Midpoint at the Red Cross in Puerto Rico

Hi Everyone!

Last time I wrote here, the Red Cross was responding to the Orlando shooting back in June. After a couple of weeks, the office slowed down and went back to the original environment, busy but not stressful! We had a lot of home fire prevention campaigns and even more pillowcase talks. In case you have forgotten, the fire prevention campaigns seek to prevent home fires by going into communities, usually low-income communities, and installing smoke alarms. We team up in groups of two or three people and go house to house saying that we are from the Red Cross and that as part of our home fire prevention campaigns we are installing smoke alarms. While a volunteer gathers the information of the person we are helping, another installs the smoke alarm. These campaigns are extremely helpful and important because it allows the Red Cross to do the outreach and help people that may not be able to leave their communities and seek the Red Cross. By going into people’s home, we make sure that our services are being offered and utilized by the community. While the pillowcase talks are about disaster prevention geared towards young kids from second to sixth grade. The talks are called this because we give the kids a pillowcase where they can put important things such as water, food, emergency contacts etc in case of an emergency. Being part of presenting the talks has been one of my favorite parts of my internship because I really enjoy interacting with young kids.

Very tired after a home fire prevention campaign in Salinas, Puerto Rico!

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One of the homes I went to in the fire prevention campaign had tons of chickens!

Here are just some.

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These events happened in towns outside of the capital, which is really good because it shows that the Red Cross is helping people throughout the island and not just in the capital. It also shows that volunteering is very important because these programs cannot be done without the work of volunteers. With their help, the Red Cross has the capacity to offer its services all around.

Last week, we had a lot of rain that caused floods. Although this type of disaster is more common from August-November because of hurricane season, it was a great privilege to be part of the response team of the Red Cross. I am sad that I wont be in Puerto Rico during hurricane season to see more of the disaster response. How would you participate in it?

One thing I’ve noticed about the people that work in the Red Cross Puerto Rico chapter is that they know how to manage stress and emergencies. While I understand that this is part of their job, it’s a quality that I really admire and have tried to gain. I’ve never seen anyone yell, or shut someone out because they are too busy.  The Red Cross staff is always looking for volunteers and extra help and will take the time to explain things. It’s also been really good to be part of this department because I’m learning how to apply this to my own life. If something happens, you have to respond and not spend time over thinking or getting stressed out. It’s also been very interesting to be in this environment because most of the people who work here are women (there are only two men). Generally, women tend to get more stressed out but it’s been very refreshing and eye opening to see women handling disaster situations. I feel very empowered to have such great role models.

I’m grateful for this opportunity and hope that the good work continues!

 

Claudia Roldan ’18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relaxed and On a Mission

I love the environment at One Mission, it is one of the major reasons that I wanted to return for a second summer. The office has a very relaxed feel to it. On the average summer day there are only about 4 people in the office, keeping it quiet and quaint. Due to the size, or lack thereof, I have gotten to know and work with everyone and that is something I greatly appreciate. Over the course of the summer I have been able to help everyone with at least one project and get their feedback on my work. I have also been able to get a deeper insight into each person’s role in the organization.

Chemo Duck
One of my favorite One Mission programs is the Chemo Duck program at Boston Children’s Hospital. Chemo Ducks are cute, cuddly companions for kids battling cancer. They were developed with the help of child life specialists and medical professionals, the Chemo Duck Program helps introduce children and families to their new life and encourages healing through the power of play therapy.

The World of Work has differed from university/academic life in multiple ways. First, work stays at work, at least for me. The minute I walk out the door, all of my One Mission tasks are over for the day, unlike at school when I always have more studying and work to do for classes. Working is also more collaborative than school. At school I have to be self driven to my own success, but at work, if I am slacking then that affects the jobs of all of the other employees and the reach of the organization. Another big difference is commute. During the school year, I live on campus, but during the summer I am commuting to my internship. I spend 40 minutes to an hour every day driving to work and another 40 mins – 1 hour driving home, compared to my less than 10 minute walk across campus to class.

A big skill that I am building as a result of my internship at One Mission is how to write professional letters to companies proposing partnerships and/or asking for donations. I have been working on a formal proposal for a partnership with an organization for the past few weeks and have also written a few shorter letters to companies. Regardless of what career path I pursue after graduation, the skill of writing a formal letter and creating a thorough professional proposal is a great asset.

The reason that I applied to intern at One Mission initially last summer is because that I want to work in this specific field. My goal is to work for a pediatric cancer based non-profit, preferably one that focuses on programs more than research, and that is what I found in OM. (To learn about OM programs check out their website http://onemission.org/how-we-help/). The skills I am learning in branding, outreach, social media marketing, and many other things, is invaluable in my future career path. Interning in the type of organization that I want to work in helps me build applicable skills daily and is giving me a realistic insight into what I may be doing in the future.

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I have posted all that you see here and much more, make sure to check it out to find out what One Mission does!

If you’re interested in following us on Twitter you can at https://twitter.com/buzzforkids and Instagram at @buzzforkids. I currently control our Instagram account and will continue to until the end of my internship, so like all you want

Jen Rossman

Continuing my Internship at Lawyers for Children

In the past couple of weeks at Lawyers For Children, I have gotten to meet and work with many different clients that were assigned to the social worker I’m shadowing this summer. I find meeting with clients at the Manhattan Family Court before their court appointments to be particularly rewarding. LFC makes sure to leave time before court to speak to the children they’ll be representing to make sure all parties are on the same page about the child’s most recent circumstances. It is during these meetings that I see clearly the way Lawyers For Children’s work touches their clients. Instead of going into the court room, telling the judge what the child wants, and leaving, LFC takes the time to get to know their clients and why they want what they do. These pre-court meetings have shown me the difference between blind representation and informed advocacy.

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“Creating a Community of Care: Fostering Emotional Wellness for LGBTQ Youth” Hetrick Martin Institute

In honor of LGBTQ Pride Month in New York City, I had the privilege of attending a summit hosted by Hetrick Martin Institute and a panel of youth advocates from an organization called “You Gotta Believe”. The summit brought together hundreds of advocates for youth in New York City to discuss ways to create safe spaces for LGBTQ youth (an especially vital conversation after the tragedy in Orlando, FL earlier this summer.) Attending the meeting with foster care children in mind, the Youth Advocate I’m working with and I discussed with other advocates from different organizations the difficulty foster care youth have in finding stability in general, and how this struggle is intensified for those who are LGBTQ identifying. Often times, these kids face rejection from foster homes and from other foster children in their placements because of their sexuality or gender identity, making it more difficult for them to settle into new places.

The work environment of my internship is different from university life in that, at LFC, everyone I’m surrounded by has similar goals in mind to make things better for the children LFC represents. At school, a lot of what we learn about is broad and large-scale, but at LFC I’m exposed to a tiny fragment of a small city and get to see the full effort employees put in every day, and the small levels in which change is needed. At LFC I’m developing skills in talking to and listening effectively to people of all ages and backgrounds, and learning to appreciate the importance of personal narratives. For many children in care who are moved from place to place, one of the most central, stable things they possess is their story.

At the You Gotta Believe discussion, called “Nobody Ages Out,” adolescents who have recently aged out of the foster care system shared some stories about their experiences in care. In NY, youth can legally sign themselves out of care at 18, but officially transition out at 21. The youth present at this month’s meeting were LGBTQ identifying youth who shared their experiences tied to coming out to foster parents and other children in their placements. It was very clear to me after this conversation that there is a lot that needs to be changed in the NY foster care system.

The youth on the panel disclosed that foster care children are often left in the dark with regards to their placements and a large percentage of them have no warning or time for preparation when they find out they’re switching placements or need to move. LFC has a specialized policy and litigation task force that works on getting laws, such as the ones that allow for kids to be moved with no warning, changed and updated for foster care youth. I had the opportunity to accompany one of the attorneys on the litigation task force to a New York City counsel meeting that was being held to discuss some proposed bills on foster care reform. The proposed bills aimed to address some of the issues in ACS policy that make it difficult to keep track of the housing and education choices of youth who’ve aged out of care.It was interesting to hear the counsel members question the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) about some of the areas in which they are falling short. The counsel will be holding a vote on bills that will make it necessary for ACS to follow youth in care, send out surveys to gather accurate statistics about foster care youth high school graduation rate, and follow up on the whereabouts of youth who’ve aged out of care.

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New York City counsel building decorated for pride month and hosting a press conference with the foster care youth who spoke at the meeting.

 

Rachel Geller, ’18

Social Work WOW Fellow

Midpoint at Verité

As I reach the halfway point in my internship, things are beginning to pick up at Verité.  Deadlines are rapidly approaching for some projects, while other projects are just being started.  My fellow interns and I have finally become fully comfortable with our roles and responsibilities at Verité, and have learned how to manage our time surrounding those responsibilities.

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Entrance of Verité

I have lived in Amherst, MA, for the majority of my life, so I did not expect to experience it differently throughout the course of my internship.  However, the research I have done this summer has altered how I view the world, including how I see my small hometown. After being at Verité, I have become more inclined to take into account the nature and extent of each individual’s rights, specifically labor rights, whether I am buying produce from a local family farm or am buying food at a mega supermarket chain.

My emotions at the office are more dichotomous.  On the one hand, I spend my time at work researching abhorrent topics such as child labor and human trafficking in an attempt to eventually contribute to the eradication of those human rights abuses. Read the 2016 Trafficking Report here

On the other hand, the people who surround me at Verité are not simply co-workers; rather, they are a community of people who provide one another with support—whether it is career-based or emotional.  I am incredibly thankful to be surrounded by such genuinely good and caring people, who not only push me to learn new skills and information, but who also take the time to sit down with me and hash out any questions I may have.

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The Main Conference Room

I have found both similarities and differences in the world of work in comparison to university and academic life. The main similarity is that research plays a major part in both settings. However, in a university setting, the research goes into some kind of project or paper, which is demonstrative of my academic capabilities and displays what I have learned. In the world of work, my research is for other people. Rather than hoping to get a good grade, I am instead striving to help others. The effects of this research are more immediately impactful. When at school, if I lose focus or procrastinate, it is generally only myself who is affected by it. If I poorly managed my time at my internship, I would be guilty of negatively affecting many. At Verité, each individual comes together to form a community. We work together on projects and ideas, so losing focus is not an option if one wants to keep up. (Check out Verité’s monthly newsletter!)

