The Sweetest Internship Ever!

I’m not trying to sugar coat it…my internship at hunnybon is more intense than ever! We are doing big things here in our New York City office..

Kimberly, hunnybon’s CEO values communication among staff and is always eager to teach me about the business. I spent the first month learning both the e-commerce and retail side of the business, how inventory management works, order fulfillment, and about daily operations. I even got to visit some of the candy retailers and I have sampled more organic sweets than you can imagine.
 On a typical day, you can find me checking in on our locations to make sure they have enough candy supply, checking on the setup of the products, making sure that they look nice and are visible, and talking to the workers about the shop, making sure they know all the benefits and qualities of HunnyBon’s sweets. I suggested a training manual, or information that could be given to the employees whenever they get a new store, so that the workers can become more educated about how awesome this candy is. Kimberly and the team loved the idea, and I’m going to work on this for them.
 
It’s been interesting to see things from the inside of the company, when usually I’m on the other end, ordering from a website as a consumer (Amazon is my usual go-to.) I noticed that Inventory organization is one of the most crucial aspects necessary for a small office like HB to function. I have also been working hard on the social media aspect of the company, and have been studying how to appeal to HB’s target customer. I put together a plan with social media influencers to reach out to, different types of campaign ideas, and spend slow periods in the office taking pictures of the product. Sometimes, I am encouraged to leave the office with a bag of sweets to take photos around the city.
 
The second part of the internship is focusing more on the financial aspects. I met with Kimberly and a financial consultant to learn about Quickbooks and it is my job to  organize and clean up their QB for 2017, and then generate financial statements. Although I learned a bit about these things in my accounting class, there is no true way to prepare for the challenge that is organizing a new company’s financial statements. The most difficult part is knowing how to categorize certain expenses because there is no fine line that determines expense categories. Sometimes it is up to my judgment and other times I need to bombard a senior staff member with questions. 
 
Overall, the experience has been great so far, both at HunnyBon, and living the New York City life. Everything is pretty fast paced here, so it’s interesting to understand how businesses can be successful and the hard work it takes to make it here. Kimberly and the team of HunnyBon have been so great at both making me feel welcome at the office and in the city, and guiding me to make sure I really get the most out of the experience. Some pretty major companies have taken an interest in potentially selling some HB products in their stores, so we are all very excited to see what will happen in the near future! I will let you know what happens in my next post. Over and out.

 

Summing Up My Internship Experience

The Americares building is located next to railroad tracks, so you can always hear the occasional train passing by!

It is funny to think about my internship experience at Americares as if it is in the past, but I know that I will be at the organization for another four or five weeks before it is truly time to say goodbye. As far as impact I’ve had on the organization, well, only time will tell. As of now, my finished projects or assignments have come in the form of presentations and the creation and implementation of intern activities. Although these activities have been useful and enjoyable, some of the larger impacts my work will have on the organization are still in the project stages. For example, one of my more major assignments is to work on an updated employee handbook. It is still in the works, but is definitely in progress. I am excited to see what the end result will look like, and hopefully I will have a chance to do so by the end of my internship.

When I started my internship, I wish I had known the level of independence I would be offered in this role as well as all the amazing people I would be meeting. I wouldn’t want either of these things to change, but I feel like knowing what I know now, I would have appreciated these offerings even more. What was most surprising to me is how open and available the CEO is to anything the interns may need. For example, several of us were working on a group project at an open work table where the CEO needed to be. Rather than make us move and find a new workspace, he generously offered up his office! Not only did he offer up his office, but he also said to feel free to poke around in there as he has a lot of interesting artifacts. He is incredibly responsive and open regarding his personal experiences and how they relate to the mission of Americares. Although the CEO is at the forefront of the organization, there were tons of other unique people that I have had the pleasure of meeting through this internship experience.

The other interns reaped the benefits of my interest in baking one night. I brought in these cupcakes for a Professional Development Series.

The advice I can offer for someone interested in pursuing human resources is to be diligent in looking for an internship or a job. Although human resources is a normal business function, it is harder to find open positions than marketing or finance, likely because you are handling confidential information. For someone pursuing an internship or career in nonprofits or health in general, I would say to be open to any experience and take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way! With regards to an organization like Americares, many of the departments offered do not align with a typical college major, such as marketing or economics. This means that in order to discover these departments and see if they might interest you, you have to express an interest or apply directly for a job or internship in that department. Even if you do have a position within the organization, always explore and be open to change because you never know what you might find.

Wrapping up my Research

As I near the end of my internship I have been reflecting on the goals I intended to achieve at the beginning and where I am right now with only two weeks to go. I had hoped to learn more about research and how it can affect underserved communities in attaining better access to care, and I wanted to gain the skills necessary to conduct research more independently. With over two months of my internship complete I can say I have attained those goals. The research I have done and hope to get submitted for publication in the next month will hopefully inform policy makers and the dental community alike about the discrepancies in access to fluoride that exist in different communities. I have also learned how to be nit-picky of my own writing in order to achieve a publish-worthy manuscript as well as how to collect and analyze data. In the future, given the opportunity to conduct research I will be able to be much more independent throughout the process.

Having worked on research one-on-one with a faculty member at the University of Washington Dental School, I was given a lot of responsibility. Whether it be small organizational tasks or writing an entire manuscript, I have greatly assisted my mentor in completing many of the tasks on his list. I have been able to be helpful with a variety of activities and tasks making a very positive impact on the department as a whole.

Prior to starting the internship, I wish I had researched the work environment I would be in more. Although the work itself was exciting, the office was often relatively empty with only two administrators in the office. I would recommend to any student considering doing a research internship to talk to someone else working in the lab in order to learn more about the social interaction and dynamic of the lab.

Being able to balance work with other activities is important as well. While the work is often very fun, it can also be tiring, so making time to spend time with friends and doing things you enjoy is important as well.  For anyone considering doing research I would recommend talking to your supervisor before hand to see if there are any things you can familiarize yourself with prior to starting the internship in order to make it a smooth transition. Having a clear understanding of what your responsibilities will be as well as the time commitment for the internship is important as well. I would suggest considering finding an internship that would combine research with more hands on activities and events as well in order to have a diversity of experiences throughout the summer and maximize your learning opportunities.

Overall, I have had a tremendous summer of learning, gaining new skills, and achieving my goals. It has been a wonderful experience that I hope to build on again next summer.

What first-time interns for social justice work should know

The time I spent at National Consumers League has taught me valuable lesson about social justice work. It was a bittersweet journey, so now I am going to share it with the intention to better prepare those who want to pursue an internship or career in this field.

First of all, remember that there are many, many people and organizations working on the same issue as you, and you need them. Social justice work relies heavily on the the power of the crowd. We need people and groups to help reach a larger demographic, which will band together to be the pressure needed for changes. At NCL, we have coalitions for every thing: child labor, forced arbitration, health care … and we were able to utilize local group connections to bring in victims or influence politicians from other states across the country. As a lot of individual organizations are small with limited resources, it would have been impossible for them alone to achieve such success.

Social Justice work is powered by the number of people involved

However, you must also remember, when there are many people involved, the logistic and planing process sometimes could be incredibly slow. Every organization must go through with the plan, and there are conflicts of interest. It is very different from a start-up environment where it is mostly project-based small groups working together in a time-pressed manner. So if you want to work in social work, it is really important to be patient and be able to have a wide network that helps you connect and coordinate with other organizations. Also, from time to time you will feel like your contribution is but a grain of salt adding to the ocean. That is not to say your effort is futile, but that it is marginally small compared to the many people working on the same thing as you are. When those moments arise, keep in mind that your cause relies on the number of people involved. So your contribution, albeit small, is crucial to social justice work.

The second advice I have has to do with dealing with work conflict, which applies to every field, not just social justice work. After my experience with NCL, I believe the best way to deal with conflict is to be direct and talk to the person you work with or with the person who might have an issue with you. If you don’t talk to them, there is a high chance that they might complain about you to others and bad rumors will circulate around the office with your knowledge. Be direct but soft! Ask them if there is anything they would like you to improve on, or what time they expect you to hand things in. Constantly communicating with your supervisor not only gives you the feeling of how they evaluate you but also gives you the chance to fix any issue before it gets too large. It also creates a bond between your supervisor and you and elevates trust. Also, for those who crave being challenged and constantly learning new things, being a summer intern, whether in social justice work or other types of company, means you are a guest to them. Don’t expect them to welcome you with a lot of responsibilities like you expected. A good piece of advice is for you to take the initiative and offer your assistance to them. Even if they don’t have some tasks available right then, they will remember you when they do.

Always try to have a positive relation with your supervisor

Setting up a challenge

For the past couple of weeks, I have been diving deep into planning for the City Nature Challenge for 2018. The CNC is a week long competition between cities across the nation to document the most biodiversity in their area. It is an exciting way to get the public outside and observing the local life around them. This year, the competition is expanding all over the world with participants in six continents in over 60 cities. I am confident the Boston area will be a top contender.

Ending a successful day at EOL

For the Encyclopedia of Life, we are focusing on creating educational materials to support high school educators and students during the challenge. The Learning and Education group at EOL has developed many resources throughout the years focused on getting students involved in citizen science and open science. My personal favorite is the species cards that can be used out in the field or in EOL created lesson plans. The hope of getting students involved is to spark interest in the environment and become inspired to change some of the issues facing us today. If students can feel a connection with nature then they will feel more likely to protect it.

Our goal for the CNC is to create a comprehensive source of materials including lessons plans, species cards, and tutorials that formal and informal educators can use to get their students outside making observations that contribute to science. With these materials, students will feel empowered to make meaningful observations and contribute to a larger database of species data. Scientists then can use this data in research and published papers, which I think is pretty cool.

Logo from the 2017 CNC

One of my favorite moments so far from my internship was leading a group meeting with three other Boston area organizations. I have been communicating with this group throughout the summer and it was exciting to talk with them again. Our role as a committee in the CNC is to generate interest in the Boston area and get people excited to participate. We have to think about things like communication, fundraising, and outreach to other local organizations to make this year a success. It is fun working with them and learning about how a committee works.

Overall, I have been enjoying my time here at EOL and am looking forward to my last few weeks of the summer. National plans for the 2018 CNC are on their way and I am making sure the Boston area is prepared and ready to go. As for the education plans, I am excited to see how many students and educators we can reach to use our materials!

Gerrianna Cohen ‘18

 

Last Days with United for a Fair Economy

Technically, next week is my last with UFE, but I am so humbled to know I’m still wanted here.

Every day spent in the office, I could count on my co-workers to travel from room to room offering fruit, humor, and genuine concern. They’ve all showered me with nothing short of compassion and laughter — as if I was a permanent addition to the team.

And actually, my supervisor offered to extend my term with payments coming directly from the organization. Initially, I was shocked. Being offered a job alongside such hardworking individuals is not an everyday occurrence.

Of course, I am thrilled to have this as an option. It is so affirming to know that my co-workers appreciate me as much as I appreciate them, but because of my positive experience here, I’m bound to expect too much in the future.

Most of my peers express frustration over their internships; so going forward, I will have to reframe my eagerness and temper whatever hopes I may have.

The support system I have at UFE is not promised, but thankfully, I have learned so much that I can take with me.

In just three months, I realized what was most important to me in the workplace. I thrive best in an environment that is constantly changing and keeps me on my toes. Typical desk jobs simply cannot satisfy me, since I get too tired of routine and need to have my mental capacity put to the test.

For anyone considering this internship or a similar one, I have three pieces of advice:

  1. You cannot specialize. Non-profits such as this one have limited resources and require each person to take on a variety of tasks. If you aren’t a team player, non-profit work either isn’t for you OR it could be good practice.
  2. Be prepared to get creative and execute your own projects. Sure, there’s plenty of work to be done already, but in the summer months, there tend to be lulls in activity.
  3. And LASTLY, non-profit work exposes you to an unrealistic amount of wonderful people. If the real world is as harsh and unforgiving as adults make it out to be, then you and I both are due for a VERY rude awakening.

Ashley Loc

MPHA’s small, collaborative steps to big accomplishments

The Massachusetts Public Health Association is a social justice- focused organization with the goal of creating greater health access to those most vulnerable in the state of Massachusetts. The organization has a small staff and a board of directors. There are 8 staff members: Jodie Silverman is the Interim Executive Director, Akosua Siever is the Director of Development, Andrea Freeman is the Field Director, Melanie O’Malley is the Communications and Policy Manager, Alexa Piacenza is the Events and Administrative Manager, Maddie Ribble is the Director of Public Policy and Campaign Strategy, Kristina Cyr is the Coalition and Advocacy Manager, and Nopalzin Torres is the Finance and Operations Manager.
Each staff member has their own job with its own set of responsibilities. However, everyone‘s duties align with each other’s in order to complete a common goal. In the case of MPHA the common goal is to “create health equity for all” while also promoting their organization in order to create a greater following and consequently raise their chances of receiving government funding for their programs. I will give an example of how everyone’s duties aligned in order to put on a great Spring Awards Breakfast, a fundraising event that helps them receive funding for their impactful programs.
Andrea goes out into the community and observes the problems that need fixing. She forms strong relationships with Massachusetts residents and works closely with various organizations in order to fully understand the problems that the communities are facing. She then relays this information on to the staff members and MPHA’s partnering organizations who then create a potential policy/ program that may be able to fix the problem.
The Edward M Kennedy Community Health Center is a partner with MPHA for the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund (PWTF). They have a strong relationship with MPHA and one of their staff members spoke at one of MPHA’s rallies at the State House for funding for the PWTF.
Edward M Kennedy CHC staff member speaking at MPHA rally
Policy and advocacy managers, Maddie and Kristina with this new information make trips to the state house to speak to policymakers/go to hearings in hopes of getting granted funding for their program. When MPHA has successes, Melanie, the Communications manager, communicates this on social media and the website and creates a following for the organization. An example is when MPHA secured $6 million for the Mass Food Trust, a program that they routinely fight for funding for. This program benefits Massachusetts residents that live in places where there is little to no access to healthy and affordable food. With the organization’s following, Akosua makes major decisions regarding MPHA events (in this case, the spring awards breakfast, which is a fundraiser), and Alexa, the events manager, carries out the decisions and puts on the event. She emails guests, updates databases, chooses a venue, etc. Jodie, the ED overlooks all of this while building relationships with various other organizations and Massachusetts residents in order to keep MPHA a popular and trustworthy organization. Nopalzin makes sure that everyone is getting paid and that the organization is in good economic standing. He budgets the events and has access to the company credit card that is used to buy materials that the organization needs.
On June 2, MPHA put on a beautiful breakfast that honored health equity champions. There were public health organizations from all over Massachusetts in attendance, and Governor Charlie Baker even spoke. MPHA raised nearly $10,000 at the event alone, and over $50,000 leading up to the event. All of this wouldn’t have been able to happen without the teamwork of everyone. Each small step of each team member creates a great accomplishment when they all work together. 
Governor Baker speaking at MPHA 15th Annual Spring Awards Breakfast.

