Post 2: It Can Seem Impossible

Brandeis is a place where individuals can openly uncover their eclectic life narrative, unusual odyssys and tangled obstacles and really hold pride in these experiences that define what makes them unique in this immense world that we live in. Students at Brandeis endeavor to change the world and no one shys away from shouting these aspirations from the rooftops. I’ve heard individuals discuss their personal and maybe complicated life goals – most surrounding ending some sort of social justice issue.

Many social justice issues have existed for years and years, but I’ve learned from students at Brandeis that giving up isn’t really an option. Students know Justice Louis Brandeis’ saying “most of the things worth doing in the world were declared impossible before they had been done” and they really run with it. 

Each day working at Environment Oregon I learn more about the impacts of pollution; I learn the impacts of single-use plastics on wildlife, I learn the impacts of diesel pollution locally and globally. One take-away I’ve had is that if environmental catastrophes are not affecting individuals directly, or affecting them right now, many are not even aware that these problems exist.

Here’s the kind of electric bus we’re pushing for

This is why spreading public awareness is incredibly important. My job to gain support from individuals, businesses, and leaders in Portland through teaching people about the effects of diesel pollution and how our city can decrease our footprint and better the health and environment of communities throughout Portland is incredible. The excitement, questions, and encouragement I receive back makes the end goal seem less impossible. There has to be a movement before there can be change, and there has to be education and awareness before there can be a movement.

There are many instances where I think about how hard it is to imagine myself being able to change the entire city of Portland. But what I’ve learned from Brandeis and from all of the students following in Justice Brandeis’ footsteps is that the biggest obstacle can be yourself – if you believe in yourself everyone else will too.

Post 4: Update from DC

NI Logo

This internship has been a really incredible learning experience so far. There are so many different elements of the job that employ a variety of skill sets. As I mentioned in a previous post, one skill that I have worked on significantly is critical thinking. The ability to think critically is one of the main pillars of the Brandeis experience, and I am continuing to realize its importance in the “real world.” Thinking critically does not mean challenging every single idea that you come across. Rather, it means understanding all of the perspectives of a situation and gaining as much background information as possible to support a claim.

The research I have been conducting is not only tedious, but very politically charged, and it is easy to fall into the polarizing loop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In an era of so-called “fake news” and “alternative facts,” it is important to not take articles, news headlines, and other media sources at face value. I am a firm believer in the power of “soft skills.” Of course my internship requires me to utilize hard skills such as data analysis and programming; however, my internship really focuses on the acquisition and implementation of vital soft skills.

One significant skill I am working on is communication. Communication is a fundamental aspect of both the workplace and life. I have had previous experience in other workplace settings, as far as working with management, supervisors, and coworkers. This summer, however, I have learned about forms of mass communication, such as email and social media. Different forms of communication have distinctive strategies that need to be employed, which has been somewhat difficult to navigate at times, but has definitely strengthened my skills overall.

For a firm focused on conflict resolution, we still have our own conflicts that can arise. I have definitely learned the importance of transparent communication as a tool for conflict resolution. From what I’ve witnessed, many of the problems that arise in the workplace setting stem from minor miscommunications. One of the facets of this internship is working closely with both projects and the other interns. Teamwork and team-building skills are extremely valuable to the work world, and I have gotten an incredible amount of experience with this over the summer. I wouldn’t say this is my first time learning about these skills, but I have been able to perfect and practice soft skills that will be relevant to my future at Brandeis and in my career.

This summer has taught me a surprising amount about myself. Since there is a wide variety of tasks in the office that the interns work collaboratively on, I have found that I emerge as a team leader more often than not. While taking initiative is not necessarily a bad thing, I have had to learn to release some control and cooperate in a group setting more efficiently. Overall, I would say that I have learned a few new things, but more importantly have employed and practiced my pre-existing skills and ideas.

Post 5: My Last Weeks at Gardens for Health International

Looking back at my experience at Gardens for Health, I have learned so much about a field I am incredibly passionate about. Although I have many lessons I can take away from this internship, one of the most important ones is that social justice work is intersectional. Gardens for Health primarily focuses on nutrition and agriculture education, but doing home visits with some of the staff this week made me really see the change that the GHI trainings are making in the homes of the people they are working with. New mothers who had recently completed GHI’s program expressed their gratitude for what they learned, and discussed how they have put it into practice. One of the things I took away from this visit is the impact othe GHI program has on husbands, too. Seeing their week-old babies are healthy, that food was prepared faster, and that it was more nutritious made them supporters of this type of education for women. Changing some of the stigma surrounding women’s education in rural community’s highlights how GHI’s mission expands beyond nutrition and agriculture.

One of the houses in a community I did my home visit (Gasabo District, Rwanda)           

I have loved doing home visits and going into the field, but my work with GHI has focused primarily around developing a data repository for the different monitoring and evaluation indicators GHI uses. Through this project, I am helping the organization work to make accessing data more efficient, and I am definitely proud of the work I have done. Another intern and I were also in charge of a weekly email updating subscribers about the most recent news in nutrition and agriculture that week. I loved being able to interact more directly with GHI’s supporters, and I am sure they will continue the “weekly digest emails” when we are gone. Additionally, I was involved in a number of amazing projects that were not part of my initial job description such as the Training of Trainers program, and helping with different visitors who came to the farm. With all these projects I feel I have gotten a holistic view of how GHI operates.

I really think I have made the most of my time here in Kigali and at GHI. I have established a great social network made up of GHI staff and other residents of Kigali. I have traveled all over the north of the country to visit some of the health centers GHI works in. And, I have made sure to work with every team at GHI to see how the organization as a whole operates. For someone trying to pursue a similar internship, I would advise they take full advantage of their time in the field, because opportunities will not just fall into your lap. Additionally, to always ask where you should go, what you should do, and most importantly, how you can help!

Pictures of all the staff with their favorite vegetable from the farm

-Eli Wasserman ’20

First Day at Internship

Today I started my internship I have to say it was not what I imagined. I came into this internship thinking that I may be bored with having to do continuous walks in the forest looking for ticks and it taking forever. To my surprise I was wrong. It’s actually amazing to see just how many ticks there are in different parks in Weston where people go every day to go for hikes, walk their dogs or just go for a stroll on a beautiful day. Pretty much anytime I walked off the path, I managed to get one or two adult ticks crawling up my leg ready to make a meal out of me. In addition to that, once you get the hang of the methods of preparing the tool that we use, to actually collecting the ticks, it manages to go by pretty fast.

On our first day, we went to one of the locations named Jericho Forest: Sunday Woods.  When we got there it was bright, warm, flush with vegetation, while at the same time with a lot of dead young trees that littered the floor like garbage. We started off by going over the procedure of how to sweep and was taught how to hold the stick, how long to walk for before we check the flag, and also how to identify the ticks. At first, neither one of us were getting any ticks on tour flags and then out of nowhere ticks started popping out the woodworks. There would be sometimes that we would get multiple ticks on the cloth at once. We ended the day collecting seven ticks and I learned the difference between dog ticks, deer ticks, which one is a male which one was a female, etc.

There was really only one downside to being in those woods, and it was the mosquitos. They manage to eat me up alive. Even though I was covered up from head to toe, they still manage to attack my hands and left me with plenty of itchy bumps that lasted for a couple of days. In addition, I also helped professor Olson with another project that he had going on planting a tree for a memorial. Before we actually planted the tree, I didn’t know that it was so much going into trying to plant a tree. I didn’t know that you couldn’t just dig a hole and just plant the tree. There is a risk that the new place could be a shock to the tree and would stop it from growing. He also informed me about little tricks like cleaning off the dirt by removing the grass and other things that would help. Overall I really enjoy doing this field work and learning about new things that I have never worked on in my life.

Post 4: What I Have Learned

This will be my sixth week at the American Jewish World Service and my time there has taught me a lot that will be beneficial to me not only during my time at Brandeis but beyond that. One of the greatest skills it has given me is organizational skills. When you have several meetings a day, paperwork from different people to file, collect, or input, etc.. it is important to stay organized or else things will be lost or forgotten and that will create issues for the organization later on. I have learned a lot about what it is like to work in an office and that will help me in the future.

Here’s a little office humor joke about the filing cabinets

As an intern I do whatever is asked of me whether that be cleaning files or cleaning the file cabinet. However, I know that all the work I do is appreciated. For example, the minute I organized the file cabinet we were able to find documents that we needed and could not find before. I have learned that even the simplest of tasks can have rewards.

What I have learned about myself is that I enjoy being busy at work. I thought when I came into the office and had piles of work to do would feel daunting but I enjoy it. I like being occupied and not having free time to sit on my hands, I enjoy feeling useful. Moreover, I learned that I like to be a part of a team that relies on each other. Not only the finance department itself, but the whole organization. At a place like the American Jewish World Service, everyone knows everyone else and appreciates the work that each department does. Its a great office culture and I love being a part of it. I have learned that the people are what makes an organization great and working at the AJWS has taught me why everyone there loves the AJWS and all the work we do.

-Melissa Frank

The People First

Working at ImprovBoston has taught me that the most important aspect of any job is the people you are working with. I have the pleasure to work on a team of funny, easy going, and passionate people who are so supportive and make even the hardest days enjoyable. It has been incredibly reaffirming to work at ImprovBoston because it has shown me that comedy is not just about the art you are making but the people you are making it with. I now know that I want to be part of teams that are supportive and push me to think more creatively.

The infectious creative energy that permeates through the staff of ImprovBoston is what makes this work different from my university and academic life. There is a professionalism to the creativity at ImprovBoston that is not present at my life at Brandeis. For example, a creative project to start a new musical improv group goes through all the steps to find a director, music director, and producer so the results are professional and polished. At Brandeis, I have started many a creative project that has been missing the key components of professionalism and follow through. I hope to take these skills to projects at Brandeis. The WOW experience has also differed from Brandeis and academic life because I live in an apartment and cook my own food. I love it and it will be very hard to go back to living in the halls because the independence I have found in my life has made me happier and more confident.

Not only have I built on my skills of professionalism, follow through, and independence but also in networking. In comedy, networking is closely tied to being friends with folks within the community. During my semester in Chicago, I got the note that I should be confident and take up more physical and emotional space. I have been going to shows and hanging out with people before them to really connect and forge friendships. By fostering friendships with the people I work and perform with I am hopeful to create more opportunities for creative collaboration. I have more fun performing and working with people when I also know them as friends.

The most important thing I have learned at ImprovBoston and through working in comedy is that you have to, “be around.” Being around means reading everything; going to shows; staying up to date on global and local current events; and collaborating with as many different types of people as possible. I will transfer this to my academics by collaborating with my classmates, seeking more reading on the subjects I am studying, and going the extra-mile to connect my comedic work to what I am learning in the classroom. My work has also proven to me that for my future career plans it is essential I work with people who challenge and support me, while also being enjoyable people to spend forty hours a week with.  On and off campus I want to be part of projects that challenge and excite and have a level of professional organization and pride in the work they is doing.

– Mina Bond

 

Learning about Cuba at Columbia

To provide a quick background of the Cuba Program at Columbia University in New York, the program is aimed at increasing scholarly exchanges between Cuban and U.S. based scholars and other experts in other countries on topics of mutual interest through a variety of mechanisms, such as publications, public lectures, and academic visits. Columbia academics also visit Cuba to engage in comparative analysis of topics of mutual interest. The research undertaken by both Cuban and US scholars has resulted in a variety of publications in the US and abroad. Cuban entrepreneurs and scholars have spent extended periods at Columbia on study trips to deepen their knowledge of strategies to meet the challenges of the non-state sector on the island. The Program has also actively cooperated with the media in promoting greater understanding of US-Cuban relations.

Today marks the end of my first two weeks on the job. The amount of resources available here at Columbia is absolutely incredible. The Institute of Latin American Studies here at Columbia has its own library and reading room along with a full-time librarian who is an expert on all publications, databases, etc. pertaining to the region. I met with him this week and he showed me how to navigate through the different databases. I was introduced to a whole world of knowledge that I had only scraped the surface of before coming here. In the photo below, you can see my official ID  (figure 1) which gets me into all different buildings on campus (including the libraries and archives) and thus, allows me to checkout different books/documents needed for our research.

I am already learning a lot about Cuban history, culture and politics but I feel like I am also learning a lot about how academic/research institutions function and are successful. My boss/mentor/professor is so well versed, wise and knowledgeable. She has gone into conflict zones in Latin America to conduct research and serves on several Human Rights councils. Not only has she traveled to Cuba 63 times for research purposes alone but she is also considered one of the world’s leading scholars on religion and society in Cuba. It is truly an honor to work alongside her. I have a feeling that I am going to learn a lot from her. She was even kind enough to invite me to her home this past weekend to borrow a few books from her personal library. I was so happy! Below you can find the book she and her colleagues published last year (photo 2) and the one for this year (photo 3).

 

(2)

 

 

(3)

 

My mentor will be heading to Miami in a few days for a conference at the US Southern Command (the part of the military that deals with the Latin American) to do several presentations on human rights challenges facing the armed forces in the region. Most military leaders of the Latin American countries will be in attendance! We’ve been working tirelessly for the past few days on gathering data for that. It can be tough at times because you can look through countless books and articles and still not find what you’re trying to convey. That being said, nothing tops the feeling of accomplishment when you finally find the perfect data! Below you can find one of the graphs (figure 4) we’ll be using (source: Isacson, Adam. and Kinosian, Sarah. U.S. Military Assistance and Latin America – WOLA. [online] 27 April 2017) as well as a chart (figure 5) that I put together regarding US involvement and human rights program effectiveness in Latin America.

I am so excited to see what the rest of the summer has in store!

(4)
(5)

Natalia Gonzalez

Post 4: Skills Learned at JVS

During my time at JVS, I have learned and improved upon many skills that will be useful to me not only at Brandeis but also in my future career, whatever it may be. I have learned a great deal simply about daily office life functions as well as skills more specific to the work done at JVS. Coming into JVS, I had never worked in a large city office, and just the size of the space was intimidating among other things. I arrived on my first day to row after row of cubicles, hallways of classrooms, and numerous meeting rooms. I realized that my internship at JVS would be far different from any that I had had in the past.

I have learned a lot about myself and how I fit into and function in a workplace setting. I have learned many small things like where to locate client folders all the way to much more important skills, like how to best conduct a mock interview with a client. I have learned that I love the parts of my day where I get to interact with clients the most. Whether through our weekly intake process where I get to meet new JVS clients or hour-long meetings with clients I’ve met before, I love getting to talk to our clients face to face.

Most importantly, I have learned how to better work with clients. Whether it be on interview skills, editing their resume or assisting them in finding child care, I have learned what one-on-one interactions with clients in an office setting look like. I have recently begun taking on clients of my own and heading their search for child care. I have learned step-by-step how to manage client relationships. From the time I am assigned a client by their career coach through the search process to their registration with a care provider, I have learned how to manage each client’s specific needs.

Additionally, I have learned so much about the bureaucracy involved in the job and child care search process for our clients. I have learned how to navigate the paperwork and rules for government agencies in order to ensure that our clients are able to retain the benefits that to which they’re entitled. I have observed the difficult bureaucratic process that our clients encounter upon their entry into the United States and have seen its challenges firsthand.

Overall, during my time at JVS, I have gained a myriad of tangible skills through my experience working in a large office. However, more importantly I have gained valuable insights into the immigration process for refugees, asylees, and others into the U.S. I have learned about the complicated institutions that they must confront upon their entry and the difficulties they must face in establishing their lives here.

Post 4: My Fourth Week at The Quad Manhattan

Throughout my time at The Quad Manhattan I have been developing a lot of different skills that will be applicable when working both with neuro-typical kids and kids with disabilities. As I mentioned in my last post, one idea that has been reaffirmed during my time at The Quad Manhattan is that our education system is moving in the wrong direction. The push for common core curriculum is killing the sparse amounts of adjustable education that existed and ALL kids are worse off for it. I always knew that common core wasn’t the right move for education, but before working at The Quad Manhattan I had no idea what other techniques were out there.

The wall of camper and staff art

Collaborative problem solving (CPS) is one of the skills that they have been teaching us. This system puts an emphasis on the fact that all kids want to be good and do the right thing, but when they are acting out they are lacking the skills to do so, not the wish to. Another large part of CPS is involving the child in the decision making. Instead of telling the child “you were doing this so we are going to do this,” you have a conversation where you try and see if they have any ideas of what is the problem and how to fix it. Most of the time the kid has ideas but is so used to just being told what to do that they don’t know how to take control of their own behavior because they have never been allowed to. I hope to employ these skills whenever I work with kids in the future. Not only has employing CPS helped me connect with kids in a new way, but I have seen this technique give kids a sense of autonomy like I have never seen before.

The Quad has also given me a lot of confidence in myself. Once camp started, I was thrown right into the thick of things. I am constantly problem-solving with kids, helping them through activities, and maneuvering tantrums. This is also my first job that requires me to work typical hours. In the past, my jobs have been either part time or in theatre where I worked long but strange hours. Even though the days are long and challenging, I have loved every second of it, and my time here has proven to me that I am ready to enter this field.

Our ‘noticing trees’. The leaves are full of positive actions of all of the campers.

Post 4: 9 to 5 and Odd Jobs – Dolly Parton

This is my first experience working a 9-5 job. Because of that, I have learned a great deal that expands over all fields, and I have also learned about a lot about myself. I have learned about what is important to me in a work environment. I learned that I am a big snacker, but I like to bring my own lunch. I learned I very much like to get up during the day, go for a walk, or just do something semi-physical as opposed to sitting at a desk all day.

The flags outside of my office representing Massachusetts and a safe place for the LGBT community

I’ve also learned that I am very comfortable speaking to people in person and on the phone, and I have been able to develop that skill through my work in the congresswoman’s office. Public speaking is a critical skill in every and all settings and I am excited that I am able to utilize and strengthen this skill in my work this summer. I have gotten much better at talking to people that do not share the same views as the congresswoman and may be harsh or angry, and I have simply gotten much more comfortable answering the phones for anyone.

I have also been given the opportunity to improve my writing skills, a skill that, like public speaking, is relevant and useful in all walks of life. My internship challenges me through researching and writing on topics I am not as familiar with, allowing me to broaden my scope of what I can truly understand. There are times when I feel I am starting a project from nothing, but after trial and error, I get to a place where I feel confident in my ability to convey the topic.

I also very much consider my job, working for the government, to be a privilege. I feel like almost every week I am given the chance to take on a new opportunity because of where I get to work, and from that I am learning more about how the government literally funtions. This past week I helped our legislative director prepare for a major appropriations markup for the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies committee. I helped handout my member’s amendments, kept the staffer updated on major organizations stances on introduced amendments, and I even got to listen for a bit. This markup ended up being over thirteen hours long, so you can only imagine the hard work and time put into every major bill.

Pictured are the protests moments before President Trump announced his Justice nominee

In addition to the skills mentioned above, I have also, in the simplest terms, become a more well-informed citizen. I have developed the habit of reading the news daily through different mediums. I feel comfortable talking about what is going on in today’s world, and I am excited to continue to learn. For example, Monday evening I stumbled upon the protests happening outside the United States Supreme Court in response to the pending announcement for President Trump’s justice nomination. I was literally counting down the minutes to 9pm to go online and find out who was the president’s decided nominee. I honestly cannot tell you another time when I was on the edge of my seat waiting for a news release to happen.

This is a habit I am proud to have nurtured, and I believe it will help me in my future work as a social justice advocate. You cannot present your greatest work if you are uninformed. But it is the skills I talk about here among others that I believe will continue to help pave the path for me to be a better student, citizen, and learner.

Post 4: Building Those Skills

Event planning and fundraising are the two activities I have most often engaged in during my internship. I’ve had several opportunities to test both; however, my time with KKOOM has expanded these skill sets in surprising ways.

