The First Ever IML Internship Cohort Pilot Program

Written By: Jenna Soliani, IML Intern

It’s a Military Life Internship Program’s mission is to give military spouses a voice, hands-on experiences, and the resources to guide them on their professional journey.

It’s a Military Life‘s founder Christina Etchberger has created the first ever virtual internship cohort program that provides military spouses with opportunities to learn new skills, refine established skills, and network with other mil-spouse and veteran owned businesses. This is known as the It’s a Military Life Internship Cohort Pilot Program.

The overall goal of this program was to facilitate an environment where mil-spouses could network, gain professional work experience, and build their resume by assisting Christina with various tasks for both It’s a Military Life (IML) and her outreach program, Veteran Pen Pal Project. We used a variety of digital platforms to facilitate workflow, complete assignments, and stay in contact with one another. We were also the lucky beta testers for a new communication app called Kovii, that is being developed by fellow mil-spouse, Matthew Shanks.

The internship program was created around 6 central themes: networking & goal setting, professional development, partnering business opportunities, time management, resume development, and career and volunteer pathways. Each theme was covered over one week and provided information and tasks related to that topic. For instance, Week 1 focused on networking and goal setting so our tasks were to connect with each other on LinkedIn, introduce ourselves on Slack, and to brainstorm our short and long term goals for this experience. The presence of central themes helped us focus on specific aspects of career development and promoted professional growth.

Christina has also brought other mil-spouse owned companies into the mix. These companies provided us with professional development opportunities by assigning us a weekly task related to their company. The tasks were strategically planned by each partnering company to focus on either our career goals and the skills needed to achieve those goals, or on the expertise that we already possessed. The gracious companies that partnered with the cohort are: InstantHandz, B. Carroll Events, Kovii, and Spouse-ly.

There were 9 interns in this program, including myself, who performed all sorts of duties within It’s a Military Life’s operating system. Some worked on marketing pitches, others are tackled nonprofit 501(c)3 classifications, some created social media and website content, and others are expanded community outreach for Christina’s Veteran Pen Pal Project. But, regardless of what each of us worked on, we all had one thing in common: we have an intrinsic motivation to use our talents and expertise to serve the military community.

Intern Showcase: Who We Are & What We Do

Sarah Benavides

https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-benavides/

I am a Texas native, Air Force spouse, boy mom of 4 to two human cuties Zane (4) and Micah (5 mo) and three fur babies: Duke (in heaven), Gunner (Rhodesian Ridgeback), and Harley (Chihuahua terror, I mean terrier). On a perfect day, I would wake up, go for a long run, come home and make breakfast for all of my boys, and then venture on to the beach for a day of sunshine, salty breeze, and sand. I am a pretty easy going gal, I have to be with my crazy, incredibly active crew, but I love it. I also love coffee, food, wine, and all things yellow. I am passionate about serving others because I believe it is one of the things I am called to do, so I am always searching for ways to follow that calling. I am also very passionate about food. I love cooking, learning to cook, and teaching my 4 year old about putting good healthy food in his body.

I applied for this internship because I needed to fulfill the last of my Bachelor Degree requirements for Human Resource Management. However, upon applying and speaking with Christie, I was pleasantly surprised by her passion and her goals for It’s a Military Life and I had to be a part of it. Having the opportunity to work for a nonprofit has always been on my heart and because of the way things worked out with timing, this opportunity could not have been better. Being a military spouse, there are so many things that go on that people do not realize so to be able to give back in some sort of way to help other members of the military community is very exciting. 

I am serving as the acting Human Resource Director for the entire Cohort. This has proven to be both rewarding and challenging as I am serving fellow interns. Currently I am working on ensuring there are weekly training sessions as well as Professional Development opportunities for each intern and business partner. I also work one on one with each intern to ensure they are not only getting the most out of this internship, but to help them with any future career goals where they can use what they have learned.

I hope to learn how to be successful in the HR department and also to learn what I can improve on personally to be able to achieve my career goals in the HR industry. I also want to learn more about the nonprofit sector and what it means to work with one or for one. Along with learning, I also hope to gain some lifelong valuable connections.

Quiana Eastland

Hey I’m Quiana (Kiana). I’m a SoCal girl living the country life in good ol’ Texas with my husband and two little ladies. I’m a military spouse to an Army Vet, an entrepreneur, and a social media manager.

First and foremost I am passionate about people – I love to give back and I want to see everyone succeed. I’ll do whatever it takes to help you get to where you want or need to be, and it brings me joy to see how I have had an impact on someone’s perspective or path in life. I also love learning from different people because everyone has a different view and perspective on what they see as a need for them and their business. I also enjoy being able to help small business owners and entrepreneurs reach their goals.

I applied for this internship because I wanted the opportunity to learn, grow, and sustain my skills in all aspects of my work ethic. I’m acting Social Media Manager and currently working on increasing community engagement and strategizing how to implement content that is engaging and specific to each partner’s targeted audience. This task also includes scheduling posts and creating a content calendar that allows us to see the month at a glance, which will add value to the content to increase engagement and visibility on all social platforms.

