There is a secret for those of you wanting to know how to become an evaluator. The knowledge, skills, and wisdom that you need cannot be found in classrooms, lectures, degrees, or certifications. The most meaningful skills required to excel as evaluators come from experiences.
AKA provides paid evaluation internship experiences for students and community members. Internships have a reciprocal value, where interns gain knowledge and skills, and AKA learns how to evaluate community-based programs to support connection, culture, equity, and inclusion.
What We Did
AKA developed an evaluation training and internship experience designed for undergraduate American Indian students from reservations in Montana and Wyoming involved in a substance abuse prevention grant led by the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council.
We asked AKA interns from 2015 to 2017 what their internship experience was like. Our goal was to evaluate outcomes and improve future internship programs and plans at AKA. We wrote about this in a newly published article in the Journal of Indigenous Research, American Indian Student Internships and the Pursuit of Equity in Education.
Recruiting and retaining interns throughout the five-year grant was difficult. We overcame this barrier by working closely with Tribal health programs, Tribal colleges, and universities in the area. Organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of the Northern Cheyenne Nation helped us recruit and retain interns. Interns developed strong relationships with local site coordinators – combined this created a circle of support for their work and evaluation activities.
What We Learned
Themes from interviews demonstrated the positive influences of evaluation internships on American Indian students. Some of the impacts were unexpected, like connecting more with culture (because of evaluation), becoming a better public speaker and communicating more effectively (because of evaluation and presentations required), and empowering interns to make career choices based on their passions and interests. Unique perspectives about outreach efforts also informed program planning and dissemination. For example, focused outreach for individuals with substance use disorders opposed to outreach for the general population.
AKA will continue recruiting, training, and engaging students and communities in research and evaluation efforts. Out of everything we do at AKA, internships have the greatest potential for addressing inequities and health disparities that stem from a lack of equity in education.
Want to make a difference? Create opportunities for students to learn about research, evaluation, health and social justice in experiences beyond the classroom.