At the start of my internship, I began with a list of possible activities and skill sets my supervisors wanted participating students to build during our Dream Camp in Seoul. Over the past several weeks, I have developed three missions. Each mission required hours of research, creating a points system, and compiling instructions–a lot of administrative and logistical details to wade through.

Mission 2, for example, is comprised of three separate activities: (a) an on-campus scavenger hunt at Hongik University, (b) an interview with a foreigner, and (c) a cafe/restaurant review. The scavenger hunt requires students to navigate Hongik’s campus by finding and taking pictures in front of various buildings. Our hope with the interview is to encourage students to use their English, no matter how limited they perceive their English speaking ability to be. Lastly, the cafe/restaurant review will help students learn the importance of budgeting (they receive a set lunch stipend) and observing one’s surroundings.

Before I needed to upgrade to electronics …

I’m an old soul and appreciate planning things with pen and paper. However, with all the necessary research and cross-referencing needed to plan Dream Camp, almost all my work was done electronically. Call me old-fashioned, but this experience helped me learn to plan events in a different way. I started off with pen and paper, and had to switch to my computer for efficiency’s sake.

I have held several fundraisers for various NGOs and 501 (c)(3)s in the past, but KKOOM fundraiser gave me an extra challenge. Asking for money wasn’t the problem; the concern was being as non-political as possible. A challenge our organization has faced is that of people associating us with adoption. Our focus is opening up educational opportunities for orphans and it’s important to us to keep things focused on the students. The language used when creating a donation pitch was incredibly important.

So grateful for the family, friends, and strangers whose loving generosity helped me achieve beyond my goal!

I successfully meet my goal. In fact, I raised 400% of the original $500 goal. (To save you the math, family, friends, and strangers together raised $2000.) Before launching my campaign, I needed to carefully contemplate my wording. It is important to not only understand an organization’s mission, but also know how to clearly explain it.

Although I’m hoping to pursue a career in speech pathology or forensics linguistics, I know that having experience with event planning and fundraising will always serve me well.

13 Days ’till Korea!

As the youngest member in KKOOM, I am grateful for the confidence and trust the other Board members have in me. From our time spent together at our LA Board Retreat to our emailing/messages to the upcoming weeks in Korea, I have benefited and will continue to benefit from their experience and knowledge.

In terms of lessons I’ve learned about myself in the workplace, there are several, but to me, the most important is learning to have more confidence in myself. Planning the Dream Camp seemed rather impossible at times; reaching my fundraising goal, unlikely. But, they both happened.

Post 4: Midpoint of My Internship

In my previous three blog posts, I have stated how Community Psychiatry PRIDE, my internship organization, addresses social justice. I have spent plenty of time elaborating on the social problem we are targeting, the significance of our work, and the difference we aim to make.

At the midpoint of my internship, I feel I should also talk about the arduous work behind the higher purpose. It is exciting how we are trying to bring treatment to the most-needed communities or to help high-risk young men break the cycle of incarceration and poverty, but the hard work building up to the glamour of social justice practice should also be noted. While I am working on a project about implementing evidence-based treatment to resource-limited communities, it includes endless data entry and going back and forth to check data. No matter how excited you feel about the high order purpose, you will need to deal with the arduous part of the job. It is important to be aware of this, and find a way to stay motivated.

There are some incidents I want to share that keep my morale up. The first time I tried to take the commuter rail from Chelsea to North Station after work, I took the wrong one and I ended up in Lynn. I was worried and anxious, looking into the map at the Lynn station that did not make any sense to me. A middle-age man approached to me and asked me whether I took the wrong train too. He started talking to me and told me that the next train back to Chelsea was in twenty minutes. He was super talkative and based on what he told me, it was not hard to notice that he was struggling as he constantly switched from job to job, frequently visited emergency rooms, and was chronically involved with psychiatrists. I was suspicious when he first approached me, and I felt embarrassed for thinking this way as I found him to be a genuinely good person. He talked about his favorite novel and showed me how he learned math by himself on the back of the train ticket.

The idea of Community Psychiatry PRIDE to bring culture-sensitive treatments to resource-limited communities is based on getting to know people’s lives and the struggles in the communities. That incident in Lynn was my first time to be with one of the people I want to help through this internship, and I was moved by his faith in life, curiosity about the world, and eagerness to learn. This experience helps me to stay motivated through this arduous work, because they are not just quantitative and qualitative data anymore, but real people who are holding on to faith in life and seeking help.  

-Bingyu Xu ’19

Post 4: Learning About the Foreign Service

When working for an agency as diverse as the Department of State, it is important to learn as much as possible about job opportunities within the Department. In hopes of gaining an understanding of the range of different positions people hold within the Department, the intern supervisor in my office encouraged me and the other interns to reach out to full-time employees from other bureaus and offices to carry out “informational interviews.” I was able to locate the email addresses of several individuals who currently hold positions that sounded interesting to me. I then reached out to them in order to learn about what they do and how they got there, in hopes of learning what I can do now to start working towards a similar career. I was also generally interested in how they were able to get their current position.

Hannah in the “Flag Hall” at the Department of State which holds flags from all countries that host diplomatic missions.

This lesson has taught me the importance of reaching out and arranging meetings as a way of networking with professionals, and that it’s not necessary to have a certain purpose for meeting, but rather, being curious about someone’s work is a good enough reason. I also realized that this initial “informational interview” meeting is only the first step of networking and it is important to follow up and keep in touch with people so that a relationship can be fostered, which will be important for years to come. You never know where contacts might be able to land you a job!

I am happy to say that this internship has successfully catered towards my “Career Goal” of observing how diplomacy works in the realm of official foreign policy. Within my first week at the Department of State I had the chance to speak with a Foreign Service officer who was stationed in my office. In the following weeks, I have met many more individuals from the Department of State who serve in the Foreign Service (working for the U.S. government while being stationed abroad, promoting peace, supporting prosperity, and protecting American citizens).

In addition to networking, I have also had the chance to attend panels and presentations devoted to the discussion of the Foreign Service. The panels have been catered towards different target audiences: some for interns in particular, as well as others for Civil Service Staff (employees based in Washington, D.C.) who may be interested in serving in the Foreign Service in the future, and even one for women who were interested in a variety of different government jobs (including the Foreign Service). It has been a great experience learning about this specific career path and I feel more informed than ever before about the job options available in the realm of foreign policy!

 

-Hannah Cook, ’20

Post 4: What I Learned at BridgeYear

During my internship at BridgeYear, I enhanced my skills, expanded my knowledge about the industry, and learned more about how I work best. My role has allowed me to develop a number of skills including critical thinking, project management, and leadership. These skills were actually what I chose as areas of growth at the beginning of the internship, and were reflected as strengths in my 360 evaluations.

My projects enable me to use each aspect in anything I do. Since BridgeYear is a startup, I need to manage multiple projects at once, developing my time management, organizational skills, and efficiency. Similarly, because the organization is implementing certain processes for the first time, one needs to work without prior examples or structure – like developing a social media strategy or creating an impact report, for example. I find this extremely exciting, as I enjoy starting up new projects and leading them to execution.

My leadership skills have also improved immensely. My projects rely greatly on collaboration and delegation of dependent tasks, as they overlap with various aspects of the organization and require different areas of expertise. We are given opportunities to present our progress, ask for feedback, hold brainstorming discussions, and discuss team-asks during meetings. This provides a platform for one to delegate tasks, but also creates an environment in which that becomes easier. In addition, another intern and I are responsible for organizing a “Volunteer Build Day” event, which allows BridgeYear to double its capacity. I look forward to this, as it will allow me to further exercise my leadership abilities, while learning more about event planning and coordination.

Testing out a new Career Test Drive

Along with the management and business-related skills I gained, I have also been able to practice skills related to social justice. I advise around fifty students, which helps me greatly improve my communication skills. However, it also makes me more invested in my work, as I get invested in each of my students. This helped me realize the importance of resonating with the purpose and mission of my work, as it motivates me to perform to my potential.

In addition, I learned more about the type of environments and styles that drive me to perform to the best of my ability. For example, I really enjoy leadership positions, particularly in smaller teams. It gives me a balance of being able to manage projects and assign tasks, while remaining part of the execution and collaborating. I also enjoy the combination of independent work and meetings, as the mixture allows me to be most productive.

I have learned immensely from this internship, most of which I can apply moving forward. I gained numerous transferrable skills that can be applied to any kind of task I perform, learned more about the industry I am interested in, and discovered plenty about how I work best. This is all extremely helpful when looking for the right job opportunity and knowing how to adjust to perform to my best potential.   

Post 4: World of Work at the ACLU of Utah

My time with the ACLU of Utah has felt like a whirlwind experience. It’s odd to think that I won’t fully see my research come to fruition because I simply won’t be in the office everyday. I have had the opportunity to meet with leaders of other non-profit organizations in the area, participate in marches, and oversee team meetings. It all feels strange to have to go back to a classroom setting after everything I observed and learned over the summer. But nonetheless, I am eager to go back to Brandeis and bring the skills and knowledge I have learned with me.

Looking back, I can split my final takeaways into two categories: 1) workplace and 2) social justice. Both can go hand in hand but are also very different.

As an intern or as I like to the call myself the “bottom of the office totem pole,” it was important for me to adapt to the workplace environment. For the most part, everyone is pretty relaxed and flexible; however, appropriate workplace etiquette is still required. Some of these things include appropriate language when talking to one’s superior or just with the other interns, being patient with yourself and those around you, and being proactive to complete assignments or ask for more to do. Especially in an environment where everyone is older, it’s extremely important to make your voice heard.

Logo for the Odyssey House; Courtesy of their twitter @OdysseyHouseUtah

On the social justice front, I realized that any goal—no matter how small or large—will always take time. Usually, the ACLU of Utah will work with a lot of different organizations in order to get to an end result. For example, this week I was able to join the entire office on a field trip to tour the Odyssey House—a non-profit organization that serves individuals and families with addiction, mental health, and physical health issues. Although there is a lot of work to do to reduce recidivism and addiction care within the criminal justice system, the partnership between the ACLU of Utah and the Odyssey house begins to repair the gap. This visit opened my eyes to the struggles of everyday Utah citizens and the many outlets that exist to make a change in the community.

Moreover, I have also learned that by collaborating and inviting more than one voice to the table, it’s important to be respectful of the varying opinions in the room. There are always two sides to every story—maybe three— so to enact meaningful change means to find a balance of what you want versus the other party. Monthly, the ACLU of Utah hosts a meeting with their legal panel of attorneys to discuss current cases. While observing, I noticed that even when members of the ACLU of Utah community come together, everyone has their own thoughts on how to best handle a situation in the courtroom. But no matter how each attorney felt, they all engaged in civil discourse and used respectful language to persuade the group. To me, this example demonstrates what social justice is all about: it’s about embracing teamwork and asking for help when you need it.

I am excited to go back to school but I am really going to miss the faces I saw everyday in the ACLU of Utah office. Everyone took on a challenge with a “we’re in this together” attitude that I will not forget. For my sophomore year at Brandeis, I aspire to be open to learning new things and shop classes that may be outside of my comfort zone. I realized that I may never be the smartest or most experienced in the classroom, but those qualities are not faults to feel worried about. Instead, I am going to embrace what I can learn from my peers and professors. All in all, I feel bittersweet about what my final weeks at the ACLU of Utah have to offer!

One step closer to the world of medicine

This summer, I have the opportunity to work in Dr. Lichtman’s Immunology and Cardiovascular research laboratory of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Pathology.

Me (right) and my coworker (left)

I have never worked in a lab before. In my mind, I thought working in a lab would be similar to my experience in college’s lab courses. However, the first day I came to the lab, I was amazed by how basic science research can potentially lead to huge development in the medical field in terms of diagnosis and treatments for patients. As the post-doc, Eva, I work with briefly explained to me the projects that were going on in the lab, I realized that I needed to read and self-study much more so as to be able to understand the research and ultimately to be a part of it. My impression about the lab during the first week is that doing research is challenging, but at the same time very intriguing and that I would be able to learn so much from not only my supervisor but also from other talented people in the team. The picture above is me (right) and one of my coworkers who is actually a Brandeis alumni (left).

As I get a better idea of the lab, I have set some goals for this summer:

Regarding academic goals, I want to establish a solid background in basic immune system functions, and how such immune responses can cause diseases. In preparation, I have discussed the basic science underlying this project with Dr. Lichtman and spend a portion of my free time on the weekends reading and taking notes from the textbook he published and recommended to me. I was surprised to learn that the book is also used as a learning tool in many medical schools!

Furthermore, I also aim to master the molecular techniques used in the lab and in day to day research, such as immunohistochemistry and tissue slicing on the Cryostat. This will allow me to not only make progress in my project but to effectively assist other team members in their research by generating accurate data.

Thus, I will learn how to use empirical scientific research in order to contribute to the medical field by learning from the PI and other team members.

Considering career goals, I plan to pursue a career in medicine that includes patient care and clinical or lab-based translational research. As I work in a clinic-based laboratory as a summer research internship, this experience will also allow me to explore different aspects of medicine. As I will attend department conferences and seminars throughout the course of the summer, I will be able to develop a more well-rounded understanding of medicine and the interconnection between its different aspects. I can furthermore establish a professional network at Brigham and Women’s Hospital by meeting with the professionals such as physicians, researchers and educationalists who make enormous impact on people’s lives and on the community in their everyday work.

As for my personal goals, I hope this summer experience will help me to grow intellectually, think scientifically, and be able to contribute to important work relevant to human diseases. I look forward to emerging myself in the Longwood medical area – a hub of biotechnology, of research and ultimately of medicine.

-Phuong Anh (Phoebe) Le-

Post 4: Warrior Princess, Cheerleader, Coach, Listener

Sometimes, my supervisor calls me a warrior princess after I get off a long phone call advocating on behalf of a client. Sometimes, I make exaggerated excited faces and silently cheer as my client successfully schedules their own appointment with a doctor for the first time. Sometimes, I spend the afternoon in the ER coaching a client through asking the doctor questions about how to re-insert their child’s feeding tube. Sometimes, I just sit and listen while a client tells me what they miss about their home country. Sometimes, I spend the day on the computer researching MediCal insurance policies, housing assistance programs, and childcare programs with language capacity to help connect my clients to resources they need.

Example of tasks to be completed during a “normal” day at the office

Every day, I walk into the office, and I’m not sure what the day will hold. Maybe I’ll spend the morning scheduling transportation and interpretation for medical appointments or submitting low-income housing paperwork. Then, in the afternoon, I might be helping a client apply for disability benefits. Maybe I’ll spend the morning calmly reviewing case files, but spend the afternoon completing urgent phone call requests on sticky notes handed to me by my supervisor as she talks on the phone to a client in crisis. The all-encompassing skill I’ve learned at my internship so far is the need to be flexible and willing to play different roles according to the needs of each individual client.

In a prior blog post, I wrote about how IRC offers holistic programming to cater to the needs of each client as an individual. My clients have varying needs because the ethnic, language, cultural and educational backgrounds they come from dictate their transition to a new country.

I have one client who speaks English, has experience in security for the U.S. military in Afghanistan and is working on enrolling in community college classes. This client and I are working on helping him apply for jobs and become more confident in advocating for his daughter with special needs to receive services and quality medical care. For this client, I am a cheerleader and coach.

I have another client who does not speak English, is living in an area without other Afghans, and has no transportation and little awareness of or connection to local resources. This client is focused on getting a job to feed his large family and making sure his wife receives mental health treatment. For this client, I am a warrior princess making sure his wife receives timely care by calling insurance, medical providers, and mental health providers to get her authorizations, referrals, and appointments. I am a coach for phone calls to insurance and doctors as well as a cheerleader when those calls go well (see my last post!). I am also a listener when this client describes feelings of worry around his wife’s mental health and difficulty providing for his family.

As I get to know and work with different clients, I have learned to play a variety of roles to ensure that their needs are met, their thoughts are heard, and their progress and victories are celebrated. To be able to transition between these roles I have learned the importance of being flexible, multi-tasking, and becoming familiar with local resources and policy.

Unfortunately, social justice work can slip into the realm of grouping individuals into a singular “oppressed” category with disregard for their individual characteristics and try to “fix” all of their problems. The recognition of the various identities, strengths, and weaknesses of my clients allow me to think of them as individuals and serve in a variety of roles as a warrior princess, cheerleader, teacher and listener to assist them in achieving their goals.

-Maya

Post 4: Lessons from 826 National’s Leadership

My internship at 826 National has reinforced my passion for education equity and my ultimate goal of working in education law, working toward education equity for our most under-resourced students. As I move forward in my professional career, one of the things I will take away from this experience is the incredible leadership I have seen in my office. As I approach my last few weeks, here are a few of the leadership qualities I will take with me to my future workplaces:

Building a Vision
When I first started at 826 National, the intern cohort participated in a visioning activity. The exercise was modeled after one that the 826 National board members did a few years ago, about what they wanted the 826 network to look like in ten years. The process begins by writing, in present-tense, about that ideal future state. Then you work backwards to determine the steps necessary to make that vision happen. In the nonprofit world, a vision is hugely important in maintaining and growing an organization. A clear vision (the desired future position of the organization) informs a strong mission statement (the objectives and the approach to those objectives), both of which make up the backbone of an organization’s operations. A leader’s ability to spearhead the building of a vision, both on a small and large scale, help guide a team toward a common future goal. To be quite honest, when I first started at 826, I saw visioning as a pretty cheesy, time-consuming activity. But this summer, I have seen how visioning can motivate and inspire staff, and how working backwards from a vision can actually streamline projects. Now that I have learned the steps myself, refining my approach to vision-building is a skill I can take with me long after I leave 826.

Connecting Even the Small Tasks to the Mission
826 National has also shown me that having a strong vision and mission in place is just the beginning. An effective nonprofit is careful to tie each task to the mission, and to communicate that connection to the staff. Doing so gives purpose to the work being done and improves team morale. This seems small, but a leader without this skill is not executing their job to its fullest extent. 

Visioning can lead to tremendous growth, like when the 826 Network reached more than 32,000 students!

Acknowledging the Value of Your Team
This one might also seem small, but it has been one of the biggest lessons for me at 826. This summer, my main responsibilities have revolved around the annual Staff Development Conference (SDC), during which 826 staff from all over the country come together to discuss best practices and ensure that every chapter is ready to put their best foot forward in the coming school year. It’s a huge event, and 826 National is responsible for its planning and execution. Crucial to the success of SDC has been my supervisor’s commitment to recognize the vital role, however small, that every person plays in making SDC what it is. This summer, I have watched my supervisor take time to thank every person for their contribution to SDC throughout the process, not just after it was over. Showing her genuine appreciation for the support team makes every person feel energized and willing to do the work, because she makes it clear that their work matters. This leadership trait is a big deal to me because of how easy it is! A simple “thank you” can make a world of difference in team-oriented projects, which, as an aspiring lawyer, I am sure to see many of.

Using Interns Strategically!
Every college intern knows that internships can sometimes feel a little hit-or-miss. Sometimes you land an incredible internship that gives you genuinely valuable skills for the future, and other times it feels like you spent your entire internship photocopying documents. The leadership team at 826 National has done an incredible job making sure interns have the tools we need to learn as much as we can this summer, but also that our skills are being utilized to do meaningful work for 826. Part of that is listening to what interns are interested in with regular check-ins, but another part of it is connecting our work to the mission. Since we are only here for a short time, knowing how our work matters in the long run is extremely motivational. This experience has given me concrete examples of how maximize the use of interns, even when their turnover rates can be a bit discouraging. As a leader, figuring out what skills your interns bring to the table lightens your load while still ensuring that your interns are truly growing during their experience.