Blog post # 4: New York Communities for Change

Hello everybody!

This is Gabriel. Back for my fourth blog post in as many weeks. Today I am answering the prompt:

What skills are you gaining and how will you employ those skills in the future (at Brandeis or beyond)?

One concrete skill I am learning at NYCC is the ability to use Powerbase. Powerbase is an open source database tool for organizing. With Powerbase I can input contact information, communication preferences and more for all the people I meet. I can also log when our contacts attend meetings or 1-on-1s or make commitments. José Gonzalez, the Director of Data Initiatives and Research for NYCC, wrote about how data collection has expanded NYCC’s political and financial capacity: “PowerBase has allowed us to create a realistic landscape of our membership and its characteristics. Because we are able to quantify the amount of members we have and document where they live, we are able to put forth an actual number that illustrates the support the organization has and therefore our political power. We are also able to qualify for funding through grants because of the same numbers.”

While Powerbase is valuable at organization-wide level it also helpful to the individual organizer. It helps me keep track of who I have contacted, when I first met them and how our phones calls or other communications have gone.  In conjunction with Hustle, Powerbase allows me to send out mass text messages reminding folks about meetings or upcoming actions.

Images from our #TenantMarch in DC

I did not foresee gaining technological skills at NYCC. However, I did anticipate learning about how to build relationships with folks and motivate them to join our cause. Throughout my time speaking to people at workforce centers, community centers, parks, bus stops, apartment complexes, barbershops and other local business, I am learning how to best present myself and frame issues in ways that are most likely to resonate and inspire people to join. Every person is different and I have to find that mutual ground. Especially coming as a white dude from Western Mass, I can’t front and pretend like we are all in the same boat. I can’t organize the same as my colleagues who grew up in Brownsville. However, if I come grounded, with an understanding of why I am doing the work and where I stand in the fight I find that I am super comfortable speaking with folks and making a connection. While I am comfortable starting the conversation, I’ve had a harder time getting folks to commit and come to meetings. I don’t like to demand things of people in my daily life. I am working on becoming more firm and insistent. My confidence grows as I understand and build faith in the mission of NYCC.

All these skills are transferable to my future career as an educator. Comfort with data collection and organization is helpful to almost any organization that works with a large contact list. I could foresee a school wanting to send out automated messages to parents from different grade levels or classes. However, the most transferable skill is building relationships and motivating people. Building a strong relationship with my future students and making a connection between their lived experiences and the content material will be incredibly helpful. Motivating them to follow and do their homework will be my biggest challenge.

 

Personal Growth

During Week 1 of my internship with BridgeYear my bosses made something clear – while our professional work was important to them, so was our personal development. To demonstrate their investment in us as individuals, they set up weekly coaching sessions. For 30 minutes each week, each intern gets to meet with our assigned coach to talk about areas of growth that we have chosen with their help. These sessions have become essential to my BridgeYear experience and development as a leader.

As a way to learn more about our working styles, the Co-Founders had all interns take the DISC assessment. This was part of chats during our coaching sessions. Go to this link to learn more about your personality strengths: https://discpersonalitytesting.com/free-disc-test/

My role this summer involves leading a team of people I’ve come to call friends and reporting to bosses I’ve called mentors for years. In other words, I’m caught in the middle of relationships with multiple dynamics. Although this situation creates an ideal working atmosphere on most days due to our strong bonds, it can also be hard to juggle when we have to get down to business. I worried about this from the start – how can I voice my opinions when we’re not on the same page, confront serious topics and deliver big asks, all while maintaining mentorships and friendships? I expressed this worry to my coach during our very first 1:1. It’s been about 7 weeks since then, and in that time, the situations I first worried about became a reality.

The team dynamic is fantastic inside and outside of the office!

While the moments leading up to difficult conversations with my team were nerve-wracking, they weren’t as bad as I had imagined. This is because I worked on establishing a culture of trust and openness with the advisors I was leading from the start. I was readily available when they needed me, I listened to their concerns inside and outside of BridgeYear, and constantly reinforced that my priority was doing what was best for our students. Going back to the talk I had with my coach, I remembered that if my team trusted me and understood that I had the right intentions, then they would be willing to listen when it was time to get serious. I think this is exactly what happened. My team listened and acted when I expressed concerns about us not meeting goals or tracking student progress, etc. They were receptive to my feedback and none of it damaged our friendships because mutual respect had been established.

Just as things had to get real with advisors, the same happened with my bosses. In another one of my coaching sessions I was told that in my position I had to be an “advocate.” My coach explained that I had to communicate my team’s needs to them (the co-founders) in order for all of the team to be on the same page. It was another responsibility that took some owning up to because I had to manage up and communicate the not so pleasant things.

I got my chance when I realized that as BridgeYear was expanding, the focus on advising was getting lost in transition. With potential partners being attracted to our Career Test Drives (CTDs) the most, our time was mostly spent on CTD-related tasks and, in comparison, little time was being invested in advising. This was worrisome. I wanted us all to be 100% for students, but we felt that our CTD projects were more pressing. When I decided that this couldn’t go on for longer I sat down with one of the co-founders and told her that this had to change. Together, we brainstormed ways to get everyone to restructure priorities by tag-teaming during an all-team meeting in which advising took the spotlight. This was a wake-up call for advisors and since then, the team has done well at prioritizing.

I bring these situations up because in the process I’ve gotten to develop new skills and learn about myself in the workplace. I’ve learned that, though not always easy, it is possible to find a balance between friendship and professionalism. I’ve become better at listening and adapting to other’s needs. I’ve practiced managing up to my bosses, though I’d say not enough, but even that’s part of my growth. The lessons I’ve learned during my time with BridgeYear will surely resurface at Brandeis and beyond.

Dariana Resendez ‘19

Social Justice, what I learnt in Brandeis v. real life

Other than the education I receive from my classes at Brandeis, I have learned a great deal from talking with Prof. Charles Chester from International Environmental Policy courses. We mostly talked about how environmental advocacy and NGO groups function around the world. But coming to work at National Consumers League, I realized the experience is very much the same for similar organizations in different fields. It does not matter what industry you work in, as long as the organization is trying to mobilize politicians, the way of work is very similar.

One thing we discussed was how these organizations are inefficient. He explained that for many organizations, the staff have to spend a lot of resources finding funding for the activities and for the organization itself to survive. So the time and money that are supposed to go to doing activities to support the cause actually go to paying people to apply for other grants that hopefully will pay for those activities. The problem is worsened if there are many third parties organization in between the original donor and the organization which actually does the practical work, as along the way there will just be more “leaking buckets,” as my professor said it. So by the time the money reaches the actual work, it will be a fraction of what the original amount of money. And that is certainly a waste.

A member of our 2-person sponsor relation team

Now, fortunately, National Consumers League is not the type of origination that does grassroots work. And other than traditional donations, where our sponsors just donate a certain amount to the organization, we have a project-based system for donors who want to give for a specific project that we run. We also have a department of two people specializing in opening networks and working with sponsors to get more grants. This funding system and the size of the sponsor relation department, in my opinion, give donors the confidence that their money, to the maximum degree possible, is not being used for the wrong purpose.

At Brandeis, I also had the pleasure of talking to my business-savvy upperclassman. We argue about how organizations are inefficient in a different way: how they are swayed by the power of the money from their donors. He argues that most organizations receive their money from for-profit business and thus are incredibly restricted in what and how they can support their agenda. Given that I am in a consumer-rights industry right now, this is particularly relevant. Business and consumers are not always the best harmony when it comes to benefits. I have experienced this struggle when I first worked on my project to identify and promote brands of products are child-labour free. Of course, I was discouraged with the concern that advertising (while I merely consider it educating and informing customers) certain brands would have the organization be at odds with other potential sponsors. It was incredibly dampening as I don’t see how we can be informing people while being influenced by those who give us the money we need to survive as an organization. Luckily, my doubt was slightly mitigated after I learned that our director once wrote a blog advocating for the limitation on soda drink sales in restaurants due to its being linked with diabetes–and some of those brands are actually our sponsors. The NCL, while taking precautions when giving out criticisms of certain brands, is still an independent entity that informs and advocates for what it believes in.

Of course, I cannot say it is or can be the same for every organization out there to operate with some kind of independency or with the maximum efficiency possible, nor can I say the NCL is the ideal model that every organization should follow. But I do believe for now we have the balance needed to carry out our work.

Reid and I talking to the survivors of child labour in a Child Labour coalition meeting

A month of ‘Avodah’

It has now been a month since I started working for Avodah and I am already thinking ahead about the ways in which I could help their cause even when I am done with the internship. I have already contacted friends and colleagues to let them know them about the Jewish Service Corps, which is a project unique in its scope and mission, as I have learned by working closely with Avodah’s alumni programming team.

(Source: avodah.net)

The first aspect of the Service Corps that distinguishes it from most social justice and youth activism opportunities is the fact that it allows members the freedom to design their own path. Whether they are interested in offering legal assistance to immigrants or volunteering in the healthcare system, Avodah provides them with a wide range of placements, i.e. partner organizations for which they will work for the duration of the year. Poverty alleviation is the nucleus of the organization, but the Jewish Service Corps recognizes that the roots and effects of this phenomenon run too wide and deep to be tackled unilaterally. The many ways in which Avodah’s undertaking can be addressed is reflected in the plethora of directions in which Corps Members can branch out. This serves another key goal of the program, namely encouraging leadership among young people who want to be active members their communities. The Jewish Service Corps lets its participants choose their own journeys, while making sure they are not alone.

(Source: avodah.net)

I think this is where the essence of the work, mission, and organizational culture in a nonprofit like Avodah truly lies. The Corps members become part of a cohort of like-minded young people, activists, volunteers, employees, and most importantly alumni of almost twenty years of programming. This is how the organization manages to impact more than just the current group of activists it trains. “Igniting social change”, the second part of Avodah’s motto, refers to this ‘family’ that bridges generational, geographic, social, and economic gaps. It refers to connecting a surgeon who enrolled as a healthcare enthusiast in the Service Corps fifteen years ago to a recent college graduate interested in refugees’ rights. Through this network, Community engagement, which is Avodah’s latest area of projects, ultimately amounts to community building.

Sonia Pavel ’20

Reflecting on My Work So Far

So far, I have had a really interesting time at my internship with Umby, a platform that allows individuals to donate to support small amounts of insurance for people living in global poverty. I still have a couple weeks left to go, but as I look back and reflect, I feel like I’ve expanded my horizons and learned a lot.

Source: National Society of Black Engineers

I’ve learned a lot about social justice work. I’ve definitely redoubled my commitment to work in this sector after graduation. I’ve learned that I am open to a wide variety of issue areas. Before this, I knew very little about international poverty; frankly, it felt like an insurmountable issue that I didn’t have the energy to tackle when there are already so many problems at home. Now, I’ve learned so much about poverty in a huge variety of countries, from Cambodia to Mexico. It is heartbreaking that so many people face poverty, but it is heartening that there are real projects being done to combat it, often led by people from that region. I have learned a lot about microinsurance itself, its potential, and how it truly will help thousands of people moving forward. I hope that my organization has the ability to participate in this movement and help to make a difference.

I wish I had asked more questions from the beginning. Working for a startup means that a lot of our work is still in development. I wish I had spoken with my boss, who is the founder and CEO of the company, about all sorts of things from the beginning: her business plan, her media plan, the umbrella prototypes, and more. Now, I have had the opportunity to see a lot of these aspects come together; for example, we are in the process of contacting reporters to spread the word about the product, and I’ve seen mock-ups of the full website. These aspects have given me greater insight into what it looks like to start a business. I have the ambition of starting a nonprofit of my own someday, and these sorts of experiences are really valuable to see the nitty-gritty of how this happens. I just wish I had asked about this from the beginning. Luckily, I got to see them in the end!

Flexibility is key in the nonprofit world! Source: SatelliteToday.com

For those who are interested in working with a nonprofit, particularly a startup, I would advise, above all, to be flexible. Things almost never go as planned, especially in the nonprofit world, and even more so in the startup world. I have always done well by being flexible and cheerful about doing a huge variety of tasks, even if those tasks involve filing for a while or Googling random facts about Mardi Gras (both tasks I’ve done during my working life, both of which ended up being useful in the end!). Being flexible also allows you to discover new things about yourself, such as your own creative interests. At least, it has for me! For example, I know that I’m not interested in marketing as a career, but by accepting this internship I found that I really love getting to write blog posts all day, or really write anything at all, which I think is knowledge that will serve me well – and be transferable – as I continue my working life.

Overall, I’ve had a pretty fun experience working for Umby, which has been very different from all the work environments I’ve had before. I’ve learned a lot about the sector, about the issues, and about myself during the past couple months, and I look forward to closing out my experience positively!

Reflecting on my Green Map Summer Experience

Looking back at my overall experience working at Green Map System, I am impressed by the variety of insights I have gained about social justice work in both the environmental and urban planning fields. Primarily, I have learned that technology is playing an increasingly important role in promoting awareness about environmental issues and driving new solutions. Through online mapping, community members can now learn and gain autonomy over the development of their neighborhoods in new ways and can communicate the value of green spaces more effectively.

Since starting my internship, I have had an impact on my organization in a variety of ways, all with the effect of bringing Green Map System up to speed with today’s technology. On Green Map System’s new webpage, one can now see countless stories that I have created describing Green Map System’s history, impact, and reach through different site mapping projects. With this in mind, I am really glad to have learned from this experience how meaningful it is to work in an organization that gives you challenging but significant responsibilities, as each contribution you make has the potential to impact the development and path of the organization.

The NY-Subway L train, which is part of my commute.

On another note, I have learned from internship the challenges of commuting. I feel extremely fortunate to live in close enough proximity to Manhattan to use public transportation to get to work, however, I now recognize why living in the city during the internship experience would have been preferable. This experience has granted me more personal insight into the challenges of suburban sprawl and the importance of investments and innovations in public transportation. I think that had I known this earlier, I would have prepared to get up earlier and go to bed earlier so that I would feel more comfortable as I started my long and early trips to work. However, the tradeoff benefit of this living arrangement is being near my family and friends as well as in the green community that ultimately inspired one of my main internship projects.

Visualizing Data for Greater Impact Event at the Pratt Institute Manhattan Campus

Finally, for anyone wanting to pursue an internship or career in my field I would recommend gaining a broad background in sustainability while also developing specific skill sets that can be useful to an organization. A broad background allows one to pick up on the issues challenging different communities more easily and to relate specific challenges, such as hurricane risk and increasing asthma rates to overarching issues that could have led to them, such as climate change and air pollution. Meanwhile, some technical background or other hard skill set, from web design to statistical analysis, will provide incredible value to your organization that they will recognize quickly.

