Over the summer months, the James River Association is lucky to work with college and high school interns. These student interns bring their unique skill sets to our organization while learning how nonprofits work.

Meet Ashley James, a University of Richmond junior who is from Chester, Virginia. She is majoring in Environmental Studies with a double minor in Biology and Spanish. After college, she plans to attend law  school to study environmental law.

This summer she spent 11 weeks interning with the James River Association. It was her first experience with a nonprofit organization and she was interested to find out more about how groups like ours work.

Ashley performed a multitude of tasks. She handled office duties like sending letters and entering data into our donor database. She offered assistance at various summer events from exquisite auctions, to exciting river races and community awareness fairs. Every now and then, Ashley led groups of volunteers in trash clean ups and invasive species removals. She also conducted her own research project investigating the impact of the James River Expedition on participants. What she found was that the Expedition has a positive impact on participants and succeeds in meeting its goals of teaching the social and environmental benefits of the James River, promoting environmental stewardship, and boosting leadership, teamwork, and outdoor skills.

Over the summer Ashley got to know the James River Association staff. She learned about the projects we work on and how most initiatives take a team approach. This experience taught her that it takes a lot of work and many different approaches to create change and improve the river. It takes recruiting of volunteers, patrolling our waterways, testing water quality, fighting major threats to the river’s health and more.

“The James has supported Virginians since the 1600’s and it still provides for us today. Not only for resources like energy, food and drinking water, but for enjoyment,” said Ashley. “I saw this in the faces of the paddlers during the James River Rundown, felt it in the splashes of water from children playing at Belle Isle, and heard it in the “thank yous” I received from people while picking up trash with volunteers.”

We’re incredibly thankful to all of the student interns that gave us their time this summer. If you are interested in volunteering for the James, contact Ben Hawkins, Volunteer Coordinator, at bhawkins@jrava.org or 804-788-8811, ext. 204.