Tufts alumni create summer internship fund for students interested in service

The Bruce-Griffey Leadership and Diversity Internship Fund, an alumni-organized grant to help students afford the financial burden of unpaid summer internships, was offered for the first time last summer. The alumni who created the grant are looking to continue and expand the fund for this summer, according to fund Co-Chair Francesca Freeman-Lujan (LA ’93).

The fund — named in honor of the late Lena Bruce (E ’92) and Anita Griffey (LA ’90) — is intended to promote diversity, according to the Tufts Career Center website. Preference is given to applicants who receive financial aid, are involved with the Africana Center and are interested in leadership, diversity and service, the website said.

The fund is offered alongside several other internship grants through the Career Center, all of which award students $3,500 for the summer to help defray expenses, according to the website.

Last summer, seniors Cayla Brown and Andrade Hendricks became the first two recipients of the grant. Through the grant, Hendricks and Brown were able to immerse themselves in their work over the summer with less lingering financial pressure, they said.

Hendricks worked at New England Biolabs over the summer, where she researched DNA initiation transcription. She said that she was interested in conducting research over the summer so that she could gain experience outside of her chemical engineering major in a professional environment.

Hendricks said that the grant allowed her to join the lab as an unpaid intern and stay in Massachusetts over the summer despite housing expenses. She also expressed gratitude that she was one of the first two recipients to be awarded the grant.

“In the wake of the summer, I’ve just been extremely grateful, and it’s definitely made me mindful of where I would want my money to go towards if I’m trying to donate money,” Hendricks said.

Brown spent her summer with the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Service’s Youth Advocacy Division. She said that her passion for law and criminal justice, especially with children, drove her toward a summer internship in this field.

Brown expressed similar gratitude that she was awarded the grant because it allowed her to commit full-time to her work rather than having to split her time between her internship and a part-time job.

“Being there [full-time], you really get to see the development of cases and the development of work, and I’m so grateful to have gotten the grant and not have to do anything else,” Brown said.

According to Donna Esposito, director of career development at the Career Center, the Bruce-Griffey Fund was established by several Tufts alumniAfricana Center Director Katrina Moore added that the grant was started as a way to honor the memories of Bruce and Griffey.

“I think that the alumni wanted to honor their friends and what better way than to provide an opportunity for current students to be able to gain skills and have experiences that Anita Griffey and Lena Bruce were robbed of,Moore said.

Bruce was murdered in 1992, months after graduating from the School of Engineering, according to the Boston Globe. Griffey was killed in a car accident before she graduated in 1990, according to Tufts Now. Both were members of Delta Sigma Theta, a historically-African-American sorority.

In 2015DNA evidence linked Bruce’s murder to a man who was later charged with her murder, according to a Suffolk County District Attorney press release. Following that development in Bruce’s case, Freeman-Lujan got in touch with Moore, members of the Tufts Black Alumni Association and a number other individuals. They decided to organize something in Bruce’s and Griffey’s name.

Freeman-Lujan now co-chairs the fund alongside Leslie Keyes and Andrea Nelson Meigs, also sisters of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Freeman-Lujan said that creating opportunities for students meant a lot to her in honoring her late friends.

“To know that there are students at Tufts who we’ve reached back to and given a helping hand to — out of love for Lena Bruce and Anita Griffey — is one of the best ways that we could’ve ever transformed our pain into joy,” Freeman-Lujan told the Daily in an email.

Freeman-Lujan also expressed hope that the fund would continue to be built up as time goes on. As the fund is alumni driven, it is different than the internship grants established by the university, which are available every year, she said. However, Freeman-Lujan added that the goal is expansion.

“I hope that this fund expands exponentially and becomes a scholarship fund. I look forward to building this,” she wrote.