I am very thankful for the learning and professional opportunities I have had working at Green Map System and by being a Social Justice WOW Fellowship participant. This opportunity truly helped me understand what it is like to work on environmental issues from a technical perspective and in an urban space and I am really glad that I was able to pick up on so many different tasks and responsibilities as I have worked here. Every internship presents new learning opportunities and experience, but I can truly say that my Green Map System experience brought me a more diverse and exciting array of learning opportunities than I could have ever expected.

Pre-departure notes

Towards the end of my internship, I gradually started to appreciate how multifactorial this internship is. As part of the Market, I am constantly motivated and pushed to learn more about the social justice purpose of this organization. From the carrying out of the Massachusetts State program – the Health Incentive Program – to multiple tours I have given to visiting kids’ group, not only did I gain a deeper understanding towards each vendor in the market, but more importantly, towards the mission of the Market.

retrieved from https://bostonpublicmarket.org/Boston_Public_Market_business_plan.pdf

To my surprise, my learning mostly takes place outside projects. As I know more and more about the Market, I started to have some original ideas of event programming. For example, I wanted to talk to vendors more, because, after all, they are the foundation of the Market.  Then I tried to think of possible ways for me to do it. The most relevant ways would be using the Market’s social media platform. So I actively took over all the social media involved projects: taking pictures, Facebook live, Instagram live, etc. In this way, I would be able to improve my communication skill. I know that I am an introverted person, and am not good at talking to people. This internship offers an excellent opportunity to confront my weak points.

The biggest turning point of this internship is when I “interviewed” the Market’s community and outreach chair both to deepen my understanding of the organization, and to ask for her suggestions for office interns. I learned a lot of useful information regarding market strategic design, core missions, etc. Before the interview, I kind of just accepted the projects that needed to be done and finished up some small details of different projects. However, after knowing the five public impact goals of the market, I learned to spontaneously think of new projects and come up with new ideas, instead of asking around for projects. Although the point of having interns in the office is to help the staffs with projects, the main point is still to make work more productive. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I do think that it is extremely important to be creative and spontaneous. At only two year’s anniversary, the Market is still growing and experimenting. For example, the Market partnered up with a small tech company in East Boston and shot some recipe videos, including a goat cheese blueberry French toast, posted last week. I think both recipe video shooting and collaboration with tech company are very much an experiment rather than a long-term project. And I’m very curious how it will go in the future.

retrieved from http://bostonpublicmarket.org/blog/3079/goat-cheese-and-honey-french-toast

If I were to start this internship again, I would re-arrange my schedule a little bit. Now that I know work in the office and the Market better, I think it is better to come for a short time period in the morning, and stay over a longer periods. In that way, I would be able to experience all kinds of events in the Market, and also choose different days of the weeks to stay. Moreover, I really admire the focus on the development of small business, which I do think will be the future of the food industry. This new model will be infinitely more flexible and vivid than big industry. I really enjoy working here, and I’d definitely come back one day!

-Yuchen He

Wrapping up

Throughout my internship I have learned so many valuable lessons. The most important one is that you have to be flexible, creative, and reflective because everything is a learning process. Working at a relatively new start-up has also reinforced this. The programs OSW runs are extremely new and depend heavily on the audience. For example, the program we run in downtown Oakland is extremely different from the program that we run in Alameda because there are two different, distinct demographic groups that attend each one. The people who attend these events are receptive to different movement coaches, music, and food, so we have to be extremely aware of what different people need and be flexible enough to change our program to fit their needs while still providing the same support.

At the end of one of our programs last week, my bosses came up to me and said, “We’re never letting you go. You have to stay and become head of HR and our operations director. You can’t go back to Boston.” Honestly, that meant so much to me because it showed me that I am actually making a difference. As an intern, I sometimes feel as though I am learning a lot from the organization and the experience, but that I am not giving back as much as they are giving me. This showed me that I was wrong. Now that I am taking this time to reflect, I think I helped the organization branch out and make connections with different providers in the area, find potential new interns for the fall (to replace me), and create a fluid transition when they shifted their main program to a module system earlier this month.

As I have written in previous posts, my internship is not a typical internship. My bosses push all of the interns to step outside of our comfort zones with projects, be vulnerable with them and each other, and be confident in everything that we do (whether or not we feel that way inside). I wish I had known this about the organization beforehand because I believe it would have taken me a lot less time to open up to them and become comfortable doing these things. I think I would have been a better intern from the very beginning instead of half way through.

My advice to any future interns at Open Source Wellness or people seeking an internship in healthcare or nonprofit work is to be open to new experiences and different types of people. A career in social justice or health care both involve working with people who have backgrounds that are completely different from yours and from each other. Be open to them and what you will learn from one another. Also, make connections and be authentic. Oftentimes, when people are struggling with difficult health issues, they are embarrassed or distressed about their situation. It is extremely important to connect with them on a personal level and share your own story and struggles so they know they are not alone and have nothing to be ashamed of. Finally, be passionate. A career in public health or community health is not easy because change happens slowly. Only people who are truly passionate about healthcare and community health will have the patience to make lasting change.

Here are the only two photos I have at work:

(The interns practicing taking each other’s blood pressure)

(Me taking a patient’s blood pressure during our program)

Thank you for keeping up with my summer journey!

The Final Stretch

(picture from the first day from work. Hard to believe it’s been so long!)

It’s an exciting and sad feeling to know that I’m at the end of my internship. As much as I look forward to my senior year at Brandeis, I’ve really enjoyed being in Chicago with IWJ. Chicago has been a gorgeous city, and I’ve enjoyed my time here from the food to the Cubs enthusiasm,  to the lakefront views. 

(pictured: picture perfect lakefront view near the office)

It’s been exciting during this time to do the ground work for implementing social justice, and understanding what I can do better to continue the fight. For instance, one thing that really makes a difference is being a regular donor. Even if it’s a small amount of money, having a source of guaranteed income can help projects progress more efficiency and help the budgeting process. 

Secondarily, the people you surround yourselves with are important. I’ve had days of the week where the activity was putting together mailings or making calls. Having friendly and amiable colleagues made all the difference in undertaking these tasks and understanding the importance of what we were doing. The diversity of my workplace helped me to appreciate the full impact of our community outreach and helped me to always conceptualize social justice concepts like eliminating wage theft through a variety of lenses. For instance, wage theft is experienced differently in different communities and tailoring a message of awareness to the specific group of people can make all the difference in seminar and workshop feedback. Having friends that are also willing to be open and educate themselves about these issues can do wonders to creating a better place. 

I like to think I added a different perspective as well while in the office. Most of my office is from the east coast and Midwest, while I spent my formative years in the west, primarily the southwest. I found sometimes that individuals from other states can be dismissive of Arizonan dialogue concerning immigration and labor because of political disputes. Maybe Arizona isn’t the first place that is referenced for social justice initiatives, but I still think it’s important to hear our stories. There is no one answer to complicated questions, and I’m glad that social justice is beginning to incorporate the perspectives of people from different states into understanding policy impacts instead of generalizing based on preconceived notions. 

Beyond that realization, advice to future students and what I wish I knew beforehand go hand in hand. I wish I had a clearer idea of my obligations at the internship from the beginning so I could have started more targeted instead of generalized projects. It would have also helped to understand how my small projects played a bigger role in our overall mission. But I still learned more about my dedication and resiliency in the process. 

I’ve reconfirmed my commitment to always be adaptable, humble and willing to work my way up. I’ve taken pride what I’ve done so I can appreciate the little victories before striving for larger aspirations so as to avoid burnout. 

So always remember, at the end of the day, taking the first step is better than none at all.

That in mind, I encourage you to take this time to donate to a group that represents your issues. Because if you feel seriously about social justice, actions and funds are invaluable. Here are a few of IWJ’s national affiliates here that are doing great work to learn some more. If funds are scarce, ask how you can volunteer for a local organization. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog posts and I hope I’ve painted a clear picture of a job in the SJ field! 

Sincerely,

Rachel

(A little piece of Brandeis away from Brandeis at a Chicago event)

Closing My Time at HIVE

My time at HIVE has taught me a lot about social justice work and how to weave social justice into a professional career. When I think about HIVE, I think about how HIV work is innately activist work for its complex history ridden with homophobia, racism, and sexism. For this reason, finding that activist spark I want is not so difficult at HIVE. Although HIVE still works within a larger, more traditional medical institution, they are actively working towards uplifting marginalized communities. To read about how HIVE is affecting HIV medical providers, visit: https://www.hiveonline.org/for-providers/

HIVE provides many tools for providers and patients for the advancement of HIV care.

The work that I have done at HIVE has been impactful in both the development of HIVE and of myself. The patient database that I have spent so much time working on, and will hopefully be completed by the time my time at HIVE finishes, allows HIVE to answer critical questions related to HIV in the advancement of their work. The database allows users to more quickly pull information about women and couples affected by HIV and how HIV shapes their experiences. For example, the database will shed light on what it takes to be engaged in HIV care and how one might feel the stigma of HIV, among many other things. These questions are ones that are seldom answered or integrated into HIV care but are what necessitate making HIV care dynamic and comprehensive.

What I wish I had known when I had started HIVE was what it would feel like to not be interacting with the patients that I am inputting into the database. Each day, I am reading medical providers’ notes on someone’s physical, social, and mental well-being. The notes are often in depth and cover a lot of vulnerable information, but simultaneously the note cannot capture everything about the patient. Many of the challenges with the database include how to communicate the most key information about someone’s health. Recently, at a HIVE meeting, we were talking about how to capture one’s experience with HIV and stigma. As this is something that many folks affected by HIV experience, it was important to write into the database. While this is true, it’s also difficult to reduce something as complex and ever-changing as stigma into a yes or no option in a database, which is reflected in the fact that I read notes about patients and their most intimate experiences, but will never meet them. It’s difficult to reconcile the two, but seeing how people’s experiences with HIV and the conversation around HIV have changed over the years feels hopeful.

Some advice that I would give to someone who wants to become involved in social justice work is that there are so many people who are doing the work that needs to be done. There are so many pushing back against oppressive systems, and because there are so many ways in which oppression manifests, there is a vast majority of organizations who are all doing different, yet equally significant, work. One experience I had recently was participating in the San Francisco AIDS Walk where organizations from all over the Bay Area gather to support HIV programs and services. There were over 100 organizations who participated, which in turn illustrates the diversity of HIV activism—so many unique organizations who all support a common goal (to read about the AIDS Walk, visit: https://sf.aidswalk.net/About). In other words, there are so many people, from the grassroots level to the institutional level, fighting for activist causes and all that one needs to do is become involved.

A photo from the 2017 AIDS Walk.

HIV + Homelessness in San Francisco

My time at HIVE has taught me a significant amount about how one must advocate for social causes within the network of an institution. As mentioned in a previous blog post, HIVE disrupts the assumed benevolence of medical care because even working within a network that is meant to help people—the medical institution, for example—there still is a lot of prejudice and oppression within the institution.

One case recently is the changes that are and have been taking place in regards to providing housing for San Francisco’s homeless population. There are many details of these changes that I know little about, but the essence of the changes is prioritizing housing for those who are living on the streets and have not had indoor residence for a certain amount of time. But homelessness does not always mean living on the streets. Moreover, these changes are redefining what it means to be homeless and are, in effect, marginalizing other strategies of survival. For many pregnant women, actually living on the streets is not a viable option, and while they still are without a home, they find residence with emergency housing, with friends, in their car, etc. The changes that are taking place within the housing network in San Francisco are indubitably pertinent to HIVE patients who are either homeless or marginally housed and employ these methods of survival. When the news of these developments broke, the HIVE team got to work on pushing back against the changes and continuing to support the patients who were already or were to be affected. This New York Times article explains more about San Francisco homelessness.  Another San Francisco-based organization—Homeless Prenatal Program—is doing similar work.

A photo from an HPP article where the mother featured writes that “homelessness comes in all forms.”
A graphic from The North American Housing & HIV/AIDS Research Summit Series (2012).

Advocating for vulnerable populations takes work, energy and dedication. It relies heavily on resiliency. Because the work that HIVE does is so comprehensive and is not limited to the medicasphere, there is an active energy that is present in each member of the HIVE team. In other words, this work is not passive and each HIVE team member is active in their work and advocacy. When I think about what I have learned so far about myself in the workplace, I think a lot about HIVE’s social worker. As stated before, the HIVE team is composed of people with different career backgrounds so as to provide the most comprehensive care they can. I think specifically about HIVE’s social worker because she works most directly with the effects of institutional changes such as those taking place in the housing network. There is no doubt in my mind that she is working tirelessly for the safety and well-being of HIVE patients. The way she speaks of the obstacles that face HIVE patients, and combatting those obstacles, as well as the way she speaks of their successes strikes a chord with me. I know that whatever field I enter, whatever career path I may take, I want to have the same energy that she has with her in working day to day advocating for and supporting vulnerable populations.

Long Lasting Change

I have learned many things about social justice since my time here, but the one thing that has stuck with me has been to keep yourself and others aware of our impact domestically and globally. Change starts with knowledge and knowledge is power. If we as a community are staying up to date and aware of the problems we face, it becomes easier for us to stand up together and fight for the right causes to make positive, long lasting change. The advice I would give to someone in a comparable situation to me would be make the best of the time you have. Opportunities like these come and go so quickly that you don’t have much time to reflect on what you’ve learned or how valuable those lessons are.

Before coming to AJWS I wish I had known that individual actions are more substantial than you think. As cliché as it may sound, each person can leave a mark on something. I feel like I have already done that here at AJWS. People risk everything just to ensure others are prioritized and taken care of. For example, in an article publish recently by an LGBT newspaper, our very own Robert Bank was featured and speaks about the impact one man has had on his South African community, despite the brutality he faces regularly.

Words of motivation

Before my internship here at AJWS, I was hesitant about taking on the responsibility of another internship. In my previous experience, working as an intern was less than exciting and often it felt rather tedious and boring. While working and learning for free isn’t always going to be a joyous occasion, it is intended to be meaningful. Since my time here at AJWS is nearly over, I can confidently say that I would never pass up another internship opportunity, much less one centered around Jewish values. I feel this way simply because you never know what will come out of the time you spend with the organization, the connections you’ll make along the way and the skills you’ll acquire consciously or subconsciously. From the beginning, I have felt very fortunate not only to be considered for the position but to have been accepted and allowed the opportunity to do this. Every day when I am surrounded by people who strongly believe in the work they’re doing, it is motivation for me to continue to prioritize my academics and my future career. I am very much considering the possibility of working in a field that emphasizes and works to promote human rights globally. There are many job titles and positions in the corporate sector as well that hold the promotion of civil social responsibility to a great degree.

Donor Engagement Celebration of AJWS achievement

I will miss the time I have spent with my fellow intern peer Madeline, who has sat with me every day this summer and helps to keep me focused and on top of task. I will miss Aliza who started me here at AJWS and has taught me so much about the dedication and patience it takes to be successful. Without her guidance and insight, the projects I have had here at AJWS would not be carried out with such detail and poise which she has helped teach me. I will miss Neely who has believed in my abilities from the first time we met and knew I had the tools and resources to take matters into my own hands when necessary. She has been a constant source of light, a confidence and reassurance booster as well as my own personal concierge giving me tips and tricks about how to navigate NYC. I will miss Kaylan who made me laugh with something witty she said every time I saw her. I will miss Robert who is leading this organization beautifully and cares immensely about our mission. However, I will not miss the freezing cold A/C blasting from 9:00am to 5:00pm making the office feel like Antarctica. As my summer comes to a close, I look forward to being home with my family before heading back to school and beginning my journey as a young advocate and leader for human rights on campus.

