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National Cherry Festival gives CMU interns hands-on experience

Festival builds internship program around CMU's requirements

Contact: CMU News

Central Michigan University Zeeland senior Jessica Meengs and Commerce Township graduate Alyssa Young, ’14, are helping this week’s National Cherry Festival become a success.

Meengs will coordinate more than 2,000 volunteer shifts at the festival, which runs through July 12 in Traverse City. She also helped plan the Festival of Races, which will include the festival’s first half marathon. She credits CMU’s recreation, parks and leisure services administration department for her accomplishments in her internship.

“The work we do in those classes is perfect for real-world experiences,” Meengs, a recreation and event management major, said.

The festival offers more than 150 events and is expected to bring in more than 600,000 people this year, according to Jessica Schlimme, the volunteer and corporate membership manager for the National Cherry Festival. She was the first intern from CMU for the National Cherry Festival in 2008.

“Growing up, the National Cherry Festival was something I looked forward to year after year,” Schlimme, a 2008 CMU alumna, said. “We’ve actually created the internship program around CMU’s recreation, parks and leisure services administration 30-week internship requirements. I feel like it is a great program. It really gives them hands-on experience.”

Young, who majored in integrative public relations and political science, has helped the National Cherry Festival reach near record-high corporate memberships.

“Their highest year was $85,000 in corporate memberships and I believe we ended with $81,000,” Young said. “For an intern, it was very exciting. I hold the second highest record, which is pretty awesome to say. I’m proud of it.”

Schlimme said interns like Young and Meengs experience the National Cherry Festival through the planning and implementation phases, gaining hands-on experience as they aid the seven full-time staff members.

“A lot of my classes were project-based and hands-on, which is a lot different than going to a class and taking a test,” Young said. “Jessica has really let me take on the corporate membership program. That’s given me a lot of experience, and I’ve met a lot of people through it.”

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