I look forward to utilizing these skill for many years to come, as I enter the workforce and maybe even lead a team myself one day!

-KR ‘19

Post 4: Taking BridgeYear Lessons Back to Waltham Group

BridgeYear

The summer internship at BridgeYear is a unique experience and quite different from what I had expected this internship would be like. One of the reasons why I decided to be a part of BridgeYear was because I wanted to improve my skills as an effective leader.

The 2017-2018 Symbiosis Coordinators during the Waltham Group celebration of service.

This upcoming year at Brandeis, I will be the senior coordinator of Symbiosis, a Waltham Group program. As exciting as that is, I know that in order to ensure the success of any Waltham Group program, a good deal of leadership is required from the coordinators. Symbiosis is fairly new in comparison to other programs, so it will need committed people to run it, now that all of the founding coordinators have graduated.

One of my close friends from Houston and Brandeis had worked as an intern for BridgeYear this past summer, and she told me that she was able to learn many new things during this internship. When I spoke to her, she mentioned that working at BridgeYear was a lot of work, but it was work with a purpose. The supervisors were always looking for ways to improve different aspects of the organization and its people.

After working six weeks with the BridgeYear team, I can say that I have not had two completely identical weeks. During the halfway point of the internship, every team member had the chance to evaluate and provide feedback for other interns, as well as the current supervisors. The entire exercise was very eye-opening to say the least.

BridgeYear interns enjoying some bonding time at Escape Hunt’s very own “Houston we have a problem” attraction!

I learned that while I am capable of taking charge of projects, I am often times more willing to support others and their projects. This is not necessarily a bad thing. All it means is that I need to be more comfortable making choices on my own without having someone else to direct me in the right direction.

I take feedback very seriously, so during the four weeks I have left at BridgeYear, I will try my best to become more independent when it comes to making choices. I will deliver finished projects with urgency, but more importantly, with a sense of pride. It’s not enough to deliver a good project if I feel like I could have spent more time on it. This lesson can be applied to my work as a Waltham Group coordinator as well.

Symbiosis prides itself on its commitment to the community of the city of Waltham and its environment. As a coordinator for Waltham group, it is my responsibility to make sure every volunteer and community partner feels like they are making an impact. This means that each of our events should be structured in a way that allows everyone to do their personal best. In Symbiosis’ fight for a brighter future for the environment, we cannot be satisfied with just good. We have to be, and will be, eco-wonderful!

Post 4: Professionalism and Politics | How I’ve grown at NCL

After working at National Consumers League for seven weeks, I’ve have honed my research, analytical, and social skills far more than I would have dreamed. I’ve prepared myself for the real working world three years early instead of waiting until I graduate. I still have much to learn, but I now feel ahead of the game professionally and I’m confident that I can be successful in the working world.

Working on my food labeling policy memo and exploring nutrition and personal finance have both educated me and strengthened my research techniques. I never had the time or encouragement to delve into financial topics like loan servicing and microloans, but I learned about those two things and more with the LifeSmarts program. LifeSmarts even inspired me to look for more scholarships to help pay for my Brandeis education.

A view of the siding of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). I got sunburned while waiting to get in, but it was worth it.
I went to the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History for the first time on Friday. I also went to the Holocaust Museum. I had never been to either before despite being a D.C. native. The Oprah exhibit at NMAAHC was fun while the exhibit at USHMM was a disappointing reminder of a piece of shameful U.S. history.

My first ever internship at Fusion GPS during junior year of high school taught me lots of tricks in how to conduct good research, such as using quotation marks in a search to find exact results. Three years later I am building on that knowledge thanks to NCL. I realize I learned more at Fusion than I thought. The League is not just helping to shape my perspective for the future, it is also influencing my perceptions of my past.

Writing over two hundred trivia questions for the LifeSmarts national high school competition and developing proposals to improve misunderstood food spoilage dates have also fostered my analytical growth. The point of LifeSmarts is to motivate kids to learn life skills. When I write trivia questions for LifeSmarts, I narrow down which facts are significant and helpful. I have learned to filter out useless information and focus on what’s practical.

Food labeling policy is a broad subject that includes everything from figuring out what can be called organic to determining the date by which a grocery item should be sold. I had to propose two solutions to improve the system of date labeling and I ignored some key points at first. When I got feedback and started looking at the problem differently, I discovered what I had been missing and adjusted my proposals. Thanks to my adviser’s help, my analytical skills have improved tremendously.

When I say I learned how to interact socially at NCL, I mean that I learned social skills to use for a social justice purpose. Last Friday, I supported a rally for “One Fair Wage” outside the office of the D.C. council, who were trying to overturn a bill voted for by the District’s citizens. The League’s executive director and my fellow interns listened to protesters’ complaints while some less patient supporters of the fair wage fired back angrily.

Actress Jane Fonda getting interviewed about raising the tipped wage in D.C. to equal the general minimum wage.
I got a chance to see Jane Fonda while at the One Fair Wage Rally with NCL. She was very poised and serious.

Some people at the rally got bitter, but they didn’t change each other’s minds. As I have said throughout my experience, social justice on a personal scale cannot work without polite and open communication. I used to think otherwise, but my internship has changed my mind.

I can use all of the skills I learned to succeed at Brandeis and in the future, but the most important part so far has been learning about my behavior in the workplace. I’m still working on how I present myself, but people at NCL are already offering to be references without waiting for me to ask. I have a strong desire to get along with people and make a good impression. I’m no longer worried about increasing the pace of my workload in the future because I finish my assignments early.

Most of all, I have learned that I love working closely with others. I really enjoy learning from my colleagues, especially the ones whose offices are close to me. I have learned a lot about fraud this way and a lot about how much fun offices can be with the right atmosphere. Before, I was afraid to think about heavy workloads and office life, but after this internship, I know I’m ready for wherever professional life takes me.

Midway Point

I’m halfway through my internship and it has been an amazing experience so far. You can learn a lot in the classroom and through textbooks, but you’ll never actually absorb the industry until you have gone out and experienced it. I have witnessed this first hand since starting my internship this summer. Being an intern at Artist Partner Group has exposed me to an environment I don’t usually experience. An environment filled with ambition and drive to succeed in the music industry. But it’s not the standard music industry ambiance that I was introduced to last summer at Warner Music’s headquarters in NYC. It’s way different. The anti-corporate aroma and entrepreneurial spirit are the engines at APG. Everyone is hungry to make things happen for each other and contribute to the company.

At the beginning of my internship, I honestly had sentiments of being underestimated in what I was capable of, but I quickly realized that I just had to be patient and ready. I had to be trustworthy and execute tasks efficiently. Now, as I continue to build reliance and confidence with my co-workers, I’m being trusted with more and more things to do every day. Here are just some highlights and tasks that I’ve taken on since the beginning:

  • Alec Benjamin Photoshoot: Alec Benjamin is one of APG’s exciting new artists. I have been at APG to witness his rise, and all the effort and work put into creating a superstar. Alec has now accumulated millions of sales since I’ve been here (he released new music the week I started). I was fortunate enough to contribute to this in a small way by helping to orchestrate a photoshoot for his cover art. I helped with the setup and angles for the shoot. It was also a great opportunity to converse and get to know Alec in person.

    This is Alec Benjamin! I took this while at the photoshoot.
  • A&R Listening Sessions: Every Thursday I’m at the A&R Department, listening to a bunch of new, undiscovered music and highlighting ones I think have potential. I venture on different websites that shoot out streaming and viral analytics in order to track down up and coming talent that are performing well on the web. At the end of the day, I meet with my supervisor and go over some of the artists I tracked down throughout the day. It is a great experience to bond with my supervisor over new music and also help the firm with potential new artists to sign. I also spend a lot of time discovering new DJs in order for the label to commission remixes for their recent releases.
  • Setting up Artist Showcases: Every so often, the company hosts artist showcases, which are basically small intimate concerts with their artists. These showcases are for internal company employees only and usually occur in a private setting (not at the office). Recently I was tasked with helping set up one of the showcases and helping it run smoothly. Later, I was assigned to create a photo book of pictures from some of the showcases for the office.

    This is an example of an Artist Showcase I was fortunate to attend, featuring Rita Ora.
  • Social Media Audits: This is by far one of the coolest and most educational things I’ve done at the office. My supervisors have taught me the metrics and ways to analyze social media accounts. By doing this, I can now scan through social accounts of company artists and perform a social media audit of their accounts. What this means is that I go through their accounts, gather their engagement stats, monitor their best and worst performing posts, and then create a 10-page report on it. On the report, I highlight what they shouldn’t be doing and I also create suggestions for them based on my research; all of this in order for the artists to perform better on social. This is a unique digital marketing skill that I truly value and will definitely be able to use in any future endeavors.

    One sheet of streaming statistics for the past week that I have to look over every week. I had to blur out the content because of confidentiality.

These were just some of the highlights and tasks that I have done so far. I’m very excited to continue building trust with the company and find out what exciting tasks lie ahead!

Post 2: State Rep. Carvalho for DA

Halfway through the summer, I have begun to realize how much my story and perspective connects to my internship. Recently, I began to realize that campaigns are about more than a political process. They are also an opportunity for individuals and communities to have a voice.

I am a young man who came to this country in 2015, barely knowing how to speak English (only the essentials, like how to ask for food…😊). Still, I worked very hard for two years and got into Brandeis University and the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program (MKTYP). MKTYP is a year-long program designed to prepare students to maximize their full college experiences. One class that directly related to my internship was Introduction to American Government with Professor Daniel Kryder. In this course, many topics were discussed, including the Constitution; democracy for realists; inequality, public policy and the American mind; parties and polarization in Congress; and most importantly voting and marching.

At the time, I did not realize how much these topics would continue to support my develop. As a Brandesian, I have observed the way our community highlights the importance of one’s your vote. Now, as a WOW fellowship recipients, through my internship I am beginning to observe how a campaign and its outcomes are driven by people’s vote. It is crucial that every individual exercise their right to vote because EVERY VOTE MATTERS. Beyond the outcomes, casting your vote demonstrates that you’re an active citizen and that you’re looking to change and better your community and lifestyle.

Powerful examples of the links between one’s vote with one’s voice have emerged following the school shooting in Florida. At Brandeis, community members marched outside of classrooms for seventeen minutes in memory to those seventeen students who were killed. They did so to state their discontent with gun violence and to give voice to important issues. At my internship, Representative Carvalho’s team marched in the Dorchester Day Parade and gave out pamphlets. These pamphlets explained how Representative Carvalho was the most qualified candidate to be in the district attorney’s office because as a former assistant district attorney and current state representative, he’s led the fight for criminal justice reform by working to eliminate mandatory minimums for non-violent offenses and raising the age of criminal responsibility. In this way, Representative Carvalho is giving voice to community members. By casting their vote they can give voice to important issues by having someone in service to represent them and to speak for others who seek change.

State Representative Evandro Carvalho’s daughter marching on Dorchester Day Parade.

It’s crucial to show people how much you believe in your candidate, and to share their qualifications and purpose. I also find that it’s equally important to let people know that what happens next in our world is up to them. It’s up to them to decide who they want as the district attorney and whether they want someone working on the social justice issues mentioned above.

For more information on what State Representative Evandro Carvalho represents and is fighting for, please go to https://www.evandrocarvalho.com/

Post 3: Finding Power in Coalition Building and Communal Growth

Hey everyone!

This week I have been thinking a lot about what change and progress look like for me and for my internship organization. In thinking about the goals of my organization–which are very much centered around social justice–I am both excited and hopeful at the possibilities, but it is also easy to feel overwhelmed by the worry of whether we are taking the most effective steps to reach such goals.

With the goal of making equitable maternal healthcare accessible to low-income families as well as black and brown folks, Ancient Song Doula Services wears many hats as a community-based organization. It is important to note that this lack of access to healthcare, resources, food, and housing stems from a much larger root cause: anti-blackness. Because of this, reaching our goal as an organization is not solely about providing resources to our communities, but also involves taking action around the systems and institutions that first put these barriers in place.

At Ancient Song Doula Services, we are constantly multi-tasking, taking on different roles, planning for community outreach events and reaching out to other organizations for support and/or partnerships. We are always looking for different opportunities to spread the word and collaborate with other social justice collectives because it is crucial to identify the intersection of different movements, whether it be birth justice, food justice, environmental justice, etc. It can be very stressful–especially for a small organization–to take on such a wide range of tasks, but this is why we stress the importance of collaboration and solidarity.

” A Day of Solidarity” held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Click on the image to watch the full panel!

So, what does change or progress look like for me? Progress, I’ve learned, is very much rooted in, and driven by, coalition building and communal growth. Recently, my supervisor was a panelist in an event called “A Day of Solidarity” held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where the panelists engaged in a conversation around the recent policies regarding the separation of immigrant families and discussing ways to take action. One of the main things discussed was how crucial it is for communities to gather in support of each other, stand in solidarity as allies, engage in dialogue, and most importantly, listen to each other. Listening and trusting one another gives marginalized identities agency over their own narrative and experience. At Ancient Song, we often practice this is, as we not only hold events by and for the community in collaboration with other organizations, but also center our workspace around physical and mental wellness.

There is power in unification as it is crucial not only for the healing of marginalized identities, but also, in standing firmly against or for a movement and demanding action. This is progress.

Post 3: Start Small

 

When I first began my work at integrationswerkstatt I was concerned that the work I will be doing in this small organization was not going to have a major impact. Before moving to Germany for my internship I had imagined a thrilling work abroad experience. Instead, I found myself in a small remote retirement town in the suburbs. My impression was that any work I do will only have immediate impact on the local community and that real integration needs to be grander and more inclusive.

I could not have been more wrong. Every refugee I have met so far, no matter how old, expressed their need for security and stability. They all expressed a longing to a feeling of belonging to a community. I realized the smallest initiatives that aim at bringing people together and creating common ground are very important.

Many refugees expressed that language barriers have deterred them from being fully involved socially and professionally. In Germany, in order to start working refugees have to go through a series of german courses on different levels which then open up the doors for them to apply for work. They need to become fluent in a short manner of time to be eligible for work. And so even, what seemed to me pointless, cafe gathering every once and awhile allow refugees a rare opportunity to practice their language skills and understand the nuances of society.

However, there are also many frustrations when it comes to planning and organizing small scale community focused work. One of the refugees who I met with was a successful lawyer in Syria but cannot practice law anymore or pursue a degree because of the language barrier. He explained to me that he has to now think of other work alternatives and finds that a small business is the only viable solution at economic independence. He says he would be content if he could open a small restaurant that serves middle eastern food which would allow him to finally be able to sign off of government aid. (Indeed he makes great falafel). Unfortunately integrationswerkstatt does not have the proper funding to support refugee business. Some of the work can be frustrating due to lack of funds but it also allows for creativity and resourcefulness because of that same reason. I found that a lot of the work that we do was based on what we thought the refugees needed rather than what they actually need. I decided to conduct a series of interviews to allow for refugees to share their stories and make clear what their true needs are. This has allowed me to put my knowledge in Arabic to use and I felt that refugees felt comfortable speaking in Arabic.

I have come to realize that the smallest gestures can lead to real change if we have the enough patience to witness it. It takes time for a society to become fully integrated and it takes time for people to change misconceptions and free themselves from stereotypes. But it is possible!

– Siwar Mansour

Post 3: A platform for workers of faith to talk and express the injustices committed at work

Founded in 1997, IWJ supports and advocates for a living wage, health care, safer working conditions, rights to organize and bargain, and protection under labor law both for U.S.- born and immigrant workers. IWJ condemns discrimination, harassment, intimidation and retaliation in and out of the work place. Overall, IWJ’s goal is to advance fair and just participation in a global economy that promotes the welfare of both domestic and foreign workers.

IWJ addresses these issues through a network of unions, worker centers, faith and labor organizations, guilds and NGOs that have similar agendas. By organizing congregations for campaigns around these issues, IWJ strengthens the working communities.

Grassroots worker centers, faith-labor allies and other groups in our network support workers and lead their communities and states in shaping policy and advocacy. The network includes more than 60 faith-labor organizations and worker centers across the country.

IWJ accomplishes its goals solely based on its networks. Without action networks IWJ would not be able to unite and mobilize the masses as it does now.

IWJ starts networking by connecting to both individuals that are acquaintances of IWJ members and the organizations that they hear, see or meet at the congregations, actions or panels.

Meeting the faith groups with unions and other labor organizations IWJ sets up a platform for workers of faith to talk and express the injustices committed at work. And the progress comes gradually as workers informs their friends and families and organizations hear more and more about IWJ. – Ece Esikara

Post 3: Pursuing Global Justice

At the American Jewish World Service, our motto is “Pursuing Global Justice through Grassroots Change” and the social justice work we do embodies that motto. The difference between the AJWS and other funders is that the AJWS recognizes the crucial role that local people play in solving the issues. Therefore, the AJWS does not go in to a country and try to fix the problems for the people, they go in and find an organization that is already trying to make that change and they support that organization. The AJWS gives the organization the means through which to achieve their goals and overcome the issues. 

Change or progress can look like any number of things at the AJWS. It could mean convincing a donor that ours is a worthy cause, spreading the word about the work the AJWS does or achieving real change, no matter how small, in any of the 19 countries that the AJWS works in.

There are many steps that lead to these kinds of change and the different departments work together to achieve them. The donors department gathers intel on potential donors and reaches out to them. We also have people who are in contact with leaders and members of the Jewish community and they play a large role in both out donations and our work. The communications team keeps our funders and our supporters updated on all our work and sends out a “Daily Digest” to keep everyone updated on issues around the world. Then we have the programs division. They analyze different situations. They look to see if the country is safe for us to go into, whether there are any grassroots organizations there for us to support, and whether the people there actually want out help. After all of that is assessed,  money is granted and people can go in and start helping the grassroots organizations and the people in that country achieve their goals. All of these processes happen simultaneously and feed off of one another to ensure that the process works and that we do good work.

This is a diagram for how the AJWS works. This shows that any help anyone gives serves to create human rights for all, even something as easy as buying gelt.

 

Post 4: My Growth at Gardens for Health

My time at Gardens for Health International has taught me so much about the global health development field. One of the lessons I have learned during my time with the organization is to take every opportunity to go into the field.

On days where I go into the field, I wake up at 4:30 AM to take a two-hour bus up to a district in the mountains named Musanze. After the bus ride there is another hour to hour and a half car ride depending on the health center. Then, we are put to work at the health center, only to do the same commute again later in the day. As a college student on summer break, I was definitely not prepared for this intense schedule. However, after a couple trips to Musanze, I realized why it is so important to go into the field. For the families Gardens for Health is working with, it means so much when visitors from the main office come, and I can see how much joy it brings them to learn about nutrition. Being able to see the impact GHI has on communities like the ones I visited make every long day worth it.

Musanze, Rwanda

Additionally, being a part of a staff with significant cultural barriers has taught me so much about interacting with coworkers. When I first started at Gardens for Health I found it hard to get to know my colleagues as a majority of the time they were speaking Kinyarwanda. I soon became comfortable inserting myself into conversations and they gladly would respond to me in English, and often go out of their way to talk to me. Because of this, I have become so much more social at work, and I really feel like I have become a full-fledged member of the GHI team. These interactions taught me that you should never be afraid to talk to anyone you work with.

I also now have a deep appreciation for GHI’s unique work environment. One of my favorite things about working at Gardens for Health is that I have access to fresh produce. Every. Day.  For usually no more than a dollar, I am able to buy fresh vegetables from the GHI farm like carrots, beats, spinach, chard, and other incredible Rwandan favorites. I am also able to take a walk to local markets if I get tired of staring at my computer, visit the goats and other livestock, and just walk around the farm on a nice day. I learned to appreciate this working environment so much more than I did at the beginning of this internship, and it makes me really think about how special this summer real is. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Gardens for Health and I will certainly be thinking about the beautiful GHI farm on the next Brandeis snow day.