I’ll miss this walk to work.

final thought on BU school of public health

Reflecting on my time at Boston University’s School of Public Health researching racism, firearm violence and police brutality, it is hard to believe that it is almost over. This experience has been very eye opening and I am thankful that I was able to work in issues that I am passionate about. I learned many interesting thing doing this research that has given me a new perspective on America. The first month and a half of my work, me and the two other interns created an entire database from 1990 to 2015 measuring various indicators of racism. We are the first to do this. There have been other articles claiming to measure the most racist states like this one for example, but it does not have multiple measurements or chart it for 25 years.

From our findings, I discovered that all 50 states have a massive problem and all struggle with racism, not just conservative states. I also learned that the Midwest is actually the worst area, while previously I believed that South would be the most racist. After gathering all of our data we began to analyze it and compared it to police shootings, firearm homicide rates and disparities between white and black victims. We discovered that disparities between firearm homicide rates are strongly correlated to the racism measurements, meaning that states that were more racist had higher numbers of black homicide rates. This discovery was not too surprising.

A discovery that did surprise me was that we did not find a strong correlation between the state level of racism and black-white disparities of people shot by police. This could be that some of the numbers we were working with were too small and skewed the data.

Another thing we measured was how states improved over the years and if they made any progress with these various measures. We discovered that there was a very strong negative correlation between disparities in police shootings and progress. This means that states that were working to be less racist and have improved over the course of 25 years had lower rates of disparities in police shootings, regardless of where they stand on the racist scale we invented. These were some of the sites that were useful when conducting our research.

All of the data was collected by me and two other interns, meaning that I had a significant impact on final results of this work. I believe that my work was vital and the three of us were very involved in this project. We are working to publish our database as well as writing a paper. We are allowing anyone to access this database, meaning I will have an impact on other research that is based off of this data. Before I stated that I was very overwhelmed by the workload, independence, and importance of the work I was doing. There is no other database measuring racism state by state for a span of 25 years. I was responsible for finding and plotting all the data and I was very worried that I would make a mistake or mess something up. After looking back on all the work I did, I wish that I can more trust and have confidence in myself.

The advice I would give to anyone else working on something similar would be to not be intimidated or overwhelmed by the work. To anyone who feels that they may be under-qualified for a position they were given, the best way to learn is through experience and hands-on work, not necessarily just schooling. I would also say that America is not completely doomed and there are people and organizations like BU committed to solving issues like these. I believe that by being given so much responsibility, I was able to accomplish more than I have ever thought I could.

Reflection on Internship at Orchard Cove

My internship has been a wonderful experience, and I am so glad I have had the opportunity to work at Orchard Cove continuing care retirement community. Aside from the main tasks I was assigned to do, I was given a lot of flexibility to explore other areas of Orchard Cove. My supervisor helped set me up to become a CarFit technician, lead a vision board project, lead a field trip to a nature park, shadow an occupational therapist, survey some residents, gather surveys about Orchard Cove fitness, shadow her Vitalize 360 sessions, create flyers for events, and more. I was able to really see how a team worked and do my part in helping the team.

A picture of my workspace since I began the internship.

My knowledge of social justice work has expanded since working at Orchard Cove. Access to a stimulating and meaningful day to day experience for the elderly is not consistent across the elderly population of the United States. Orchard Cove serves a clientele that is mostly middle- to upper-class with significant financial resources and therefore there was substantial stimulating programming. However, what I discovered is that most such places do not have this level of care, and that it is a privilege that Orchard Cove has these resources and opportunities. Other places around the country trying to do the Vitalize 360 program don’t necessarily have the interdisciplinary team and the resources to best support the program. If social justice means having equal opportunity to care without regards to financial resources, than the current situation is inequitable.

Orchard Cove Logo

The biggest impact I would say I made was helping to strengthen the process of the Vitalize 360 Program. Just recently, my supervisor and I solidified a list of teachable steps for the program to use to train other coaches. We made a list for how the program works for new residents and how it works for current residents already participating in the program. In making the overall steps of this process, we were able to figure out where the vitalize coaches role ends and where the doctor’s role begins. By doing Vitalize 360, we are making sure that residents reach their maximum potential of wellness and promote them having conversations about what matters most to them with their doctor and their health care proxy. I took part in streamlining the program with the medical staff to make the delivery of care more efficient. Before we streamlined the program, the medical staff did not necessarily receive all of the information to align the treatment with the patient’s goals. We overall have increased organization of the care team. Our program has a great impact that structures goals for the resident.

Something I know now that I wish I knew when I started was the background of the clientele I would be serving. I also wish I had known the amount of flexibility and extra time in my schedule. The advice I would give to someone else who wants to pursue an internship or career in my organization is that the staff are wonderful and have a good communication system with one another. It is important when working with this population to take each person where they are at, have patience and flexibility, and always treat with respect. It is important to not be afraid to branch out within the company and see what’s going on, because I found that a lot of the positions are very interconnected.

 

Life Ain’t Fair!

I came in thinking I would be able to match each of the clients to a “main dentist.” That sounds great, doesn’t it? I personally think that all of the clients that the agency serves deserve the care that they need. I wanted for each client to at least receive a comprehensive exam and cleaning.

We often underestimate the importance of our oral health and visiting the dentist twice a year. Medical doctors are often seen as the more important ones, where dentists may sometimes be seen as not as qualified as medical doctors. It’s very evident in our society where dental and medical insurances are separate. Not one insurance covers both services.

However, as days and weeks passed, I was informed that it is not needed that each client has a main dentist. I could not wrap my head around that statement. My supervisor believes that a dentist is only needed when there is an emergency. “But what about the cleaning? What about the exam to determine if the client needs care?” I kept questioning to myself. For the weeks to come, I will definitely try to get this message across: “A comprehensive exam is needed at the very beginning that you start any procedure with a dentist. You cannot wait until you have unbearable pain that you go and seek a dentist. One should see a dentist once the service is available to you. Cleanings are needed every six months. Preventative care is as important as any other treatments like extractions and root canals. Preventative care is what prevents one from undergoing those painful experiences that everyone is scared of.” I hope that through this message, the agency aims to provide each client with the dental care that is needed and readily available.

However, I’ve learned that this social justice service of providing equal care to all may not seem as easy as it sounds. We took into consideration the cost and eligibility of receiving care. Medicaid has its limits, and so do the pockets of the clients. Transportation is also a huge burden for the clients. With an English language barrier, it is often difficult for the clients to explore what the land of their new life has to offer. Some of these clients live frugal lifestyles where for parents, spending $12 for school bus transportation for their children to attend school is hard to do. Considering all these factors of limited language skills, transportation, and money, it is hard for one to hope for these clients to access the different services that society can offer, including dental care. Thus, closing any gaps, whether for health care or education, is very difficult to achieve unless all of these factors and limitations are wiped out.

So far, I’ve been able to help with data entry into the server provided by the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, review clients’ files so that the agency passes the monitoring sessions, contact many insurance companies and dental clinics, and develop a curriculum based on oral health techniques and resources. The work I have done is very diverse in its nature. I have been able to get a taste of the different services offered to the refugees and the inside workings of the agency. Something that I now know that I wish I had known earlier would be the different insurance plans and the benefits that come with each. There are so many different plans, with each having different eligibility requirements and benefits.

For anyone that would like to come and volunteer or intern with the Refugee Services of Texas, I highly recommend and encourage doing so. Interning at the agency has given me different world-views and reality checks. I advise those who are interested to be open-minded and welcoming to all. There is so much to learn here. Be able to understand and withstand any changes to your plan of action.

In the Air

Holy Rosary Cemetery and Union Carbide Complex, Taft, Louisiana, 1998 by Richard Misrach

Getting to see from the inside how a documentary film is created has been an invaluable experience for me. In the past, from the perspective of a viewer, I had no idea about the extensive thought and planning that is put into every minute detail.

But that amount of work is necessary—it’s vital to making something that’s good, that stays true and authentic to the story and portrays it in a way that is meaningful and lasting.

As I’ve detailed in my previous posts, the situation on the Gulf Coast is dire. Countless vulnerable communities are being threatened by an encroaching petrochemical industry and a government unwilling to protect its citizens.

Cypress Tree, Alligator Bayou, 1998 by Richard Misrach

This is a beautiful, fragile region of our nation, a place that has witnessed firsthand some of the most tumultuous moments of United States history. And, too, it is often forgotten and exploited; its delicate ecosystem is on the verge of collapse. As climate change accelerates, the Gulf Coast is one of the first regions that’s being impacted—and it’s dramatic: Louisiana is losing approximately a football field of coastal wetlands every hour.

Remarkable people live here, too, struggling to lead normal lives as plants continue to spew toxic chemicals into their air and water. I’ve already detailed the tragedy of Mossville, Louisiana, a majority African American community founded by runaway slaves that’s disintegrating because of aggressive petrochemical industry expansion.

And then there’s Africatown, Alabama, and Reserve, Louisiana, and the East End in Houston, among many others.

The resilience of these communities is extraordinary, but the bigger picture can be very discouraging. Communities of color are being systematically targeted and exploited by a ravenous petrochemical industry and complicit governments, and precious little is being done about it.

This is where I believe there becomes an urgent need to tell these stories, to put faces to the facts and figures of the suffering, to broadcast the human beings that live in these communities.

For me, this is why my time this summer at Fiege Films has been so rewarding and engaging. In doing my (admittedly small) part as a Research Assistant here, I’ve been able to contribute to this overall mission, and hopefully help get a littler closer to bringing about justice for these communities.

The film, currently titled In the Air, is in the production phase. You can follow our social media for updates and more information, and you can donate to help offset production costs and make this project a reality.

Final Moments

View of the State House

Working for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has opened my eyes to the extensive amount of work, dedication and passion that is necessary for a successful social justice organization to work. I am constantly inspired by the commitment that the attorneys demonstrate. Specifically, as an Intake Intern, I have seen first-hand the impact our organization has on each individual that walks through the door. Even if we simply take the time to do a consultation, we are able to foster a safe environment to allow people to express their frustration and sadness.

While the internship was a tremendous learning experience for me, I also made mutual contributions to the MCAD. As an Intake Intern, I conducted daily interviews that would otherwise be done by attorneys and investigators. By taking one responsibility off the investigator’s shoulders, they now have more time to devote to cases. Additionally, often the MCAD takes on more cases than they have employees to handle. I have had the unique opportunity to take on some of these cases on my own. Specifically, I have been able to finish the investigative process and write up the final dispositions. Taking on these extra responsibilities is mutually beneficial as it allows me to learn new skills first hand while lessening the organization’s workload.

When I first found out that I received this internship I looked forward to strengthening my interpersonal skills and making a direct impact. While I knew that my job would be emotionally taxing, I wish I would have been thoroughly prepared for the day to day interactions that have become emotionally exhausting. I am often faced with a crying individual that has been wrongfully terminated, or an angry one that feels taken advantage of. It is in those situations that I see the true purpose and need for social justice work.

Despite the challenges I have faced at my internship, I have extremely enjoyed the experience. Specifically, it has provided me with the unique opportunity to learn about the intersection between law and advocacy and see the inner workings of a social justice organization. After this summer, I have a clearer vision of my future career path and have made significant networking connections. For future interns at the MCAD or those considering a career in law, I would definitely highlight the importance of networking. With any career, it is vital to make close relationships as they can become the basis for future opportunities.

As this is my last blog post I think it would be useful to highlight to final process that cases go through at the MCAD. Once an investigator labels a case as probable cause or lack of probable cause, the complainant has the opportunity to mediate and attempt to come to a settlement agreement. If a settlement cannot be reached, the cases go to hearings to be decided by a higher court. These hearings are often conducted by the MCAD. Below is a picture of one of the hearing rooms.

Hearing Room

If I had more time at the MCAD I would have loved to learn more about the legal department side of the organization. However, working on the enforcement side has allowed me the opportunity to see the justice process unfold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on my Internship at the Center for Autism Research

My time interning at the Center for Autism Research has taught me valuable lessons about social justice work as well as how I can actively be more involved. Before beginning my internship, I thought of social justice and social justice work as being large in scope, however, I have now realized that social justice can simply mean working to accomplish any ends that benefit the community. The term social justice is not exclusive to helping refugees or volunteering for an organization working to end world hunger, it can be on a much smaller scale and much more personal.

 

Thus, at the beginning of my internship, I had some trouble seeing how CAR was directly linked to social justice work. It took some time and experience at the center, but I now understand that every project I assisted with at the Center for Autism Research benefitted the community and therefore was extremely valuable work and falls into the category of social justice.  If I could go back to when I first started my internship and give myself advice, I would let myself know that social justice comes in many different forms. Those forms are not always so apparent but it is important to look at projects and assignments from multiple angles in order to understand how they are currently benefitting or can potentially assist children with autism, their families, and the community.

 

 I would also let myself know that research projects take time and it is important not to rush the process. My supervisor tasked me with watching several videos from the Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS). This study looks at infants that are at high risk for autism because they have an older sibling on the spectrum as well as low-risk infants and brings them in at multiple time points for neuroimaging and behavioral assessments. I watched videos of the behavioral assessments and recorded each time that the clinician tried to get the participant’s attention and differentiated between bids that used name calls and other types of bids. This was a long process, however, at the end, I was able to compile the data and actually find trends. When I showed these trends, such as increased number of bids over time and more types of bids used for kids that eventually were diagnosed with autism, to my supervisor, she was so excited. I had gone through the classic research process of collecting data, finding trends, asking questions, and generating hypotheses. Now, we are looking at even more videos of behavioral assessments to collect additional data and to determine whether my hypotheses hold up with a larger sample.

 

I would give this same advice to other people interested in pursuing an internship or a career in autism research as well, that they should take their time and investigate multiple perspectives. I would also advise them to take advantage of the resources around them. This could mean asking other people in the office questions about their daily work or reaching out to other professionals in the field and learning about their career paths. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has this directory that I have found extremely valuable for researching career options and making connections.   

 

I am sad that my time at the Center for Autism Research is coming to a close but I am

grateful for all that I have learned and for the research projects I have had the opportunity to impact!

 

Midway Post Through and Still Learning More!

One of my favorite things about interning in this lab at Brown Liver Research Center is having the opportunity to be mentored by my PI, someone who is very qualified and accomplished in her field of research. This is exemplified well through her multitude of publications on nitrosamines and their detrimental effects on the brain. On several occasions of researching background information for different projects, I have come across articles written by her and the other main lab technician. Here is a link to an article by my PI that I happened across earlier this week: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19542621. It is very impressive and inspiring to work under someone who is so prominent in this niche of research.

