Meet the 2022 Edelweiss Ascend Interns

Samantha Correa, a student at CUNY City College, has always loved reading, but she only recently discovered a passion for book publishing. 

“I’ve been asking myself why I didn’t get into this publishing thing sooner! And, the answer is that I wasn’t aware of it as an opportunity. I didn’t know that there is a whole industry with plenty of career paths for anybody who loves books.” 

Tyler Ryan, a senior at Spelman College, concurs. 

“For me, growing up and heading into college as an English major, the only options people presented for me were to be a teacher or to try to be a writer from the get-go.” 

Over the summer, Samantha and Tyler have been able to learn more about the business of book publishing as two members of our current cohort of Edelweiss Ascend Interns. Ascend is the arm of Edelweiss through which we work to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the industries that our company represents—publishing and tech. The Ascend internship program is designed to help students gain exposure to roles in these areas.  This is the fourth year for our tech internship and the second for our publishing internship.

“The Edelweiss Ascend internship program is aimed at creating opportunities for folks from underrepresented communities to see themselves in publishing or tech and to provide mentoring for these students from experts in the business,” says Linda A. Duggins, Edelweiss VP of Strategic Partnerships who leads the company’s Ascend initiatives. 

Three other students round out this year’s cohort and entered the Ascend internship program to learn about software development: Nia Berry, student at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; Kyle Walker, rising senior at the University of Michigan; and Chidozie Nnaji, senior at Southfield, MI's University High School Academy. Kyle and Chidozie both joined the program via Edelweiss’s partnership with Wolverine Pathways, a University of Michigan-based program that facilitates the academic and professional development of students from under-resourced communities in Michigan. 

“The tech industry really excites me,” says Kyle. “Every year we keep getting new, unexpected innovations, and it is cool to see how technology changes over time.” 

Nia, Kyle, and Chidozie are being hosted by Edelweiss itself, where they work with Edelweiss Chief Architect Chris Kempton, Software Architect Kris Tokarz, and the rest of the Development team. This summer, the interns' projects have focused on Edelweiss Community and the development of the Events area on the site.

"I think it is important to provide opportunities for all people to work in technology— it opens doors to people getting their ideas out there. All of us are such frequent users of tech but to see the other side of your phone is a really powerful thing,” says Chris. “Our interns have been fully embedded in our software team, so they've gotten to see this firsthand."

"It has been awesome to invite the interns onto our team and see them contribute to the implementation of a new event overview page. We began mapping this work out last fall, so it’s exciting to see it come to fruition! It will improve the user experience for exploring and sharing events in Community and will provide us with a strong foundation to keep iterating on," says Ally Jarjour, one of the developers at Edelweiss leading the work on Community.

On the publishing side of the program, Samantha and Tyler are each working at one of our Ascend Internship partners. Linda coordinates with our partner organizations to find a good fit for the publishing interns’ interests and, once placed, Ascend covers a stipend for the students. 

Samantha is at Rock Inked Inc., a creative management company based in New York City, where she is learning all about book marketing. Samantha is mentored by Rockelle Henderson, a 30-year veteran of the book publishing industry. 

“I appreciate this internship program because it gives me the opportunity to pass all I know on. Whereas when you work in the publishing house, there is no time to pass it on because you are doing the job of twenty people. You can’t help the next person as much as you’d like,” Rockelle said at a recent internal panel discussion with the Ascend interns and partners. 

“This is part of the issue publishing has with anyone who is non-white. Because if you get into that world and you don’t see someone who looks like you, you are already intimidated and then you don’t know who to talk to. This program gives people the opportunity to learn what goes in publishing by putting them in the right internships.” 

Tyler is currently working at Tessera Editorial, an editorial company composed of all BIPOC publishing professionals. She supports its co-managing editors Grace Wynter, writer and editor, and Yasmin McClinton, editor and author writing under Yasmin Angoe. Both Grace and Yasmin came to publishing later in life and emphasized at our panel discussion that the work towards a more inclusive industry must be intersectional to truly make change. 