GHI Office in Ndera (A neighborhood in Kigali, Rwanda)

-Eli Wasserman ’20

Post 2: As a Trailblazer

Eighth Grade Graduation at Trailblazer’s Academy

The past month at DOMUS and Trailblazer’s Academy has truly been a special experience. Through the various meetings and school events that I became a part of, I was able to get to know some of the students on a personal level, as well as get a better appreciation and understanding of what family advocates do on a typical day.

Additionally, I was able to input and analyze data related to student attendance and experience. To see these students everyday come in with a smile on their face, knowing the obstacles that they have had to face or currently overcoming, is remarkable.

While continuing my work with the DOMUS Foundation, I have been able to see and work with various emotional support resources for the students, including the school psychologist. While working with the school psychologist who works with both of DOMUS’ charter schools, I was able to see the types of cognitive and executive functioning tests that are done for students who have individualized educational plans (IEP’s), as well as the reports that are created to determine what specific resources each child needs depending on the given IEP.

From this information, along with the behavioral reports, grades, and attendance records, families were contacted to suggest summer school for their students to ensure that they don’t fall behind  or lose momentum in the progress that they have made this previous academic year.

The family advocates also are making sure that their students have the proper resources during the summer. Every academic year, a certain amount of home visits have to be made for each student by their family advocate. During the summer, the family advocates take advantage of their time without students to schedule home visits with families. Before this is done, attendance reports, as well as home visit reports must be inputted and reviewed to see which students should be prioritized.

Over the past few weeks, I have been helping with creating and mailing these types of documents for the school psychologist and family advocates, as well as being trained to go on these home visits with a family advocate.

Working with DOMUS has made me realize how vital social work is as profession as well as the impact it can make on a student’s life. I was recently able to help a family advocate with finding a scholarship for three young boys to attend camp for part of the summer. I spent hours calling and emailing camps to see if there were any openings for these kids. When I was finally able to find a camp that would give a scholarship and had openings for the boys. It was a relief to the family, the family advocate and to me that we were able to enroll the kids in camp. These boys are able to meet kids their age and to start their adjustment with their new guardians in a new living area. Helping connect students and families to resources such as summer camps or summer schools for the Trailblazer’s Academy students, as well as other youth is another rewarding and crucial role of a family advocate through the DOMUS Foundation.

New Haven and Criminal Justice

The Federal Courthouse is an interesting place to come into every morning. I grew up in New Haven, went to school here, and thought I knew everything there was to now about this city and even my home state of Connecticut. Growing up, whenever I told someone I was from New Haven, I was met with scoffs and half-joking questions about the high murder and crime rates in the city. I always had nothing to say in response; no defense of the beautiful city I called home. Crime rates have significantly decreased since my growing up, as a result of more efficient policing policies, cooperative community efforts to combat criminal activity, and more rehabilitation and reentry programs. But still, I sometimes feel I have nothing to defend my city with.

In many recent proceedings, I have witnessed an incredible amount of compassion for the accused. I am consistently impressed with the care that the Federal and Magistrate Judges have in the Connecticut District for the welfare of the defendants. I realize that this in not necessarily a general rule for Federal judgments, but the Judges whom I have met truly seek out rehabilitation, using the law not as a tool to punish, but rather a tool to rehabilitate. I now feel that I have a much better insight into the inner workings of justice in my home city and state, and can defend it! Each day, I’m consistently impressed by the justice system of the Connecticut Federal District, both its expediency and its compassion. I can now respond with confidence, saying that we as a city and state are a work in progress, constantly striving towards a safer community, using compassion and empathy as the tools of justice.

– Jonathan Hayward

Humor and Justice

On the way down to a court hearing recently, I got into the freight elevator as usual. Between the floor where I work and the floor where I was going, is the mezzanine floor, where the prisoners are held for a short time before appearing for their hearing that day. The elevator stopped, doors opened, and two Federal Marshals escorted a handcuffed defendant into the elevator. My boss had told me on the first day that if I ever called the elevator and a prisoner was in it, that I should just take the stairs instead. I had never been told what to do if I got into the elevator first, and then a prisoner entered. I was a bit surprised, but kept my calm, quietly observing the marshals’ interaction with the prisoner. I expected the prisoner to be quiet and introspective, solemn in some aspects, and for the marshals to be stern and gruff, as often seems the case on television shows and movies. Instead, the defendant was surprisingly upbeat, joking with the marshals, who equally reciprocated his sense of humor, creating a humanizing atmosphere. In another recent instance, I witnessed a man being escorted out of the courtroom after being sentenced to five years of imprisonment, joking with the marshals. Recent studies have indicated a correlation between humor and both self-compassion and empathy for others.

While working here at the Courthouse, I’ve found that everyone seems to have concluded the best (and fairest) way to deal with the intense job of criminal and civil justice, is not to simply dehumanize the accused. Rather, the judges, marshals, clerks, and even the accused themselves, all strive to reach outside of their given role to express a common and shared humanity. Not only does this profoundly change the dynamic of the workplace, but it also leads to a more equitable approach to justice. Humor, and the humanization it brings about, seems to ease the anxiety of the defendants, and assists the workers of the court in bringing about justice and rehabilitation.

-Jonathan Hayward

Post 2: Fair Does Not Mean Equal

Throughout my life, my mother always taught me that kindness is the most important thing. This principle was instilled in me at a very young age, and every day I try to live by it. Coming to Brandeis, I have realized that the social issues we face today cannot be solved by kindness alone. While being good natured is an important way to live life, the social justice issues we are confronted with today need to be met by our own awareness and willingness to initiate change.

During the first semester of my freshman year, I took the Immigrant Experience Practicum with Professor Marci McPhee. During Professor McPhee’s course, we were able to volunteer at various organizations in Waltham that work directly with the immigrant community. During class, we reflected on our experiences and discussed the difficulties this population faces such as misconceptions, stereotypes, and negative stigma surrounding immigrants.

For the duration of the course, I spent my time working at the Prospect Hill Community Center, an education-based after school center for children in the heart of Prospect Hill, the area with the largest immigrant population in Waltham. More often than not, English was the second language of many of the families at the center, and they struggled with the language barrier. Speaking little to no English, many of them faced significant difficulties navigating an unfamiliar education system. Not only was this challenging enough, these families often faced forms of discrimination and intimidation relating to their immigrant status. This intimidation and fear among members of the community was highlighted following the 2016 presidential election, when many children were absent from the center and school. We believed these absences were closely related to the fear surrounding their immigration status and Trump’s viewpoints on immigration.

At the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, I am able to observe similar situations with our clients and the court systems. The majority of our clients are immigrants and English is their second language. In particular, there are many housing cases involving discrimination and unfair treatment of tenants who are immigrants. In many of these cases, landlords attempt to take advantage of the language barrier present and benefit from their tenants’ lack of understanding. There have been multiple cases where landlords have used their tenants’ immigration status to intimidate them, threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if they are late paying rent. Other cases have involved landlords informing tenants that they will not be able to show up to court for their eviction hearing because if they do so, ICE will be waiting to detain them.

Consequently, this gives landlords a huge amount of leverage over their tenants who are immigrants and creates a significant power imbalance. Paired with the language barrier and intimidation, an immigrant trying to navigate an unfamiliar and complicated court system creates a very skewed justice system. Truly, it is not a justice system if the system is not working equally for all.  

If our office is ever split between electing cases, our organization will always attempt to represent the client with the lower proficiency in the English language, because we understand that they may be more susceptible to unfair processes and uncertainty.

Working at the Bureau, I am able to apply what I have learned during my time at Brandeis. I have the power to choose to not be complicit in the stigma society creates around immigrants, and when working with immigrants, to be aware of all subconscious biases society has instilled. As a member of the Brandeis community and a global citizen, I hope to use my awareness as a tool to educate, advocate for, and empower others. Fair doesn’t mean equal, and I am determined to use my awareness to work in opposition to some of the greatest social injustices of our time.

Lesson 3: Small Steps Matter

The North American Indian Center of Boston has had many names and many directives, but it has always kept its central mission of empowering the Native American community to achieve a higher quality of life for themselves and for Indian Country as a whole.

Forty-nine years ago, NAICOB strived for its socially just means under the name of the Boston Indian Council. For many years, it served as the headquarters for indigenous and civil rights activism. Now, it has morphed from social action to social service. Although social services do not have the bravado, the crowds, and the publicity that comes with marching-the-streets action, they still serve as an integral component of social justice. The advantage and most important quality NAICOB’s new strategy possesses is its ability to reach out to the community on an individual level and build it up incrementally, one person at a time.

Moccasins
Photo By: Joseph Norman at MFA Boston

Ironically, serving the individual rather than reaching for broad goals eventually brings the whole together stronger than before. Rather than asking the community to risk their already tenuous resources to support the outcome of a large goal (law amendments, major protests, etc.) NAICOB asks the community what they need during their day-to-day lives. Once those questions are answered, they amass resources to support those in need and eventually become a central component of empowering the indigenous community. For example, a common issue they found was that many native families were unable to afford backpacks and toys for their children for school and the holidays, so they partnered with Toys for Tots. After much success, toy and backpack drives became permanent parts of NAICOB operations.

However, this type of service only goes so far. In order to lift the Native American community out of the need for these immediate use programs, deeper issues must be faced. One such issue is the Native American unemployment crisis, wherein over 8.9% of American Indians and Alaskan Natives are jobless, compared to 4.9% rate for the rest of the country (Hagan, 2018). To combat this issue for the local natives, NAICOB has built a coalition with WIOA (Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act) where individuals can access a wealth of employment resources, training, and cultural support in gaining new employment that will fit their needs.

The social justice that NAICOB strives for goes for impacting lives on a more personal level by bringing people new opportunities and ways to educate themselves.  By employing and educating the community, they can stand together and empower themselves to make larger strides towards indigenous rights goals.

Post 3: The Mission of JVS

Jewish Vocational Services aims to help individuals and families who have recently immigrated to the United States (mainly refugees, asylees, and Haitian or Cuban entrants among others). Its mission is to assist these individuals in finding employment in the U.S. and begin to build their careers here. JVS aims to aide immigrants to the U.S. one person at a time to help them navigate the existing systems in this country. Due to this approach, progress can appear slow, yet is extremely impactful as JVS assists nearly 17,000 individuals per year.

At JVS, we help prepare clients to enter the U.S. workforce in many ways before their job search even begins. We offer thirty-five different employment-focused programs that are available at no cost to our clients. These include vocationally-based English classes as well as subject-specific classes to support our clients in completing either their high school or college degree. JVS also offers a myriad of vocational training programs for industries such as banking, nursing, hospitality, and pharmacy.

During my time at JVS, I have been assisting largely with job and child care-related tasks. These two aspects go hand in hand in the search for meaningful employment as having reliable child care is essential in order to secure a full-time job. Our career coaching services consist of one-on-one work with clients on resume and cover letter creation, job searches, job applications, and mock interview skills. In regards to child care, we assist our clients in finding reliable care that will allow them to retain their new job.

JVS aims to assist individuals immigrating to the U.S. to adjust as easily as possible to their new lives here. Instead of focusing on changing government policy or law, JVS focuses on helping the individuals being affected by those laws the best that we can, despite the ever-changing circumstances surrounding immigration into the U.S. We work to directly impact our clients in meaningful and tangible ways to quickly provide some stability in their lives. The goal at JVS is to help as many people as we can find meaningful employment, so progress is when we can better serve even more people than we could before.

The strategies employed at JVS have been extremely successful in helping to achieve JVS’ goals. We have been able to provide services covering all aspects of job-related life in the U.S., from child care to assistance completing higher education. We have assisted thousands of our clients secure stable jobs that will allow them to establish their new lives in the U.S.

Post 3: Measuring Progress

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) has the mission to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations.” The work that I am doing this summer in the Office of Global Educational Programs helps achieve this goal. In this post I will focus on two of the branches within our office–the EducationUSA network and USA StudyAbroad–and explain how progress is measured for these groups.

EducationUSA, as you may recall from my first post, is an advising network that consists of more than four hundred advising centers around the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC and in close contact with Regional Educational Advising Coordinators (REACs) located around the world, this group facilitates events and provides resources for international students who wish to study in the U.S., whether it be at the high school, undergraduate, graduate, or PhD level.

One of the ways success is measured is through the Open Doors report, published by one of our cooperative partners, the Institute for International Education (IIE). This extensive report shows facts and figures regarding which countries international students are coming to the U.S. from, where their destination is in the U.S., which fields of study they choose, etc. Here is an image from the 2017 report that shows the five states that have the highest percentage of international students as a proportion of all higher education. Massachusetts is ranked at number two!

USA StudyAbroad helps provide resources for Americans wishing to go abroad. Progress is also measured for USA StudyAbroad through the Open Doors report. However, the data reported is on American citizens going abroad instead of international students coming to the U.S. This infographic shows that the vast majority of U.S. students who study abroad choose countries in Europe as their destination of choice:

In addition to reports, another way progress is measured is through stories. Hearing personal accounts about how programs influenced people show that they have been positively impactful. There are a wide variety of videos posted on the USA StudyAbroad website that showcase the positive impact study abroad programs have had. Although there are countless stories from alumni about their study abroad experiences, one that was exceptionally compelling is Ryan’s journey learning Chinese through the Critical Language Scholarship program by doing an immersive study abroad program in China. Watch the video here.

The data from the Open Doors report and alumni stories show that each individual experience contributes to achieving peace and mutual understanding through interactions with people from a different country and culture. The positive impact of student exchange proves to be farther reaching than the individual level, and the results are exceptional!

-Hannah Cook, ’20

Post 3: Progress on Social Justice

The goal of Community Psychiatry PRIDE is to increase the access to and quality of mental health care in community-based agencies across Massachusetts. In many poor communities, such as Chelsea where Community Psychiatry PRIDE is based, people are stuck with crime, violence, and poverty, and thus are more vulnerable to mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Adequate and effective health care is often not provided to these communities in need. Community Psychiatry PRIDE conducts research exploring the disproportionate mental health burden in under-served and resource-constructed communities. Through one project specifically–leveraging routine clinical materials and mobile technology to assess CBT quality–Community Psychiatry PRIDE aims to relieve this mental health burden by developing an instrument to evaluate and improve the quality of evidence-based treatments of multiple mental disorders.

Cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) have been proven to be effective for a wide variety of psychiatric diagnoses, and have been used as a first-line treatment for a variety of mood and anxiety disorders. Thus, effective delivery of CBT can greatly relieve the mental health burden in resource-limited communities. However, there is insufficient emphasis on quality assurance for CBT. Decreases in CBT quality can significantly reduce the intended symptom improvement. It is important to monitor treatment quality and make sure the treatment is delivered as intended. Some research suggests that many providers do not implement CBT with fidelity. In fact, assessing fidelity on large scale has been a major challenge in implementation science.

Existing ways to test fidelity–rating recordings of therapy sessions–are time-consuming and labor-intensive, thus even less practical in resource-constricted communities. This project aims to score fidelity using CBT worksheets to test fidelity in a short and effective manner. On the whole project level, the additional use of routine clinical materials, which poses little additional burden to providers, can make large-scale quality monitoring feasible in resource-limited communities, thus enhancing the ongoing continuous quality improvement in clinics and leading to improved symptom outcomes.

For me, as a research assistant, it is motivating and exciting to think about why my work matters and how my small efforts can make a contribution to the whole process. I am currently working on data storing and tracking, which are tiny steps of the early stage of this project. However, properly conducting these small steps ensures the validity of the data used in later stages of the project and the smooth process of the project. The goals always sound promising and encouraging, but there are countless small steps building up to the final goal. There will also be countless research assistants, like me, devoting their efforts to these countless small steps. I feel grateful to be a small part of the whole process, and feel motivated to make my tiny contribution to the success of the project.

-Bingyu Xu ’19

Post 3: Understanding Change at BridgeYear

BRIDGEYEAR

I’ll begin by giving a little reminder of what exactly is BridgeYear’s mission and its significance. BridgeYear’s mission is to provide under-represented students with clear pathways towards high-paying, high-growth jobs in the Houston area. Whether it is through local community colleges or field specific apprenticeship programs, BrirdgeYear ensures every student has a clear path they can follow. Since BridgeYear is a start-up, I learned very early on that while the organization is growing, its mission statement, programs, and team can change at any given point.

In reality, this means that every single team member has the power to make their mark along the way. My bosses understand this very well, which is why each project assigned to us, no matter how big or small, is truly intentional. Each project is not only meant to play a key role in the grand scheme of the organization’s development, but they are also designed to help everyone grow as professional individuals.

The Summer of 2018 team celebrating BridgeYear’s second birthday!

Every single intern has a specific goal for the summer that was determined by taking individual strengths and areas of growth into account. From social media management to curriculum development, each project is designed to play a part in developing the organization and the individual.

I am personally in charge of developing the pre- and post-curriculum of the student experience at BridgeYear. This means that I have to find ways to engage the students in career exploration before they receive personalized advising from the intern team. So far, my projects follow a pattern of draft, feedback, more drafts and feedback, and final product. This framework relies heavily on teamwork and the feedback I get from everyone around me.

Now, I am usually the type of person that works very hard on one project, gets it done, and moves on to the next thing right away. This is one of my possible areas of growth for this summer. My bosses have been able to design projects that will allow me to expand my comfort zone while they guide me throughout that process. However, one of the most important aspects of these projects is that I am not restricted to only work on curriculum building. I have also had a part on one of the social media projects so I truly get to experience all sort of things.

Teams that eat together, work well together!

As I pass the halfway point for this summer internship, I would like to think that I’ve grown a lot. I definitely feel that I have made an impact and will continue to make an impact on the future of BridgeYear. At the same time, it almost feels unbelievable that I’ve been working for five weeks already! I can’t wait to see what will happen in the five weeks to come.

Post 3: Growth and Development (and Cartoon Network!) at 826 National

“There’s a place in my mind where ideas can grow into sprouts that turn into trees.”
– Renee, Grade 7, 826 NYC

All the work 826 National does serves to support the regional chapters in the work that they do. Together, the 826 network can best achieve their social justice mission: to work toward more equitable education opportunities for all students, regardless of circumstance. At the national level where I am interning, progress is focused in two areas: growth of existing chapters and development of new chapters.

Growth: For chapters that are well-established, 826 National is constantly collaborating with them to improve and enhance the great work that is already being done. Sometimes, that can be as simple as facilitating monthly department check-ins across chapters so that everyone working in a similar capacity can touch base about what is working and what they might need ideas about. Sometimes, progress involves facilitating exciting partnerships with companies like Cartoon Network! Recently, 826 National and Cartoon Network collaborated to launch the Inclusion Storytelling Project, which encourages youth to share stories about kindness and empathy in an effort to work toward a bully-free world. Each 826 chapter is taking part, adding their own local twist.

Third grader Aakhirah suggests beignets receive their own monument!

826 New Orleans, for example, linked the project to Confederate monuments that were removed from the city at the end of 2017. Third graders at a local school wrote a book filled with their own  suggestions about what should replace those monuments, which was published by 826 National. Buzzfeed recently picked up on it, after some of the images from the book when viral on Twitter!

Development: Speaking of 826 New Orleans, another way that 826 National works toward progress is by working with groups looking to establish their own 826 chapter. Until recently, 826 New Orleans was actually a chapter in development, which involves a process that can take up to two years. Sites apply for the chapter development process and, if selected, undergo a series of phases to create an organization that matches the 826 model. Once they become a full-fledged chapter, they have access to all the resources that the national office has to offer. Though it can be a time-consuming process, all of the steps involved lead up to a new regional site, which enables us to vastly increase the number of students we reach each year!