Another fun aspect of working in this lab is the daily afternoon tradition called Cake Hour, when different people volunteer to bring a dessert and everyone comes together to enjoy it at the end of the day. There is even a blog dedicated to this tradition, here is the link: www.cakehour.com. Cake Hour is a really nice way of bringing the lab together when throughout the day people often tend to be isolated within their own research projects.

The people in the lab are overall very friendly and helpful, often willing to go out of their way to help others and answer questions. I find this aspect especially important, as most of what I am doing was completely new to me at the start of the summer. My personal learning goal is to strive to understand everything I am doing in the lab, and feeling comfortable asking questions and seeking clarification has allowed me to stay on track with this goal.

Interning in a research lab has differed from academic life in the way that everything I am learning is directly correlated to a hands-on experience. I really enjoy this approach to learning because it gives more direction and focus to my education and allows me to solidify and further understand the new knowledge by actually utilizing it in a project. I am learning more technical skills rather than the overarching and broad knowledge of many of my academic classes.

Through the experience of interning in this lab I have further developed skills that I can transfer both to my academics and future career plans. I have learned various protocols including slice culture, gel electrophoresis, duplex ELISA, PCR, MALDI, BCA, microsectioning and H&E staining.

Here is a picture of the white plates used in an ELISA experiment being incubated on a shaking device and the ELISA protocol I typed from my notes.

I will  apply many of these techniques next year in Biology Lab, allowing me to feel more comfortable and knowledgeable in the class. Additionally, having lab experience on my resume will allow me to be a more competitive candidate for future research labs, as I will already have a wide range of knowledge and applicable experience.

In addition to improving my scientific skill set, I have also built on my interpersonal skills and workplace professionalism. By working with people who are older than I am,  whether graduate students or adults, I have  become better at connecting with people not my age. Furthermore, this internship has allowed me the experience of working in a professional setting and a better understanding of the associated decorum.

 

 

The Final Metamorphosis from Caterpillar to Butterfly

Jacksonville, North Carolina is home to more country music stations than all other radio stations combined, has the best fast food chain in the world, Waffle House, and is also known for its most beloved non-profit, Possumwood Acres. The two months that I spent there were filled with a million new experiences–I tasted grits for the first time, learned how to determine if a bird is dehydrated/emaciated, and saw a wild horse colony on an island. Now that my experience is quickly coming to a close I can say that I was really lucky to be exposed to the inner workings of a non-profit, the techniques necessary to take care of injured wildlife, and the “southern mentality.” It’s amazing what one person can do when they set their mind to it. Or when they get an unpaid internship and want to get as much out of the experience as they can. Either way you can’t go wrong.

Baby birds cuddle up really close to keep each other warm

Having completed a whopping 245 hours at Possumwood Acres, I am really proud to say that I learned beyond what I initially anticipated. I met all of the requirements for the “General Checklist” and went on to begin to complete the “Advanced Intern Checklist,” a fact of which I am very proud of. I am extremely satisfied with the experience I got interning at Possumwood Acres, and I can most certainly say that it helped me determine what I want to do with my future. Although I very much enjoyed my involvement in animal care (despite the stress associated with the job), I can honestly say that though I will not be continuing this specific avenue for a career, I am definitely invested in continuing my path in the environmental field. This internship has solidified my interest in protecting the environment in the many forms that that may come in. From this experience I learned that I am even more passionate about animals than I originally anticipated and that I am capable of learning a great deal in a short period of time.

A juvenile American Robin excitedly hops out of the incubator every time I open the door

For anyone interested in getting an internship, I would apply as early as possible. I managed to get this internship in early November. The earlier you start looking for internships, the more likely it is that you’ll actually get one. Employers will also be more likely to hire you for the job because the application pool is much smaller in early November and December. I would also try to narrow down your search to a specific type of internship, so you aren’t wasting your time applying for a position that you aren’t interested in. I knew that I absolutely wanted to work with animals so I bypassed anything that seemed like a glorified office worker position.

An osprey gets a physical examination by some of our experienced staff members

I think I am most proud of myself for doing something that was outside of my comfort zone because although I knew that the work would be tough, grueling, and hard at times, I also knew it would be extremely satisfying.

Sabrina Pond ’18

Learning How to Use My WINGS

Working at WINGS, I’ve picked up and developed quite a few skills. This has been my first internship and one of my first jobs working somewhere where I was not previously affiliated with anyone. So, other than the technical aspects of domestic violence, one of the major things that I have learned has been about life in a workplace.

Here’s a selfie from one of my first days at camp. Check out my fancy name badge!

Initially, I was very apprehensive about meeting coworkers and interacting with them.  Throughout the summer I have gained invaluable workplace skills and experience collaborating with coworkers. Additionally, within this internship I have been able to take on a leadership role as the head of the camp. Thus, I gained a lot of experience supervising other volunteers and staff as well as in planning and logistics. All of these skills are ones that I believe I can take with me as I continue on in the future, regardless of what my future job is. By nature, I’m not very outspoken, and I feel that during my time at WINGS I’ve made large steps towards being my assertive in my role.

For this self-care activity, we wrote things that we enjoy on slips of paper to randomly select when we are having a difficult day. Some of my activities include: playing frisbee, watching my favorite Netflix shows, and baking.

As mentioned before, during my training I learned a lot about not only domestic violence but also about elder abuse, suicide and suicide prevention, rural women, domestic violence perpetrators, rural women, and the legal system among other things. Though only 40-hours, I gained basic knowledge on all these topics which I can then take along with me in life. Self-care was greatly emphasized during the training and throughout my internship, and I know the self-care tips, tricks, games, and activities are ones that will be valuable throughout my life.

Running a summer camp is nothing like simply being a counselor. The number of campers ranges from 2-10 and the ages range from 3-16, meaning a variety of different activities and games are needed to cater to everyone’s individual needs. On top of this, it is necessary to remember that the children are victims of domestic violence and, thus, a trauma-specific approach must be applied during all situations. Therefore, all these factors must be accounted for when planning each day of camp. One of the ideas we try to implement each week is to have a weekly theme. Past themes include: sports, summer, art, holidays, and carnival. Bringing themes into the week ensures that there will be different games and crafts each week and gets the kids excited about something as they try to anticipate themes and tie in their own recommended activities each week. As a result, planning can sometimes be difficult, but it’s very worth it. My planning, management, and administrative skills have all be tested and improved throughout the internship, and I know that the skills I have gained are some that I will carry with me throughout my future career and life.

For additional information, facts, and statistics about domestic violence please click here.

Nakeita Henry, ’19

Closing Thoughts

First and foremost, I would like to extend my deepest thanks to the Brandeis Hiatt Career Center for this opportunity.

A model showing liver cirrhosis (scarring) as a result of hepatitis B infection.

Prior to this internship, I knew nothing about hepatitis B. After reading scientific papers my first day, I realized the complexity of hepatitis B and the importance of educating the public about it. (In fact, I even went home and urged my family members to check their immunity status.) I then read Charles B. Wang Community Health Center’s hepatitis B educational comic book and was trained to administer comic book evaluation surveys. For the next three weeks, research was underway: I asked patients in the waiting rooms of the Health Center to read the comic book and complete an evaluation. Each surveying day was different. Sometimes, I would encounter lots of willing participants; other days, there was less success. I especially loved it when patients had questions about the comic because interesting conversations would often ensue.

Analyzing data.

During the second half of my internship, I input data from 100 surveys into Microsoft Excel, analyzed subpopulations (by gender, education level, and language preference), and created tables/graphs summarizing overall trends. Finally, I wrote an abstract for the 2018 American Public Health Association conference describing the results of our health education material evaluation. Since the evaluation is now complete, 10,000 copies of the comic book (English, Chinese – other translations coming soon) will be printed and shipped to 30 national public health organizations by the end of the month – just in time for World Hepatitis Day. Aside from conducting research, I participated in Project ECHO clinic video conferences, comic book dissemination meetings, press conference planning meetings, and research grand rounds. Some of my other projects included mapping out comic book distribution sites and making a program for the hepatitis B press conference hosted by the Health Center (see pictures below).

July 20, 2017: The Hep B Team poses for a photo. At the press conference, we released the comic book, shared recent clinical findings on hep B core status in Asian household contacts, and hosted a Q&A panel.

Overall, I felt that my tasks were meaningful, not just busywork. I genuinely enjoyed surveying and analyzing data, especially since I had personal interactions with each of the participants. Although my responsibilities fell under the research department, my supervisors were supportive in helping me get clinical experience, too. They are among the many good natured people I have met at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, and I have learned so much from their mentorship. Ultimately, this internship helped me develop a strong interest in immigrant population health, and instilled in me the importance of language fluency and health advocacy.

I highly recommend interning at a non profit organization. Some facilities are understaffed, but you will really get to see the impact you’re making. You will also learn more from the population you serve than you ever could from a textbook. By no means is social justice work easy. It requires unrelenting devotion, grit, and love for people. However, being on the forefront of change is extremely rewarding.

If you are considering a career in health care, my advice to you is to be openminded. Shadow various occupations, pay attention to job satisfaction levels, and observe what day-to-day life is like before pursuing a specific field. If any of this resonates with you, I wish you the best of luck on your career path! Everyone’s journey is different, but thank you for joining me on mine.

-Michelle Yan ’19

First Week at BCH

On my first day at Boston Children’s Hospital I was full of a variety of emotions. I was excited for the new opportunities that awaited me and to build new friendships and connections hopefully for the long term. I was jovial of the fact that I will be doing something that my education at Brandeis has prepared me for, and able to participate in a real life application of the material I’m taught at Brandeis. While I was filled with such positive emotions and a readiness to prove myself, I was also nervous of how much of an impact I would really have, whether I would actually enjoy myself this summer, and whether or not I would succeed in this internship.

My first day of work consisted of me becoming familiar with what it means to work in a research facility. I first introduced myself to everyone at the office and was able to meet such a diverse group of people. There weren’t just doctors or research assistants at the lab but also engineers, statisticians, software developers, and neuroscientists. Everyone had their own unique role yet each role depended on others in order to be successful. I was first required to complete CITI Training which is Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative where I was able to get familiar with the different research protocols and regulations, especially regulations that are set by the IRB, International Review Board.

Afterwards, I was able to attend a weekly group meeting for everyone to share their progress updates and seek advice or help on something that they’re trying to solve. It was interesting because in the lab it is not just one research group, but a multitude of research groups. There are different research groups working on different nerves in the body depending on their location and the purpose those nerves serve. In addition to talking about progress in their respective tasks, some people present current or past research papers that they read and find to be useful. During one of the weekly meetings I realized the seriousness of what I’m actually doing and the importance of results in research. I also realized that one doesn’t necessarily solve an issue or get results right away. Sometimes you have to start from scratch multiple times in the process, as a result learning from your mistakes. The weekly meetings overall emphasized the importance of learning and expanding knowledge.

As a programming intern my first task was to familiarize myself with the current medical imaging software that is being used for that specific task and then find the different features and functions that the software has to offer along with the drawbacks that characterize the software. In conclusion I was able to get a better understanding of what my internship would actually entail also what type of programming I would do. While my role will be very technical, it was important to learn my first day how important it is to become comfortable in a different academic environment, how to build relationships and learn from people with different roles, and what it means to conduct research.

Improving skills new and old

When I started my internship at MUA, I knew that I was going to have a wider variety of tasks than I had performed at any of my previous internships. As a business major, I was drawn to the non-profit management side of this internship, including outreach, development, marketing, and digital media. At the same time, I wanted to utilize the internship to improve my Spanish fluency. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I was drawn to this internship because of the organization’s mission: to help low-income Latina women learn English, gain employable skills, and become leaders in their communities and in society at large.

United Way is one of the organizations through which MUA receives its funding.

Because I had so many interests coming into this internship, I was given an accordingly wide array of responsibilities for the summer, and have been given the opportunity to develop and utilize many different skills. On the business end of the internship, I have learned valuable lessons about the importance and difficulty of identifying and adequately reaching a target market. As in many nonprofits, this task is made even more difficult for MUA because there exist three distinct target markets to identify, analyze, and reach: the group of people MUA serves through its programming, the group of people to whom it wants to disseminate its message, and the group of people that fund its operations. These three groups have different habits and lifestyles, and we need to make sure that marketing and outreach messages reach them through the appropriate avenues. For example, even though one of my jobs this summer has been managing the Facebook page, the students that utilize MUA’s services do not tend to be active Facebook users. So why do we have a Facebook page? The answer is that we use social media to spread awareness about the mission of MUA, establish its reputation in the local community, and reach potential donors and volunteers. Accordingly, I must tailor the content on social media to those that I am trying to reach.

The MUA building is in Dorchester, close to where many of the students live.

On the other end of my responsibilities this summer, the biggest challenge I have faced was teaching an English class. The extent of my prior teaching experience had been teaching children how to ice skate, so I felt out of scope teaching a classroom full of students twice my age how to speak English. The biggest skill I have learned though my teaching experience has been that of flexibility. Even with an extremely detailed lesson plan, it is inevitable that the lesson must change as it progresses: certain activities won’t work, students will need extra help with a certain concept, or an activity will go faster than expected. I’ve also greatly improved my confidence in my Spanish skills by teaching English to native Spanish speakers.

I will walk away from this internship with a great variety of new and improved skills. Although I don’t necessarily see teaching or non-profit work in my professional future, I have learned invaluable and widely-applicable lessons about target markets, the need to remain flexible, and the importance of confidence in both language skills and in tackling unfamiliar situations.

Us and Them: We’re Not So Different

A painting of the founders of Americares you see when you walk in the front door each day.

Out of all of the classes I’ve taken at Brandeis, American Health Care was by far my favorite. The course stuck with me for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, the class taught me about a system that I am a part of already and will become an even bigger part of once I turn twenty-six and must buy my own health insurance as stated in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The other major reason for my praise of this course is that it made me appreciate the complexities of our current health care system while also emphasizing that there is still so much to learn about how it functions.

When it comes to passing any type of major health care legislation, numerous stakeholders are involved in the process. These include the House and Senate to pass the legislation, but also the American Medical Association, the insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies, and the American citizens themselves. It is extremely difficult to pass any type of health care legislation with all of these parties involved. That is the biggest lesson I took away from my American Health Care course, helping to enhance my views of Americares as an organization and the tremendous work that they do.

Entering the office at Americares is like entering another world; every cubicle is decorated with unique, colorful artifacts that exemplify Americares work in those countries or health sectors.

The American Heath Care course taken at Brandeis also taught me about the issues many people, both domestically and internationally, face when it comes to having access to care. Many times, some of the problems faced in the United States are regarded as “first-world problems,” meaning that they are not relatable to developing countries who have other concerns plaguing their thoughts. Not having access to quality care remains a problem both for citizens in developed countries such as the United States and in developing countries such as Liberia. Strangely enough, although this is a dilemma that we’d like to see improved on in the form of increased access to needed care, it becomes a situation that people from all over the world can bond over.