I hope that I am able to learn new skills and utilize my existing skills so I can optimize opportunities that will allow me to think on my toes and develop the best methods increase my clients’ exposure.

Carissa Gita

My name is Carissa and I am an Army wife, mother of two, and a dog mom. I am my family’s biggest fan and personal cheerleaders. I am a coffee addict who likes to create and make everything over-the-top (within reason… most of the time). Color and order are some of my favorite things. 

I have always been very passionate about service and continuous improvement. I place a lot of importance on the changes I can make in a person’s life, especially when I can utilize my knowledge and skill to create a positive impact on their life.

I applied for this internship for networking opportunities. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. Plus, I really wanted to get back into the nonprofit sector and to be able to make a difference. I believe that It’s a Military Life and the partnering businesses are on some great paths to change and I’m thankful to somehow be a part of this journey.

I am the acting Director of Project Management and Marketing for It’s a Military Life. With the assistance of Christie and the Non-Profit Management Team, we are working towards establishing It’s a Military Life as a 501(c)3 organization and are also looking into avenues of funding and grants. Before the internship ends, I will also be reviewing and making recommendations for the company’s marketing strategy.

I am also serving as the Project Manager for Spouse-ly, which is another mil-spouse owned company, where I am working on organizing and developing tools on the back-end. I’ll also be working on some strategic initiatives for marketing and grants with Monica and Lyndsey. Additionally, I am also assisting Kovii, a communication app developed by a fellow mil-spouse, with outsourcing for their social media campaigns.

I am hoping to learn from everyone in the cohort and make some great connections. Lastly, I look forward to expanding my portfolio for my future career endeavors.

Brandi Keller

My name is Brandi Keller and we are from northern Virginia, though we are now located at Fort Rucker, Alabama. My husband and family would say that I’m a sweet tea addict. I love cooking homemade dinners and going on adventures. I especially enjoy seeing new places and exploring natural landmarks. We have two dogs who we love taking on hikes.

I am most passionate about my family and my career. I applied for this internship because I wanted to gain more experience and make more professional connections.

I am the acting Administrative Assistant for It’s a Military Life and am focusing on organizing emails, editing documents, and developing multiple spreadsheets. I also regularly update Christie on emails that need to be followed up or leads that need to be looked explored. I hope to learn more about how nonprofit organizations are created and operated.

Mary Monrose

Hi, my name is Mary Monrose. I am a Navy spouse and mother of 3. I’m a chocolate addict and wine enthusiast who loves sports, outside adventures, and spending time with my family.

I have a passion for helping others and being a voice for those who have a hard time being heard. I applied for this internship so I can gain the experience needed to work in my desired career field because while I do have the education background, I lack the experience needed to get my foot in the door.

Within this internship, I am the acting Legal Advocate. In this position I am tasked reviewing and researching legal documents so I can provide sound advice on how to move forward. From this experience I hope to learn how to transform my education into concrete skills that I can take with me into the workforce.

Kyra Seeley

My name is Kyra and I’m a sweet tooth who loves all things dessert. I am also a new dog mom so I have been spending all of my spare time with my puppy!

I’m passionate about helping others, which is why I’ve pursued a career in the nonprofit sector. I was looking for an opportunity that would allow me to gain tangible experience in my field, while being flexible with my crazy schedule. I am also extremely interested in working with the military community and fellow military spouses so this internship seemed like a great fit! 

I am the acting Community Affairs and Fundraising Outreach Lead, which means that I am working with the It’s a Military Life Foundation Team to secure funding for programs and 501(c)3 status. I have already learned so much about the nonprofit sector in terms of grant writing and funding. It has been so rewarding to work through the process of getting nonprofit status for the It’s a Military Life Foundation, and the opportunity to learn new skills and apply them to hands on tasks has provided me with great experience. 

Jenna Soliani

Hey, everyone! My name is Jenna and I am a small town New England girl trying to navigate SoCal life. I am an advocate for ice cream at any time of day, a history enthusiast, and a lover of all things outdoors.

I am passionate about serving others. I have recently transitioned from education to public librarianship because I felt the tug to serve a larger community than just the high school I was teaching at. I was interested in this internship opportunity because for quite some time I have felt a tug to serve the military community, though how that would happen hadn’t quite come into focus yet. I was also hopeful that this opportunity would be a learning opportunity and expand my professional skillset.

I am the acting Community Engagement Director for It’s a Military Life’s Veteran Pen Pal Project (VPPP). Within this position I am responsible for bringing the VPPP to additional veteran centers who wish to get their veteran residents involved. I also reach out to schools, veteran organizations, and local community organizations to recruit more pen pals. To accompany emails to prospective participants I have created presentations, handouts, and informational packets to provide more information on the VPPP’s mission and participation models. Additionally, I guest write for the It’s a Military Life blog and assist Air Force spouse and marriage counselor Bree Carroll of B. Carroll Events with the statistical analyzation of over 500 marriage survey responses.