My time at Verité has allowed me to expand my skillset. This internship has been my first office job, so spending all my time at a computer has been an adjustment. Prior to Verité, I often had trouble managing multiple projects and tasks, and would become overwhelmed. However working in an office has taught me effective ways to organize myself and manage my time. While working in an office is not necessarily what I want to do in the future, it has been an important and valuable experience.

Georgia Nichols, ’18

Progress: Halfway Through my Internship with Cornerstone

It’s been four weeks since my internship has started and I have learned a lot about the organization I am working with, Cornerstone Church of Boston, and myself. Living in Boston to pursue this internship has opened my eyes about this city. Compared to living at Brandeis, the shift from a suburb to urban environment showed me a different side to the city. Now, I am more comfortable saying that Boston is my home, because after all, I have spent 11 months out of the past year.

One aspect of future pastoring and this internship is meeting with people. This job is less about logistics and office work, but more about building relationships in order for the community to grow stronger. Because I live in the middle of the city now, the accessibility to public transportation makes it so much easier to meet up with people and to talk with them. I realized that if I want to go down this potential career path, then I would have to get a car, either in Boston or in Chicago. With me being an intern at the moment, it is a lot easier for people to come meet me where I live. But if my living conditions were not as favorable as right now, it would be a lot more difficult to meet up with people. A good portion of these meetings are with pastors and other leaders within the community. This is to ensure that there is communication within leadership and everyone knows where we are in our lives, socially, academically, and most importantly spiritually. To have the opportunity to share my life with others and them to share their lives really gives me a good grasp on being a pastor in the future and makes me even more excited to go down this career path.

If i were to describe how this internship is different from academic life at Brandeis, I would say that the only difference is location and people I am involved with. In a way, the same things I am doing in the internship should carry on to my life when I am even at Brandeis. Since my internship entails a job past 9-5 everyday, and is “fieldwork” in a sense, there should be no difference in the way I live during the internship compared to at college. However, Brandeis does not offer theology courses for Christianity and other courses for my career, so I would have to study these things independently, which I am fine doing.

Since I have been given leadership roles within certain ministries, I have scheduled events for the College students, and have led Sunday Service band few times as well. One event that I scheduled this summer was a Bowling Outing with the college students! I planned all the logistics for it. In a way, it was my first major leadership responsibility as a College ministry leader. It went really well and achieved goal of connecting with students and having fun!

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As someone who has leadership positions on campus during the school year, my skills have been able to carry on into the internship. However, I believe that this internship is helping me be able to become a better leader and organizer in the next school year. I am excited to close out the internship and put forth as much effort as possible for the next few weeks!

Daniel Choi

Mid-point Reflections

It’s hard to believe how quickly my time at the ADL is flying by, and that it’s already time to write my mid-point blog post. Having now completed more than 115 hours at the Anti-Defamation League, I feel far more comfortable, knowledgeable, and inspired than when I first began my internship. I’ve grown to really love working at the ADL and already feel nostalgic about having passed the mid-point mark. In this post, I’ll share some of the highlights, challenges, and events that have made this experience so transformative.

 
Last time I checked in, I had just started my internship. Since then, I have participated in civil rights committee meetings, helped draft an op-ed to a Florida newspaper, and assisted with projects relating to the transgender bathroom law. I attended ADL’s annual board meeting, where I learned about “No Place for Hate,” a program dedicated to combating bullying in schools. I’ve continued to speak with witnesses and victims of discrimination who wish to file reports with the ADL. I’ve conducted media searches, helped in the education and outreach department, and interviewed participants of ADL’s trip to Israel.

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I have infinite respect and admiration for the ADL staff. They remain committed and steadfast in their fight for social justice, actively working to combat discrimination. Initially, I found it difficult to be immersed in the discrimination, anti-Semitism, and racism that still plagues our world; but as I spent more and more hours at the ADL, something else occurred to me: that meaningful efforts are being made to combat the hate, and that there is still so much love in the world.

 
The skills I’ve developed throughout this internship have already proven to be critically important in my academic, career, and life endeavors. By participating in civil rights committee meetings and engaging with highly intelligent people, I have grown more competent and capable. By speaking with victims and witnesses of discrimination, I have practiced compassion and empathy. By drafting letters and op-eds, I am enhancing my writing abilities. Most important, it has reaffirmed for me that I thrive on growth and contribution.

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I’ve taken many courses at Brandeis that delve deeply into the inequities that exist in healthcare, government, and media. This internship has made everything I’ve learned at school come alive. The biggest difference between academic and work life is the incredible sense of contribution I feel each day at my internship. I love knowing that my work is helping to make the world a better place. Like anything else, the world of work and the world of academics are what we make of them: in both universes, we have the ability to extract every lesson or orbit passively, choosing not to see the opportunities right there in front of us.

 
I am eternally grateful to Brandeis University, to the generous donors, and to the Anti-Defamation League for this extraordinary opportunity.

A Humbling Experience: Seeing the World From A Different View

Just in my time with The Fortune Society thus far, my experiences have already far surpassed any and all expectations I held for my internship before it began. The people I work for and with are some of the most genuine and driven individuals I’ve ever encountered; their unremitting desire to help others, despite the constant uphill battle, is a truly remarkable trait that makes this organization one-of-a-kind. In my contact with clients and staff thus far, one thing has become abundantly clear: a lot of people take a lot of things for granted. The fact that people can drive, gain employment with no clear discrimination, or even obtain individual housing or food, is now something I consider to be privileges rather than rights. To contextualize this idea, about a month ago I took a client to the Human Resources Administration to receive his food stamps benefits but was told he did not qualify due to his citizenship status (despite being in the country legally and even showing the staff proof of his legal status).

Another humbling event, or rather sequence of events, was a New York State Assembly hearing I attended in which the president of Fortune, JoAnne Page, testified along with others concerning housing barriers encountered by those with criminal justice system involvement. Within a couple weeks of the hearing, I attended a rally outside New York Governor Cuomo’s office to protest his reneging on a promise to construct 20,000 new supportive housing units over the next fifteen years with 6,000 of those coming in the next five. This was an issue that was explicitly mentioned by every individual who testified in front of the Assembly members.More information on his original promise is available here.

Rally outside Gov. Cuomo's office in New York City surrounding suppotive housing issues.
Rally outside Gov. Cuomo’s office in New York City surrounding supportive housing issues.

This summer, disregarding the obvious differences from my academic work, has contrasted from my experience at Brandeis because I’m able to observe concepts I’ve learned as theoretical, abstract ideas as real issues that impact real people. One particular course I took this past semester has really affected the way I perceive my experience with Fortune so far. As a seminar-styled course, we explored the ideas of justice and punishment in various fashions, including through historical context, literature, and even from a philosophical point-of-view. I find that I’m able to apply the concepts I’ve learned from this course to further delve into the intricate issues regarding the criminal justice system.

This is from an initiative Fortune held to inform their clients of their voting rights.
This is from an initiative Fortune held to inform their clients of their voting rights.

I’ve gained many things from my internship so far, but one of the most applicable to my future, whatever it may hold, is learning how to advocate for those who can’t do so for themselves.  In attending numerous events that included a call for action, the speakers have often taken personal experiences and applied them to others’ issues and subsequently systemic issues.  I find this to be a particularly effective because it takes an issue and makes it real, and one you can’t ignore.  I’ve also learned how to organize events to conduct studies.  Currently, along with others in the policy department, I’m coordinating a focus group to explore the unique needs of veterans with criminal justice involvement.  You can find out more about this project here.

My experience with The Fortune Society, even though I still have a bit to go, is undoubtedly an unforgettable experience that I will be able to apply to my life in the years to come.  I’m excited to see what’s in store for me for the rest of the summer!

Midpoint at Rosie’s Place

I can’t believe how quickly time has passed that I’ve now reached past the midpoint of my internship! I think a true mark of my time at Rosie’s Place so far is that it has felt like I’ve been working there for much longer than just five weeks. By now I am familiar with many of the names and faces of the guests and a number of them know my name too. I can walk through the doors at 9 AM already expecting what tasks I will need to do but never fully knowing what the day will bring.

Daily calendar of events

One impression about my new environment in the workplace is that no two days are ever the same. It is always busy, but some days the sign up list for the computers may be very long and other days the computers may not be as high in demand. There are also days when I get to step away from the front desk. For example, I have attended two trainings for the Social Justice Institute, a summer volunteer program for high school students. Generally it can be stressful and tiring working in such a fast-paced environment because I am trying my best to help as many people as possible. It can also be emotionally taxing when I encounter situations I can not help, and so I need to take care and not bring such feelings home with me.

The World of Work has shown me how much time I have in my university life in comparison to working 35 hours a week. While I still juggle classes, work-study, and clubs, I often have small breaks between everything to help me recharge. I have also noticed what it is like working in just one building rather than walking up and down campus to get to class, and how really important it is that I get the chance to outside for lunch and fresh air. The World of Work has made me aware of my age as well. I am so used to interacting with others around my age that I forget I am a still budding young professional who may not be as taken as seriously.

Home at the front desk

I am, however, building many skills as a result of my internship. I am learning how to better communicate with all people from different backgrounds, especially when answering the phone. I no longer hesitate as I used to when I had to answer the phone because I understand that it is okay to put someone on hold if I do not have all the answers right away. In anything I encounter whether is be academics or on/off campus involvement, I will know there is nothing wrong with asking questions. Certainly in my future career plans, I need not to put pressure on myself and stress myself out about getting everything right, no matter how good of a first impression I want to make when I start, It is only with time that I will learn and become more comfortable in my position.