This bond is something that informs my work at Americares. It promotes the understanding that even though we may live in different countries, our problems are not so different. We may have more resources to cope with disasters or disease epidemics, but without these resources, we would be in the same position, needing humanitarian aid and hoping that someone would come to our rescue. This type of thinking has made me work even harder on the employee handbook and all related materials geared towards enhancing employee experience because of the inspiring efforts made towards those in need. If our nation is in trouble, we would likely expect the same type of efforts to be made if possible. Keeping that in mind, my job this summer is to protect the wellbeing of the Americares staff so that they may continue these efforts that are so relatable and applicable to our everyday lives. After all, employees cannot do their job efficiently if they are concerned about company policies in outdated documents.

Big Changes at Homeless Prenatal Program

Next week will mark my two-month anniversary in San Francisco.  I have been enjoying my summer and spending my free time  doing things like attending the Pride celebration, watching an all-female Queen tribute band on the Fourth of July, driving down Route 1 to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and binge-watching procedurals on Netflix.  Amidst all this fun, I’ve also been working 30 hours a week at my internship, and some things have changed since my first week at Homeless Prenatal Program.

Jocelyn and I starting the day off right with a 9 AM selfie.

First, our team got a new intern, Jocelyn, who is a third-year at UC San Diego.  We quickly bonded over the fact that we are both living in the Outer Sunset neighborhood and started carpooling three times a week and going to get poke bowls during our lunch break.  

But there have also been more institutional changes.  Shortly after my internship began, I learned that, after housing the program for five years, HPP would not be retaining the contract for the DV CalWORKs program. In fact, the entire program will be taken over by a new agency by the end of August, right after my internship ends.  I am getting a unique experience to observe and facilitate the transition of the program.  I have gotten to hear both from the executive staff about why they decided to pass along the contract and from the DV advocates about how they are feeling about the end.  The domestic violence advocate team is a tight-knit group of women, all of whom have been meeting with clients in this role for two or more years.  So, naturally, this transition has had a significant emotional impact on both the team and the clients.  

These are my beloved purple files into which I put all the client information we will be keeping before sending the rest of the files to the new agency.

My workload has also changed as the transition progresses.  At the beginning of my internship, many of my tasks involved calling new referrals to schedule appointments, but now that the contract is being transferred to the new agency, so are all the referrals and clients.  Many of my daily tasks now involve preparing clients’ files and sending them to the new agency.  As the DV CalWORKs program winds down, there are not many opportunities for me to work directly with clients from the program. However,  I have been training to participate in the intake and triage process.  I studied and took a test to get certified for the Adult Needs and Strengths Assessment (ANSA), a tool HPP uses to assess all of their clients.  I have also been shadowing staff members as they meet with first-time clients to assess their needs and make referrals.  Ideally, by August, I will be able to take shifts doing triage on my own.  This will provide me with crucial direct service experience to prepare me for a future in social work.  

Working with a non-profit as prolific as Homeless Prenatal Program has provided a lot of opportunities for both personal and professional growth. Being a student of Sociology and African and Afro-American Studies, I have learned a lot about oppression and inequality on an academic level, but academic essays can’t stand-in for people’s actual narratives.  It is clear that there are many disempowering forces at work in the lives of HPP’s clientele, but it is also clear that HPP offers a space for those clients to be empowered and supported through direct services and advocacy.

Boleto de estacionamiento numero dos. This time I forgot to move my car for street cleaning.

One of the most unique and critical parts of HPP’s model is its practice of hiring former clients and others directly from the community it serves, which supports the upward mobility of the community and promotes culturally relevant services.  This is a completely different model from that of universities like Brandeis and pretty much any other industry, as well.  While non-profits certainly have their challenges, like transitions, and flaws, like depending on government contracts and private donations for funding, Homeless Prenatal Program has taught me a lot about how non-profits can empower individual clients and communities.  

(PS. I’m still working on the parking thing.)  

Looking Within

My experience at this service center has been rewarding. The files of the clients will be monitored as part of a mandatory procedure applicable for nonprofit organizations. As such, I have been reviewing files, ensuring that all proper paperwork and signatures are included. Page by page, I scan to make sure all necessary information is in included.

Seeing the faces of this vulnerable population encourages me to come daily to give and provide all that I have. Their faces inspire me to do as much as I can to ensure that they feel welcomed and cared for. Some clients require extra care, particularly medical care. Unfortunately, not all of the clients are in the best shape in terms of health. Reading over their health conditions enlighten me to the inequity of healthcare across the world. Perhaps many of these conditions could have been prevented against early on by early doctor’s visit or hygiene. Now, I am concentrating my attention on finding information about the different insurance plans that these clients have, and the benefits that they receive.

Through my experiences here at the Houston Service Center, I have become more flexible and open-minded. An article here recommends how to increase workplace flexibility. It is common for me to be working on one thing, and then be asked to help someone do another thing. This requires flexibility, seeing that one has to be able to aid others in times of emergency. Additionally, I have become more open-minded as I must be able to accept changes to protocol and procedures. These skills are applicable not only at Brandeis but in daily life. Events such as constantly changing protocol and positions are inevitable. Thus, I see that these skills allow me to maneuver through times of distress in an educational and professional setting.

In a medical setting, flexibility is key as patients and their families may want different things at different times. I also must be familiar with flexibility understanding that in a medical and science setting, I should be able to help my colleagues in addition to serving my patients. Medicine heavily involves interconnectedness, and as such all contributors must be able to remain flexible, and of course, open-minded. Being open-minded in science works in the same way, whether the health care provider to a patient and his/her’s family or to another health care provider. To read more about the benefits of open-mindedness, please see this attached article.

So far, I believe that these skills I have continued to hold and use throughout my time here at the Service Center has given me a time to witness more than I expected. I have sensed that my efficiency has given me an edge at reviewing files quickly yet precisely and thoroughly. I have been able to associate with my co-workers who were once refugees themselves, refugee clients, and people who are really passionate about serving the underserved populations. I look forward to learning more from this experience which will benefit me in my last year at Brandeis, my education post-Brandeis, and my life as a professional.

Hands-On Growth Outside the Classroom at PDS

Interning as an investigator at PDS has been the most dive-into-the-water type of educational experience I’ve ever had. Not only have I learned about the criminal justice system at large, but how it affects people every day. That’s the virtue of interacting directly with clients, as I’ve had the unique opportunity to do during the internship.
I’ve also learned a lot about myself. One thing is that this work excites me like nothing else. Sure, public defense is urgent and exhausting. Sure, it’s sometimes menial and often bureaucratic. But I’ll tell you, it’s never dull, rarely boring, and incredibly fulfilling. Because doing this work you realize that you’re helping people in a way that they can’t help themselves. You’re showing up during some of the worst times in their life and, with your pen for a sword, affirming the truth that people are not defined by the worst thing they’ve ever done.
In front of the Metropolitan Police Department Headquarters, where we routinely get police documents.
Another huge benefit of the internship is constant exposure to the criminal justice system. One thing is that I can confidently say that I’ve come to understand the lifetime of a criminal case. From the preliminary hearing to voir dire to trial, being at PDS has given me a chance to contribute to many parts of the process.
Strong interpersonal skills, too, have been tremendously important for this position, and I’ve definitely grown in this area as a result of the internship. To be articulate and convey information in a succinct and meaningful way is the bottom line of effective communication, and whether it be in speaking or writing the internship has definitely demanded a refinement of this skill. Listening is also crucial; why do you think we have two ears but only one mouth? This is true regarding communication with attorneys and investigators, as well as clients and the public. Being an expert in communication is something I will continue to develop at Brandeis academically, and I have no doubt it will help me greatly in whatever career I ultimately choose to pursue.
What’s piqued my interest as well are the legal aspects of public defense. Such aspects include developing theories of defense, writing motions, and performing legal research. These tasks are typically only done by attorneys and law clerks, and knowing that has made me excited about law school and what’s to come.
In front of DC’s Court of Appeals.
But regardless of which area of public defense I’m engaged in – investigations or legal – I know critical thinking will be involved. That’s what keeps me coming back, in brief the fact that there are multiple avenues of defense and it’s our job to pick one and make it stick.
What I’ve said thus far is all to suggest that public defense is, more or less, fun and challenging. And it is. But for me there’s also been a shell-shock aspect. Dire poverty and terrible injustice are things you encounter almost every week on the job. And to be frank, it’s been eye-opening and maturing in a way that no other experience has been. It’s yelled at me face-to-face: “there’s incredible need in the world, even right here in your backyard, and you better do something about it.” It’s a sad acknowledgement but also motivating. It’s the need that lights my fire, and that’s why I’ve also had the inspiring opportunity to volunteer at a church here in DC on some Monday mornings, where we serve some 70-80 homeless people breakfast.
To conclude, my experience at PDS has been extraordinary in that it’s helped me clarify much of what was previously up in the air. I have a better sense of what I’m good at and where I need to improve, and hopefully, what I want to do.
See you next week,
Andrew

Market’s strategic design & reflections on myself

By now, I have been interning in Boston Public Market for over a month. I feel that not only did I start to get used to the flow of the market, but more importantly, I have gained more insight of how the market functions. By understanding the Market’s mission better, I gradually realize what are some aspects I can do more to help. Besides, doing different jobs with many other interns in the Market also makes me realize my strength and weakness.

 

I might have mentioned this in my previous blog post, but it was not until now I have truly realized that the Market is one of its kind in Boston, even in New England. It is a grocery store, plus indoor farmer’s market, plus unity of small food business, plus public education, plus hand-on cooking classes. It is constantly experimenting with new activities and collaborations, from kid touring to cooperating with big health organizations. The wide range of activities the Market is conducting is not all spontaneous or solely experiments. Instead, they are all surrounding the five public impact goals of the Market: 1. Economic development, 2. Resiliency in the regional food system, 3. Education, 4. Public Health, 5. Affordability and access to underserved communities. These goals define the civic purpose of the Market’s activities. The changing nature of each activity, however, is due to the experimenting nature of the design. The Market is still really young—only turning two years old at the end of this month. Therefore, the Market is exploring the best way to reach the goals.

 

The division in the market facilitates each activity. There are two major division in the office: the operating team and the communication and outreach team. The operating team oversees vendor recruitment, security, market operation, and all the publicizing side of the market. Essentially, they are making sure that everything in the market is running smoothly. On the other hand, the communication and outreach team’s job involves public relationship, marketing, community engagement, etc. While the events design is more on the outreach side, if taking place in the Market, the actually carrying out process will definitely involve the collaboration between both teams. Meanwhile, after reaching out to certain organization and secured the event, the operation team would be the one to carry things out.

 

Even under same division, people with different personalities are partnered up to work together so that each single part of event would be carefully examined. For example, when the community and outreach chair Mackenzie came up with an idea of buying a mobile vehicle for transportation of fresh produce from the Market to our farmer’s market, her co-worker Amanda would suggest to make a list of stops to make, in order to write proposal. This really reflects on myself. I always know that I am not a creative or spontaneous genius, and I have been working hard to become one. But seeing the division in the Market makes me realize that I should identify my own strength and weakness, and focus on developing my strength instead of improve my weakness. Only in this way can I be a more capable person in the workplace, rather than someone who is constantly catching up with others.

picture retrieved from http://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/blog/2017/06/30/bpm-blueberry/

As for the event designing part, for the first year (2015), the Market’s communicating engagement chair was constantly reaching out to other companies and organizations. However, starting this year, there has been some organizations coming to the Market and offered us event. Mostly, Boston Public Market facilitate programming, either by offering space or staff members. For example, the Market is currently conducting “Fresh Friday.” Fresh Friday is a program that Boston Public Market collaborating with Boston Children Museum and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. During which we offer fresh vegetables and fruits for free to the museum visitors on Friday night. We get our fresh produce from our produce vendors Siena Farm and Stillman’s Farm, and then transported them to Boston Children Museum in our “Blueberry”— a bright blue, electric “produce trike.” One or potentially more of our prepared food vendors also participate in this program by offering kids and their families something different. “I’ve never seen people ‘attack’ vegetables like this.” Mackenzie proudly concluded. This kind of collaboration is a bit like a reward. After an entire year of outreaching, people are now willing to offer, program, and fund events for the Market.

https://www.facebook.com/events/635821173290725/

 

Overall, I would consider the Market as a developing and growing marketplace. As I mentioned previously, the entire food industry is going on great changes now. The big (old) food companies used to own the entire food chain, from assembly to food truck. However, now more and more organizations start to appreciate and encourage the development of small business, which I do think will be the future of the food industry: more and more platform for small business to grow themselves, constantly bring to the public their ideas, and collaborate with other small business spontaneously. This kind of market is more flexible, vivid and extremely popular. Boston Public Market encourages the development of local food business, in the goal of raising the public awareness of food sustainability, nutrition, and community health. As an intern in the Market, I do feel that it is more than what I do that can help the Market, but more about experiencing the environment and deepening my understanding of the Market’s mission. From there, combining with my own background, I will be able to provide my idea and in this way, aiding the development of the Market.

 

Skills that will Serve a Lifetime

Throughout my time as an intern this summer, I have gained skills both in research, writing and beyond. As a researcher I have learned the meaning of analysis, learning how to not only collect data and run statistical analyses, but also how to interpret the results and make conclusions based on them. As a writer, I have learned the meaning of editing. With nearly thirty drafts of a single ten-page paper, and likely an additional ten drafts before it gets published, I have learned how to nitpick my own writing in order to get it closer to what is needed for publication. As an office worker I have learned to be respectful and kind to all those who work in the office. Whether it be other faculty, staff or the janitorial staff, working in an office environment comes with its own set of social norms that I have now adapted to.

I have gained very specific skills such as how to use SPSS software to run Chi-Square tests and how to cite peer reviewed papers using AMA guidelines. While these newfound skills might come in handy in my future, it is the more general skills that I have gained that will likely resonate more as I move forward in my career.  Having the experience of working in an office environment, learning to work independently, being able to communicate with those higher up and more knowledgeable than I am and knowing when and how to ask relevant questions will really benefit me as I move into different work environments in my future.

Since starting my internship I have learned a lot more about my own strengths and weaknesses as an employee. Going into the internship I lacked the confidence to communicate with my supervisor without hesitation, as time has gone by I have become significantly more comfortable reaching out when I need help or have clarifying questions. I also found it challenging to work in my own office where I can so easily close the door and avoid communicating with other people all day. I have therefore made it a point to keep my office door open at least for half of the day forcing me to interact with the other people in my office suite even if only to say “hello”.

There is much for me to offer as well, something I hadn’t realized until at least a month after my internship begun. Although I don’t have any experience in the specific type of research and field I am interning in, the skills I have learned from my classes at Brandeis have prepared me well with writing clearly and concisely making me an asset in any work environment. Realizing there are positive skills and perspectives I bring to the work I am doing makes it much easier to continue learning the things I still struggle with while keeping a positive attitude. While there may still be a lot for me to learn, I was able to make meaningful contributions on my first day on the job.

