Ana Paula Alvarado, '21

January 14, 2021
Communications is key to senior's successful internship, future career goals

Effective communications is an art that becomes especially challenging and important during times of crisis and uncertainty. Ana Paula Alvarado, ’21, proved equal to the challenge during her summer communications internship at the American School of Tegucigalpa (AST), a Honduran college-preparatory institution for students in preschool through high school.   

“When AST moved to remote learning in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we had to get creative to keep our community engaged,” she said. “The pandemic necessitated the canceling of many school activities and traditions. This proved particularly difficult for high school seniors, many of whom had been attending AST since they were preschoolers.

“We decided to create a website dedicated to the seniors: I added pictures of all the seniors and quotes detailing their favorite memories, created a wall where parents and friends could post congratulatory notes, posted a countdown to the Zoom graduation, and added videos. After graduation, I built another website—this one to provide helpful information to the AST community during the pandemic.”

In thinking about how best to communicate school pride and a sense of community during her internship, Alvarado drew on her majors in leadership studies and rhetoric and communication studies.

She described one class experience that honed her skills of persuasion: “In my Leadership in International Contexts class, Dr. [Javier] Hidalgo had us enact a historic simulation related to the Rwandan genocide. In role-playing Alison Des Forges, a civil rights leader opposed to the genocide, I wrote and presented a speech where I pleaded my case. I had to convince people not only with my words, but with my delivery.”

Alvarado’s extracurricular activities at University of Richmond also have enhanced her communications skills. She serves as Jepson Student Government Association vice president of student affairs and a University Admissions tour guide. Fluent in English and Spanish since age three, the Honduran native led twice-weekly Spanish language drill sessions for the Department of Latin American, Latino, and Iberian Studies last year.

But her experiences as a University Communications intern and a Speech Center consultant and social liaison proved particularly helpful in her Tegucigalpa internship, she said.

“I brought to AST my knowledge of how University Communications implements Richmond’s communications and branding. I also brought knowledge gained from my work at the Speech Center, where I give constructive criticism and encouragement to peers from across campus. I pick up tips from the students I advise too, such as incorporating hand gestures into presentations. It’s a learning process that goes both ways.”

She also brought her personal knowledge of AST to her internship. Her parents, siblings, and she attended AST, including one sibling who was a senior at the school during Alvarado’s internship. The University’s Jepson School of Leadership Studies awarded Alvarado a Burrus Fellowship to support her academically based Jepson internship at AST.

“My favorite internship project was creating the “From Seniors to Seniors” video for the school’s website,” she said. “I solicited photos and messages of advice from the grandparents of the graduating seniors and then compiled them into a video. The parents and students were really excited about the video!”

This spring Alvarado will celebrate her own graduation. She said her Jepson School experiences confirmed her desire to work in the education or nonprofit sector, where she can leverage her communications skills.

“Most Hondurans are poor. It’s common to see kids in the street asking for money. Eventually I plan to run my own nonprofit to support poor children in Latin America. Communications will be crucial for everything I want to do.”

Photo: Ana Paula Alvarado, '21, displays the website she created during her Jepson internship at the American School of Tegucigalpa.