Riley Melton is a senior studying Policy Analysis and Public Management at the O’Neill School. Riley began his involvement at IU through the Civic Leaders Center and then IU Student Government. He developed a passion for community engagement and secured a full year internship at Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Friendly Bloomington. In this role, he supported the writing of grants and managed their social media. Riley then moved nationally to CDFI Friendly America, where he serves as a Research and Digital Marketing Intern supporting projects in Fort Worth, TX. All of Riley’s community work has led to his acceptance at the University of Chicago’s Masters program in Public Policy at the Harris School of Public Policy. Read more about Riley’s career development here:
1. Why were you interested in interning for CDFI Friendly Bloomington and CDFI Friendly America?
When I was first introduced to the internship experience at CDFI Friendly Bloomington (CFB) during my sophomore year, I was immediately intrigued by the tangible impact the organization has maintained in the region since its 2018 establishment. Interning with CFB presented the opportunity to gain invaluable insight into how sustainable, equitable community development is achieved at the municipal level. My internship experience at CDFI Friendly America (CFA) allowed me to expand my knowledge on CDFI financing and leadership at the national level. My experiences at both CFB and CFA allowed me to gain incredible skills and insights from CDFI industry trailblazers that will improve my ability to effectively serve communities throughout my career.
2. What do you find interesting about community development financial institutions (CDFIs)?
What has intrigued me about CDFIs since I was introduced to the industry is their capacity to influence tangible support for communities. CDFIs serve as mission-driven lending organizations that connect lenders in historically disadvantaged communities with flexible, affordable financing and technical assistance. Essentially, CDFIs provide critical financial and technical resources to communities so that they may thrive in a sustainable, equitable manner. Developing a passion for working with CDFIs has allowed me to truly enjoy the projects I have been a part of, as well as eagerly anticipate working with innumerable CDFIs throughout my career.
3. How has your internship prepared you for future career plans, especially your master’s degree?
My internships with CFB and CFA have prepared me with the real-world skills to achieve success throughout my eventual career in the CDFI industry. Connecting with CDFI leaders, as well as the city government officials who invite them to their communities, provided me with invaluable knowledge on urban leadership and public finance. This upcoming fall, I will utilize the skills developed at these opportunities to establish connections while pursuing a Master of Public Policy degree at the University of Chicago. Although an entirely different environment than the O’Neill School, I am confident that the networking skills I developed during my time at CFB and CFA will allow me to thrive.
4. How did you go about finding and applying for the internships?
I was first introduced to the internship opportunity at CFB through the Indiana Leadership Program (ILP), which connects O’Neill students to internships throughout Monroe County. During my time at CFB, I had weekly meetings with leaders from other CDFI Friendly organizations, with many of those individuals being members of the CFA team. I utilized the connections made from these meetings to identify a virtual internship at the Philadelphia-based organization this past fall, where I served in an expanded role than that which I performed at CFB. None of these experiences would have been possible had it not been for the abundance of support and resources provided by the Career Hub regarding cover letters, resumes, and interview preparatory sessions.