Tina Nguyen ’17

Post 2: In the Midst of Girls’ LEAP

 

I am now in the thick of the Girls’ LEAP experience. In the past week, I have met more than 70 new girls! Each session contains a range of 15-20 girls and they all have their own vibe. Three of the groups are made up of girls aged 12-14 and the fourth group is composed of mid-teens. It is said that once girls reach about 7th grade, their self-esteem begins to drop. While I do not have before and after snapshots of the same girls, it is remarkably clear that the younger girls feel more comfortable volunteering and speaking in large groups. Before working with this older group, I was thinking that our program would run more smoothly with older students. The older girls/young women are more receptive to the class and understand more clearly why learning emotional and physical self-defense is worthwhile. But, as my supervisors have mentioned, potentially at that point it is too late to prevent an incident and their self esteem is already suffering, thus I am glad we work with a younger population too.

Most recently, I have been challenged by navigating my role within our team. There is an on-site lead teacher, other college Teaching Women and Teen Mentors. I am working on how to provide both positive and constructive feedback to my colleagues while maintaining respect for their positions. I believe these skills will be transferable to other work places as well as academic settings. I am also challenged by the content of our material, often needing time to reflect upon my own self-esteem and feelings. Also, I believe the charts we do with how to manage anger and conflict will positively contribute to the way I interact with all people. Looking forward to another awesome month!

Technology Consulting – Life outside the office

I did not let long working hours prevent me from enjoying the benefits of Dubai and warm weather (as you can see in the picture above – one of the sunsets with the Dubai skyline). One may notice that here everything is in progress, as if the authorities decided to build the city yesterday since numerous projects across Dubai are flourishing. Nowhere else I have I seen such harmony between contemporary style and the local culture. Dubai is a vibrant city with many things to do, especially in the evening.

Moroccan tea was one of the major discoveries and a favorite activity to relax after work (the best one that I tried was at the City Walk cafe, shall you ever visit). Since it is the month of Ramadan, it was very hard to notice many people on the streets – on top of that, Dubai isn’t the most popular destination in the summer due to its high temperatures – but it was very nice to walk around in a non-congested city meeting different people, mostly expats in their late 20s working in Dubai. One of the most interesting feelings was going to The Palm and while driving down to the one of the hotels for tea, imagining that several years ago the place I was driving on was nothing but ocean. All in all, Dubai has a very healthy, positive vibe, with a lot of energy originating from the young minded people populating it.

Post 2: From One Show to Another

Orpheus in the Berkshires closed on Sunday and I started rehearsals for And No More Shall We Part on Tuesday. With this transition from one show to another, came many changes. I went from a show with an 80 person cast to a show with a 2 person cast; from a show with community members who were acting for the first time to a show in which both actors have been in numerous plays, movies, and TV shows; and from a fun musical to an extremely serious play. Needless to say, my experience is going to be different in so many ways. Despite all of the changes, my responsibilities as an Assistant Stage Manager (ASM) will be similar.

When working on Orpheus in the Berkshires, I thought a lot about the importance of theater. Because work in the theater is often high stress, it is easy to forget why we do what we do. Seeing how much this experience meant to the members of the Berkshire community, made all of the hard times and late nights worth it. Additionally, this article talks about an actor who is a member Soldier On, an organization that helps homeless veterans, and how life-changing this experience was for her. Skills that I developed while working on Orpheus include anticipating problems before they arise, adapting depending on who you are talking to, and being extremely aware of everyone around you. These are skills that are important in stage management, but become even more necessary when you are working with a cast of 80 people. 

This picture captures some of the incredibly talented people that contributed to Orpheus in the Berkshires.
This picture captures some of the incredibly talented people that contributed to Orpheus in the Berkshires.

At Brandeis, the work is less focused on product than in the professional world, but a little less focused on process than the community engagement project was. Experiencing both sides of the spectrum, has allowed me to appreciate more why we do theater. Working at Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF) is more intense than my work in the Brandeis Department of Theater Arts. Yes, WTF is also an educational experience, but here you are expected to work alongside the professionals without a noticeable difference. The stakes are higher and as a result, mistakes have more of a significant impact.

One of the community actors painted a large version of our show poster.
One of the community actors painted a large version of our show poster.

 

I came to WTF to make sure that I wanted to pursue working at higher level theaters. This internship so far has confirmed this. Working alongside New York and even Broadway Stage Managers has proven to me that I want to strive to get to Broadway. I am learning a lot about what it means to be a successful ASM. At Brandeis, I have Stage Managed more than I have ASMed, so it is helpful to be able to work on the skills necessary for an ASM since that is what I will start out doing professionally. Next year at Brandeis as a Stage Manager, I will be able to better guide my assistants because of my work as an ASM and my observations of professional Stage Managers.

The Stage Management Team of Orpheus in the Berkshires.
The Stage Management Team of Orpheus in the Berkshires.

I am excited to see what the last month of my internship has in store for me. So far, I am loving every second at WTF and I look forward to continuing to work on And No More Shall We Part.

Hannah Mitchell ’17

Theater WOW Recipient

Post 2: Keeping On At SACHI

For the last month, every conversation that goes on long enough will eventually reach the topic of politics, except rather than American politics, which I’m confident speaking about, these conversations tend to involve British politics. This is in the wake of the recent referendum in which, with a margin of two percent, the UK voted to leave the European Union (I used this to help understand what happened:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887).  The aftermath has been chaotic, and despite my opinions on the topic, the experience has been a crash course for British politics.

These conversations mostly happen over lunch or coffee breaks, during which one person will stand up and ask everybody else in the office if they would like to join for tea or coffee.  The huge group that would then migrate to the kitchen includes people of all different levels in the “hierarchy” from the undergraduate researcher to the post-doc or lecturer.  It was difficult getting used to talking so casually to supervisors, but getting to know everybody has made me more comfortable with my position in the group and I’m not as nervous speaking with the supervisors.

The coffee machine
The coffee machine in its natural habitat

And of course, I work and have my weekly meeting with my supervisor.  Our meetings have progressed since I first started working. What began as brainstorming sessions, taking influence from similar projects like http://mariandoerk.de/edgemaps/demo/, have become more status update sessions and refocusing my direction as I take some form of ownership over the project.  Though, obviously, she has the final say, I’m not worried about bouncing different ideas by her or disagreeing with her.  

Because I work on the project every day, there are occasionally unforeseen issues that come up.  And if these issues are small, I manage them myself according to my own judgement, which is unfortunately occasionally flawed.  I enjoy the weekly meetings for the feedback.  While most of the time the feedback involves smaller tweaks to the work, sometimes we come to the conclusion that I’m going in the wrong direction (such as when I wanted to incorporate a timeline into the visualization).  That was difficult at first, taking a chance and being wrong, but I’ve stopped seeing these ventures as wasted time.

Very rarely are ideas entirely wrong, they’re mostly just inappropriate for the problem I’m solving or the current situation.  I’ve begun to write down most of my ideas for later use or to use for a different project. I’ve come back to some of the first ideas after I hit a wall. Even if I don’t use the exact idea, it puts me back in the mindset I had when I was first coming up with the concept, which is nice when I forget the idea and focus on some tangential part.

Here’s one of the earlier sketch ideas that were scrapped, but later used for parts of other parts of the project.

Sketches

I’ve started to use this “write down” thought process for things outside of work.  Here’s the page for this blog post:

Blog
Very few of these notes made it into this post

 

–Katherine Currier

Mid-Point Update – The Improper Bostonian

Now that it’s more than halfway through the summer, here’s an update on what I’ve been doing at The Improper Bostonian. First off, I’ve done a lot more writing, researching, etc. for stories to appear mainly on the website but also in the printed edition if it’s needed.

For example, I interviewed the Director of a new circus show at the Cutler Majestic Theatre by Les 7 Doigts de la Main, a Montreal-based offshoot of Cirque du Soleil, for a Q&A piece. Originally, this was just going to be published on the website but when the original Q&A piece that was set to run in the print edition fell through (the subject was unavailable I’m assuming, though I never heard a definitive answer to that), my piece filled that space. It was great to contribute and feel that I was helping more with the print edition than just fact-checking articles. Of course fact-checking is very important for every publication but there’s physical representation of that work. With the Q&A piece that ran in the front-of-the-book (which is basically the first half of the print edition, which has all the big feature stories), you could actually see my exact contribution. These clips are extra important because every publication, whether its an online blog/digital publication or a printed daily/weekly, wants to see clips from applicants. Building a personal portfolio of clips is vital to breaking into the editorial industry.

 

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While it might not seem like there would be any drawbacks to having your byline in the front half of the magazine, one annoyance did come out of this. This start-up energy/nutrition bar company has emailed me twice and also started following me on Twitter (PS: follow Hiatt on Twitter when I take the account over on August 9 and share about my day interning. I’ll try to refrain from tweeting about mid-90’s Disney films) to try and get me to write about their new product. Unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of pull with the magazine to get something about this energy bar in the magazine. Even if I did, I know nothing about their product to warrant covering it.

That’s a minor complaint and of course I can handle bizarre spam emails if my work gets published in the magazine. This wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill issue of The Improper my Q&A was featured in, it was the Boston’s Best Issue. I mentioned in my first post from my summer internship experience that I had started already fact-checking the blurbs about each winner. The most worthwhile aspect of working on this issue, in terms of community impact, is that I see how much pride these restaurants, shops, artists, etc. take in winning. Its great publicity for these firms first off, but I really got the impression when I reached out via phone or email to the winners—before they knew they won—to fact check their blurbs. I could only tell them that they were nominated for an award and they would have to check the issue to see if they won but they were excited at the possibility. I think the recognition of their hard work is what they appreciate the most, not the publicity or boost in clients.

It’s odd to know that I’m almost at the end of my time with The Improper. I’ve interned here since January and I’ve probably logged over 400 hours of work up to today. I have a month left and I want to make sure I get the most out of it. My main goal for the last few weeks I have is to solidify the relationships I’ve built with my supervisors and co-workers. The clips I’ve produced and the general experience I’ve had are great, but what makes any experience worthwhile is the relationships you take out of them. Specifically speaking, networking is a skill that can always be honed. Whether it’s while waiting for the Keurig machine in the office kitchen to finish my coffee or at an actual networking event, I’ve definitely gotten more comfortable in that scenario during this internship experience.