Beyond Donor Relations

Interning with United for a Fair Economy has been such a rewarding experience. Before I began, I assumed that I would simply be doing the grunt work, but the staff repeatedly set aside meaningful work for me.

From the past two months, I know how frustrating it is for an organization to be understaffed, but this has created so many opportunities for me. Because UFE is so small, I am able to explore the many different departments within the world of nonprofits and actually see the difference that I am making.

Technically, my job description falls under Development, but my supervisor has been so patient and accepting — always encouraging me to venture beyond donor relations. So, whether I am working with Popular Education or Accounting, I am pleased to lighten the loads of those around me.

* In Development, I am writing thank you letters to major donors, foundation heads, as well as average citizens like me. Before starting at UFE, I believed that focusing your efforts on the few people already at the top of the donor pyramid was the most logical route to take.

In reality, the individuals that donate smaller sums but do so faithfully over the years are just as valuable. Not only do these individuals stick with UFE through tough times, but they also give at the highest level they can. In fact, these donors are often the ones to leave UFE large bequests after they pass away and no longer need their savings. But unfortunately, it is so easy to overlook these individuals while they are still alive.

That’s why the Development team invests so much energy into creating a personalized experience for all of our supporters, and why I promise to treat every client with equal attention regardless of the career path I take.

* Accounting – Since day one, I have been processing all the checks and credit card information that have come through the mail. This includes making copies, organizing files, and plugging in all the numbers into a database, all of which may sound tedious, but are so necessary. Especially with the upcoming audit, everyone is scrambling to make sure all the numbers match up, and I have been able to try my hand in the world of finances.

Every day this past week, I have been helping with reconciliation — which includes the task of searching through a half year’s worth of data on multiple servers and assigning certain data points with ones that do not seem to be related at first glance. The task is a time-consuming one, but it forces me to pay close attention and deduce information from different sources. Especially since my HSSP major will require statistics, this is great preparation!

While the skills that I am learning this summer are great ones to have, I have also realized that neither Accounting nor Development are very good fits for my personal needs. Sure, I am enjoying myself every day in Boston, but if my co-workers weren’t so good-natured, I doubt I would be able to say that. I’m starting to learn that my results on the Myer-Briggs evaluation (ENFJ) aren’t too far-fetched after all. I simply cannot work behind the scenes every weekday; I need to be more on the forefront of change, and I’m glad that I learned this NOW rather than later.

Ashley Loc

Developing professional skills at Orchard Cove

In working at Orchard Cove, I have have gained several skills that I can employ in the future at Brandeis and in the workplace. Firstly, I have gained leadership skills. I got the chance to lead the vision board activity with four residents, and also recently had the opportunity to help organize and lead a field trip with residents to a local state park, Borderland State Park, for a tour around a famous mansion. When the tour guide unexpectedly did not show up for the tour, I was forced to make some phone calls and improvise a bit, and we ended up getting a personalized tour from one of the land maintenance workers, which ended up being a blast. These experiences have given me the chances to step up as a leader and have flexibility in running these events. I know in future positions, especially in the human services field, it is important to be flexible and to expect that things won’t always go the way as planned. I will especially use this as I continue my role as a leader of the Waltham Community Service Group Companions to Elders.

Mansion at Borderland State Park (URL)

Secondly, I have found the experience of being part of a strong interdisciplinary team who cares about the residents to be very exciting. I am proud to work with a team that is countering the idea that this marginalized population should not be given the same resources and care as others of different ages.  An interdisciplinary team meeting I have attended multiple times focused on discussing the wellness of individual residents and each resident’s goals and wishes. Staff present at the meeting are fitness staff,  a social worker, strategic initiatives director, director of community life, etc., who each give their input on how they feel they can help the resident reach their goals. I feel like this shows how it really takes a village for things to function often times. This has shown me the importance of taking multiple viewpoints into account, really helping to see the whole person not just a small aspect of who they are. Furthermore, this idea can be taken into account when researching a topic for a project. Looking at multiple aspects of an idea before coming to a conclusion holds importance.

 

Every week, my supervisor leads what is called a wave training in which she teaches other staff members step by step to become vitalize coaches. Since she had never trained other staff to be coaches before, it became difficult creating steps and breaking it down for the other staff to understand. As a beginning intern who did not know all the tiny details that make up the Vitalize 360 program, I was able to look at the big picture and create an initial list of steps for the program that captured the main goals of the program. With this list, my supervisor was then able to build off of that with the details of each step, and translate that into steps to use to teach others about the program. This has been a rewarding experience knowing I can help with the process. I will utilize this idea of looking at the big picture, and breaking down steps in the future.

 

Some members of the interdisciplinary team, including my supervisor at a Wave training.

Working at Orchard Cove has provided me with some insight about myself. I feel more excited working directly with residents rather than spending a lot of time behind a desk in an office. I have found that I have really enjoyed the parts of the internship working directly with the residents and leading activities.

Exploring my own City

As my internship with JVS has continued, I have enjoyed my time there more and more.  As the weeks have gone on, I have begun to build stronger relationships with my clients and coworkers and becoming more familiar with my workplace has enabled me to take on new and exciting challenges and responsibilities.  During the first two weeks of July, the clients had a break from their morning English/Skills classes, which gave me time to work on different projects and tasks than I usually do.  I also got to work at JVS’s downtown headquarters for a few days during this time instead of staying in the East Boston location; this proved a very valuable experience as it enabled me to better understand how JVS operates as a whole and allowed me to become familiar with some of the other programs JVS runs in addition to the specific program that I work with.  

An interesting mural Ben and I passed during outreach in Roxbury.

One of the main projects that I worked on during the weeks off from class was an outreach initiative in East Boston, Roxbury, and Quincy.  My co-intern Ben and I were sent into different neighborhoods to talk to people in small businesses, community centers, parks, and other places frequented by locals to attract new clients to JVS’s English for Advancement program.  I had never been to any of the neighborhoods that we visited before working with JVS.  This was such a learning experience for me because they are mostly areas I would not have thought to visit before, however, they were filled with so many interesting places and such friendly fellow Bostonians. I think often many neighborhoods located around the outskirts of Boston- like in many cities- are thought of as less safe or desirable than the neighborhoods I am used to visiting.  It was eye-opening to find that none of what I saw matched any sort of negative reputation that may have preceded the places we went.  It was disappointing to realize that Boston has not escaped the racialized notions that sort suburbs into relatively baseless positive and negative categories.  

In addition to the outreach efforts, over the past few weeks much of my work has been focused on doing intake interviews for the English for Advancement Program.  In order to be a part of the program, clients must first attend an initial information session, and then come to a follow up interview where we do a more in depth assessment in order to decide whether or not the person is a good fit for EfA.  Through handling many aspects of the interview process I have learned a lot about different immigration and work statuses.  There are so many nuances to the different titles, laws, and processes and my supervisors have been helpful in teaching me about these differences.  Unfortunately, EfA can only accept applicants who already have unrestricted Social Security numbers, so I have learned a lot about how the process of acquiring a social security number happens. I have greatly enjoyed interviewing new potential clients because it enables me to hear so many interesting stories of fellow members of my Boston community.  While some clients have lived in the United States for a few years or longer, many have arrived within the past six months and listening to their goals and ideas about their future lives in America is so intriguing and inspiring. 

Signage notifying applicants where our information session is located.

In general I feel like working at JVS is enabling me to feel so much more comfortable in so many different ways.  I am infinitely more confident at work whether it’s doing little things like making phone calls, copies, or commuting around Boston, or doing bigger things like running an information session by myself, translating between the four languages I speak, or contributing during a large meeting.  I feel much more independent and able than I ever have before.  WOW has enabled me to see what my life will be like post graduation.  Living in Somerville in an apartment, commuting to work each morning, and engaging in real work every day feels so adult, and this is something I have never experienced until now.  I am excited to finish the summer strong, EC 

CHIBPS – Blog 4

The past several weeks have been absolutely transformative. I have learned so much about how important it is to tackle issues of social justice from many angles as our research may not have an impact without the help of activists, health advocates, etc. Further, I have come to understand how our research would not even be possible without the legacy of HIV activism that pressured the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH) to dedicate funds to HIV research, and gave use the foundation of knowledge from which we pull to build our research projects.

At this pivotal moment in my life when I am soon to transition out of college and into the true world of work, I have struggled with picking a career path. Adults have advised me to think critically about my core values. The values that I struggle between the most are security and financial stability at one end, and justice at the other. What I have learned through working at CHIBPS, a professional and renowned work environment that emphasizes social equality and ethics, is that I do not necessarily need to compromise one of my core values for the other. Further, it is possible to find financial security while still dedicating oneself to social justice. I am inspired by the people I work for, and am relieved to meet people who work in prestigious institutions who are geared towards social causes. This was something I used to be skeptical of, but my coworkers give me hope.

However, the most crucial thing I have learned this summer about the ‘world of work’ is how important it is to me to work alongside people who are equally, if not more, dedicated to narrowing social inequalities and fighting marginalization through their work. I have also learned how much easier it is to stay engaged and work hard when everyone around me is doing the same. Research can get frustrating as it inherently lacks the instant gratification found in other professions, particularly within the realm of social justice. But I work alongside people who motivate each other to think critically about the work we do. I have found an internship that I look forward to every morning because I know that, even if I am assigned to menial tasks that day like making folders or printing study screeners, I will still be engaging in compelling conversations with ridiculously passionate people. This lesson is something I will take with me into the professional world; I am able to tolerate the aspects of work that are less exciting if I enjoy the people I work with.

In addition to the lessons I have learned of myself, I have learned a lot about what it means to exist in the ‘world of work,’ particularly as an intern within a large institution. Unlike college where we receive grades and comments from professors, the professional world often lacks the constant flow of validation (or invalidation that alerts you whether you are doing well). Put simply, we are not applauded for doing exactly what we were hired to do. I have learned how to gauge my competence and celebrate my minor victories like completing a study assessment on my own and doing it correctly, without expecting to be congratulated by my mentors or bosses.

The skills I am excited to have gained during this experience include conducting in-depth interviews of study participants on my own, mastering the complicated nature of our assessment documents, screening study participants by the phone, consenting study participants and getting pretty skilled at taming our beast of an office copy machine. All of these skills will help me as I pursue graduate programs in the future. In addition, they will help me think critically about research that I read in my psychology classes at Brandeis.

Work with a Purpose

In my time so far this summer at Fiege Films, I’ve had the opportunity to really get a good sense of what working on a team is like. I’m instinctively independent, and I usually like to work on my own, so working here has definitely been a bit of an adjustment compared to how I usually get things done when I’m at school. 

Collaborating with a team on a creative project is something that’s relatively new to me, but I’m finding that it’s a really rewarding experience. Because it’s a team, we each have the opportunity to ask for input and get feedback. I think that having the immediate ability to get other people’s opinions on things makes the overall work stronger.

In terms of technical skills, I’ve learned a lot more about video editing than I thought I would. Working on a project in which I assembled choice segments from hours of interview footage, I was able to get frequent feedback on the artistic direction of the project, but also learned and developed a lot on the technical side. Using programs like Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere, and Adobe Media Encoder day-to-day, I think I’ve gained a lot more technical skills that I’m eager to keep working on when I get back to school.

I’ve really been enjoying my time so far at Fiege Films, and the office environment reflects where I would want to work in the future. I like the balance between independence and collaboration, the fact that I’m given plenty of free reign and leeway on assignments, but there’s still always the opportunity to ask for clarification or for help if things aren’t working quite how they should.

In researching the Gulf Coast, I’ve also been able to develop my investigatory and analysis skills, which I’m sure will be handy when research papers start to roll in.

I’m learning different search strategies, and how to dig deeper if at first I can’t seem to find what I’m looking for. For example, in researching the petrochemical complex around Mossville, Louisiana, I was able to dig deep into the Calcasieu Parish tax records to find exactly how much of the surrounding land was owned by oil and chemical companies. And, after a little research, it shocked me.

This chart, put together by The Intercept, further elaborates on how research can illustrate a historic culture of exploitation:

I think this summer has been so rewarding because the purpose of all of this editing and research and development has been for something that I firmly believe in.

Even though doing research work can take a long time, it really doesn’t feel cumbersome or boring—I think it’s because of why I’m doing it. Because I get to be part of a team that’s passionate about fighting for social justice for threatened communities like Mossville, because I’m personally invested in the mission, this experience has been very rich and rewarding, and it’s been going by really fast.

For the future, I think this means that I’m on the right path, career-wise. I’m glad I’m studying film, because this internship has confirmed for me that it’s a great and effective way to tell stories that matter. And I think that’s why this summer has been so great for me, because I get to work creatively with a great team to help further a cause I care about. 

Moral Obligations

While I personally have been disconnected from my faith lately, I have been inspired to think more clearly and honestly about the ways I identify spiritually and the values that are important in my life. Firstly, during this period of reflection, I’ve come to find that the center of all things we base our work on here at AJWS is Jewish values and teachings, which drives our organization differently than other non-profits. AJWS finds that the emphasis on these teachings can inspire our donor community, and our global community by bearing in mind that the moral deeds we do are through the lens of biblical wisdom and thought. These lessons that influence our work are not unique to the Jewish faith or religion necessarily, but rather in practice they’re quite unifying and special to the Jewish people.

Global Impact

Every so often, our director of Jewish Engagement produces an article reflecting on how AJWS is engaging in our Judaism and the relevance of the corresponding Torah portion for the week. Most recently Joseph Gindi wrote a piece about our obligations to our neighbors and the people who are near and far in response to our global activism work. He writes, “[t]oday, however, our radius of concern has widened, due to advances in technology and trade.” As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains, “Traditionally, our sense of involvement with the fate of others has been in inverse proportion to the distance separating us and them. What has changed is that television and the internet have effectively abolished distance. They have brought images of suffering in far-off lands into our immediate experience.”

Peace

By exploring the ways in which we identify spiritually and how our impact is greater than ourselves, we can begin to understand how the value of our efforts are significant around the world.

After this week, I finally realized that my personal obligation is to continue to pursue knowledge and understanding. With knowledge comes power, and this is very relevant not only in building a skill set that is applicable for future career opportunities but in life as well. I believe that the skills I’ve acquired including creative thinking, intuition, communication and advocacy are all important in my future path. These skills are ones that I can take with me to Brandeis, to Albuquerque or wherever else I may end up. The importance of these skills is not only for personal benefit however. They demonstrate accountability and can be shared with others as I pursue future endeavors. That is why the teachings in this week’s portion are so precise. They clearly state that our abolished distance is only bringing us closer together. We must use our personal knowledge and skill sets to ban alongside one another and fight for the good of our world. I am surprised that in the four weeks I’ve been here, so many AJWS colleges have valued my presence, my skills I carried with me into this internship, and the ones they have taught me as well as the importance of the knowledge that I learn during my time here.

