Natalie Douglas




This semester I worked at LIFT Philadelphia, 1231 North Broad Street in Philadelphia Pa, under Lydia Gajdel (Site Coordinator/Americorps* National Direct) and Katie Turek (Site Coordinator/Americorps* National Direct).  LIFT Philadelphia describes itself as "a national network of service centers staffed by volunteers who work side by side with low-income individuals and their families to find jobs, secure safe and stable housing, make ends meet through public benefits and tax credits, and obtain quality referrals for services like healthcare and childcare. Our mission is to help community members achieve economic stability and well-being. We are working to establish a new standard for holistic and enduring solutions in our country’s fight against poverty."  My learning objectives at the beginning of my semester at LIFT were to increase my skills/confidence in writing resumes, to increase my knowledge of PA's Public Benefits and to be able to register clients using the Benefit Bank, and to acquire the ability to think positively about myself and my clients at the end of every meeting.


During my time at LIFT I worked with 2-4 clients daily for a 50 minute meeting each.  I was in the office engaging clients over ten hours a week.  When with a client in a meeting, we would work on anything from creating a resume/cover letter and applying to jobs, to finding stable housing, to writing a client a referral to a local organization for eyeglasses or food.  Within the meetings, it was very important to help clients reach their goals in an efficient manner, while also being sure to validate and support them as individual human beings.


I learned so many new things during my time at LIFT this past semester.  I was taught how to put a client into our Unicentric computer system and make with them a Profile, Assessment and Goal plan for their time at LIFT.  We used this initial Profile, Assessment and Goal Plan to get a good grip on the clients primary and secondary needs, as well as to show the clients what other kinds of services we offer that they might be able to take advantage of.  (Like public benefit screening, help with income taxes or financial training)  While at LIFT I also learned how to use the Benefit Bank to screen and apply a client for public benefits.  We had Bi-Weekly trainings as well as weekly progress meetings to help us continue training for efficient client service, as well as to practice for and decompress from client meetings.  Throughout training and work, my supervisor Lydia constantly reminded us that, "The clients are the experts of their own lives." We were encouraged and taught to be attentive and mindful of what a client wanted to do with his/her meeting time, and to be supportive helpers in the journey to reach client goals.  

Future Plans

This internship has definitely impacted my plans for the future.  I now feel more prepared for job opportunities that include aspects of direct client service, whereas before my time at LIFT I would never have realized how well I could do or how much I enjoy client service.  Before this internship, I had wanted to work on the workplace competencies of balancing work and life along with successful time management.  LIFT has helped me immensely with both.  Once a week I met with my supervisor to discuss how I was doing in my work at LIFT and how I was connecting it to my life in the city.  She encouraged and helped me not to compartmentalize my work and home life, but to instead integrate them in with one another in a better way that still had a healthy dimension of separation.  I also made great strides in time management with LIFT's 50 minute appointment windows.  We needed to prepare for a client, be with the client for 50 minutes, and also be sure to wrap up with enough time to finish the paperwork for that client and prepare for the next.  Meetings with specified time allotted to each helped me to better understand what I could accomplished in a specific amount of time, and how to give the client I was working with appropriate expectations of what we could accomplish in a meeting as well as how to adequately prepare them for the approaching end of the meeting.  My better sense of time and expectations for that time have definitely helped in my time management skills.


My Interpersonal Relationships and Harrisburg Neighborhoods classes were great preparation for client service. in the city  They definitely helped me with proper and sensitive communication techniques to help relate better with clients, and helped by exposing me a bit to the city environment and the kinds of difficulties the inner-city population faces.  I would recommend to my department, Human Development and Family Science, as well as to the Social Work Department, to have more students come to Philadelphia or intern in cities.  Social issues and the difficulties in our public systems are so hard to understand in an abstract learning environment, and actually being out in the world and seeing urban difficulties while you learn about them is so helpful in understanding the bigger picture.


LIFT is a growing movement to combat poverty and expand opportunity for all people in the United States.  Our mission is to help community members achieve economic stability and well-being. We are working to establish a new standard for holistic and enduring solutions in our country’s fight against poverty.

Student Advocates work side by side with low-income community members, first helping them address immediate needs (e.g. employment, housing, health care, public benefits and or/education), then providing comprehensive, long-term support designed to help families break the cycle of poverty. To help them do this Advocates learn how to use our online knowledge database as well as our client records software to assist clients in setting and achieving goals specifically tailored to their individual needs.  In addition student advocates also participate in community outreach events and participate in the leadership and infrastructure of the office.

LIFT's Adopt A Block cleaning up the streets event

 LIFT's Adopt A Block event where I cleaned up a street in Philadelphia along with other Student Advocates

LIFT's fundraising booth at Temple's Spring Fling where we "Pied out Poverty" by selling whip cream pies for a dollar 



Objective 1:

To increase my skills/confidence in writing resumes


1. Practice writing resumes on my own and with clients

2. Ask for help from my Site Coordinators when encountering questions and road blocks

3. Using LIFT’s knowledge exchange or the internet to find answers to resume questions


1. Observably reduce time necessary for me to complete a resume

2. Decrease my percentage of corrections made by Site Coordinators during resume review

Objective 2:

To increase my knowledge of PA’s Public Benefits and to be able to register clients for benefits using the Benefit Bank


1. Use resources given to me by my Site Coordinators specifically to help me obtain this objective

2. Use LIFT’s knowledge exchange whenever I run into questions about benefits

3. Use government websites to attain information when encountering specific client benefit questions

4. Practice using the Benefit Bank at home/with clients


1. Be able to answer all basic benefits questions

2. Be able to confidently register clients for benefits without assistance

Objective 3:

To acquire the ability to think positively about myself and my clients at the end of every meeting


1. Beginning every meeting with a confident and positive outlook

2. Using power poses and positive outlook techniques before and after every meeting to boost my confidence and morale

3. Reminding myself frequently that every person has their own individual set of hardships and difficulties that I know nothing about, and that 9 times out of 10 when I client is mad or frustrated during a meeting, it is due to their own frustrations and not my incompetency’s

4. Talking to a Site Coordinator anytime that I am feeling discouraged during/after a client meeting


1. Being able to confidently say at the end of the semester that I have achieved this positive outlook at least 90% of the time

2. Actively being able to carry a positive mindset into other work environments after LIFT

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