"When I was Tyler’s age, there was no concept of getting a job in publishing. I literally never saw anyone like me in publishing—I barely saw anyone like me writing books," said Grace. "So I feel for the thirty, forty, and fifty-year-olds for whom the doors were sealed shut when they were in college. I’d like to see more internship opportunities for older folks to experience the industries they’ve dreamt of experiencing but never thought they had a foothold.”

"There are some of us [people of color] in publishing but, because there are so few, that puts a tremendous amount of stress on those few that are there," said Yasmin "There are so many expectations placed on those few people, and you get burned out quickly under the responsibility of letting more people who look like you into this place that is so hard to get into. So, we definitely have to open publishing up. Not only to people of color but also people who are older and looking to have a second career."

This year’s cohort began their internships in June and most of the students will be finishing up by August. Linda notes that she is excited for the group to go out and share all they’ve learned with others. 

“Something we think a lot about here at Edelweiss Ascend is mentorship and one of the big things that excites me about the interns is that they too will become mentors to their peers and, in the process, hopefully help more folks consider careers in publishing and tech,” she says. 

Congrats to the 2022 Edelweiss Ascend interns! We talked with the group to learn a little more about them, what they worked on this summer, and what is up next! 

headshots interns

Nia Berry

Samantha Correa


Chidozie Nnaji


Tyler Ryan

headshots interns (1)

Kyle Walker

Where are you going to school, and what are you studying?

Nia Berry: I attend Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, and I'm entering my second year as a Computer Science major.

Samantha Correa: Currently, I attend CUNY City College and study publishing through the CCNY Publishing Certificate Program.

Chidozie Nnaji: I am currently attending University High School Academy as a rising senior, getting my high school diploma, but the goal is get a masters in Computer Science and Minor in Computer Engineering at my University of choice.

Tyler Ryan: I am a rising senior at Spelman College, and I am studying English with a minor in Philosophy.

Kyle Walker: I am currently a rising senior at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor studying computer science in the College of Engineering.

What drew you to the Edelweiss Ascend Internship Program?

Nia: First, I appreciated being personally reached out to by Chris about this opportunity. After reviewing the job description, I realized that this program would teach me about the exact framework I want to specialize in: ReactJS. Additionally, I was attracted to the learning environment created by this internship.

Samantha: Currently, I work part-time at the New York Public Library, so I was familiar with platforms like Edelweiss and how it is used to promotes front list books from different publishers to other publishers, bookstores, libraries, reviewers, etc. When I heard about the Edelweiss Ascend Internship Program, I though it would be a great opportunity to learn more about the digital side of the publishing industry and how it influences book promotion.

Chidozie: I first heard about the internship program from the college readiness program that I am part of, Wolverine Pathways. From there my interest was further sparked because the program and its work directly aligned with where I see myself in the future.

Tyler: What interested me most about the Edelweiss Ascend Internship Program was that I was being given the opportunity to work with people that look like me at Tessera Editorial. As a student at an HBCU, I have been constantly reminded by professors and advisors that, whenever I go out into the workforce, I may very well end up in an environment that is not built to make me feel included or represented in the work I do. When I first learned of the internship, I only needed to do a little bit of research about Tessera to feel sure that this would be the right program for me this summer.

Kyle: I was drawn to this internship from my connection to Wolverine Pathways as I am an alumni of the program. Through them I was able to apply for this opportunity and I was lucky enough to be selected. I saw this as a great opportunity to gain experience in my field and grow my skills in computer science.

If you had to describe your internship in just four or five words, what would those words be?

Nia: Informative, Hands-On, Collaborative, Interesting, 

Samantha: Learning, Collaborative, Fast-paced, Goal-Oriented, Challenging.

Chidozie: Amazing, Challenging, Intriguing, Creative, Thoughtful.

Tyler: Informative, Eye-Opening, Inspiring, Confidence-Boosting, and Refreshing!

Kyle: Informative, Rewarding, Meaningful, Challenging, Fun.

What are some of the projects you’ve been working on? Do you have a favorite?

Nia: I have been working on creating different components for the Events landing page of the Edelweiss Community site. I don't have a favorite part of the project so far, but I do enjoy styling the cards to look like almost identical to how the Treeline team imagined.

