I have a passion to make a difference, and recent events such as Hurricane Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombing confirm the unexpected, that catastrophe can strike at any moment. As a result, my spirit to make a difference has evolved into something tangible, focused and career oriented; to communicate how we as a nation provide opportunity and assistance to those who desire it, and, for me, to be part of an organization that engages honestly in open and fair processes to find solutions.

For me, the first steps on my path begin with a simple question; will I be a careerist or a professional? A careerist does what is required of him. A professional has a passion for the work, and their job is a personal investment they want to grow. My experiences this past year were the beginning of my becoming a professional.

Upon graduating high school, I was aimless and my goals were unfocused. Although my high school guidance counselor consistently gave well-intentioned advice, the consequences of my decisions were, and are, mine and mine alone. While my preference was a university academic environment, my family was focused on my attendance at the regimented Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA), pursuing studies in Emergency Management and Maritime Sciences. I did not speak up, though. I let everyone entertain the idea of MMA for so long that before I knew it I was actually there, and, for better or worse, I was a first-year cadet.

It was time to move on after one semester at MMA: time to embrace my goals, my passions and my choices. I weighed the pros and cons and concluded that the University of Massachusetts Amherst was the best fit for me. I took responsibility for my future.

Today I am a freshman at UMass majoring in communication. And today, after a few years as a student part-time employee, I am a Pathways Communication and Public Affairs Intern with the Army Corps of Engineers in New England working with a group of professionals.

Individual growth is necessary for my transition from academia to industry. My experience in the Army Corps prior to Pathways delivered general background for professionalism and daily work habits. Pathways is a learning process, helping to acquire the skills and know-how I need to succeed, and the comprehension required to know when and how to use those tools. Pathways is also a structured process. I have learned how to prepare my work, create goals and finish checkpoints. I can also go to my mentor and co-workers for advice and co-operative help.

The goals of Pathways are to offer clear paths to federal internships for students and to careers for recent graduates, and provide meaningful training and career development opportunities for people at the beginning of their Federal service.

Pathways is an immersive program: a real, practical, hands-on experience in a professional environment. I witness and experience how meetings are conducted, how messages are created for audiences, how messages are relayed between departments, how presentations are made, and how the hierarchy in an organization works. I am establishing my labor as a part of my identity. Just the name Pathways encourages me to be responsible, hard-working, curious, and to keep on the right path.

I participate in a formalized training program involving planned work experience and related study as a Pathways communication intern. I assist experienced Public Affairs personnel in core communication and public relations tasks by completing functional assignments and participation in web-based and social media metrics research and information collection. I engage in processes that lead to my understanding of the methods, procedures and techniques of public affairs and the impact of communication on the public's understanding of government programs.

Pathways Internships are open to current students in an accredited high school, college (including 4-year colleges/universities, community colleges, and junior colleges); professional, technical, vocational, and trade school; advanced degree programs; or other qualifying educational institution pursuing a qualifying degree or certificate. The Internship must be related to the Intern's academic career goals or field of study. More information on Pathways is available at USAJOBS (www.usajobs.gov/studentsandgrads).