 


 

Comparing my working/interning experience with my academic life is difficult because I’ve never valued my academics in the way I value my work. Of course I work hard in classes and am attentive but I’ve always been more receptive to a work environment than the classroom because the fruits of my labor are much more tangible and immediate. Over the past year, I have been more focused on my future career and work than my coursework. The world of work comes pretty natural to me, though I never rule out that I could be missing something completely and don’t get it, as if I’m Richard Hendrix sitting on Bighead’s boat holding a prototype Hooli phone. Either way, I feel perfectly competent and capable to jump into the professional world once I’m finished with school.

Midpoint @ Supportive Living Inc

World of Work has differed from my university academic life because I become a more independent person. Leaving my home everyday to travel by car or public transportation to work forces me to rely on my own self for transportation. I have become a much more self motivated person by discussing with colleagues about what kinds of work I hope to pursue in the future because of my experience here.

An official picture of me and the other interns for Summer 2016 internship.

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Due to this internship, I have been able to participate in two research opportunities during my time at Supportive Living. My first research project involved evaluating the nutritional diets of residents at each of the houses. I have and will be conducting interviews with the staff and residents on what kinds of menus they have and the overall kitchen/dining experience by looking in the pantries and observing the meal times. My second research opportunity involves designing an ideal brain injury fitness center for a future house. I have to participate in more individualized research by looking into other successful wellness centers and looking into financial aspects. These opportunities for research have helped me develop my skills in communication. I have been able to go out of my comfort zone to actively network with other staff members to learn about their new positions at the organization and how they got to be there. In addition, I got to meet a fellow Brandeis alumni through my work. Her name is Laura Lorenz and she is a current visiting scholar at Brandeis working on research with some Brandeis graduate students at Heller. She came to talk to us about a photo voice project she worked on with some of the brain injury residents at the Douglas House. Her project involved giving cameras to the residents to take pictures of struggles in their lives that otherwise would not have been noticed by “normal” people. For example, there is one picture that is angled on the ground that shows a sharp ridge hill. From this perspective, the picture shows how difficult it is for wheelchair bound residents to navigate. I have also talked to Ms. Lorenz about possibly participating in some research with her, dedicated at understanding the financial opportunities for different programs and the effect finances have on the resident experience. Unfortunately, I would not be able to do anything until I came back from studying abroad this fall, but she said she was very interested in working with me in the future. She has allowed me the freedom to pursue any kind of independent study I am interested in, with hopes that I can find something I am personally passionate about and am motivated to work for everyday while I am with her.

A picture of fellow Brandeis alumni Dr. Laura Lorenz who has allowed me to work with her on an independent study this upcoming spring.

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As an HSSP major working at Supportive Living, I have been able to utilize my skills from interviewing friends and family members for papers in class to interacting with people from all kinds of organizations at work for research. Therefore, my work at Supportive Living has helped me immensely improve upon my communication skills. As a previously reserved and quiet student, course interviews on the experience of illness with family members have prepared me for interviews with work colleagues and even complete strangers. Also the fact that I already have experience talking with people of a specific disability/illness background (my interview with my father who deals with diabetes) has definitely helped me in interacting with the brain injury population. As I talk to people from various organizations, my skills in communication have helped me inquire about their backgrounds and current projects/missions. Thanks to these skills, I was able to further discuss with Dr. Laura Lorenz about her upcoming research project which I can hopefully be a part of one day. These communication skills are necessary in being able to learn about different career paths I can possibly take in the future and also learn from other more experienced veterans in other fields.

A picture of me with one of my residents for physical fitness

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Two Paths Diverged: Learning About Different Paths Towards Growth

Greetings from sunny California! While I do miss my East coast summer rain, I can’t say I miss having to make rainy day plans, especially with 20 (or more) energetic campers to entertain.

I’m writing this at the end of the fourth of seven weeks of camp and I can’t believe we’re so quickly approaching the end! I’m content with all that we’ve done so far and the relationships that we (my co-director, the counselors, and I) have formed with the campers living at the shelter. This past week was “Going Green” week at camp. We went on a hike, made leaf rubbings and stamps, and led the campers on a street cleanup around the shelter. All the kids were engaged and excited about the activities, which was encouraging to see. Over these past few weeks, I have come to get to know the kids and what is special and notable about each of them. They continue to surprise me with what they are interested in, what they’re not so interested in, and how they interact with each other and me.

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A sweet note from a camper

One of my favorite things about my internship is getting to be part of the community at Haven, even outside of my work with the campers. I speak to the parents about their kids, their housing searches, or their hometowns or home countries. I also have the opportunity to chat with the parents whose kids are too young for camp and spend time with direct services staff members who are dedicated, supportive, and knowledgeable. Every once in a while I pop into the main building for LifeMoves to meet with the administrative staff who are focused on the big picture and are able to give me some more insight into the organization as a whole and my small part of it.

At Brandeis I am a coordinator of the Waltham Group program, Hunger and Homelessness, a group that works with local organizations attempting to address the causes and effects of housing and food insecurity. We talk with our volunteers and community partners about how homelessness carries a stigma. As a society, we have learned to make assumptions about who is homeless, why they are in their situation, what they look like, how they act. The list goes on. It can be incredibly damaging to those individuals and families who are living without stable homes.

Through working with and alongside those who are experiencing homelessness, I am continually finding that there is no one way to be homeless and there is no one path to healing. In my orientation, the psychologist who is serving as the Vice President of Program and Services at LifeMoves spoke to us about how the organization must always “meet people where they’re at.” He explained that he often fields calls from frustrated clients upset that they were not being treated fairly, that their neighbor had it “better” than they. He recounted that he responds to these kinds of calls by letting the caller know that, congratulations, they had figured it out—the program is not fair! In other words, no two program participants follow the same path because each person needs something suited to the particulars of their situation. The National Coalition for the Homeless does a good job of explaining some of the causes of homelessness in this fact sheet. For some families and individuals, they can point to one of these headings as the root cause of their homelessness. For some, it is a more complex mix of many factors.

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The LifeMoves Model

I’ve found that this principle of different paths can extend to my work with the campers. Of course, each camper gets the same number of graham crackers or time on the bikes. However, some campers need extra attention to get the same results. For example, one camper might need a sticker chart that rewards her for saying goodbye to his mom without crying, while another camper might need to be assigned her own project to be in charge of in order to feel like she is being challenged. Some might want to sit and talk while some learn best by getting their hands and knees dirty on the soccer field. It’s been one of our largest tasks to adjust to these diverse needs, but it ultimately is leading to far better results.

I’m looking forward to what these next three weeks will bring and letting you know what I learn!

Mira McMahon ‘18

Midpoint at United for a Fair Economy

I am at the midpoint of my time at United for a Fair Economy and it feels like time is going by so quickly! The more I have adapted to the environment at UFE and the more I have become acquainted with the type of work I am doing there, the more I feel like a part of their community and it is hard to believe that I am halfway done with my internship. It feels like there is so much left to learn! Recently, I have been learning a lot about the finance side of non profit organizations. At first, I thought this would be more tedious and monotonous than the rest of the work I have been doing, but I have actually enjoyed it a lot because I feel like an integral part of the organization; the tasks I have been given are ones that if they were not completed, the organization would fail to run smoothly. For example, I have been in charge of all donation processing and deposits, as well as reconciling information regarding online donations in preparation for their upcoming audit. While I have been doing this, I have also been given projects that fit my interests such as creating an informational postcard to send out with some of their mailings regarding bequests. I feel very fortunate and grateful that I am being given projects and tasks that both fit my interests, teach me a lot, and also help UFE a lot. Feeling valued by the people who work at UFE has allowed me to become more passionate about the work I am doing as well as take notice to more real life issues that are relevant to UFE’s work. I have felt myself become more aware of economic injustices and feel a stronger need to fight for economic equality. Staff members periodically send articles or events related to economic justice through email as a way to keep us grounded in our work. For example, I was sent an article about internships and the fact that they are only provided to people with privilege (link to article here). Reading this article made me realize how grateful I am for the opportunities I have, and how unfair it is that not everyone is provided these opportunities, making UFE’s work so important. Similarly, I was sent an article about a protest led by immigrants against deportations (link to article here). Before working at UFE, I would have probably skimmed through this article and not given it a second thought, but after meeting people through UFE with heartbreaking stories of deportation and unequal rights as immigrants, this article sparked an anger in me that made me want to do my very best work while at UFE and spread the word about these injustices.

One of the many charts found on UFE’s website illustrating economic phenomenons that are causing inequality.

In this way, working at UFE is very different than academic life because the work is so real. In academics, a lot of what I learn comes from textbooks or lectures, and sometimes it is hard to remember that the things I am learning are reality when they are coming from words on a page or someone else’s voice. At my internship, however, I am constantly reminded that what I am doing matters because what I am doing is linked to real life people and situations. Rather than just reading about people who are experiencing economic justice, I am meeting them in person and hearing their personal stories. Rather than just having a professor tell me how to compile and analyze data in a spreadsheet, I am determining the best ways to do so for the present needs of the organization and creating reports that will be used to persuade real people to help others in need.

Another graphic produced by UFE in response to a policy in North Carolina, one of the states that they are expanding to.

Similarly, doing work that involves real people and real issues makes the work I am doing more prone to sudden changes or problems. Thus, this internship is teaching me how to creatively problem solve quickly and effectively in a way that I have never had to do before. In school, solving problems quickly and effectively is important, but only for my own success; at UFE, solving problems quickly and effectively could be the difference between getting a program funded that will help a lot of people in need, or having to cancel that program. This is a skill that I think will be useful in everything I do, whether that’s academics, work, or even interpersonal relationships and social situations. In addition, I am learning how to assert myself and ask for projects that I really want to do. This was scary at first, but my boss really appreciates it because it allows me to do work that I care about and thus will do a better job on. I look forward to the lessons I learn in the second half of my internship! 

Ilana Cedarbaum

 

Midpoint at ExpandED Schools

I am halfway through my summer internship at ExpandED Schools and have begun to hit a real stride with my role, team and workflow. I have developed a steady routine and my desk has accumulated lots of papers and clutter. I know what time I need wake up and leave for the bus, what I do for lunch, and how to budget my time after work. I take the bus and the commute usually takes about 45 minutes each way. On the ride I get to listen to my music and the Port Authority Bus Terminal is only a 2 block walk from my office which is perfect. I hit the ground running when I arrive to the office, work on projects until lunch with occasional meetings, and usually walk down the street to Bryant Park to parkenjoy a little bit of fresh air. After lunch I continue working on my projects and then check in with my boss to update her on my progress, ask questions, and receive any new assignments.