Samantha: Some of my projects are listed below--

    • In efforts to get a book out to the public, I’ve helped with promotional marketing aspect of a project by reaching out to over 100 library branches in various states. I helped create a letter that pitched the book to persuade these libraries to order the book and/or to give the book away to their patrons.
    • I’ve assisted with social media management for a client company by creating several posts that promoted books and/or posts targeted for audience engagement.
    • I read a manuscript and wrote a page overview of the book. I provided a summary of the story and identified a prospective target audience as well as comparison titles.
    • Research organizations that a client author might join to further establish his name and books.
    • I did some social media research as I looked up popular trends, hashtags, and platforms like TikTok and how that works.

My favorite project has been helping with the social media management and researching hashtags and trends. I like researching and finding the information I need and then using that knowledge to not only create meaningful posts, but to stick those posts with the right communities at the right times; this practice allows me to be analytic, creative, and intentional.

Chidozie: I was asked to make a React Card Component, and I really enjoyed this because it allowed me go through the process of learning about not only react but typescript as well.

Tyler: I have been learning a lot about copyediting and developmental editing over the past few weeks. I think my favorite project from the past few weeks was writing a Reader’s Report! The process gave me a lot of insight as to what kinds of positions I think I want to consider applying for in the future.

Kyle: The project I have been working on involves adding components to a new page on the Edelweiss Community website. This has been very good experience for me as it is a great way to use my skills that I have learned in school.

Have you encountered anything unexpected during this internship? Or learned something that surprised you?

Nia: I've always questioned how multiple people are able to efficiently work on a project together. This internship has shown me how new technology, like Azure & Git, makes open source development easy.

Samantha: I was surprised to learn how much you can learn in a meeting by just listening and taking notes. There were times when I had a project that I didn’t understand the reasoning why I was doing it. I didn’t understand the significance behind my task and how exactly it fit into the bigger picture. However, once in the meeting, those final pieces clicked into place and I had a better understanding of the project and why it was important to the campaign.

Chidozie: One thing that surprised me was the pull request process. Before this internship, I usually worked on projects on my own so I was not used to receiving feedback from other people. But, I am grateful for finally being able to get some feedback because it helped me understand more about the project I was working on.

Tyler: I was mostly surprised by just how extensive the editing process can be for some manuscripts. I always knew that every book goes through countless changes before publication, but I didn’t realize exactly how much an editor can help transform a manuscript into an entirely new beast!

Kyle: So far the most surprising things I have learned are all the useful tools that can make the process of coding much easier for me— whether that has to do with writing code itself or looking through code to debug it.

What are you currently reading? Or, what are some of your favorite books?

Nia: I recently started reading The Tech That Comes Next by Afua Bruce for a school book club.

Samantha: My favorite type of books are escapist fiction. I like science fiction and fantasy the most. I’m currently reading, The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings.

Chidozie: I read programming articles, and my favorite one would probably be "Hello World" in Java by because that is where I started to learn my favorite language so far.

Tyler: I’m currently reading The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, and Albert Camus’s The Stranger are a few of my favorite books.

Kyle: Some of my favorite books are the Willow Falls series by Wendy Mass, Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis and The 39 Clues series.

What is up next for you?

Nia: I start my second year of college and hope to find another internship that deals with ReactJS for the fall semester. I will be using the information I learned at this internship to assist the website manager positions I hold for some of my school clubs.

Samantha: Once I finish my internship and receive my certificate this August, I would like to apply to a full-time position in publishing, specifically focusing my job search on the marketing and publicity departments.

Chidozie: After high school, college is up next where I will try to make friends, form bridges and build a life for myself.

Tyler: I am about to start my last year at Spelman College. I’m not entirely sure what kinds of opportunities I will encounter in the coming months, but I am super excited to dive even deeper into the world of publishing. My internship with Tessera has certainly been an amazing start!

Kyle: As a rising senior I am beginning to look towards my future career, so I am going to start preparing for my job search and finish up my college courses.

Check out the full list of book recommendations from the 2022 Ascend interns on Edelweiss Community!