jaraide: Earth is sort of like one big organism, and humans, as the most intelligent species on Earth, have an obligation to take care of it.


Mohamed Abdi graduated from Como Park Senior High School and will be starting college in the fall. Mellisa Ofori also graduated from Como Park, and she will be attending the University of Minnesota Duluth this fall. Tina Thao will be a senior at Harding Senior High School, and Jaraide Dossavi will be a junior at Highland Park High School.

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