In order for the 826 National office to adequately support its chapters, we need to be sure that we are operating in the most efficient, effective way. This means that we are also doing work internally to make changes that aid our ultimate mission. In the short time I have been at the office, staff have come together several times to talk about ways they can improve their own work. These conversations involve both self-reflection and feedback from chapters about how the national office can better support them. I admire 826 National’s strong commitment to being the best version of itself, and I am learning a ton about how to use effective reflection practices for actual change. It’s a skill that I can take with me to my future workplaces–to ensure that my work is always aligned with the mission.

–Katie Reinhold, ’19

Post 3: One phone call at a time | Creating change with NCL

Caleigh standing under an umbrella on a sunny day.
Anyone who’s been to D.C. in the summer knows how hot and humid it can get, but this day wasn’t too warm so I spent a little time sitting outside.

National Consumers League uses every tool in its communication toolkit to fight for the well-being of consumers and bring about positive change. Whether the outreach is online, in-person, on the phone or all three, it’s always a full-scale effort. The goal to champion consumers starts small, but with a strong base.

For NCL, progress often means persuading government officials to respond to law proposals using a consumer lens. At the start of my internship, I called dozens of congressional offices to gather contacts for the staff handling one of the League’s current projects. I passed along the names I found to a supervisor, who would send a proposal with the consumer perspective to the congressional aide in charge.

I have made more phone calls to strangers in a day at NCL than I ever made in my life, but I realize that is what makes us effective. Making change means moving out of comfort zones, meeting new people and trying new arguments. We do not try to better the world and this country by only talking to people who seem to share our views.

Each member of Congress is different, sometimes very much so. We occasionally find allies where we least expect it. Alternatively, people we thought would be on our side are sometimes the ones pushing harmful anti-consumer policies.

Less than a hundred employees work for the League, but despite the small size, we have a huge impact. Recently, the League has pushed hard for changes in the minimum wage in D.C. and developed consumer-inspired adjustments to plans that could hurt people who are the most vulnerable.

NCL has a rich and lengthy history, but I admit I had never heard of it before I applied through this program. Only after I joined as an intern did I realize how far this organization reaches.

As I explore consumer issues, I also explore my organization further. For example, while researching food date labeling for a policy memo, I found that NCL and its partners conducted a key survey on the issue, one I later used as evidence and for background in my project.

Our process is thorough. Experts from different divisions often join forces in an effort to develop the most effective policy that stands the best chance of success. Once you realize the history and strategy the League, noticing its widespread presence becomes less surprising, but no less important.

The logo for NCL's Fraud.org site, which gives advice to consumers about avoiding scams.
Fraud.org is essential to NCL’s mission. I have had great conversations with our leading counselor about fraud as well as accessibility.

Another key part of executing our mission, of course, is talking directly to consumers. We do not make assumptions. NCL’s various issues, which we talk about on our website and with our expert blogs, are issues that people have researched in depth. We are a consumer watchdog that helps consumers while giving them the facts they need to make independent decisions.

My colleague who works as the fraud center counselor has an essential role in our communication with consumers. His experience and trustworthiness makes it easy for him to connect with consumers, who he talks to daily over the phone.

The same reliability that our fraud counselor communicates goes for the rest for NCL’s hard-working crew. We are proud to show our knowledge, research, and manners to consumers and the other organizations they stand behind.

Social justice is a team effort and NCL is a wonderful team. Every process starts small, but with the high level of communication here at the League, consumers end up with huge gains.

Post 3: Bridge to Economic Mobility

BridgeYear’s social justice goals focus largely on economic mobility and summer melt. Both issues have numerous implications, which BridgeYear is steadily trying to address.

Economic mobility can be achieved through various methods, one of which is getting a degree from a traditional four-year college. This is one of the most common and widely accepted routes; however, there are students unable to afford this path, while some may not be as interested in higher studies. BridgeYear aims to introduce students to other options, such as community college, vocational training programs, and employment opportunities. They do this by organizing Career Test Drives (CTDs), in which students are exposed to options and information, while being able to experience different careers first-hand.

Summer melt, when eligible graduates who intend on attending college do not end up going, occurs with a large number of students. This is due to a lack of support and direction after, or even during, high school. This results in a vicious cycle, as they are unable to move up and work in higher-paid jobs. BridgeYear tries to alleviate this by providing near-peer advising to students. This allows students to discuss their future plans while they receive actionable steps on the ways to get there, reminders for due dates, tips, strategies, encouragement, and a resource for questions. This, paired with CTDs, creates a tangible path students are motivated to work towards.

Progress for these issues will arise in a variety of ways from a student being more invested and confident in their abilities, to a student entering a high growth career path. Since BridgeYear was only founded two years ago, it is difficult to see the full effect of the program on students, but metrics that indicate success would be increased numbers of students enrolling into community colleges or seeking help to enter a high growth job. In some years, hopefully, we will see progress in terms of the high growth employment gap closing, and steady economic mobility.

These are challenging, long-term goals, which is why the smaller steps building to them are crucial. This includes exposing students to information and the variety of options available, supporting and encouraging them to be ambitious, and giving equal attention to all students. As interns, we are able to contribute by operating CTDs and being advisors. I am able to learn so much simply by having a casual conversation with a student about what they want to do when they graduate, or the barriers they come across.

We are also able to contribute towards the organization and mission through our individual projects, of which mine focuses on communications. This does not intuitively seem directly linked to the cause, but helps in terms of educating and getting people invested in the issues, building awareness and support of the brand, and possibly leading donors to support the organization, or issue, in other ways.

Post 3: How The ACLU of Utah Creates Change

When I first told people of my summer internship at the ACLU of Utah, many envisioned the experience as working at a large corporation inside a massive building. However, the Utah affiliate is actually a small and intimate place where the eleven people who walk in the door every day take on the workload just like any other ACLU office. Of course, don’t let its small size fool you. Everyone works diligently and passionately to advocate for anyone living or visiting Utah. The staff, board of directors, legal panel, members, and volunteers all come together to pursue effective change in a place everyone calls home. 

As an intern, I’ve had the opportunity to work on many different aspects of the ACLU of Utah’s mission to create necessary change in Utah. I’ve researched different social justice topics such as LGBTQ rights and the reproductive rights of minors, and I’ve worked in the intake department. Each month, the ACLU of Utah receives about one hundred complaints asking for help on a wide range of legal concerns. Dedicated to responding to every complaint, I read or translated complaints, conducted research on the given legal problem, and discussed the issue further with the staff attorneys to craft a response. Depending on the situation, the ACLU of Utah follows a rubric to determine which cases should be taken in-house and which should be diverted to another attorney or legal resource. When I would discuss potential litigation projects with ACLU attorneys, we would always need to determine if the potential lawsuit could create a large enough impact in order to instigate reform.  

Each of these small steps—reading each complaint, conducting research on specific issues, discussing case details with ACLU attorneys—add up to determine the scope of a given case and whether it has the potential to affect policy or change the status quo. Moreover, Marina Lowe, the legislative and policy counsel for the ACLU of Utah, works at the Utah Capitol to encourage positive legislation to move forward or to stop harmful legislation from becoming law. Her role is to influence the legal and policy process before the need for “cease and desist” letters and lawsuits arises. The ACLU of Utah strives to inform the public about the bills proposed during the Utah legislative session and their analysis of important U.S. Supreme Court decisions. By coordinating with the media, the ACLU of Utah can broadcast important news or information in order to engage advocates or simply to update the public.

Image of the Utah Capitol, or the “Hill”; Courtesy of ACLU of Utah
Marina Lowe testifying in front of the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee to stop HB 260– a bill that rolled back Fourth Amendment protections for law enforcement searches of prescription drug records. It failed on the Senate floor! Courtesy: ACLU of Utah, Feb. 15, 2018.

As all of the other legal interns seek to become fully knowledgeable about current ACLU of Utah litigation, Margie Nash, the staff paralegal, organizes weekly “brown bag” lunches. These events allow interns to meet and learn from ACLU of Utah staff members and legal staff from allied organizations. I really enjoy these lunches because it’s a time to host an informal presentation in a stress-free environment. By exposing us to other professions and organizations, the ACLU of Utah expands our options for social justice work in the future. Some of these lunches include speakers from the Disability Law Center, legal director John Mejia, and legislative and policy counsel Marina Lowe. I can’t wait for the next brown bag lunch!

– Anna Greenberg

Post 3: Social Justice and the Public Defender’s Office

In short, the goal of the Public Defender’s office is to provide people accused of crimes with legal assistance in the event they are unable to afford to hire their own attorney. However, in doing so, they work to promote social justice in many different ways. While it may not always feel as though the legal issues being dealt with on a day to day basis relate directly to solving injustices, the work performed by the lawyers, social workers, and support staff as a whole assists clients by helping them connect with the resources they need to succeed. By doing so, this can help clients to avoid getting caught up in future situations that could potentially expose them to criminal charges.

There are many clients that will come into our office arrested for petty crimes that often relate to drugs, or theft in order to get money for drugs. By having these clients talk to the social workers in our office and by connecting them with outside programs and resources in the community, we work to help break cycles of addiction that lead many people to get arrested and accumulate lengthy criminal records. This works additionally for those who suffer from major mental health problems. These two issues are much of the reason why many of our clients get arrested in the first place. Living in poverty without regular mental health or drug treatment exposes many of our clients to unfortunate and dangerous situations that can put their lives in jeopardy. Many of which could have initially been avoided with proper treatment.

Examples of a few of the different organizations we work to connect clients with.

 

In this office, many see that progress for a client is not something that is typical witnessed first hand, it is often shown by not seeing them in our office again. It is hoped that by connecting people with these services, they will take advantage of newfound supports and will not end up arrested again. Our office helps clients to take baby steps towards a larger goal of overall success and stability in their lives. Many have children they have to take care of and need the ability to support them. By helping people begin to get on track by connecting them with programs and counselors, they eventually can take bigger steps towards their goals of getting a job, getting an apartment, and many others.

Post 2: Social justice and refugeehood

In my Sophomore year at Brandeis I took a class with professor Clementine Faure-Bellaiche on religion and secularism in French and francophone culture. In that class, among other classes, we discussed the living conditions of minorities and attempted to understand some of the elements that widen the gap between different groups of people.

In one of the movies we watched it was shocking to see Paris, typically thought of as a glamorous romantic city, as a city that hosts some of the worst slums and refugee projects I have ever seen. Seeing these slums of paris and studying some of the history of that region opened my eyes to the importance of integration. Ever since I have been conscious about this issue and started to notice it even more in context of my personal experience being a Palestinian in Israel.

It was evident in all the examples I witnessed inside and outside of the classroom that integration is essential to have a productive and tolerant society. In France the different waves of migration over the decades and the inability of the government to embrace the newcomers and their new culture created a society which is divided and to a certain extend broken. In Israel the situation of African migrants is tragic to say the least. It should not be the norm that migrants and refugees will always be second class citizens. Nor should it be acceptable that refugees and migrants live in projects or separate neighborhoods.And it should not be the case that simply because one person is born into a stable privileged country that they should be entitled to benefits others don’t.

It should not be a given that there is political and social stability in some parts of the world given the unfortunate fact that over 68 million of the world’s population are displaced people due to conflict, human rights violations and violence. And so it becomes the responsibility of each world citizen to help another in times of need. When governments fail to create systems that integrate and accept others as they are, people should make an effort to learn about their new neighbors and fellow citizens.

I have witnessed some of this kindness in Germany during my internship. There are systems set up for refugees to take language classes and integration courses meant to ease the transition for them. But a refugee cannot adapt to a completely new life in a matter of few months. Some of the community members here in Unkel have shown me that real connections between the two communities can start over coffee as long as people are willing to come together with the intention of learning about each other. I have seen people take much time out of their day to help with many tasks like translating documents or making doctor appointments for the newcomers. I have also been lucky to experience the generosity of refugees and their families and their true commitment to making Unkel their new home.

When refugees feel they are part of the community, can speak the language and can earn a decent living social and economic gaps begin to disappear and society becomes a more equal and tolerant one.

Integrationswerkstatt board meeting

Post 3: My Third Week at The Quad Manhattan

The social justice goal of The Quad Manhattan is to ensure that every child is able to get the best possible education. The public school system in Manhattan is not equipped to give twice exceptional students an education that both enriches their giftedness while giving necessary support for their learning and social difficulties. In non-specialized environments, twice exceptional students are recognized as being gifted but are called “lazy” since they lack executive functioning or other skills that allow them to take their talents and apply them to their school work. Or, their learning defects or disorders are all that is recognized and they are put in special education classes where their giftedness is left untapped and is not allowed to grow.

In the context of The Quad Manhattan, positive change in education looks like targeted personalized lessons instead of common core curriculum. Every child learns and experiences the world in different ways. It makes no sense to assume that one method is going to work for everyone. The Quad Manhattan only targets twice exceptional children, but this small step is making way for larger educational change. The Quad Manhattan demonstrates that personalized education is possible, and through its psychosocial intern training is teaching the new generation of psychology professionals the theories and methods that will allow for change in both private and public education.

Door sign I created for my classroom (with names removed)

As I discussed in my last post, The Quad Manhattan creates the change they want to see in education through personalization. As much information as possible is gathered from each child’s medical professionals and parents to allow us to create targeted programming for them. One part of this targeted programming that I did not mention in my last post is how The Quad Manhattan focuses more on social and life skills than school subjects, since it is a summer camp and not a summer school. Since I am working with the oldest kids in the camp, we are focusing more on life skills than the other groups. One way we are doing this is by planning field trips. We had our campers suggest locations that they want to visit and we will go on multiple field trips throughout the summer. During these outings, the campers will have to navigate the subway, deal with crowded spaces, and learn to interact with each other and the public in a new environment (with constant staff support of course).

Part of the set up for camp carnival

Since it was the first week of camp instead of “Field Trip Friday,” we had “Funky Friday,” which was an all camp carnival. I got to be the fortune teller, which allowed me to interact with all of the kids in the camp instead of just my group, which I loved. Before the carnival, I went to each of the group’s interns and teachers and gathered information on all of the kids, which I turned into cheat sheets that allowed me to have the younger kids believe I was actually psychic.

I got to use my theatre background while interacting with the campers, but the best part of the experience was seeing how truly different every child was. Between hearing all about each camper from their teachers and getting to spend two minutes talking to each child, I got to see firsthand how unique every child was, even within this twice exceptional “niche.” I was very privileged that the way my public school decided was the “correct” way to teach was a way that I was able to pretty easily follow. Being at The Quad Manhattan has opened my eyes to the insane number of different types of learners there are, and I am excited to keep learning and adding tools to my professional toolbox.

The “Wheel of Mystery” that was a part of my fortune teller booth

Post 3: Navigating the Legislation Process with Social Justice

This past week has been very relaxed here on the Hill. Because of the holiday and shortened week, we were not in session at all, which means fewer suites, fewer meetings, and an overall calmer office. Because of the quieter work environment, this week has given me the chance to get to know the other interns in the office better and feel a little more comfortable in the office. During my down time and not-so-crazy days, I’ve been able to do a bit of exploring both on and off the Hill. Check out this picture of me representing Brandeis in front of the beautiful portrait of former President Barack Obama!

The interns in my office also took this week to check out the best view in all of DC: the Speaker’s Balcony. Did you really do a Hill internship if you don’t have a picture like this?! Hint: the answer is no.

All four interns from Congresswoman Clark’s office enjoying the view from the Speaker’s Balcony in the Capitol!

Besides my DC explorations, my time at my internship has allowed me to better understand the behind the scenes process of the federal government and how change really happens. The overall goal of any member of Congress or the Senate lies in the concept spoken by Abraham Lincoln, “that government [should be] of the people, by the people, for the people…” Working for Congresswoman Clark, I have seen firsthand how a member uses their power and their beliefs to mold our country for the better.

 

Consider the words written by our founding fathers in the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

That description is the exact social justice goal of the government, of any member, any staffer, and even any intern. This is then accomplished through understanding all aspects of our country, and then sponsoring, cosponsoring, opposing, and amending legislation that may affect those different aspects. For example, a bill that recently passed both the House and the Senate called the Farm Bill threatened cutting food stamps (the SNAP program), among many other things it achieves. The Senate version that was passed amended that part of the bill so the SNAP program is protected. The House will then have to vote again on the Senate version of the bill, and I, among others, hope that the SNAP program remains protected. This is just one example of different views and changes that could happen when trying to enact a piece of legislation. The different parties and members have diverse priorities that create tension but also awareness of issues that need to be considered.

The name plaque in front of our office in Longworth!

Overall, the legislative process is incredibly complicated and unpredictable, which makes explaining it in a short blog nearly impossible. But one day an intern could be doing research of a recently introduced bill, next the member may cosponsor it, and after moving through committee it could get passed through the House! But the likelihood of it ever going that smoothly is incredibly slim. If you are interested in understanding the craziness that occurs in the legislation process, I recommend you read “The Dance of Legislation” by Eric Redman. It does a better job than I can ever do describing the uncertainty yet significant steps of the process.

While many of the ideals in government of creating the best America we can stands true for almost every government official, the different views of how they should be enacted between parties makes achieving these goals very difficult. I have been very lucky to be given the opportunity to see this social justice work with a member whose ideals align with my own, but I cannot emphasize enough how getting anything done in government is no easy task. But something I always try to highlight is if you want to see change, call your representative, share your thoughts, and who knows, maybe I’ll pick up!

Post 3: Encouraging Others to Help Find Dreams

KKOOM supports approximately 130 children at Samsungwon Orphanage and Emmanuel Children’s Home. Beyond holiday and summer activities and events, we provide scholarships for preschool and college students. By providing financial aid to Korean orphans both beginning and ending their educational journey, we open doors to academic opportunities otherwise unavailable.

In South Korea, toddlers begin attending preschool at the age of two. However, due to lack of funding, the South Korean government does not subsidize preschool for orphans until they are four years of age. Since 2011, KKOOM has provided access to early education, helping eliminate the education gap and thus leveling the playing field for orphans as they proceed through their education.

HyungJun when he first came to Samsungwon v. Hyungjun 2 months later

HyunJun is one of our preschool scholarship recipients. When he was eleven months old, HyungJun arrived at Samsungwon Orphanage in Gumi, South Korea. Now almost two years old, he is the youngest child in his home and — thanks to KKOOM supporters — thriving in preschool. Only sixteen pounds when carried into Samsungwon, HyungJun is now a normal weight for his age and, as evidenced by the pictures below, enjoying life. Read this interview with HyungJun!

KKOOM also provides college scholarships. Yonghoon (a rising third year) is at World Cyber University, majoring in social welfare. According to an interview with KKOOM, Yonghoon desires to work at Emmanuel Children’s Home in Gimcheon, South Korea. Another student, Minyeal, recently graduated from World Cyber University with a degree in pastoral studies. Lastly, Se-Hee (a rising second year) is majoring in hotel tourism. Her dream is to work abroad. Se-Hee shared that “with the KKOOM scholarship funds, I will apply for a special course to improve my English proficiency.” These are just a few snapshots of students KKOOM has supported over the years.

It is only through the support of family, friends, and strangers who believe in our mission that KKOOM is able to support these beautiful students. Our long-term goal is to provide educational support for as many orphans as we can, for as long as we can. To that end, our small steps as an organization come in the form of widening our donor base and securing recurring donations.

During KKOOM’s annual board retreat in Los Angeles this past weekend (June 29 – July 1), I had the opportunity to share my perspective as the youngest board member. A specific small step I have put forth is for KKOOM to reach out to college students and young professionals to try to gain their support. As the youngest member, one of my tasks in July is to draft suggestions on how to build rapport and find faithful supporters among my peers.

