Hero Fund internship program grows

This summer, two interns have joined the ranks at the Carnegie Hero Fund staff. University of Pittsburgh rising junior John DeSantes joined Claire Skirtirch, an intern since 2021, on the investigations team and recent Susquehanna University graduate Griffin Erdely is working in the communications department. Here they share what drew them to the Hero Fund.

John DeSantes

John DeSantes

As a University of Pittsburgh rising junior, I had two requirements for an internship this summer: it had to further my skills for a future career in law enforcement and it had to be in Pittsburgh.

Participating in the Hero Fund’s internship program meets both those requirements and more. 

The people of Pittsburgh are friendly, and the city’s spirit and energy are contagious, but not only is the Hero Fund located in Pittsburgh, it’s part of Pittsburgh’s storied history. Modern-day Pittsburgh wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Andrew Carnegie’s love for his second home, and the Hero Fund is part of that for him.

At the same time, working in the investigations department has allowed me to delve into investigations of real-world incidents applying the material that I’ve learned in the classroom in the law, criminal justice, and society program.

Learning about the Carnegie Hero Fund and its mission has grown my dedication to this position. I first learned about it as one of the many viewers who watched the segment about Carnegie heroes on 60 Minutes a few years ago. That piece was encouraging. While in the role, reading about and investigating these fantastic stories has been a positive experience. While the cases vary from the case studies we’ve covered in class, the variation is a nice change, while still sharpening the investigative skills I need to meet my future career goals, such as professional writing, communication, critical thinking, and analytical thinking skills. Being part of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission is an honor, and I want to make an impact while I have the opportunity.

I have learned more than I ever imagined, as I am truly humbled and inspired by every Carnegie hero. As an intern here, I have learned many things that I cannot learn in a textbook. I have learned true dedication, leadership, integrity, humility, and loyalty through all the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission staff. 

Working in a profession where I can make a difference in society and my innate motivation to think critically while serving the community is why I want to have a career in law enforcement. I am eager to continue to learn and assist the Commission in every Carnegie Medal awarded in the future. The selfless and brave acts committed by all the heroes are truly inspiring, and I am grateful and honored to be a part of the history and success the Commission has had since 1904. The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission does inspiring work, and my belief in the mission strengthens daily.

Griffin Erdely

Griffin Erdely

Stories of heroes have always inspired me. Ever since I was young, my active imagination craved getting lost in a yarn. I looked to fantasy tales, graphic novels, and films showcasing epic quests, heroic feats, and a strong sense of morality. Growing up playing ice hockey, I also had plenty of childhood heroes to admire. The athletes I regarded seemed larger than life, almost like they, themselves, were fictional.

Those we identify as heroes have the ability to inspire us and make us understand different aspects of life, such as bravery, selflessness, and determination. I grew up an avid consumer of stories, and graduated from Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing and publishing and editing. Having further developed my writing skills, I hope to one day tell similar stories through fiction. But, over time, I came to realize the impact and power that real hero stories can have as well. I have been reminded of that, and then some, in my short time working for the Carnegie Hero Fund.

The Hero Fund’s mission is what drew me to the organization – honoring the stories of REAL people doing heroic and selfless acts is something I found compelling and positive. Participating in the recognition of these individuals, who took on real risks and accepted the call to action, was an opportunity to work in an environment where I could give back to others. I want to contribute to spreading the word on these real-life heroes about whom society does not hear enough, and I wanted to have a sense of purpose while doing it.

It can be easy to fail to notice the everyday person with whom we walk the streets and share the subway. But, in a quick instant, one of those people next to us can make a difference. A prime example of this can be seen in the case of Andrew W. Mathieson, who hailed from my native Pittsburgh, and was awarded the Carnegie Medal after saving his secretary when she was threatened by an assailant with a gun in February 1986. 

After Mathieson left a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game one night with his wife and secretary, an armed man threatened his secretary with a gun and chased her in a parking lot. Mathieson made an instant decision and tackled the man from behind. Despite gunshot wounds to the chest, he chased away the assailant. He recovered in the hospital. Although he had achieved a heroic feat, Mathieson’s secretary said that he never boasted about what he had done. 

Like Mathieson, all of the Carnegie heroes share the same quality of selflessness, not asking for anything in return in the face of danger, and a similar compassion to help their fellow humans. Many of these heroes are not celebrated by society in the same way as a big-time athlete for example, with attention and praise for their accomplishments. In some cases, some of these heroes sacrifice everything, giving their lives to save another.

From the tragic to the uplifting, there is an integrity maintained by the Hero Fund as it recognizes each of these heroes. I am both excited and humbled to take in the stories of these heroes, and have no doubt I will forever be impacted by them and their stories, as well as the Hero Fund and its objective.

Veteran Investigative Intern Leaves Lasting Impression

After two years of interning for the Hero Fund, investigative intern Claire Skirtich is moving on to start her professional career. Starting her internship as a Gannon University undergraduate, Skirtich will graduate this month with a Master of Science in criminalistics. 

“I have really enjoyed my time working at the Commission. Being able to grow from only doing correspondence to actually writing my own cases has been amazing. I think the report writing skills will help me in my future career in law enforcement. I also loved being able to recognize the goodness of the world in a time when we all need it most.”

Investigations Manager Joe Mandak on Skirtich: “Claire has become our go-to person to solve a problem or finish a new task – no matter how much else she’s got going on. She never gets flustered; she just produces, dependably, day in, day out.”

Intern Coordinator Jo Braun has joked all summer that she’s going to give Claire the worst recommendation to anyone who calls because she doesn’t want her to leave.

“Claire has added such an energetic personality to our office along with skills not normally seen in an intern. She has handled routine tasks like filing with the same professionalism as interviewing nominees for case write-ups. She has never backed down from additional responsibilities and has proven herself over and over again. Claire will definitely be missed!” she said.