I also try and see friends after work about twice a week. In fact, one thing I find particularly nice about work life as opposed to academic life is that once my day is done I don’t have more work to do. There is no homework to complete, essays to write, or studying for tests. When I leave the office I just get to appreciate my time with the knowledge I put in a good days work.

As I have become more comfortable in my role I have had the chance to learn new things and expand my understanding of how my projects impact our mission. After the first few weeks I started sitting in on more meetings, including discussions about topics outside my specific role. I also went on my first site visit last week to one of the summer programs ExpandED Schools runs. It was really interesting to see firsthand how the work we do materializes into these programs. It was also really nice to interact with the students and hear how excited they were about the things they were learning.

site visitOne set of skills I have improved is my research abilities. I spend most of my day doing research and there have been some very difficult pieces of information to find. I have learned research requires immense patience, knowledge and creativity to use alternative paths to find the information I seek.

I have also improved my communication skills by conducting phone interviews to gather information which is the other substantial part of my job. I has taught me to be thoughtful, organized, and clear in my conversations with people.

This internship has been a wonderful learning process. I had a bit of a slow start with some of my projects this summer and learned how to ask my supervisor for additional opportunities in an open and respectful manner. I am also gaining a range of skills and experience. I am sure that my research skills will have a greater effect on my academic life, and that both my research and communication skills will be incredibly valuable and necessary in helping me reach my future career goals.

First Week at Modulus

This summer I’m living in an apartment with some friends in Brookline, Boston. Every day I walk the two miles to my internship at Modulus Studios, where I am furthering my education while pursuing a film degree at Brandeis. Modulus Studios provides high quality post production finishing services for broadcast, advertising and independent cinema. This includes color correction, sound design and authoring DVD’s for theatrical release. Modulus has clients all over the country, and works on a number of projects such as documentaries “Foreign Parts” and “Leviathan.” It is a small company, with less than a dozen employees, but their expertise in film post and audio post is difficult to match.

I have been reporting to a supervisor daily for a briefing on what is expected for my shift each day. Most of my time has been spent observing video and sound mixing sessions, learning through lynda.com and asking questions. I am becoming familiar with the work stations and the different types of software. I will restore stills or audio or video clips, set-up mix projects from OMFs and MOVs, output mixes and splits and QC final deliverables for projects and author and proof DVD’s. On top of the technical work, I will organize daily logs of work and other job info, help keep the studio tidy, clean and ready for client visits. This first week I have worked on some titles for a client’s project with my supervisor in an application called After Effects. After Effects is a motion graphics/special effects software used to animate titles and graphics often in 3D space. 

Through my internship with Modulus Studios, I hope to become proficient in multiple forms of editing software. I have experience working with some programs in the Adobe Creative Suite, but I am less familiar with other programs like Avid, Final Cut, Sony Vegas, etc. My supervisor informed me that Modulus deals with a range of clients who use many different editing applications, so employees need to be versed in many different software. If I am not limited to one program, that will make me a much more appealing candidate when applying to jobs next year. I’d also like to write more for the screen this summer, and focus on cinematography as well as directing. To direct, I need a keen eye for minute details in a film. Modulus doesn’t edit down films from raw footage; they receive nearly complete projects that they then perfect. At this point in time, I don’t need to learn how to edit down raw footage. I need Modulus to teach me the difference between quality audio and audio that needs work, or where color in a frame should be corrected. The films I have made in the past lack professional quality, but this summer I will use keen observational skills that I learn at Modulus to make my films look and sound more polished. The higher the quality of my film portfolio, the more I stand out as a job applicant throughout my career.

I am excited and looking forward to what is next with Modulus!

 

Modulus Audio room

A Summer of Hope: Thoughts on Working at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center

At the Esperanza, I enjoy not just working but living as a part of a community. Everything done here reflects the values of inclusion and community. One of the aspects of working at the Esperanza includes self-reliance. Since our community is predominantly working-class, many folks don’t have the privilege of paying someone for building maintenance. The interns spent a couple of weeks repainting walls after taking down an art exhibit. Everyone takes turn cleaning bathrooms or mopping before a performance, and we invite community members to help fold La Voz before mailing out the magazine.

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Photo courtesy of the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center. I’m on the scaffold.

As far as outside of the workplace, I already knew that San Antonio is extremely economically segregated, but my time at the Esperanza reminded me how true that is. Early on, the director and other staff members took us to different parts of town—Eastside near the Hayes Street Bride and the near Westside—to learn the history and conditions of people living them. Developers have started targeting the Westside, a predominantly Mexican/Mexican-American working-class side of town. Many cities have been hit with gentrification and displacement and San Antonio is no different.

Working in the real world back at home feels like more of a relief than working in college. Although I have to drive nearly everywhere I go (welcome to Texas), I know where I am and can often navigate without the assistance of GPS. My internship feels like a full time job, considering I spend more than forty hours a week at the Esperanza. More importantly, I feel like the work I do affects people other than those that live in a campus bubble.

One significant change is my outlook on meetings. This summer, I’ve observed city council, comprehensive planning, and housing bond committees.

Photo from The Rivard Report. That's me in the hat.
Photo from The Rivard Report. That’s me in the hat.

Many meetings I’ve attended in college revolve around planning events or discussing long-term organizing strategies. The meetings I’ve sat at (or spoken at in some cases) affect the lives of the over one million people living in San Antonio. It amazes me that policy can be decided in a simple conference room. For example, I recently attended two meetings surrounding San Antonio’s affordable housing bond. This bond had the potential to provide affordable housing and emergency repairs to families. At the meeting—in which the committee had to make draft recommendations for affordable housing—members were surprised to learn that they could not pass most of the policies for legal reasons.

Much of the work for SA Tomorrow involved reading, research, and coming up with creative solutions. One of the other interns majored in urban planning and environmental policy, so while she already had background education around sustainability, I have to read extra to understand some proposals in the works. Hopefully this extra work will pay off when studying for my environmental studies minor.  I’m also learning to take the initiative on certain projects. One of the interns and I are spearheading a social media campaign talking about water in San Antonio. This will build my social media skills, which I can transfer to campus organizing.

Anastasia Christilles, ’18

Social Justice WOW Fellow

Law is not a Machine

To me, the phrase the “criminal justice system” has always evoked the image of a well-oiled machine. A case comes into the courthouse and—after a little under the hood mechanics—is transformed into a verdict. My mechanical vision of criminal justice led me to believe that a career in law would necessarily be mundane and repetitive. Halfway through my internship, I have come to realize I was entirely wrong.

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My corner of the office!

Cases certainly enter Boston Municipal, but sentences depend on countless factors. Last week, the office also hosted a “Brown Bag Lunch” where they invited interns to hear a speaker: the head of the Family Protection and Sexual Assault Bureau, David Deakin. Deakin discussed a rape and robbery he was prosecuting in which the defendant was an identical twin. While his DNA had been found on the victim, his brother’s DNA matched the sample as well. In 2014—ten years after the assault—a German company became the first to pioneer a DNA test that could differentiate between identical twins. Deakin now prepares to be the first prosecutor to ever introduce ultra-deep next-generation sequencing in court, setting a legal precedent for years to come. His job certainly did not sound systematic or dull.

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Some of the many disposed case files being stored in the office

 

 

Even my “boring” tasks as an intern have proved to be exciting, thought provoking and incredibly gratifying. Answering phone calls is exceptionally rewarding, when there is a victim on the other end expressing how thankful they are to have someone they can contact directly to update them on the status of their case. Shadowing the daily routine of my supervisors is so impactful, when I get to watch them help transform timid, vulnerable victims into confident, self-advocates willing to testify against their assailant. And filling out paperwork is extremely satisfying when I know I am creating an important document that a prosecutor will use in an upcoming trial. My work has taught me important skills such as how to work in a high-paced environment where assignments often need immediate attention and how to stay calm when presented with unfamiliar situations and tasks. I truly feel like I am developing skills that will better equip me to enter the work force, teaching me how to adapt, take direction and be a leader.

As a student preparing to apply to law school, I hoped my internship would provide me clarity as to my future career goals and I have not been disappointed. This internship has allowed me to see the legal system from a closer perspective and through a far different lens then any academic or on-campus experiences have permitted. My experience at Boston Municipal has proved to be exceptionally different than learning about legal issues in a classroom. Rather than reading about the criminal justice process or learning about an individual’s legal rights from an analytic perspective, I am able to see these issues unfold. The work is fast-paced, exciting, and extremely rewarding. Seeing the application of law makes me realize the integral role the legal system plays in maintaining order within our society.

Overall, this experience is making me confident that pursuing a career in law is, undoubtedly, the right decision for me.

Dustin Fire, ’17

Social Justice WOW Fellow

At the Halfway Point with CIC

I am currently at the midway point in my internship at The Chicago Innocence Center and I could not be more thrilled to be part of such an incredible organization. I have loved working with CIC over the past seven weeks. I am mostly working with twelve other interns, our Director, Pamela, our President, David, our Program Associate, Diana, and our Outreach Coordinator, Stanley, who was wrongfully convicted and served 31 years in prison. I have learned so much working with this group. Our interns come from ten different colleges and represent a range of majors, extra-curricular activities, hometowns, backgrounds, and interests. As interns, we work together on many tasks. Because of our diverse backgrounds, we are able to build off each other’s previous knowledge. One intern who is pre-law could help explain a court proceeding while an intern majoring in journalism could write an op-ed about that proceeding that another intern interested in human rights could turn into a policy brief.

The CIC interns with Stanley Wrice at a legal luncheon
The CIC interns with Stanley Wrice at a legal luncheon

It is really powerful to work with so many engaged individuals who are all at the same points in their life as I am. I feel that I have not just fostered positive workplace relationships but that I have also made lifelong friends. I appreciate the collaborative, open atmosphere at CIC because the subject matter we deal with is very serious. Sometimes, concepts are hard to process because they are so evident of systematic issues such as racism, poverty, or misconduct in the criminal justice system. Luckily, our group can dialogue about these issues, discussing why they are so shocking (or not very shocking, in many unfortunate cases) and what we can do to change them. Overall, I feel excited to be a part of this work.