I’m hopeful that as our organization continues to help Korean orphans find their dreams, we’ll encourage others to join us and to do the same.

Post 3: How can we measure success?

Programs are measured on the records of their achievements, and the IRC and Intensive Case Management programs are no different. During the intake process, our clients create a list of goals they have for their time enrolled in our program. These goals vary from learning English, to getting a job, to making connections with other people in their community, to navigating the healthcare system.  While this goal-setting process could be seen as “What do I want to be done for me?” it’s really more of a “What skills do I need to (re)learn to survive in this new place and culture?”

Prevalent themes in client goals                                (created with wordcloud)

How do we measure success and completion of these goals? After intake, our program completes a three month, six month and close-out assessment with the client to measure their progress. A numerical scale is used which ranges from safe to very vulnerable. It is common for a client to start at a one or two and move up one value during their twelve-month enrollment period. Does that seem like progress to you?

Yesterday, I spent almost two hours with a client coaching them on using the phone interpreter through their health insurance to schedule a medical appointment. This client does not speak English so the first step is navigating the automated menu in English because the only other language option is in Spanish. Once the client got connected to an operator they had to repeat “No English, Dari!” while the operator asked them in English to repeat themselves and spell the language. After connecting to an interpreter, the insurance refused to schedule the appointment until I intervened and said that insurance is required to provide language services to their members so that they can readily access healthcare services.

We then tried to schedule an appointment with the provider information that the insurance had on file, which ended up having an incorrect phone number, which we discovered after calling the clinic twice. Eventually, the client was able to schedule an appointment for himself! We smiled, applauded, and let out deep sighs and laughs. We laughed even though we had spent two stressful hours on the phone, even though we didn’t speak the same language, and even though we both knew that this was only the first hurdle for this client to receive the appropriate physical and mental healthcare services. That phone call will not move the client up a number on our assessment form, and we will probably have another coaching system in the next few weeks to solidify the skill, but those two hours on the phone were progress.

Will our clients ever fully reach their goals? I hope so. Will all the goals be achieved fully during the course of our program? Probably not. Progress is slow because change is slow and building up people’s confidence is slow. Additionally, some of these goals will not be achieved because of systemic constraints within the healthcare system such as language and cultural barriers causing health disparities, the education system, lack of access to quality mental health services to address trauma and the current political climate with its prejudice, and the lack of welcome towards refugees.

I would be proud to have a fraction of the resilience I see from our clients, many of whom have experienced great trauma. For example, some share stories of a wife patrolling the house while the husband slept to protect him from Taliban bombings as well as the loss of family members left behind in Afghanistan. One of the goals a client shared for their child was that they hoped that their child would “grow up in a safe, secure and peaceful place with access to healthcare and education so that they could pursue their own goals.” So, I will continue to define progress as making difficult phone calls to insurance and building self-confidence to complete other tasks. These are the first steps to helping our clients make their goals for themselves and their children a reality.

– Maya

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are mine alone and are not affiliated with the views of the IRC or ICM program.

Post 2: Clinical Research at SERI

Driving in the simulator. Taking an exit off the highway to our digital ski resort – see the snow-capped mountains on the right?

Here at Schepens Eye Research Institute (SERI) in Boston, I have been working on four research projects. In the first project, we are investigating the relationship between visual impairment and auditory distraction as well as the effects of age on these interactions. In order to test this, we have subjects from two different age groups (young = 20-40, old = 60+) drive in our driving simulator (see picture above) while wearing goggles that simulate visual impairment and performing an auditory distraction task. The visual impairment goggles use dispersion filters to blur vision and simulate eye conditions such as cataracts. The auditory task involves listening to an audio book and repeating back certain words (such as “the”) every time they are said. This is a lot harder than it seems. Try it at home! But not while driving. During these drives, pedestrians appear, and the driver must honk each time they see one. Response times are recorded as well as data about the control and motion of the vehicle. [Note: If you or someone you know is a current driver in the Boston area, age 60+, you qualify to participate. We are still recruiting. Contact me.]

The second project I am helping with is related to the first. In this project, we use the same auditory task, but we leave out the goggles so that we can track head and eye movement. Our eye tracking device is unable to track eyes through the dispersion filters on the goggles, so in order to examine the effects of auditory distraction on gaze movements we must do without the goggles. The eye tracking device utilizes six cameras and infrared lights around the simulator. The data we receive from this is in the form of graphs of head and gaze movements surrounding pedestrian events. Here is an example of one of these plots:

This plot shows the head and gaze movements surrounding the presence of a pedestrian. The red line represents head movement, and the blue line shows gaze movement. Yellow and green lines along the blue line show glances. The two black vertical lines indicate the time that the pedestrian is on screen. The green dash at the top is the moment the horn is honked.

The third project I am helping with involves driving with a bioptic telescope, a device attached to glasses that people with visual impairments may use to help them drive and read street signs (see picture below). Unfortunately, the telescope creates a ring-shaped blind spot around that impairs vision. Therefore, during our experimental drives, we have signs that participants look at through the telescope and honk at pedestrians they see. We then examine the timing of how the head and eyes move to look through the telescope as part of a bigger study that examines the effect of this blind spot on pedestrian detection.

Bioptic telescope

In these three projects, I help to run subjects through our experiments, which involves obtaining consent, doing vision measures (including visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and central visual field), and running them through the drives in the simulator. I also help to process and analyze the data we collect.

The final project I am working on is a telephone questionnaire that we are designing in order to gather information about how much drivers with visual impairments use in-vehicle assistive technologies (such as cruise control) and whether or not these devices are helpful. This project is in the beginning stages, and I have been helping to design the questionnaire, fill out paperwork, and pilot the questionnaire to make it clear and usable.

So far, I have been having a lot of fun and have learned a great deal about each step of the clinical research process. During my final few weeks, I hope to continue running subjects and learning more about data analysis.

For more information about the lab, visit the lab’s website here: http://bowerslab.eye.hms.harvard.edu/

If you are in the Boston area and are interested in participating in experiments here, let me know!

Post 2: Religion as a means of mobilizing people

I have never seen a religious leader working for the workers before.  I have never heard a talk about religion in a ‘lefty’ space before.

Before coming to Brandeis, as an activist and lefty high schooler, I worked in several organizations including feminist and socialist groups in my hometown of Istanbul, Turkey. The spaces these organizations provided was secular, almost to the extent of anti-religiousness.

Turkish left chose its side long ago between the war of the two major identities of Turkish Politics: seculars over Islamists. It is almost an unspoken rule to have a distance towards religion, particularly Islam, in the left, in Turkey.

Coming to Brandeis University changed my view.

At Brandeis I was introduced to a friendly space for all religions. On top of my knowledge of Islam, I learnt more about Judaism. I saw my friends fighting against injustices with their Jewish identity, emphasizing what their religion taught them and highlighting the motto of social justice all the time. It was then I realized how intersectionality was used by the religious people, believers and spirituals for a call to unite and mobilize the masses. I was amazed.

Then I started working at Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice. I saw even more how religion could play a role in mobilizing and uniting the people.

I heard Rev. Dr. William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, religious leaders and co-chairs of Poor People’s Campaign, calling all for a moral revival, to fight and confront the enmeshed and inseparable evils of systemic racism and other forms of discrimination, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation.

I talked with Sister Tess, an activist and e-board member of Mass IWJ, while she was participating in a huge Raise Up Massachusetts (RUM) rally in Massachusetts State House to demand paid family and medical leave and 15-dollar minimum wage.

Once again, I saw the option of having religion and religious people in the action space and the talk. I saw how religion and its message could mobilize people.

Now, by heart, I want my country and my people to include religion and religious people in the talk. I believe in the power of religion and its message to mobilize people.– Ece Esikara

Post 1: My First Weeks on the Job

I came to my internship at my local Federal Court House in New Haven, CT, expecting to dive into problems of social justice, and discover clear (and present) solutions. What I did discover instead, is an incredibly complex justice system, with both strengths and weaknesses. I very quickly learned that nothing in law is as quick or straight-forward as it’s depicted on television. Series like “The Wire” or “Law& Order” depict a system of intense, near constant high-drama which seems to fit the medium upon which they’re broadcast. By contrast, the real drama of the courtroom plays out in a coded language of motions, orders, and various out of court conferences, proceedings, and hearings. In fact, most of the cases I have seen never have, and never will go to a trial (by jury or by bench). As has often been cited and discussed in recent years, well over 95% of Criminal cases use “plea deals” – agreements between prosecutors and defendants, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty, most often in exchange for a reduction of the Prosecutions’ request for sentencing. Thus, most of the action I’ve seen “courtside” has been non-trial proceedings.

The experiences I’ve had so far both in and out of Court, have been incredibly enlightening. While I can’t extrapolate to the entire Justice System, every judge and lawyer that I’ve seen have struck me as individuals whose care and concern, both for the welfare and rehabilitation of the defendant and the safety and security of the public are carefully weighed with each decision. These men and women are charged with preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution of the United States, and supporting the often difficult pursuit of truth and justice. This task contains within it the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of generations of Americans, yearning for a more perfect Union. I have immense respect for the men and women I have met so far, who nobly carry out this mission. As the summer continues, and I begin to become accustomed to the unique language of the Courtroom, I look forward to learning more about our system of justice.

Post 2: Money as the Base

I have learned through my time at college that money is the underlying base of everything any organization can do. Money is the means through which actions can be taken. For example, at Brandeis, I am on the mock trial team and before the Regional Competition in Washington D.C., there was a forecast of snow and none of us felt comfortable driving ten hours in that weather. Thus we needed the school to subsidize train tickets to get us to the competition. After acquiring the funds, we were able to go and compete in D.C. However, none of that would have occurred had we not had the money for those tickets.

I have learned a lot about how money functions in a non-profit, such as the AJWS. Like how though termed “not-for-profit”, the financial goal of an organization like this is to make a profit. This is done through investments, and by gaining a profit, that money can be either saved for a day when the NGO might not have as many donors or used to fund base expenses.

Furthermore, I believe that a common misconception people have when thinking of the money that is donated to an NGO is that 100% of those funds are being directly used in the humans rights work. This is not true for any organization. One of my responsibilities here at the AJWS is to review expenses incurred and ensure that they were not personal expenses and to ensure the coding of everything is correct. Many of these expenses I review are not donations to grassroot organizations but expenses indirectly related to them, such as airplane tickets, food, hotels, all paid for by AJWS so that staff can go to conferences and don’t have personal expenses when doing on-site work. Furthermore, some of the money goes into expenses such as rent, salaries, insurance and expenses such as these.

This knowledge has shown me that finances are at the base of all the work the NGO does and that the finance department is responsible for the actualization of all the works of the AJWS. Through this knowledge, I know that even though I may not be directly interacting with grassroot organizations or people around the world, my efforts in the finance department are the base for the help we give.

– Melissa Frank

This is a picture of the staff of the finance department and I at the NYC office

Post 1: Environmental Protection Equals Social Protection

The Sierra Club is a national volunteer-driven non-profit organization, and the Lonestar Chapter where I am currently interning is the oldest grassroots environmental group in Texas. Their mission is “to explore, enjoy, and protect the planet!” and they work towards this through various goals within each division of the chapter. These conservation goals include clean air and water, smart energy solutions, land and wildlife protection, water for the people and the environment, promoting responsible transportation choices, and achieving a stable climate.  These may at first seem like purely environmental protection goals, but at their core is environmental justice because the health of the human world is linked to the health of the natural world. Furthermore, the legislation having to do with issues such as where refineries are built or where toxic runoff ultimately ends up will more often than not negatively impact marginalized communities.

Since I’ve been working here, my supervisor, the director of the Lonestar Chapter, has allowed me to put a finger in each of these environmental issue pies, so to speak, and I’m usually given different tasks each day. I have worked with the Lonestar Chapter’s water resources specialist, who also works with the Texas Living Waters Project. Under her supervision I compiled cases of drinking water contamination (mostly limited to ground water cases) across Texas. This issue is quickly becoming more and more prevalent, and it is important to get this information available to the public in an easy-to-access form.  Too many rural, lower-socioeconomic-class communities are being affected by tap water that comes out with harmful biological, chemical, or industrial pollutants.

I then moved on to work with the Lonestar Chapter’s clean energy coordinator. My tasks here included reading through the annual State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) reports from all the co-op and municipal electric utility groups in Texas. I then had to compile certain factors of each report into an energy efficiency scorecard, which we use to rank these utilities on all their measures to achieve more clean energy and energy efficiency. Finally, I drafted emails to each of these electric utility companies explaining the score they received and breaking down the categories in which they could improve to give their customers more access to energy efficient programs or equipment in their residences or their commercial businesses.

The latest work I’ve been doing is under the Chapter’s communication manager. He has put me in charge of our organization’s Media Clip Report, which compiles anytime we are mentioned in the media and asses the tone put out into the world. I’ve also been collecting information on the Sierra Club-endorsed challengers in Texas house and senate elections so that it can be put in one place for our members, or the public, to access.

Overall, my tasks are often spreadsheet- and research-oriented, but these intern-level tasks help the organization flow like a well oiled (or rather, green energy powered!) machine. By the time I depart from the Sierra Club, I would like to have accomplished more direct outreach and education with the local community, and also simply expand my knowledge of all the overlap between environmental and social justice issues.

Post 2: “We need strong advocates to help us make change”

My internship at the Abidjan Military Hospital has been very interesting so far. I have worked with many doctors and made friends with a lot of patients. The Military Hospital is semi private hospital here in Abidjan that was first made for the members of the military. However now it accepts people from all walks of life. One of the biggest challenges the hospital faces is the lack of resources to treat its patients. I remember my first day here; the hospital’s blood pressure machine was broken which slowed down their work. I had bought one a couple days before I came from the US in case I needed it here. I gave it to the nurses to continue their job. The doctors problem brought the lack of resources to the attention of the government. Nothing is being done about it so the doctors are forced to work in  conditions that were not ideal.

Entrance to hospital
The entrance to the emergency department at the Military Hospital and people waiting outside to either be taken care of or waiting for their family members.

A second challenge that the health care system faces is the fact that patients neglect their health to the point that they show up to the hospital a little bit too late sometimes. This is due to the fact that they are unable to afford the treatments which in turn leaves them in hospital waiting rooms with no care. This is a challenge I face almost everyday. I sometimes find myself trying to pay for some of the treatments so the patients don’t die waiting for someone to pity them. You have to be a strong soul to work in these conditions and I couldn’t handle seeing some people in so much pain over a treatment that only costs $30. There were times when I saw the doctors raising money to pay for some patients they had just met whom they couldn’t let go home. This reason is one of the many reasons why I want to fight to be an advocate for proper health care in countries like the Ivory Coast, no matter the social status of a person. One thing Brandeis has taught me  is that everyone can help someone. Even though I am not able to make a big impact right now in many peoples’ lives, I hope I am able to make an impact in someone’s life in the future. I have had discussions with doctors on what can be done to provide help to the people. They all said almost the same thing: “we need strong advocates to help us make change. People are dying for minor reasons. It’s not fair. We need the government to do something and please share our stories with the world. Tell them to look at us.” So, I hope I am able to raise awareness on these problems going on around the world. Someone has to do something.

Nurse in consultation room
A nurse taking care of a patient in the only “consultation room” of the emergency department.

– Awa Soumahoro

 

Post 3: GHI and Social Justice

The social justice mission of Gardens for Health International is to fight against chronic malnutrition in Rwanda with good nutrition and agriculture practices. The organization was founded in 2007, and by 2010 was in four different health centers in the district of Gasabo. In 2018, GHI operates in 19 different health centers across the country. Their health center program teaches 50 families in the community about what a balanced meal looks like, and what the best foods to grow are for good nutrition.

I mention these facts because they emphasize the impressive progress Gardens for Health has made since their founding. Through the innovation of a variety of new programs, GHI is able to interact with a number of new community actors. In the last couple of years, they have pioneered an antenatal care program where they teach pregnant mothers how to care for their unborn child. The program has been incredibly successful so far, and is being expanded to even more districts in the coming season. Additionally, GHI just had their first Training of Trainers Program (ToT) where they brought Rwandans from across the country to the farm to learn about the GHI program model in order to teach more communities about our version of health education. Although the first annual ToT was just completed, it was so successful, preparations are already being made for the ToT training this coming December.

ToT training document (Kinyarwanda Version)

Another amazing thing I have learned from the GHI programs is that, they are teaching all of their participants to pass on all of the knowledge they are receiving to members of the community who were unable to participate in GHI trainings. This is one of the ways the reach and impact of GHI reaches beyond the health centers the work in.

In addition to these major new changes to the GHI programs, there are many small steps the organization takes in order to maintain their mission effectively. One of the things I admire about the GHI office is its self-sufficiency. The office is on a big farm that serves three purposes. Firstly, the crops grown on the farm provide the seeds for the home garden package given to all the families who complete the health center program. Additionally, all the food in our daily farm lunches is produced on the farm. Lastly, the harvested crops that are left over are sold in local markets, and the proceeds are reinvested back into maintaining the farm. These practices play into why I believe Gardens for Health is such a credible organization. They practice their teachings in full force on a daily basis, encouraging everyone involved in GHI to live up to their mission.

Sunny day at the office 🙂

GHI also composts, raises goats, and feeds other members of the local community at the farm lunches. By establishing new programs and implementing their sustainable farm practices at the office, fighting malnutrition is engrained in the core structure of the organization. For these reasons I am so proud to work for an organization like Gardens for Health International this summer.

– Eli Wasserman ’20

Post 2: Social Justice and The Center

Hello everyone! Lesbia Espinal here once again sharing my summer experience. (Thecenter.com)

I am Lesbia, currently a junior to be at Brandeis, majoring in Computer Science and Health Policy with a Business minor.

Last semester, I took a class called Health, Community and Society (Sociology 191a). Taking this class opened my eyes to a world many of us sometimes do not want to admit exists: the world of social injustices. This class introduced me to many readings and one of them was called “Saving Normal.” This reading talked about how the word “normal” can have different significance depending on who defines it. The Center Houston then takes this concept of “normal” and turns it into “you choose your normal.”

The Center helps/ welcomes people with disabilities. Another thing that I learned during my sociology class was the fact that people with disabilities have this label of “sickness.” This label is just a way many people like to separate disabled people from the rest.

Social justice is one of The Center’s main goals, which is reflected in every interview, picture, and press release I write. My experience at Brandeis has taught me to fight for what is right! The Center truly appreciates their clients and being part of that is such a blessing.

Learning for me is a step closer to succeeding. It’s great that I learned about disabilities before my summer internships because now I am able to apply my knowledge to hands on work. My work at The Center mostly concentrates on awareness and planning fundraisers. Being part of the marketing team is my way of merging into the not-for-profit world, because I believe that the magic happens with a strong marketing team.

Even through difficult situations such as hurricane Harvey, The Center is still serving their clients. For almost two weeks I have been part of relocation planning for The Center. Hurricane Harvey damaged housing and the department of adult training, where clients learned skills that can help them obtain a job. The concept of helping and serving others is my favorite part of The Center, which makes me look forward to every day I spend there.

Hurricane Harvey at The Center

The Center is grateful to the volunteers that came out of their homes to help during Harvey. Damage caused by the hurricane led to losses in profits that go towards training clients, housing maintenance, programs and paying employees. However, every year The Center promotes the #Biketothebeach challenge. Funds raised during the race will go towards The Center foundation, which are greatly needed after Harvey.

A partner of the #Biketothebeach race creates a simulation that allows clients of The Center to also be part race challenge. The concept of healthy bodies is also something that is greatly appreciated by clients when they participate in  weekly spin classes, which are taught by volunteer of Pursuitride.

Lastly,  The Center’s vision is one of creating social justice in the community.

P.S. I got my office this week and I couldn’t be happier about it and all the work that I will be doing through the summer!

