“I wanted to get up close and personal with the inner city and this was it” -Darrell Smith ’96 (Threads of Experience)
Just down the road from the plush comforts of Davidson College there are many impoverished people in need of a helping hand. Every summer a small group of select Davidson students travel to inner city Charlotte for ten weeks to explore the unfamiliar. These students seek to encourage others and be encouraged in their life journeys. This ten-week opportunity for students is known as the Stapleton-Davidson Urban Service Internship.
The Stapleton-Davidson internship (Stapleton) was founded by George Donnell Davidson Jr. and his wife Anne Stapleton Davidson in 1989. Don Davidson Jr., who graduated from Davidson College in 1939 remained an involved alumnus. He and his wife were twelve year trustees of the college prior to the internship’s creation in 1989.
According to the agreement between Davidson College and the Davidson family, the Davidsons hoped that Christian service projects like the Stapleton-Davidson Internship would be for “the betterment of life for persons in the more troubled neighborhoods within the city of Charlotte, North Carolina.”
The Davidsons donated $100,000 to create a fund for the program. While regulated by the Chaplain’s Office, other departments such as Career Services, the Department of Religion, Center for Civic Engagement (previously the Office of Community Service) and the Dean of Students are involved with this internship.
In order to participate, students must go through an extensive application process by submitting a resume, two-page personal statement and a three page maximum document reflecting on the student’s most meaningful church experience. Students selected for this internship must exhibit good character, selfless concern for others, creative leadership, organizational ability and financial need. Furthermore, they must want explore “the Christian faith and its implications for urban service and social issues during the internship” (Responsibilities of Davidson College).
The Stapleton is quite competitive, and currently only five interns are selected each year. In the inaugural summer of 1989, only two interns were chosen to for the program. Prior to this internship, sporadic opportunities existed for students to engage in specifically Christian service opportunities. Occasional retreats and even cross-cultural trips (link to Nicaragua) occurred, but none with the intention of doing direct service.
The internship includes various facets such as volunteering with a community organization in Charlotte, living with a host family, attending a sponsoring church and journaling about experiences over the summer. Interns are given transportation if needed, a $3500 living stipend, as well as pre-made living arrangements. At the end of the ten weeks, the students submit a reflection paper to the Chaplain’s Office recording their personal growth, experiences and hardships.
These reflection papers allow for students to evaluate their summers and what their experiences meant to them. Internship participant Katherine Hester ’08 shares similar reflections as many others. Hester stated that, “I have re-realized, time and again, how totally dependent I am upon God for all I have, all I am, and all I have to offer.”
In 2011, the Stapleton Davidson Internship partners with two churches in Charlotte: Covenant Presbyterian and First Presbyterian. The churches are responsible for providing host families for students, setting up volunteer positions with the community organizations, evaluating the intern and providing a supervisor for the student.
Rev. Drew Henderson, Associate Minister of Covenant Presbyterian Church commented on a past summer, stating, “The interns were thrown into the fire, so to speak, but with lots of hands around them. It was an honor to be a part of that support system.” A few organizations that have welcomed Davidson students in are food pantries, crisis ministries and homeless organizations. Within each organization, students are assigned a variety of tasks.
When embarking on a service opportunity, students may assume they will be the ones making a difference. However, students immerse themselves in their environments, where they are influenced by those they meet.
Collin Setterberg ’05 reflected on his experience, stating that, “I came into the summer gung-ho about making relationships and ministering, but it was them who first ministered to me.”
Many Stapleton interns have gone on to pursue careers in service, ministry and even fields such as law or medicine. A renowned teacher, Grey Timberlake Brownlow ’93, stated that, “It was my first teaching experience as a Stapleton-Davidson intern that helped me to empathize with and relate to my low-income students and their families in a way that was empowering for them.”
Thanks to the Davidsons vision for the Stapleton-Davidson Internship, students are exposed to people from all walks of life and are shaped and changed because of it.
Kuykendall, J. Agreement Creating the Stapleton/Davidson Urban Service Internships Fund at Davidson College. 4 September 1988. RG 6/6.1 Chaplain’s Office, Stapleton/Davidson Report.Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Brownlow, Grey Timberlake. RG 6/6.1 Threads of Experience: Reflections on Faith, Service and Social Justice. The Stapleton-Davidson Urban Service Internship 1989-2003.Chaplain, Threads of Experience, Stapleton-Davidson Internship Reflections 1989-2003.Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Campbell, Elizabeth. RG 6/6.1 Chaplain’s Office, Stapleton/Davidson Final Report 2003. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Henderson, Reverend Drew. RG 6/6.1 Chaplain’s Office, Stapleton/Davidson Reports2006.Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Hester, Katherine. RG 6/6.1 Chaplain’s Office, Stapleton/Davidson Reports 2006. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Responsibilities of Davidson College.RG 6/6.1 Chaplain’s Office, Stapleton/Davidson Reports.Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Setterberg, Collin. RG 6/6.1 Chaplain’s Office, Stapleton/Davidson Final Report 2003. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Smith, Darrell. RG 6/6.1 Threads of Experience: Reflections on Faith, Service and Social Justice. The Stapleton-Davidson Urban Service Internship 1989-2003.Chaplain, Threads of Experience, Stapleton-Davidson Internship Reflections 1989-2003. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Threads of Experience: Reflections on Faith, Service and Social Justice. The Stapleton-Davidson Urban Service Internship 1989-2003.Chaplain, Threads of Experience, Stapleton-Davidson Internship Reflections 1989-2003. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.
Author: Ashley Lax
Date: April 2011
Cite as: Lax, Ashley, “Chaplain’s Office: The Stapleton-Davidson Urban Internship,” Davidson Encyclopedia. 21 April 2011 < http://libraries.davidson.edu/archives/encyclopedia/stapleton-davidson-urban-service-internship-chaplain’s-office>.