Working at CIC differs from academic life in two main ways. First, I feel that I am treated as an equal in meetings rather than a student in the classroom. Many of my professors at Brandeis create positive learning environments where I feel comfortable, however I still feel they are my teachers and it is their job to lecture and mine to listen and engage. In contrast, Pam and David cultivate an environment of collaborative learning.  There are no lectures; every meeting is a conversation. While Pam and David are our mentors, they value our contributions and encourage us to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Pam and David treat me as their colleague and welcome all ideas, no matter if they are useful or not. I feel respected and I know my opinion is always encouraged.

Second, my internship is much more experiential than my academic experience. Every day, I do something new. My week can be five days in five different locations. One day I am in the office, the next day I am at the book launch of Exoneree Diaries, an incredible book by Alison Flowers, the next day I attend a legal luncheon, the next day I am out in the field, and the next I am attending an evidentiary hearing for one of our investigative cases. Through these unique opportunities in my internship, I am gaining tangible skills to bring back to school or to future job opportunities. My writing has absolutely improved through our investigative journalism workshops, which challenge me to ask succinct questions and not to bury the lead. I have learned how to build a website, which is useful for any job in the future that may need technical support. Finally, I think I have become a more empathetic listener. I am able to silence my thoughts in order to yield the floor to someone else. As they speak, I have learned to truly listen. These skills will translate to my academic life and career for years to come, all thanks to CIC.

 

Some of the interns grab coffee before work!
Some of the interns grab coffee before work!

Ruby Macsai-Goren, ’18

Social Justice WOW Fellow

Passion, skill, and enthusiasm: the road to publication

Walking into the Boston University School of Public Health offices each day, I know there will be contagious energy and enthusiasm from the moment I step off the elevator.  Most of the work spaces in the office are designated for faculty who work on original research during the summer, so everyone (faculty and interns alike) is always deeply immersed in a new and exciting project. The other research intern on Dr. Siegel’s project for the summer, Carolina, is someone who I am incredibly lucky to work with directly every day. She is one of the most passionate people I have ever met about intimate partner gun violence, which is the primary focus of our research.

A photo of me and my inspiring fellow research intern, Carolina, with our Boston University research badges!
My inspiring fellow research intern, Carolina, and I finally received our Boston University research badges!

What has surprised me most working on this project is how close to this topic not only Carolina but also the other members of our team feel. The amount of emotion and passion that people on the team have expressed about our research topic can even be somewhat overwhelming at times. However, tragedy and injustice lie at the core of both domestic violence and gun violence. Especially after the multitude of recent, devastating shootings that have occurred in the last few weeks, we hope that the results of our research will be profound enough to convince politicians and the public that stronger gun laws are the only way to prevent further loss of life. In a wonderfully powerful article that my supervisor Dr. Siegel wrote, he states that it is no longer enough to ‘pray’ for the victims of gun violence and their families; the country as a whole must actually commit to making a change in order to make any headway.  One way to start a movement like this is through the publication of more research on gun violence, yet the CDC at the moment is allocating zero funding to research this enormous public health and human rights issue.

 

A beautifully candid Carolina in the midst of researching Massachusetts' own laws about gun control
A beautifully candid Carolina in the midst of researching Massachusetts’ own laws about gun control.

One spectacular thing I have noticed about the World of Work is how passionate everyone is about the work they are doing. After years of dreading group projects throughout school I never thought that I would enjoy working on a team, but after only a few weeks on this research team I have found that teamwork can be infinitely more rewarding, productive, and energizing than working alone. My experiences with group projects in high school mostly consisted of members attempting to do the least amount of work possible; nonetheless, everyone on this research team actually fights to do the most amount of work! In addition, I have found that each member thoughtfully assesses their own strengths and weaknesses before they decide how they can most effectively contribute to the group’s goal, which really impressed me.

On this note, I would say that understanding how to find self-motivation and passion in the work that I do is one of the most valuable things that I have learned so far from my team members this summer. Additionally, the mathematical, statistical, and computer skills that I am gaining through the research process will be beneficial for any job that I have in the future. Some of these skills include learning to construct and organize a comprehensive research database, collect and code data, and perform complex statistical analyses in different programs. I am also, through this process, learning how to plan and orchestrate an entire research project from start to finish. In the future I hope to utilize this knowledge to conduct original research of my own in graduate school and beyond.

Rachel Kurland, ’18

Embracing Hinche and Education

Upon arriving to Haiti, I was greeted by customs and eager taxi drivers to drive me to my desired location. Yet, the only person I was excited to see was my supervisor. She greeted me with her warm embrace and reassurance of a transformative time in Haiti. So far, she has lived up to her promise.

Once I arrived in Hinche, our staff was immediately put to work and started organizing the materials for open house the following day. During this time, I was able to bond with my new staff members. Most of the staff members are Boston Public School teachers who have experience teaching Haitian-American students at their local school. I am really grateful to receive insight about the education field through their experiences. In our time of exchanging stories, I found out that three of the staff members are first generation Haitian-Americans. Witnessing the intrinsic motivation to give back to their community was comforting. I knew right then that my staff would instill passion and dedication in their work during their time in Haiti.

The busy and vibrant city of Hinche is encased in voluminous green mountains. Everyone around you is working or going somewhere. To add on to the excitement, the director is pretty much a local celebrity in the community. With that being said, it is a thrilling feeling to migrate through the street and witness the smiling faces of the citizens. In that time, I noticed that

Me and a few of my students
Me and a few of my students

the local citizens really value their Christian faith. Most communal spaces are reserved for religious ceremonies and the citizens outwardly and unapologetically express their faith. It is beautiful to see so many people rejoicing and in celebration together.

On my first day of work, about sixty students were eager to start camp and immediately greeted me. You can see the gratitude plastered on their face as they successfully entered the camp. Gaining a spot in this camp is extremely valuable to the students because they are receiving enrichment and are guaranteed two meals a day for free. Services such as these are usually not free and thus helpful to both the student and their parents. Their desire to be here is beyond admirable. I know students who walk twenty minutes to get to the camp. The students come prepared and are attentive and very respectful. It is safe to say we have a symbiotic relationship too. Since I am teaching them English, the students have agreed to teach me Haitian Creole.

The World of Work in regards to this specific organization is not too different from university life in my opinion. I live in a shared space with different people, we eat together and we work together. Like Brandeis, we are all working to achieve the same goal even if it is through different paths. Socially, my life here in Haiti is not too different from university life as my staff members all have different values and experiences. The varying experiences and unique perspectives existing in the workspace enhance productivity and the overall richness of the program.

Outside of organizational and team building skills, I believe I’ve gained great experience in project management. I am currently conducting a poetry project at the camp. To complete this project, I had to work closely with my co-teachers to successfully execute the project and be in consistent communication with my director with any updates on the project’s progress. Engaging in this kind of work directly applies to my life at Brandeis. This is especially true in my role as a Community Advisor at Brandeis where planning is essential to maintaining a healthy environment for my residents.

Overall, I am so grateful to have an opportunity to work with such remarkable people to achieve such a meaningful mission.

LaShawn Simmons, ’18

Social Justice WOW Fellow

Ms.LaShawn's English Class
Ms.LaShawn’s English Class

Work in the NAARCH Lab so far!

I’ve been working with the North American Archaeology Lab at the American Museum of Natural History for 5 weeks already. The summer is flying by! I’ve really enjoyed my time working here so far; each week offers something new to do and to learn about St. Catherine’s Island and about the more general field of North American archaeology. Since my last post, we have been having reading discussion groups one morning a week to talk about articles pertaining to the site or the types of materials we have been working with. This has been a great opportunity to get some background into what we are handling, and the craft and culture behind it, as well as how it sometimes related the archaeology of St. Catherine’s to people inland and along the East Coast. These articles often bring up unanswered questions and theories surrounding the island and the Gaule people as well as their relationship to the mission.

(photo from: http://www.amnh.org/our-research/anthropology/research/north-american-archaeology/projects/st.-catherines-island-ga )
(photo from: http://www.amnh.org/our-research/anthropology/research/north-american-archaeology/projects/st.-catherines-island-ga )

http://www.amnh.org/our-research/anthropology/research/north-american-archaeology/publications

In terms of work in the lab, every day I’m doing something different ranging anywhere from cataloguing, to searching for artifacts, to transcription. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into the internship since my brief experience in the archaeology lab at Brandeis has been cleaning and recording artifacts. In the past few weeks we have done some cleaning, but the range of tasks that needs to be done over the summer is much larger than that, which I think is part of what makes the internship so interesting every day; there are a lot of smaller projects within a larger plan for the summer. It’s certainly different from my academic life at Brandeis where most of my contact with archaeology is through articles and papers on subjects that usually cover several various sites rather than a single period or culture. While these skills are very useful, working in the North American Archaeology Lab is teaching me more hands-on skills for the organization and categorization of artifacts and of the excavation itself that go hand in hand with articles written about the site. I think this is applicable well beyond the lab in terms of learning new methods of organization and working with your peers. I think one more skill that I think will be applicable beyond the lab is being able to be flexible in whatever you are doing, and being able to move between projects and learning to point out potential issues. I’ve learned to move slower and double-check everything, since one wrong number on an artifact could cause larger problems down the line for the next intern or researcher trying to find the mislabeled or miscatalogued piece. Looking to the future, I have learned a great deal, simply from my supervisor’s and my fellow intern’s varying experiences in archaeology both in North America and abroad, and about the options for working in contract archaeology and continuing to study within a more specified field of archaeology.

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A Summer of Learning

Every day at the EPA brings a new and exciting learning opportunity. My supervisor has encouraged me to attend seminars throughout the EPA and Washington, D.C. and to write memos for the Office of Water. In the end of June, I attended a seminar about federal coal leasing at Resources for the Future, an environmental economics think tank, and heard Jason Furman, the Chief Economic Advisor for President Obama, give recommendations about reforming the federal coal leasing program.