Chiara Thomas

My name is Chiara (She-Air-Uh). I was raised in Alaska and currently live in Northern California. I am a military spouse and my husband is active duty Air Force. We have a ten year old son, and a two year old chocolate lab. People that know me, would say that I’m passionate about what I care about, I’m a hard worker, that I have expensive taste, that I like to travel and to eat, and that I can’t live without my DVR.

I am on a search to establish what my career goals are. I want to do something I enjoy for a long time, rather than just doing whatever job is available for me at the time. I am passionate about trying new things and exploring life with my family. Whenever we PCS, I make it a point to find things around the area to experience, no matter how bad the perception may be of that area. Like right now, we’re in California, and many people we speak with on base hate it here. I’m not sure why though because every time we get out, we enjoy it.

I want to get hands on experience doing what I love, in hopes of being able to turn it into a career of my own one day. I’m into digital platforms, social media, marketing, blogging, and podcasting. I think that this is a great path for me to be on because regardless of where we are stationed I will have the potential to take my work with me, which is a main desire of mine.

Within this internship I am working with B. Carroll Events as an Event Coordinator. My main responsibilities include creating Instagram posts, reviewing Bree’s Hearts & Stripes podcast episodes, and completing the necessary tasks that bring them to life. I hope to gain enough experience to be able to venture out into my own business and be my own boss. I hope there is an audience out there that has an interest in what I do and what I say. I want to have a positive impact.

Alia Ward

My name is Alia, I currently reside in Charlotte, North Carolina. Over the summer I moved here from Omaha, Nebraska where I had separated from the military. I am a veteran, prior military-spouse, a social worker, and a nonprofit professional. I am passionate about social advocacy, travel, great books, and coffee. I have two beautiful boys, and an amazing husband who supports me in everything that I do.

Working in the nonprofit sector is my passion. As a first-generation college graduate, I recognized the unique ability of nonprofits to augment the resources that are available to the marginalized populations that might otherwise not have access. My life goal is to build a trauma-center for veterans and trafficking survivors and their families. In the meantime, I plan to diversify my nonprofit experience to gain as much knowledge as possible to prepare for my endeavor. I love critical thinking and I challenge folks to go beyond information that is easily accessible to recognize the complexities of advocacy. I feel that quality information is seldom free, and we must answer a higher calling to approach new heights without bias.

I applied for this internship to cultivate skills related to nonprofit development and fundraising. I was first interested in the mission of IML because I recognize the disconnect between the needs and perceptions within the military community. I have been assigned to the Management and Development team and am currently working on building pitches and establishing our relationships with potential stakeholders and investors. I also identify research vectors for further expansion and growth. I am hoping to gain the necessary skills related to nonprofit development and creation and to become more comfortable about funding development.

Looking Forward

As we concluded the final week of the first ever It’s a Military Life Internship Cohort Pilot Program I know that I can speak on behalf of the other interns by saying that this has been one of the most pivotal experiences in our professional careers. Whether it be because of the opportunity to network or the ability to expand our skillsets, Christina’s program has helped us to grow both personally and professionally. As we depart this internship and return to our careers the It’s a Military Life Internship Cohort Pilot Program will reap benefits for all of us for years to come.

Thank You to Our Partnering Businesses

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About the Creator: Christina Etchberger

Christina Etchberger is a military spouse entrepreneur on a mission! As the creator of It’s a Military Life – a milso and veteran networking community – she develops resources and opportunities for people to build each other up in this ever changing military world, by sharing their stories with the IML community. Christie’s mantra is to be the lead in your own story, no matter where the military life takes you. She is PCSing to South Korea with her family – two little boys and a pup – but is all about making this life change a learning opportunity!

Born and raised in the Chicago area, Christie is all about working together to connect others, and has done this through her lifestyle blog which is full of a diverse group of contributors sharing their military life experiences. IML is like a city hub full of amazing people coming together to make the military life an even better place to be. 

The It’s a Military Life Internship Program is one of our newest resources for military spouses – to give military spouses a voice, hands-on experiences, to guide them on their professional journey. This program is unique because it has the busy and unpredictable military spouse lifestyle in mind. 

“As a fellow military spouse and entrepreneur, my mission is to be an advocate for the men and women who married the military. I have experienced the challenges of the military life, especially as a mother and Army wife, while also wanting to keep up with my professional life. It is possible!”

-Christina Etchberger

This cohort guides you along your career path so you can grow as a professional, while still staying true to family and the military.

It’s a Military Life is a milso and vet network, and we want you to be a part of our community! 

Want to learn more? Contact us at admin@itsamilitarylife.com to inquire about the program. IML wants to help you be the lead in your own story!

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