Post 1: Summer of 2018! :)

I have been in the United States for about three years and moved to this country from Cape Verde during the summer of 2015. I believe I will not have another summer as busy as this one. The summer of 2018 has been the busiest one so far.Thus far, my internship with State Representative Evandro Carvalho is keeping me very busy as I work with the Committee to Elect Evandro Carvalho for District Attorney. I am working on this campaign since Daniel Conley isn’t seeking re-election this year.

Rep. Carvalho represents the Roxbury and Dorchester communities. I ended up working with Rep. Carvalho because a few months after my arrival in the U.S., a high school counselor spoke to me about Rep. Carvalho’s journey– how he went to UMass Amherst and Howard Law School and left a great law firm in Washington D.C. to give back to his community. My counselor told me that working with a successful Cape Verdean man at the State House would look good on my resume. I did in fact end up working with his secretary at the State House and enjoyed organizing paperwork (letters, budgets in spreadsheets, etc.) and opening/closing issues that people called about.

I wish I had the opportunity to actual work with him personally, but Rep. Evandro was always in meetings and/or section. Recently, he reached out to me about his candidacy and I jumped right in without thinking about the pros and cons of a campaign. I really admire his willingness to leave a prestigious law firm in D.C. to give back to the community in which he grew up. Therefore, it is a big deal for me to work for him.

My first day of work had me confused, as my letter of offer stated May 28 as the starting date. “But isn’t that Memorial Day?” I thought. I didn’t think I had to work that day but learned if you are a politician running for any office (specially the DA’s office) you want to be everywhere to interact with people and connect with the community. On Memorial Day, I was THE DRIVER and bodyguard for Rep. Carvalho, but it wasn’t bad at all. I got to be part of at least three Memorial Day events in Boston to demonstrate my appreciation to the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces.

Memorial Day at Cedar Grove Cemetery. 🙂

After that day, my tasks have been calling voters to explain what Rep. Carvalho stands for and his qualifications for DA. I have encouraged people about how much their support is essential for him to continue his job as a leader.  As I speak to the voters and gather support, I ask if they would like a lawn sign to be placed at their residency. Upon consent I drive to their home I place the signs in the lawn, fences or porches. I recruited many friends to volunteer. 🙂

That’s me putting up a sign on Adams St! 🙂
My friends and I supporting Rep. Evandro before a Debate at Saint Marks Church on Dorchester Avenue. #It’s_Time!

I also create events on Facebook and send them out to his supporters. As I continue to call and gather support from voters, I hope to assist Rep. Carvalho have victory on September 4 as the next DA. His victory is what I hope to accomplish this summer . #Carvalho_for_DA.

Post 2: A Global Experience at JVS

During my time at Brandeis I have had the opportunity to take many classes dealing with social justice issues. However, the experience that stands out to me the most was my participation in Global Brigades. This Brandeis club was comprised of two main parts: education while on campus about the culture and history of Honduras and a service-learning trip to Honduras during February break. Along with other students, I had the opportunity to visit towns across Honduras and to see what daily life is like there. I got to talk with locals (including patients and medical and construction professionals) in the context of both medical clinics and within their own homes. Although this experience in no way allowed me to completely understand what life in Honduras is like, it allowed me to catch a glimpse of a life that was simultaneously very different and similar to my own.

This experience opened my eyes to what life is like in Honduras, a nation from which many individuals and families are currently emigrating. At my internship at Jewish Vocational Services, we assist recently arrived asylees, refugees, and other migrants (some of whom come from Central America and Honduras itself). On a daily basis, I have the privilege to meet one-on-one with individuals and families from all around the world. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with people from Somalia, India, El Salvador, Haiti and more through this internship. Although my experience abroad in Honduras in no way represents the experience of all the people that I have been able to meet through JVS, I believe that it has given me a way to better contextualize the situations that those I work with are coming out of and my place in their journey to the United States.

I think that it’s easy in this kind of work to get swept up in notions of America as a beacon of hope for people from across the world who will be greeted with a better life here in the United States. While I think that this can be true, it is easy for people to forget, myself included, about the individual lives of the people that we are trying to help. What people often fail to consider are the lives and often family that these people are leaving behind in coming to the United States, lives that they may not want to leave behind. I believe that my experience in Honduras allowed me to better understand the bad as well as the good parts of life in many countries where people are now seeking asylum.

I feel that this understanding has allowed me to better help our clients at JVS to find the jobs and lives in the U.S. that are best for them and their unique situations. If nothing else, it has allowed me to better empathize with all they have been through on their journey to establishing themselves and their families in the U.S. after having to leave their home country and to better contextualize how different yet similar their past experiences may have been.

Post 2: From Brandeis to the State House to Washington D.C.

This past spring semester I had the privilege of taking Professor Stimell’s Advocacy for Policy Change class, which allowed me to explore the field of policy through a singular Massachusetts mental health legislation. This course allowed me to speak with professionals in legislation, policy, and mental health, and ultimately was the driving factor that inspired me to work on Capitol Hill in D.C. this summer. Now, instead of walking into the Massachusetts State House as an advocate, I am walking into Longworth House Building as staff, hopeful for the work coming my way.

My experience learning about the legislative process and seeing it through the eyes of an advocate has allowed me to translate that knowledge into my work for Congresswoman Katherine Clark. I feel as if I can better relate to constituents and advocacy groups because I have been in their shoes. I know what it is like to be an advocate fighting for social justice, and it has been eye-opening now being on the other side of the conversation. I feel much more well-informed in the process and I better understand how constituents and advocates are taken into account. At the same time, it is important to understand that, working for a Massachusetts representative, most of the time the constituents and the congresswoman are on the same side of an issue.

As a dedicated advocate to social justice, I am looking forward to continuing my journey working in Congresswoman Clark’s D.C. office, grappling with hot-topic policy issues and working hands-on with legislative work. Just this week, after working on a bill memo for H.R. 1298 – CT Colonography Screening for Colorectal Cancer Act, which would cover computed tomography colonography (CTC)–a less invasive colorectal cancer screening for medicare patients–they decided to sign my congresswoman on as a cosponsor. I was able to utilize my interest and passion for health in my work on the Hill.

Some other work I was able to do this past week was to go to a hearing and a briefing on health-related topics. I went to a hearing on reducing the costs of health care in America, where four different advocates from various roles in the medical field explored ideas that may help the critical problem of increasing healthcare costs. It was fascinating hearing their ideas developed from their first-hand experiences, and hearing how the senate committee reacted and commented. For example, one doctor suggested the need for price transparency in order to help the consumer better understand what they are paying for, as well as increase competition. In response, a senator suggested that it would only work if there was a quality evaluation paired with the prices, because otherwise consumers would constantly make the mistake of assuming expensive equals quality. The briefing I had the privilege to attend was about Community Living Centers (CLC) for veterans that received low, one-star, ratings. The purpose of the briefing was to explore the reason for these low ratings and discuss the effort being made to reverse them.

Both of the events were in Senate buildings, so I also took the opportunity to explore my way from House to Senate in various ways. Below is a picture of me taking the underground Capital shuttle from the Senate building to the Capital! I’m still working on not getting lost, but the exploration never seems to end!

 

 

In both my experience at the hearing and the briefing, I was able to take in the information from the speakers and members both as a staffer and an advocate alike. There were people in the audience filling various roles, and we were all there for the same purpose: a better understanding of the information. It was an opportunity where I was able to combine the roles I’ve played in advocacy, and continue my journey working for social justice and the topics I am passionate about.

Post 2: Thoughtful Social Justice Work and Providing Tools for Self-Sufficiency

 

A wide variety of programs offered at the San Diego IRC office (source)

What I love about the Health: Science, Society and Policy program at Brandeis and the compliment it provides to the Biology program is that it allows me to think about both biomedicine and the sociological perspective of health. In the class Sociology of Health and Illness, I learned about the distinction of illness and disease, where a disease is the biological mechanism within the body causing symptoms while an illness is the symptoms and how the person experiencing them feels. A disease is seen and measured in a doctor’s office, while an illness is the lived experience and how a person manages the condition in their day-to-day life.

This distinction has guided my work with Intensive Case Management at IRC because I am focused on the day-to-day life of my clients and their lived experiences. While a client may have diabetes, I am not focusing on their blood sugar level or their insulin dosage; instead, I am focusing on making sure they have access to food, transportation to doctors appointments, and an interpreter to allow them to share concerns with their doctors. As someone focused on medicine at Brandeis, this has been slightly difficult for me because I am interested in the blood sugar numbers as a mechanism to allow me to understand what is going on in the client’s body to then dictate their treatment. What I would miss there would be that I am not thinking about the client’s lived experience and how they are managing their symptoms along with other trials of adjusting to a new country and way of life.

Refugee resettlement at IRC takes on a holistic approach by considering clients’ physical, emotional, and psychological needs during the resettlement process. The services during the first ninety days include multiple trips to the refugee health clinic for health screenings, signing up for health insurance, cash aid, food stamps, enrolling children in school, a cultural orientation, and finding and furnishing an apartment. While these services are required by the federal government, IRC goes beyond this by offering my program as well as an anti-trafficking program, and various employment programs to aid refugees in their transition to the U.S.

These extended programs and the IRC philosophy of “building programs that rebuild lives” works to do just that — help to build a better life for the whole person, not just medically. With their variety of programming, IRC is helping refugees and recognizing their many identities as parents, farmers, children, teachers, providers, and, most importantly, as human beings. It might be easier to sign people up for services and not teach them how to utilize those services and advocate for themselves, but IRC, like the sociological perspective of health and illness, recognizes that it is essential to focus on the lived experience and how to make the day-to-day events possible.

The proverb, “You can feed a man for a day by giving him a fish or feed him for a lifetime by teaching him to fish,” sums up the importance of helping people towards self-sufficiency. People, no matter what circumstances they have overcome, are still individuals and should be treated as such. In social justice work, it is important to refrain from grouping people into the category of “oppressed” and taking the stance of a “fixer” to fix all of the problems of the “oppressed group.” Providing resettled refugees with the tools and support to become self-sufficient and recognizing and celebrating their identities allows IRC to do social justice work in a thoughtful and holistic manner. IRC prioritizes these ideas while making a real difference in the lives of the individuals with whom they work.

– Maya

Post 2: Getting into the swing of things

My Brandeis coursework and work/volunteer experience is focused on achievable coexistence through social action and cross-cultural communication. I am involved closely with the Brandeis PAX (Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies) program and other on-campus groups that support these ideals. Nonviolence International is a perfect fit for me, as it seeks to use elements of social action and education to work towards peaceful resolutions. In that sense, almost all of my coursework has relevance to my organization. I have taken some incredible courses at Brandeis, with Professor Fellman and others, that have discussed the importance of compassion, empathy, and humility in the conflict resolution process. On a programmatic level, these lessons have been paramount in my understanding of my organization and its mission.

Through the research I am conducting, I am learning an incredible amount of information about the history of Israel/Palestine, and how the current situation is, in part, a reflection of history. My time at Brandeis has been significant in a variety of ways, but most importantly it has taught me two main things that are applicable to my time at Brandeis. First, in every class, for every paper, we as students are always asked to think critically about the subject matter. In context of this internship, critical thinking is SO important! When I sift through news headline or watch videos about the subject of Gaza and the Great March of Return, and in turn reading Facebook posts from my Brandeis friends, there is always a hint of “fake news.” Many media sources focus only on how much trauma and emotion is deeply engrained into this conflict, and publish stories that cause “outrage” or emotional reactions for the reader. While this tactic does get views, clicks, and shares, it also adds fuel to the fire by further polarizing the “sides.” Therefore, I have had to utilize critical thinking when conducting my research.

Second, on a more social level, Brandeis has also taught me about the Jewish community and about the cultural and religious symbol that is Israel. With this in mind, I am able to somewhat contextualize details and situations that can be viewed as one-sided. However, I also encourage myself to evaluate accountability. This is such a divisive, complex issue, and there is fault and also victimhood on both sides. Being a Brandeisian allows me to cast a both critical and compassionate eye on the ever-developing situation.

Mubarak Awad

I included a photo of my organization’s founder, Mubarak Awad. He is a Christian Palestinian who is a first-hand participant in nonviolent action and civil disobedience in Israel/Palestine. He is an extraordinary individual, and I learn so much from him every day!

Post 2: The Importance in Standpoint Theory as ASDS Testifies at NYC Council Hearing For Birth Equity

Hey everyone!

Its been another busy week at Ancient Song and we’ve made many great strides. Last week, Ancient Song’s founder and executive director, Chanel Porchia-Albert, testified at a City Council hearing at City Hall. Chanel Porchia-Albert advocated for bills on reporting on maternal mortality, assessing the need for doulas for folks who are pregnant, and evaluating how available low-cost to free doula services are (a testimony that I was super excited to have co-written!).

During this testimony, Chanel described the valuable and important work of Ancient Song in providing doula services and accessible maternal care to marginalized communities, highlighted the trauma and oppression within the history of black and brown people in medicine and health care, and emphasized the importance of community-based and culturally relevant doulas and birth workers to be experts and key sources in addressing the racial disparities in maternal health.

The testimony was particularly impactful because it gave Ancient Song the opportunity to speak on a matter that Ancient Song has been tackling for over ten years, but has only just recently gained the attention of the council members of New York City. It made me think of a concept I was introduced to in a previous course I took at Brandeis with Professor Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman called Black Feminist Thought. One of the many concepts she introduced to me was the standpoint theory. First described by Patricia Hill Collins, the theory acknowledges the knowledge that stems from social positions and the importance of theorizing from “below” (in terms of class, nation, sexuality, political need). It highlights the fact that often seemingly objective or “scientific” accounts of something may ignore the perspective and experiences of marginalized identities. This is why we must prioritize the perspective of the most marginalized identities to inform the objective.

This connects back to why we think it is crucial to have community-based and culturally relevant birth workers at the forefront of the movement towards birth equity. It also drives much of current community-based workers’ concerns in NYS Governor Cuomo’s proposed Doula Pilot Program. How is the government going to effectively address racial disparities in maternal health without having a holistic understanding of the needs of those most affected?

Before the hearing began, Ancient Song held a rally for birth equity in front of City Hall where birth workers, reproductive justice advocates, and members of the community attended and spoke on their experiences. This reminded me of the importance of making this information as accessible to the communities most affected as possible. A lot of folks from these communities are not aware that these hearings are taking place and how much of a difference their voices can make. This is why the work we are doing around community outreach is crucial to achieving birth equity.

Thank you all for reading, I can’t wait to update you all again next week!

Post 2: Four Weeks at Community Psychiatry PRIDE

During my three years as a member of the Brandeis community, I have been deeply absorbed in and profoundly impacted by the Brandeis culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. Brandeis considers social justice as one of its central missions, aims to involve students in this just and inclusive campus culture, and encourages students to become active citizens in this multicultural world. I am grateful that I can experience such campus culture while going through the stage of my life where I am establishing values and building self-identity.

Through social norms and expectations, we grow up to know about social identity categories such as socioeconomic status, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Such learned social identity categories can be the roots of discrimination and bias, as people are often defined and confined by these categories. One morning during this summer when I took the commuter rail from Waltham to Chelsea for work, I noticed the diversity in the carriage of people from different cultures with different jobs. I was struck by the fact that I never felt labeled based on my race, gender, age, or any other social identity categories. In that carriage, I did not feel like I was labeled as an Asian or a girl; I was just a person who was ready to start another day of life like everyone else in that carriage. After all, we are all the same after stripping off the identities society imposes on us. Regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, and other social identity categories, we should all be given the same opportunity to pursue our dreams. The world we are now living in is far from perfect. In fact, it is unfortunately full of inequity, bias, and discrimination. When I think back, I feel extremely grateful that the Brandeis campus culture and the people I am close to have given me the reassurance to disregard the identity categories the world tries to impose on me and the confidence to stand as equal to pursue my dreams.

Lee Anne Bell (2013) defines social justice in Readings for Diversity and Social Justice as “full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs.” While I am lucky enough to have such a supportive environment and the resources, such as a college education, to reach towards my dreams, many people are not given the same opportunities to meet their needs. There are many poor communities suffering from the reverberations of perpetual imprisonment, sustained violence, and family instability. Each year, tens of thousands of inmates are either released from Massachusetts correctional facilities or are serving probation sentences. The high risk 17-24 year old young men are the target population of Community Psychiatry PRIDE’s interventional model. Because of the way resources are allocated in our society, these young men in poor communities are disadvantaged in terms of education, more vulnerable to mental health problems, and more prone to crimes. The problem progresses as there is lack of the resources necessary to keep themselves from re-offending and returning to jail. More efficient programs are needed to give them the chance to change behavior, keep a job, and break the cycle of incarceration and poverty.

Community Psychiatry PRIDE’s local community partner organization aims to build transformational relationships with high-risk young men through outreach to those who suffer from reverberations of crime and poverty. Community Psychiatry PRIDE hopes that by engaging these young men in stage-based programming, they can provide resources necessary for these high-risk young men to break the cycle of incarceration and poverty. Community Psychiatry PRIDE’s role in this program is to develop an evidence-based treatment of cognitive behavioral therapy tailored to the community’s specific struggles. We hope this program can help high-risk young men to move out of violence and into jobs.

-Bingyu Xu ’19

Post 2: Brandeis and BridgeYear

My experiences at Brandeis have altered my perspective in numerous ways. For this particular internship, my role as a coordinator for General Tutoring (GT) had the greatest impact. It provided me with the skills and exposure most closely tied to the work I do at BridgeYear.

General Tutoring is part of a larger program called Waltham Group, which is the umbrella organization for about twenty smaller groups tackling various issues in Waltham. Members of Waltham Group are exposed to the range of social issues existing in the community and the ways in which one’s program and individual role fit in. Being part of an organization focused on community service allows me to draw connections with nonprofits in terms of budgeting, advertising, recruiting, and collaborating with the stakeholders involved.

General Tutoring specifically is related to BridgeYear in many ways. GT aims to provide free tutoring for K-12 students from the Waltham community. We do this by matching student volunteers from Brandeis with a tutee, according to the age and subjects volunteers prefer to teach. By leading a program in the education sector, I witness the struggle students face when they are unable to keep up in school and cannot afford a tutor, as well as their gratitude when they receive that help. As an advisor for BridgeYear, this has contributed to my understanding of students facing similar adversities in terms of lack of support and direction for their post-high school plans, which enables me to guide them better.

General Tutoring’s organizational structure is interesting and shares similarities with a nonprofit startup. Although GT has existed for a number of years, the coordinators are continuously changing as they graduate, which constantly recreates the program’s leadership, strategy, and focus. The program serves over four hundred tutees and is run by a small team of five to six coordinators, which means each member plays a crucial role. GT was one of my first and longest experiences being in a leadership position, and made me realize that I enjoy working in a role in which I can implement changes, make decisions, help and guide my team members, and have an impact on the future direction. Similarly, at BridgeYear, I work alongside a small team in which interns receive opportunities to lead meetings, handle individual projects, and become a critical part of the organization’s functions and strategy.

My project management and collaboration skills improved immensely as a coordinator, which helps me with the work I do at BridgeYear. At GT, as in BridgeYear, we are responsible for various individual projects to advance the program. We also handle operational tasks such as matching tutors and tutees and contacting them, planning events, and communicating with stakeholders. I need to be efficient in organizing my time, as both aspects of work require equal attention and time. Being both a part of GT and BridgeYear has helped me realize I get the most enjoyment and work my hardest when I see purpose and meaning behind my efforts.