As a student studying environmental economics, the discussion was intellectually stimulating and offered a new perspective on energy policy. In the following week, I attended a town hall meeting led by EPA Deputy Administrator Gina McCarthy, and I learned about EPA’s amazing accomplishments in the past few weeks—the Toxic Substance Control Act reform and the Volkswagen settlement. The talk was energizing, and I felt proud to be part of such an impactful agency.

Panelists at the DC-Israel Water Summit discuss transboundary and off-grid water
Panelists at the DC-Israel Water Summit discuss transboundary and off-grid water management.

The DC-Israel Water Summit, a conference about Israeli solutions to its water scarcity crisis and its applicability to U.S. water policy, was the highlight of my summer so far. This summit was absolutely amazing, as it brought together both my love for Israel and my passion for the environment. The summit was also relatively small, so I had a chance to meet water professionals from around DC and meet the author of Let There Be Water, a book about Israel’s approach to its water crisis. I heard from panelists who were from USAID, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Israeli research institutions, Coca-Cola, the Israeli embassy, the Brookings Institution, and more.

 

Seth Siegel's book about Israeli water innovation
Seth Siegel’s book about Israeli water innovation

The summit was both personally and professionally fulfilling. The Israeli response to its water crisis was incredibly inspiring and gives me hope for other countries to overcome their own resource scarcities: Israel recycles 85% of their wastewater, decoupled water usage from economic and population growth, and now has a water surplus and exports water to Jordan and the Palestinian authority. We have a lot to learn from Israel! After learning all of this from the summit, I had the chance to write a memo for the Water Policy staff to share these findings and offer recommendations. For myself, I may consider a career in the water field— water management will be a growing focus in the U.S. and has potential for great reform and modernization.

I also started working on two reports for the Water Policy Staff. First, I am comparing two similar environmental screening tools—an environmental justice tool called EJSCREEN and the Community Focused Exposure and Risk Screening tool (C-FERST). Two different committees worked on these tools, and I am tasked with comparing any overlap between the two tools and providing my thoughts and recommendation to both the C-FERST and EJSCREEN committee.

Additionally, I am in the midst of writing a recommendation of water indicators to add to EJSCREEN. This requires doing a literature review of different environmental justice topics related to water and climate change, assessing available data sets to find high-resolution data, and making an argument for adding these new indicators. So far, I feel most passionate about my water scarcity indicator, especially after attending the DC-Israel Water Summit. I know the EJSCREEN committee is most open to adding climate change related indicators, so perhaps they will add this indicator. At the end of the July, I will pitch my ideas to the EJSCREEN Steering committee. I have my fingers crossed!

The beginning: First Week

 

I am thoroughly enjoying my internship with Girls’ LEAP (Lifetime Empowerment and Awareness Program). The beginning has been a lot of behind-the-scenes work. I’ve entered pre-survey and post-survey data as well as attendances for programs that took place this past winter. While this work has been rather dry, I have enjoyed gaining a clearer understanding of the administrative work. There is a tremendous amount of infrastructure in place that allows our programs to run as seamlessly as they do. The office is a friendly and relaxed environment where colleagues stop for a moment to discuss Black Lives Matter and other social-justice issues in the news. I look forward to gaining so much for such kind and passionate colleagues.

After my initial week in the office, I spent a weekend chalk-full of training with the other college interns. The other interns are kind, passionate, and inspirational women and I feel tremendously lucky to be working closely with them this summer. We completed our first 2-week intensive where we worked with a Lead Teacher and group of about ten girls. I was concerned that the hardest part would be how well I could do a bully-role but it turns out engaging the students and avoiding discipline issues is quite a bit harder. I really enjoyed the opportunity to build positive relationships with the girls and know a bit about them rather than calling them to gather so we could learn the next move. I imagine my skills will develop and improve throughout the summer and this will certainly transfer to working in any type of direct-service job.

I also believe that the skills we teach really benefit ourselves in the process. I feel like a more confident and “worthy” person after the many conversations we have shared and I believe the conflict-resolution tools will continue to benefit me in any personal or professional setting I encounter.

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Getting Started

This summer, I’m working at the PanLex project, which is a non-profit group under the Long Now Foundation. The goal of our organization is to preserve linguistic diversity and to increase linguistic knowledge, especially in diminishing and non-studied languages. While there are around 7,000 human languages, globalization has caused our world to focus on only the leading languages within industry and academics. This drives people to intensely focus on these top 10 languages, which they believe will open up a better future for them, and increasingly skews the ratios of how many people speak each language, leading to language extinction because there is not enough benefit to using their heritage language. In order to counteract this issue, PanLex is building a database of symmetrical dictionaries between languages. These parallel dictionaries serve to preserve languages that are dying or extinct so that reconstruction of the language could be possible, and to increase the information available so that translational programs and devices could allow conversation between people with different languages without having to prioritize one language or the other.

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Because of our project director’s connection with the University of California, Berkeley, we are currently housed in the Berkeley language labs at Dwinelle Hall on campus. The interns here sit around a large table with televisions connected to them in order to facilitate discussion and collaboration with each other rather than the typical office cubical. Here, we hook up our computers to show our work and ideas on the televisions for troubleshooting periods and meetings; write code to extract and standardize linguistic data; and debate over classifications and properties.

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The first week was filled with an overview of the different tracks that we could focus on during our time here. I chose to be a part of the assimilation team, which discovers, corrects, interprets, assembles, and standardizes lexical translations in attested sources. In our database, we have thousands of sources available to us that have first been vetted by our acquisition team. From there, we are allowed to choose any source to work on, which allows for the personal freedom to pursue languages that we are interested in. Currently I’m working on sources in Carib, which is a language spoken by the Kalina people of South America, more specifically a version spoken in Suriname; and Wemba Wemba, which is an language spoken by an indigenous group within the Victoria state of Australia. Carib is a threatened language, and Wemba Wemba is an extinct language, which means that it no longer has any L1 speakers, or native speaker of the language. Because these languages are dying or dead, it’s important that PanLex have a record of the language within its database for preservation before there is no data left.

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Throughout this summer, I hope to gain a greater skill in creating code that will be able to parse panlexical data in a way that standardizes information effectively; however, I think that the thing that I’m looking forward to the most is learning more about the languages that I work with as I research to better understand how to classify the words and morphological makeup.

Sooyoung Jeong ’18

Internships can be another way to grow and learn

The alarm clock wakes me up around 7:30 a.m. The sun is already trying to sneak into my room. I do not think that El Paso has a much time living in the darkness. The scintillating sun does not leave until 9 p.m. and comes back sooner than it is expected.

After a shower, I put on some sunscreen, have a little snack, and grab my belongings, ready to go to work. I can walk daily from where I am staying to Cinco Puntos Press (CPP). Obviously, a routine has formed, however, it is a routine I very much enjoy. My supervisors, they described themselves as “hippies”—although, according to them, they were not the sort of hippies who would do drugs or used to go insane when they were young, back in the 60s. They usually order me that the first thing that I must do when I get to work is to grab a cup of coffee, so that I am wide awake, and I am happy to follow their orders.

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A regular day working at Cinco Puntos Press (CPP).

They have all appreciated my work and I have come to appreciate their hospitality and selfless guidance. As the days go by swiftly. I have done a little bit of everything. I have had the opportunity to proofread a Spanish translation of a successful sequel to a series of books that CPP has published for quite some time already, known as Maximilian. The third installment is titled, Maximilian and the Lucha Libre Club: A Bilingual Lucha Libre by Xavier Garza. It is a gleeful story about a young boy who happens to have an interesting, comic, yet dangerous family. They are all involved in the business of lucha libre (a term used in Mexico for a form of professional wrestling). The boy begins to train to become the next big thing, just like his uncle the Ángel Guardian (Guardian Angel). Although Max has still a long way to go, after all he is just a boy. However, he has two professional, expert trainers along him: his uncles. They are on the verge of retiring and Max’s family has commenced to seek and train the next big successor. It seems that lucha libre is intrinsically pumping through Max’s blood because he seems to be their man.

Furthermore, the truth is that I have enjoyed every book that I have read from CPP. I have given the privilege to attend the pitch meetings, in which the three editors (Mrs. Lee, Mr. John, and Mr. Bobby Byrd) choose the books they will like to publish the upcoming spring of 2017. They select a few options from the hundreds of submissions that CPP receives for consideration.

In fact, I had the chance of reading two stories that would, eventually, if chosen, become picture books. One I liked ; the other one I did not. I had to write a report, about 350 to 400 words on what I thought it works and what does not for each of the submissions that I read. Both stories were, of course, centered around diverse characters. An excerpt of my report from the submission I liked, “Lois Dreamed” by Kara Stewart:

[…] I think the metaphor of Lois’s yearning to become an acrobat has an element of universality. Any child that reads this story may replace Lois’s personal longings of becoming an acrobat with his/er own goals (i.e. becoming a doctor, astronaut, president, etc.). They will for sure understand that the color of their skin or gender or any other intersectionality, will not dictate what they ought to become. […] [D]espite the story being about an Indian, it undoubtedly has universal elements that would make of this book: a book for everyone.

Not only does CPP need my opinion on the book they publish, but I have also been collaborating on getting their books out there. One of such books, it is a book, titled, Photographs of My Father by Paul Spike. It is a great book, which I happen to have read as well—one of the perks of this job is that I get to read as many books as I want for free. The story about Rev. Robert Spike, who later became a civil rights activist and was mysteriously killed after finding out that the funding that was supposed to go to a federal Mississippi education program was in lieu going somewhere else–to fund the Vietnam War.

This book was published in 1973 and when it came out, it was reviewed by a lot of newspapers and publications, including The New York Times. Nevertheless, the book stopped printing, and what CPP decided was to re-print it again. The bad news is that not everyone is interested in reviewing a book that has already come out and reviewed. Therefore, my job has been reaching out to different outlets that could potentially be interested in selling, endorsing, or reviewing the book, and I have been successful at it. This task has allowed me to develop my marketing skills, which I did not really think I had.

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Working on the e-books.

I have also come to realize that close-reading skills are indeed transferable. In the current week, I have been compiling a spreadsheet list of all the contracts of rights that CCP has signed with different publishing and film companies over the world. Some contracts are one-time deal, while others are renewable, others have expired, and others are about to. I need to follow up on each and every single one of them. I need to make sure that CPP has received the payments from the companies on which the agreement has been settled. Also, I need to add the contracts’ expiration dates on Google calendar. In addition, I ought to reach out to the companies whose contract with CPP has expired, inquiring whether they would like to renew their contract or not.

Mr. John Byrd has also been introducing me to how to convert books into e-books, using InDesign. InDesign skills were skills that I used to possess, but throughout time, I have forgotten half of it. But, thankfully it is coming back, thanks to Mr. Byrd’s guidance. This is still a work in progress, notwithstanding, I look forward to telling you more about it as I keep trying.

My time at Cinco Puntos has allowed me to think about my future. I can definitely see myself doing this.

Best,

Santiago Montoya, ’19

Kicking Off A Summer of Adventure: My First Week at LifeMoves

 

Every morning for the past week I have shown up to my office at 8 am (or a few minutes before since I’m a little eager), met with my coworkers, and started in on my paperwork before a busy day. However, it looks a little different than one might imagine for an intern at a large nonprofit. My “office” is actually a shared craft room filled with glitter and stickers, my coworkers are high school aged volunteers, and my paperwork is usually something like printing BINGO cards. All in a morning’s work for a Summer Camp Director intern at LifeMoves.

Haven Family House: My internship site
Haven Family House: My internship site

LifeMoves is a nonprofit organization that serves individuals and families experiencing homelessness in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties in California. The organization is the result of a merger in 2012 between two well-established organizations doing similar work, InnVision the Way Home and Shelter Network, and was formerly named InnVision Shelter Network. Fun fact: During my application process for this internship, the organization went through its 2016 rebranding, which means I applied to InnVision, but my internship is officially with LifeMoves. A little confusing, I know!

LifeMoves operates at 17 sites throughout the two counties, housing over 1,000 individuals (including those staying with families) each night. The goal for those individuals is to achieve permanent housing and self-sufficiency after graduating from LifeMoves’ rigorous, comprehensive program. Those living in the shelters must commit to working with their case manager to take charge of financial planning and saving, housing and job searches, and receiving counseling when necessary. Additionally, LifeMoves provides meals and a safe, spacious, private housing unit while the family or individual is in shelter. While each of the sites operates differently and caters to different populations (some are geared more towards families, one is specifically for those living with mental illness, one is just for women, etc.), the organization as a whole has had success—they report that 97% of families and 82% of individuals who graduate their programs return to stable housing and self sufficiency (Source).

This summer I am interning with LifeMoves as the director of the Summer Adventure Camp for the children living at Haven Family House, the largest site for families living in shelter. Along with my co-director, my duties include planning the curriculum for each week of camp, managing the USDA summer food program, supervising the high school aged volunteers, communicating with parents, and completing official internal paperwork for reporting incidents, attendance, injury, etc. And, because it’s summer camp after all, it would not be out of the ordinary to catch me playing a game of four-square or tossing the occasional water balloon.

My first week at LifeMoves was devoted to attending an all-intern orientation at the administrative offices. There, I got to learn from those who have been working in social services for years and could share their insights into the type of program that LifeMoves runs. During this week, I learned that the counties we are serving have among some of the highest rents in the U.S., making it literally impossible for minimum-wage workers to afford any type of permanent housing. In 2015, there were approximately 8,338 individuals living without a permanent residence in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and LifeMoves claims that this is even an underestimation due to the fact that the figure does not include the “vehicularly housed,” (those living in their car) (Source 1, 2.)

Me with the other LifeMoves interns at out beach retreat
Me with the other LifeMoves interns at our beach retreat

If you’re still with me, I commend you; all of these figures and details can be a little numbing and impersonal. This is part of what makes my internship so appealing to me. I have the chance for 8 hours every weekday to simply spend time with the clients who are living the reality of what these numbers point to. And it looks different for everyone. Each of the campers and their family is coming from a different background and are at different points in their process of returning to stability. It is a privilege to get to be part of that process for someone. While I don’t know every child’s story (nor do I need to), I hope that offering this summer camp will enhance the individual’s experience. Maybe having the kids out of the house will give the parents time to complete that housing application that finally gets approved or maybe one of our STEM activities will really stick with one of the campers and make them more interested in science. Or maybe it will just give the kids a couple hours of fun building structures out of marshmallows and competing in relay races. I may not ever know, but I’m excited to be in this environment and to learn from whatever happens.

If you can’t get enough of LifeMoves at this blog, feel free to follow along with our adventures at the camp blog at https://lifemovessummercamp.wordpress.com.

Until next time!

Mira McMahon ‘18

My First Week with the ICM Program

This summer I am working with the Integrated Chemistry Management (ICM) Schools Program, which is funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. The program entails visiting various middle and high schools across Massachusetts and Rhode Island to organize their chemical storage spaces and laboratories in such a manner that those chemicals do not pose a hazard to students, teachers and the surrounding communities. The program further educates staff about waste management, safety practices and the use of a real time inventory.

My first week went something like this:

Monday: Visited Pioneer Charter School of Science in Everett. The team was greeted by a zealous STEM coordinator who escorted us to the chemistry lab and checked in periodically throughout the day. The school is rather small with limited funding, which was reflected by the number of chemicals in their storage facilities. The coordinator was very eager to continue the next step of the program, which is to have the teachers trained in chemical safety in August.

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The completed chemical storage cupboard for the Pioneer School. The chemicals are arranged according to the type of chemical, then alphabetical order and size. Solids and liquids are placed on separate shelves.

Tuesday & Wednesday: We visited Dracut High School. The number of chemicals in their lab was ridiculous – ten 500 mL of sodium acetate solution, 17 500 mL sodium phosphate solution, 62 hydroxide solutions, 34 carbonates, 88 chlorides and 27 hydrochloric acid solutions of varying concentrations. I won’t go on. This occurred mainly because many of the chemicals were purchased as kits and so many were unopened and covered with dust. It must have been difficult to know what chemicals are available when they are stacked and as a result more of the same chemicals were ordered before using the ones present.

Thursday: We visited Swampscott High School. The building was very new but the chemicals stored in it were very old – some older than me. Here we encountered more hazardous chemicals such as a few mercury compounds, several yellowed labels making it difficult to identify the chemicals and a few fluoride chemicals to name a few. What made this school interesting is that the chemicals were mainly arranged in alphabetical order, which meant that a number of incompatible chemicals were stored together.

 

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A storage cabinet containing all chemicals including hazardous waste that will be disposed by a contractor within the upcoming school year. Many of the chemicals are very old or are oxidizers.

 

Several chemicals such as bisulfate, phthalate and thiosulfate salts and numerous organic acids seemed more suitable for chemistry research labs than in a high school teaching setting. Some chemicals I encountered had amusing names such as Onion’s Fusible Alloy and super duper polymer gel. On the other hand I was horrified when I ran into Thorium Nitrate, which is radioactive and mercury thermometers. I hope that the ICM program will help teachers make informed decisions about the types and quantities of chemicals that they order and store in the future.

To learn more about this program and their progress over the years you can visit:

http://www.maine.gov/mema/prepare/conference/2013_conference/24_icm_detailed_general_2013.pdf and http://www.umassk12.net/maillist/msg00362.html for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first week at NCL

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NCL’s Office (1701 K St.)

My first week interning at the National Consumer’s League in Washington, D.C. has been rather eventful. NCL is America’s oldest consumer advocacy organization and has been representing consumers and workers since 1899. Some of the issues that NCL addresses include child labor, food safety, medication adherence and internet fraud. There are multiple departments within the organization that run their own programs such as Fraud.org, LifeSmarts, Child Labor Coalition, and Script Your Future.

Recently, I wrote a blog post for NCL’s website. I wrote about the HPV vaccine and its potential to reduce the growing number of cases of cervical cancer. I am also reviewing NCL’s website and applicants for the Script Your Future medication adherence competition.

17 & K Street (Washington D.C.)
17 & K Street (Washington D.C.)

Every intern is responsible for drafting content for the NCL’s annual LifeSmarts competition. LifeSmarts is a program that spreads consumer education especially for teenagers and young adults. The topics that the questions cover are expansive and range from health and safety to personal finances.

In addition, I am doing research on multiple projects. The projects I have been working on have been really interesting and informative. The National Center for Health Research reached out to NCL and requested that we sign on to their letter to FDA’s Commissioner Califf and Dr. Woodcock that stated their stance against FDA approval of Sarepta’s new drug, eteplirsen. It is designed to treat Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy, a rare disease but debilitating disease. I researched this topic so that NCL could make an informed decision as to whether or not we would sign in support of the letter. However, after extensive research, Sally Greenberg, NCL’s executive director and my supervisor, decided to not sign the letter. While the drug has yet to be perfected, NCL believes that the drug provides patients and their families some hope in treating this fatal disease.

I am also researching the differences in the ways male and female students approach competition. This is to improve the LifeSmarts competition for there are changes we could make to help girls be more successful in this competitive environment.

Lastly, another project I have been working on is a food waste initiative. NCL would like to write a letter to President Obama asking for his consideration of an Executive Order to address the issue of food waste. This would make it mandatory for all federal agencies to have a food waste plan.

I am also grateful that I received the opportunity to attend multiple events. I went to the library of congress with my supervisor, and attended a panel and lunch called “Digital & Data Privacy: Civil Rights Solutions for Good.” The panelists discussed ways in which the civil rights community can protect consumer privacy but still allow digital inclusion online. I also attended The Hill’s briefing, “Pathways to Prevention: A Policy Discussion on Research & Treatments for Alzheimer’s”. The panel held a great discussion on the policies that can help combat Alzheimer’s with the goal of curing it by 2025. Featured speakers included Senator Shelley Capito and Senator Ed Markey. Tomorrow, I will be attending a breakfast briefing: “Challenges in the Global Health Arena” with Senator Bob Corker as the speaker.

This past week has been both exciting and rewarding. I look forward to continuing these projects and hope to make some real impact on policies surrounding NCL’s issues and expand my own consumer knowledge over the course of this summer.

Elese Chen