Post 2: A Regular Day at the Office = Parole Hearings and Prison Visits

This summer, I have been working a lot with the social worker for our office’s JD department (the higher crimes division) and I was recently asked to participate in a prison visit with him and an attorney. On Tuesday, we took a trip up to MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, CT to meet with a client of theirs who is up for a parole hearing within the next few weeks. In case you are unfamiliar, parole is the practice of releasing sentenced prisoners from custody if it appears “that there is a reasonable probability that the inmate will live and remain at liberty without violating the law and that such release is not incompatible with the welfare of the community,” according to the Connecticut General Statutes.

View from the parking lot of MacDougall-Walker (phones are not allowed inside)

The inmate that we went to visit has been incarcerated since he was sixteen years old and continues to maintain his innocence to this day. Now in his thirties, he is hoping to build a meaningful life for himself outside of prison, in a world that he has not lived in since the early 2000s. My role during this visit was to create and ask questions in a mock interview to prepare our client for his hearing. Meanwhile, the attorney and social worker took notes and wrote down critiques to advise him on how to best answer questions he will be asked.

The sign at the entrance of the prison grounds

Thanks to the United States Supreme Court cases Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama, it is now deemed unconstitutional to sentence juvenile offenders, like our client was, to life sentences without the possibility of parole. While helping out with this case, I have been able to consider some of the classes I have taken while at Brandeis. One of the most relevant has been “Investigating Justice,” a class I took last fall with Professor Rosalind Kabrhel. During this class, we spent a unit focused on the juvenile justice system and had the incredible opportunity to learn alongside students from a juvenile detention facility. Every week for a month, three students from the facility came to Brandeis and attended class with us. We learned about the pitfalls of the system and new programs currently being implemented to help support and rehabilitate juvenile offenders in order to ensure their success upon reentrance to society.

The inside of one of Connecticut’s juvenile detention centers

Much of the time, kids like these do not have the same privileges or family supports that many of my classmates and I have been fortunate enough to grow up with. Many come from low-income communities where high rates of violent crime cause great stress for children and usually lead to ongoing mental health issues throughout life. During this unit, we learned the importance of providing resources for children and adults living in these communities, as well as for currently sentenced offenders to ensure they can go on to live productive lives upon their release. Thanks to this class and others I have taken, I am very cognizant of the many negative social consequences the criminal justice system can create. Now through my internship, I am learning what can be done in real time to help individuals on a case-by-case basis.

While these supports may not have been in place for our client at the time of his arrest, his lawyer, social worker, family, and many others have been working for years to help him get out and go on to live a meaningful life like everyone deserves.

Post 1: My Summer Internship at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau

My first day of work!

This summer, I have the great opportunity to intern at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau in Cambridge, MA. Founded in 1913, the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) is the oldest student-run legal services program in the country. The Bureau is committed to responding to the legal needs of low-income and marginalized populations in the Greater Boston area. Providing free quality legal representation, their free legal services encompass varied areas of law including family law, housing law, wage and hour law, government benefits, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status matters. As one of Harvard Law School’s clinical programs, the Bureau is comprised of eight clinical instructors and nearly fifty students. During the summer, the Bureau has a summer counsel consisting of twenty fellows who are all in their first or second year of law school. HLAB aims to train student attorneys who will advocate vigorously for their clients and respond to cases in a manner that addresses the systemic inequalities that are the causes of poverty. Through HLAB’s invaluable work, individuals in the Greater Boston community are able to access quality legal representation, regardless of their financial status.

The Bureau

As an intern at the Bureau, I have a variety of administrative responsibilities and tasks. I am responsible for answering all incoming calls and directing callers to their destinations, as well as sorting mail and recording correspondence. As a Spanish speaker, I am also called upon to assist in translating documents and interpreting phone calls and meetings with clients. Additionally, I assist counsel members in any legal research they may need for their cases, retrieve court records as needed, organize and file records, and enter record data into our database.

While it may appear to be a minor task, filing and entering record data is instrumental to keeping the Bureau running smoothly. As graduating students transfer cases, it is integral that the next student attorney assigned to the case is able to understand all parts of the case so that they may advocate for their client to the best of their ability. Filing is a large part of my role at the Bureau, and I am currently undertaking a sizable filing project. This entails sorting through case files and checking to see that all necessary documents are in place, inputting them into our database, and finally filing them in our deposition room.

Notable alumni at the Bureau include Michelle Obama, Deval Patrick and Supreme Court Justice William Brennan

While several of my duties at the Bureau are administrative, by working closely with summer counsel members, I am gaining great insight into what it truly entails to be a lawyer and a student in law school. It has been fascinating to learn from my exposure to legal documents and other components of casework. As a student who is interested in immigration law, it has been the most interesting by far to see supporting documents sent from the Department of Justice on behalf of clients for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status matters.

By performing various tasks and administrative duties, I work to support the Bureau and assure that our organization runs with ease. Working to ensure that the logistics of the organization are well maintained, the Bureau is able to run efficiently and fulfill its mission. Through supporting marginalized populations of the Greater Boston area by providing free legal representation, the inequalities among these populations will be reduced drastically. If we can address these cases from a systemic viewpoint, we can begin to understand the systemic inequalities that drive the legal needs of these populations and perpetuate poverty, and we can ultimately work to create lasting and effective change.

Danielle Bertaux ’20

Post 2: Families Belong Together! My Time at the ACLU of Utah

Even though I still have three more years at Brandeis, I have already begun to learn many critical concepts, theories, and ideas that apply to the real-world. Legal studies, one of my favorite departments so far, introduces the principle of due process as a basic protection that is consistently violated by the court system, police officers, and school administrators when a conflict arises. Due process is a legal requirement that the state must respect all the rights owed to a person. During my freshman year, I analyzed cases under the framework of due process to determine how a judge’s language or court conduct could better protect the fairness and constitutional rights of the person involved. This same strategy can be found here at the ACLU of Utah. 

Under the banner of the Know Your Rights campaign, the ACLU of Utah strives to make the Bill of Rights accessible to everyone. No matter who you are, you should know your rights as a student, as a protester, as a voter, or as a prisoner. Due process is a key component of how the government treats people who express their constitutional rights. From the treatment of incarcerated persons to the restrictive legislation that inhibits a woman’s reproductive choice, the desire for fairness and impartiality influences our everyday thoughts. 

With all of this in mind, I have been investigating reproductive rights for minors, specifically Utah’s judicial bypass statute for parental consent and notification if a minor seeks an abortion. What may seem like a simple and expedited process can in reality expose a frightened minor to unnecessary embarrassment and humiliation at the hands of biased judges and incompetent guardians. Jane’s Due Process, an organization that aids minors in legal representation and spreads awareness on judicial bypass, exposes the difficulties that minors experience when seeking an abortion without parental consent and or notification. Many states will make what is commonly known as the “escape route” as complicated as possible. In Utah, the majority of teenagers have no knowledge of their options or ability to bypass parental involvement. By researching the tools other states employ to connect with youth, I am compiling strategies that the ACLU of Utah can use to launch a future Judicial Bypass Project. 

However, reproductive rights for minors is not the only issue that encounter constitutional roadblocks. The ACLU of Utah organized a rally to protest the Trump administration’s new immigration policy to separate children from their parents if they cross the border illegally. This policy is also being applied to families seeking asylum at the southern border, which triggered an ACLU lawsuit earlier this spring. For asylum seekers, this new policy of family separation violates their rights to due process; they are not being treated the same as others seeking asylum who cross the border at a different location. Other examples of due process violations include unreasonable searches such as entering a home without a warrant, limited access to a competent attorney, and cruel or unusual treatment by the corrections system. 

#FamiliesBelongTogether Rally on June 1, 2018; Photo courtesy of ACLU of Utah

While examining all of these issues and their relation to due process, I realized that when one group’s rights are restricted, everyone is at risk. It’s important to combat all forms of private and public forms of discrimination in order to hold judicial agents accountable in keeping all processes equitable. 

Recently, the ACLU of Utah participated in the annual Salt Lake City Pride Festival and Parade. During the march, a large group of ACLU staff, interns, and volunteers walked together in solidarity for LGBTQ rights. I was able to act as an ambassador for the ACLU of Utah by volunteering at the festival and answering questions and handing out fun ACLU of Utah swag!

Selfie of me and my sisters after marching at the Pride Parade with the ACLU of Utah!
ACLU leading the Pride Parade! Photo courtesy of Utah Pride Festival

Post 1: Seeking Justice in Worcester County

My name is Andrea Bolduc and I am a rising sophomore studying Politics, Legal Studies, and French Language. This summer I am interning at the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office in Worcester, Massachusetts. I am working in Community Outreach and have also been paired with an Assistant District Attorney.

The DA’s Office has two missions: to seek justice for the victims of crime through fair prosecutions and to prevent crime through community outreach programs.  The DA’s Office prosecutes felonies and

This internship is especially important to me because it is a way to serve my community in Worcester County.

misdemeanors, such as arson, homicide, domestic and/or child abuse, gang activities, and financial crimes. Several specialized units, led by Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs), work together to prosecute cases in court.  The DA’s Office is active in community outreach programs and offers quality victim advocacy efforts.

 

 

For community outreach, myself and several other interns contact schools and police stations across Worcester County and try to establish outreach programs for all age groups on topics ranging from bullying prevention to the opioid crisis. This past week, we traveled to a local Boys and Girls Club and helped the Outreach Coordinator give a presentation on bullying prevention and cyber safety to several groups of kids.

It was interesting to see how, even though the message (follow the Golden Rule, telling a trusted adult is not the same thing as being a “tattle-tale”, never disclose even seemingly insignificant information about yourself to a stranger online, etc.) was consistent across age groups, the delivery evolved as the audience matured. This demonstrates the importance of reaching out to community members of all ages as a means of prevention. By establishing a positive relationship with the community, the DA’s Office is able to equip even the youngest child with the tools to keep themselves and others safe.

The exterior of the Worcester County District Courthouse.

 

I also serve as an aid to an Assistant District Attorney. Their job is to prosecute cases on behalf of the Commonwealth. My ADA focuses on cases that appear in the Central District Court. Each ADA will be assigned around 200 cases per year, so there is a lot of work to do to prepare for each one. I assist my ADA in pretrial preparation, where I help them organize discovery (police reports on the incident, relevant documents and information about the defendant), and evidence. Because a fair trial is essential, the prosecution and defense are in constant communication with one another during preparation. If my ADA doesn’t need any specific task done at the moment, I can assist other ADAs, which means that I have been getting exposure to a breadth of different cases. I can also observe different proceedings around the courthouse, such as arraignments, trials, and sentencing. The amount of work that goes into ensuring a fair trial for each defendant, while also maintaining a commitment to the laws that make our society safer, has given me a greater appreciation for our legal system.

My goal for this internship is to develop an understanding of how the law works in practice. By helping lawyers conduct research for their specific cases, it is my hope that my time at the DA’s Office will also provide me with some direction in terms of the careers through which to pursue my interests. I have always wanted to be involved in an actual case, and this summer I have the opportunity to immerse myself in legal research and trial preparation.

Stay up to date with the work that the DA’s Office does in the community and read up on cases currently making their way through the court!

 

 

Post 2: My Second Week at The Quad Manhattan

While at Brandies, I have felt an emphasis on the lesson that “fair does not mean equal.” Every person has different sets of strengths and challenges that affect how they are able to maneuver the world around them. More than that, Brandeis has taught me that it is not okay to just understand that fair does not mean equal; you have to do your best to create an environment where everyone can meet their highest potential. I am consistently inspired by my fellow students coordinating rides to every Women’s March, posting about rallies calling for the end of ICE separating children from their families, and general support for each other on campus.

This lesson is extremely relevant at The Quad Manhattan. All of the psychosocial interns have spent the last two weeks pouring over each child’s file and reading all possible information to give us the best sense of what each camper’s goals and strategies should be for the summer. Everything from DSM diagnosis to favorite books is noted by staff to create a personalized plan for each camper. As we have been setting up classrooms, we look into therapy notes to see what type of “fidgets” or other sensory tools will help each child, as well as what type of visual aids or strategies will be most useful. The reason every aspect of The Quad Manhattan is so personalized is because of this idea that fair does not mean equal. If the program was less personalized and gave each child with Autism Spectrum Disorder or ADHD the same accommodations, the program would be equal but not fair, and wouldn’t give each kid the same chances of success.

Handmade Zones of Regulation sign for my classroom

This idea of fair does not mean equal allows me to contextualize my work in terms of social justice issues because it doesn’t just speak to allowing the kids to thrive within The Quad Manhattan, but helps us teach them how to have the best life possible when they are not in a specialized program. This idea of fair does not mean equal allows our kids to take not only their personalized strategies with them, but the ability to advocate for themselves. Once they graduate high school and either enter college or the work force, the understanding that it is okay to ask for extra help and the knowledge of what type of extra help they need will help these Twice Exceptional kids live their best lives possible.

One of the ‘Nooks’ that is in each classroom. Each is filled with bean bags and ‘fidgets’ to give kids a place to calm down when they are having a hard time.

I have loved the opportunity to create this personalized “fair does not mean equal” based programming for The Quad Manhattan, not only because I believe it is the right thing to do, but because it has given me a crash course in the world of practical psychology. I have learned so much about how to take general information from multiple sources that often times have conflicting information and create an action plan. We have our first day of camp on Monday and I am looking forward to learning how to adapt the plans we have made based on the new information we learn in person about each of our campers.

Post 2: Fighting Education Inequity with 826 National

As an Education Studies major, so much of what I learn in my classes is reflected in the work 826 National does. Education inequality takes many forms, and 826 National has taken a writing-centered approach to improving overall education outcomes for their students.

The Ed Studies department loves to talk about “gaps”. In particular, we frequently discuss both the achievement gap and the opportunity gap. At their core, these terms refer to the ways inequality and inequity manifest themselves in our education systems. The achievement gap refers to the unequal distribution of educational results — test scores, general grades, ultimate level of education — between groups. The opportunity gap is the inequitable distribution of resources and opportunities — access to experienced teachers, rigorous coursework, safe environments — that create the achievement gap. From a social justice perspective, these inequities in education serve as the foundation for so many other social injustices, from the effects of the school-to-prison-pipeline to cycles of poverty.

There is much debate about the best ways to approach closing these gaps, but I’m going to focus on the strategies 826 National has incorporated into their work. As a primarily writing-centered program, they focus on creating curriculum that is challenging AND engaging for students who often do not see themselves or their cultures reflected in traditionally white, eurocentric lesson plans. When educational opportunities are actually engaging students, the learning comes far more naturally.

Image credit to Afterschool Alliance

One of the many inequities facing students actually happens outside the classroom. After school opportunities like extracurriculars and tutoring are typically only available for those who can afford them. This after school time is important for long-term in-school achievement, and many kids are pushed out of school because there is simply no safe, engaging space for them after school closes. For this reason, 826 programming is free. Free access to fun, safe, research-based tutoring and workshops for students in underserved communities helps ensure that these young people are not left behind as more affluent students head to their private tutoring sessions.

Additionally, research shows that individualized student attention enhances student outcomes. In the media, we hear about this as the need for smaller class sizes. And while low student-teacher ratios is a goal we should certainly be working toward, 826 National recognizes that right now this is not possible, especially in urban school settings (where it is arguably needed the most). Instead, 826 chapters commit to low student-volunteer ratios in their after school programs and workshops. Even if a student is one of thirty-five in the classroom all day, at their local 826 center they work with a volunteer in groups of one or two students per volunteer. This individualized attention in the afternoon re-engages a student in their work and gives them the time and resources they need to succeed in school.

Access to resources, individualized attention and help, and the right to explore one’s creativity are the cornerstones of success for 826 National’s students. Understanding these principles is essential for the work I do at the National office. My tasks involve working with the local chapters to provide the support and the resources they need to adequately engage students. So while I am not working directly with these students myself, I would not be able to properly work with other chapters without an understanding of the educational barriers that our students face nationwide.

-Katie Reinhold, ’19

Post 2: Lessons of a Budding Activist

Social justice and the values that naturally accompany it were rarely on my mind before I came to the Brandeis campus. I thought that being giving and kind in my own life was enough to help make this world a more just and peaceful place. However, Brandeis has removed the white privileged wool over my eyes and showed me the various ways I was complicit in the oppressive structures upon which my world rested. It was a difficult transition realizing that good intentions were not enough. Having to check myself for my unconscious biases and confront the guilt that came with the epiphany of my willing ignorance was overwhelming, but it also lit a flame under me. I was led to advocacy, activism, and for the first time I felt that I could actually be a part of a lasting solution.

Working at the North American Indian Center of Boston this summer forced me through another reexamination of my privilege in terms of becoming an ally. My desire to become a part of the solution and to right the wrongs of my ancestors was met with a wall formed by generations of built up distrust. Humbling as it was, this experienced awakened me to the unforgiving opposition this organization and the whole of Indian Country faced. After colonial wars, slavery, assimilation camps, broken treaties, and marches to ever-shrinking reservations, over five hundred Native American tribes have still survived but at a heavy cost.

The result of our colonialist history has led the Native American community into another losing battle against a government and people who think very little of the struggle they face.  After over hundreds of years of resources, land, and cultural identity being ripped away from the tribes, they have been forcibly reliant on government assistance. In the new administration, for example, NAICOB has to fight against other Native American tribes and non-profit organizations for the same money to provide support for their communities. Under this new structure, tribes can no longer sustain themselves in the manner they had before the colonization of the Americas by European settlers. The sovereignty of which Native American communities have full claim is hollow to the government that implicitly controls them.

It was difficult to observe the heartbreaking history and current struggles my coworkers at NAICOB and their communities had to live with. At times I wondered if my existence working with them was an extension of the colonial perpetrators, infiltrating my way into the Native American community as some sort of white savior. However, I recognized there was a balance. I could be a part of the solution, not by preaching, but by listening, absorbing the stories, and setting fire to the neutral ignorance in my community. I can bring back all of my experiences to Brandeis and share with my fellow students so as we move forward with social justice we can be more aware of our place and our role in creating a better future for us all.

Appeal to the Great Spirit by Cyrus E. Dallin           (American, 1861–1944)

Post 2: Connecting Knowledge with Action at BridgeYear

 

BRIDGEYEAR

One of the biggest realizations I had during my time at Brandeis came while taking Professor Wallace’s class, Sociology of Race, Gender and Class.

The class used a variety of media to analyze how race, class and gender as axes of identity and inequality create, and even recreate, forms of domination and subordination in schools, labor markets, families, and the criminal justice system. It was in this class that I was able to learn about the term intersectionality.

As most of you probably know by now, intersectionality, in its most straightforward form, refers to the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. After quite some time of self-evaluation, I was able to own the word. Intersectionality is more than just a buzzword; it is a way of life, and one of the only things I can do is to accept it and help others realize the strength that comes from that word. Under-represented students currently facing the effects of their unique, personal intersectionalities need to understand that there are resources out there for them.

I don’t mean to sound preachy or anything like that; I know I am not the only one who has had this realization. However, it is important for me to provide under-represented students with the tools to succeed in our current society. I feel that I was very fortunate during my high school years to have been guided throughout the entire college enrollment process. I am also aware that not every student is presented with such an opportunity.

This is the reason why I believe BridgeYear’s work is truly important. At BridgeYear, rather than concentrate on the overly supported top 25% of students, we place our resources on the other 75% of students. These are the students that are often times forgotten because they do not take AP classes, perform the best on their tests, or participate in a number of clubs. Through personal one-on-one advising, we make sure our students understand the exact steps necessary in order to either enroll into community colleges or partake in apprenticeship programs.

Even though I have only been advising students for about a month now, I already feel like I am having an impact on them. A good number of our students have been very grateful for the tips and reminders they receive from the BridgeYear team of advisors. I am delighted to say that I feel as if I am walking the same steps my mentors took in order to guide me to where I am now. My only hope is that the students I am advising realize their potential and become the kind of young professionals our society truly needs.