Hope

Thinking About the Future

One of the most difficult skills I have learned so far in my internship has been marketing. I have no previous experience with marketing. As a brief reminder, I am serving as a Marketing Intern for a startup that provides microinsurance to people living in international poverty by soliciting donations from individuals. My role has been to raise awareness of our brand and, mainly, write blog posts pertaining to microinsurance so that readers understand what it is. As a result of this, I’ve gotten a lot of experience in areas like social media strategy, reaching out to news outlets to raise awareness of our work, and, of course, writing blog posts.

Source: Minfow

I am interested in working in the nonprofit sector in the future, and so far have felt very flexible about what my specific role would be within that sector. I have built up skills that I feel will be broadly transferable; for example, last summer I was a Grantwriting and Development Intern at a large nonprofit. I’m excited to be building another transferable skill set in marketing, because I think this can definitely come in handy when looking at nonprofit jobs. I think it will expand the jobs that I’ll be qualified for, and make me an overall more attractive candidate. I don’t know if marketing is a passion of mine, but I am definitely open to learning more about it and gaining more experience with it, and I’m excited about how it might open up my job prospects.

Some facts about how huge the nonprofit sector is. Source: Visual.ly, shared by lifeofgraphic2

I have definitely learned more than just this hard skill. The environment of 1871, the incubator where I work, has definitely been a really interesting place to be. Last summer, I worked in a very traditional office environment. Being in a wide-open space, where a lot of people are talking on the phone, conducting meetings, and just generally doing their work in the same area has made me a more flexible worker. I’ve enjoyed the stimulation of working here, and I know now that I can work in a huge variety of office environments. Again, I think this flexibility is key for working in the nonprofit sector, where work culture and atmosphere vary widely. (The IRS has 25 different categories for what counts as a 501(c)(3), the official designation for a nonprofit – this means that there are a lot of differences between any two given nonprofits!) I am confident that I could be happy in a lot of different situations, and this has been confirmed by my work at 1871.

I’m excited to see what the future of my career looks like! For now, I’m enjoying building my skills and experience, and seeing what I like and don’t like. This summer is making me feel hopeful that I’ll be happy no matter where I end up.

Progress

Progress has been slow with the treatment and perception of mental health and people who struggle with mental illness in our society. There is a lot of apathy and hostility from many people towards those who have mental illnesses. As a result, many who have mental illnesses lack support and understanding from others, making them feel alone. They also often lack the resources to get the treatment they need and deserve. These issues are part of what To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) aims to resolve.

There are many small steps that lead to bigger leaps of progress in this line of work. For example, one of our goals is to have counseling resources listed on our website for all fifty states, in addition to as many other countries as possible. One of my tasks is to search for potential resources for the website. Once I’ve found a promising candidate, I get in contact with such places and figure out if they’re a match for what we’re looking for in resources. If they are and they want to be listed, we can put them on the website. We only post resources once we’ve found three that work, and after we find contact information for support groups in the area in question. Finding this contact information is another one of my tasks. These are all small steps individually, but they lead to the big step of providing the resources for people struggling to get help.

Another example is the TWLOHA blog. A lot of steps go into getting blogs up on the website, including reviewing submissions, editing, posting on the website, and moderating comments. Ultimately, they lead to a lot of content being published online that fights stigma and helps make people feel less alone, which is exactly what TWLOHA strives to do. This is an extremely important part of what TWLOHA does, and it has, in my opinion, the greatest positive impact out of everything the organization does. Fighting loneliness and ignorance with words can be highly effective, and the TWLOHA blog is proof of that. Posts have been shared countless times and have offered new perspectives to a massive amount of people. All this comes from hard work put into gradual steps.

A piece of the Find Help page on the TWLOHA website.

 

A snippet from the TWLOHA blog post “What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen”

 

Michael Solowey

Personal Growth at the Center for Autism Research

Looking back at the past month spent interning at the Center for Autism Research, I now realize many of the valuable skills I have acquired as well as numerous characteristics I have learned about myself in the workplace.

To start, I have gained more collaborative skills and realized that I work well in a team setting. In the past, I have enjoyed individual projects and assignments, however, at CAR, I have found group efforts to be extremely

valuable. I am able to voice my own opinions and preferences and receive feedback from researchers and fellow interns, and then build on those ideas to produce the best result. For example, the other interns and I have been working on writing a script for the summer screening study discussed in my previous blog post (which you can read here!). This study’s goal is to test how willing families, including those with and without developmental concerns, are to download CAR’s response to name app and enroll in the research project in order to investigate how kids with autism, kids with developmental delays, and typically developing children respond to their individual names. The script will be used when approaching families in the waiting room at CHOP’s primary care family practice as well as when introducing the study and explaining more about the procedure in the doctor’s exam office. I believe the team effort, including my own perspective, has resulted in a product that is the most comprehensive to describe our study and its importance to families.

Throughout my time at CAR, I have also realized how valuable my organizational skills are in the work place. I have always been an extremely organized person with color-coded binders and folders for various subjects in high school and a perfectly arranged closet both at home and in my dorm room. However, now I have been able to take that skill to a new level. I have organized binders full of various medical and clinical assessment forms for participants at CAR and made it so that researchers can readily find the materials that they need. I have even printed out new forms and organized those in the binders as well so that the researchers and clinicians will have them ready to go for future visits with the participants.

Other skills that I have expanded upon include patience and taking the time to delve deeper or to look at a project from a new perspective. At first, it was not clear to me how exactly social justice would fit into my internship. However, as the weeks have gone on and I have taken the time to look at the research in new ways and have asked more questions, I have found numerous social justice niches within CAR. One researcher at CAR is particularly interested in the M-CHAT, an early developmental screening tool, and has compiled a database of a diverse group of children’s scores on this assessment. I have been able to question how health insurance, whether a child is on Medicaid or on private insurance, correlates with these scores. We are still in the process of running statistics but I am excited to see where this research (with my own twist) will lead.

Overall, I have experienced much growth over the past month by acquiring new skills and realizing existing qualities and I am excited to see where the next month will take me.

Skills Development and Professional Growth Through Work

While my Green Map System experience still feels fresh, it is both surprising and rewarding to see how much I have grown so far. Beyond some of my expected areas of growth, such as familiarity with the city and long-distance commuting, I have seen major strides in my professional development that will be invaluable as I continue into the professional work. From my internship experience I have gained confidence in my writing and task management skills, in speaking to other professionals, and in incorporating my interests into my projects.

Working on web content and map development for Green Map System at the civic tech coworking space, Civic Hall.

To begin, I have been excited to improve my speed and efficacy in completing complex tasks. For example, as part of the creating Stories and Tools as part of Green Map System’s new website, I have had to learn to incorporate basic HTML into my text to include hyperlinks, paragraph breaks, and other embedded content and have been excited to see how much more naturally this step has become now that I have practiced it with my earlier page uploads. In addition, as I practice each step for the powerful mapping platforms, Carto and ArcGIS, it is becoming much easier to input new sites and change information as needed. I have learned through this experience that some tasks that might seem hard to me at first, are actually manageable and that over time I can build skills in new areas while on the job.

Secondly, over the course of my internship I have had gained confidence in speaking to many individuals involved in local government, nonprofits, and the tech industry. In order to represent myself and Green Map System effectively, I had to take an initiative to introduce myself to others to ask about their work and effectively explain my organization’s mission and impact. In addition, I have learned to consider and discuss meaningful

Church Center for the United Nations, where I represented Green Map System during a Community Mapping the Sustainable Development Goals event.

connections and opportunities between my organization’s work with others of various unique focuses. Relating my experience and my organization’s mission to others will be absolutely invaluable to my future professional work, for tasks such as building partnerships, gaining clients, and simply working with others.

Finally, as noted in previous posts, I always find it meaningful to incorporate my own knowledge and interests into my tasks, and this internship has certainly helped me master skills to do so effectively. With my Green Map Story of the Northern Valley of New Jersey almost complete, I feel that I am adding educational value for using different mapping platforms as well as value to my own community with information of its own green spaces charted online. Thus, through incorporating my own personal knowledge, the completed project is valuable to users on both the local and global level.

I have taken no moment of my internship for granted, as learning opportunities have come up with each activity I have approached. With that, I am excited to see what the last few weeks have in store as I prepare to take these skills into my senior year at Brandeis and the world of work in the years beyond.

My New Skills

Over the past eight weeks my internship at Open Source Wellness has allowed me to grow and learn so much in a short amount of time. I believe this is mainly due to how small and young the organization is. The OSW staff is composed of the two founders, four undergraduate interns, and one graduate student intern, and officially started running programs in October of 2016. Due to this structure, I am given a lot more responsibility than most interns at larger organizations are given. I have gained numerous skills because of the uniqueness of start-up culture.

First, I have strengthened my organizational and leadership skills. During our Tuesday night events, I have been tasked with helping coordinate and organize the event, and with leading the meditation portion for two weeks. Although these tasks were daunting at first, I have seen that I can take on challenges that are typically out of my comfort zone and still succeed. At Brandeis, I am a coordinator for Big Siblings through Waltham Group. As a coordinator, I am in charge of running and leading multiple events. I believe my responsibility to help run OSW events and leading the meditation sessions have helped me gain both the skills necessary to organize the logistical aspects and have the confidence to lead the actual events.

Second, I have strengthened my professional networking skills. One of my main jobs has been to reach out to healthcare providers to form referral partnerships with them. I call, email, and meet with them to explain the program we run at Open Source Wellness, and urge them to refer their patients to us. Through this task, I have gained extremely valuable networking skills. I now know how to speak with professionals on an individual basis, and I have gained more confidence when I speak with people who are much older than I am and who have a lot more experience than I do. This will help me in the future with my networking skills because I will know how to communicate professionally and be Pleasantly Persistent.

Third, I have learned how to understand and relate to people who are different than I am. Many of the individuals I work with live in a low-income, re-entry housing community, and are mainly people of color who have been incarcerated or homeless. This is a very different demographic than I am used to working with and that I, myself, can relate to. Through this experience, I have found ways to connect to people who are extremely different from me. I have seen firsthand that most people struggle with the same health issues, regardless of their backgrounds, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity.

Lastly, I have also learned a lot about myself in the workplace, including my strengths and weaknesses. I have discovered that it is difficult for me to draw boundaries when I am asked to do something that goes beyond my capabilities or job description. I find that when a superior asks me to if I want or can do something I say yes, almost automatically, even if I cannot. I have been pushing myself to stick to my boundaries and communicate with my supervisors when I am unable to do something. Here is an interesting article about crossing boundaries in the workplace. I also found out that it takes me longer than most people to become comfortable in a work environment. It took me a few weeks to get to know the work environment at OSW before I became comfortable, personally and professionally.

Americares: Expectations vs. Reality

After six weeks of being at Americares, I can easily see that my expectations for the internship initially were exceeded by the actual role I have in the organization. I expected the role to be somewhat similar to my previous internship. I thought I would be researching on the computer for ten weeks with some interaction with the other interns and few meetings. I was wrong, and I am so glad I was wrong. My role has included communicating information to the other interns as well as their intern managers, setting up several of the intern events, planning group bonding activities, leading a “Professional Development Series” for the interns, taking the lead on an updated employee handbook, and more. These aspects of my role have taught me how to create fun and informative presentations on sometimes dry topics, identifying key components of employee handbooks, research, and properly communicating to organization employees of all levels.

These are a couple of handmade bowls from an Americares Airlift Benefit from approximately 5 years ago. It’s unclear what country they are from, but they are believed to be from El Salvador.

Another skill I will take away from my experience at Americares is the newfound knowledge I have of the nonprofit world. Although I am definitely not an expert in nonprofits having only been exposed to one, I find that my perceptions of nonprofit organizations has both changed and been enhanced through working at Americares. For example, in the case of Americares, I did not know how important it is to be strategically focused in particular areas. We tend to think of nonprofits as focusing on a very broad topic, such as health, when in reality they must narrow down those focuses to be as effective and efficient as possible. An organization may work in the health sector with a focus on access to medicine because they don’t want to diminish the quality of care by having too wide of a scope of interest. This knowledge of how nonprofits function, acquired through my own experiences as well as research, will make me better equipped in future jobs to comprehend the situations and circumstances that employees I will be working with might have. For that, I have Americares to thank.

These flags were old marketing materials from Americares, now out of date after Americares updated their logo in 2012. Our cubicle has more of these flags placed everywhere!

Most importantly, my role at Americares has allowed me to learn a lot about myself in the workplace. In the initial stages of working on the employee handbook, I found myself analyzing policies from the old handbook and trying to come up with solutions or ways to better approach a given workplace situation. I had a desire and a drive to come up with something new and innovative for the organization, to propel them forward and create a lasting impact. Americares has given me the opportunity to learn more about my problem-solving nature and my desire to create something new and fun, out of the ordinary. Although my suggestions have yet to stick or have turned out to be more complicated than anticipated, I know that someday soon, an idea will stick and my workplace and I will be the beneficiary.

Round Tables and Tangent Topics

I have now been working for Avodah for three weeks, but I feel like I have been part of this environment for much longer. The main reason is that the entire staff and interns make it their mission to promote the same values and foster the same atmosphere in the workplace as in their social justice projects. Since both the Service Corps and the Fellowship–the two main programs run by the nonprofit–rely on networking and community building, it seems only natural that the organization will uphold the same level of cooperation internally. However, I did not expect it to be so embedded in their daily administrative and management tasks.

I have participated in two staff meetings so far, and they both have been relevant examples of this organizational culture. The staff members leading both of them started by introducing a topic only tangentially related to the ensuing discussion. For instance, the first time I was in a meeting, Avodah’s president Cheryl Cook started a talk about homes and homelands, roots and belonging, to then transition into a wider debate about Avodah’s mission and values as a community builder. We went around the table (which included colleagues connecting to our office in New York from Chicago, D.C., and New Orleans) and we each talked about our home – if we had one, where it is, what is is, and with whom – after having read the following piece.

Besides the work I have been doing for Avodah on the administrative side, which included learning how to use Salesforce, transferring survey results from one platform to another, and compiling reports about donor involvement and alumni, I believe that this is the most important skill I hope to gain from my experience. I would summarize it as an intersection of being dedicated and genuine. It is often the case that the internal administration of nonprofits is very much separated from their actual social justice mission, which I think affects both how employees relate to their work and how the organization is run. With business and profit-driven models populating more and more of the activist environment, I think it is important for organizations like Avodah to maintain such a standard of involvement and commitment to their mission and culture. Even if I am helping with the organization of our upcoming events or doing prospect research for potential donors, I am aware that the poverty alleviation mission of Avodah on the field is “at home” in our office.

blog post 4

After a month and half of researching racism and police shootings in the United States I have learned a great deal. I learned much more about the topic of racism and how it expresses itself in the US. Racism is present in every state, not just the conservative ones, and many systems are unfair. I also learned about gun control in America and firearm violence. I can apply this to my look on life and American society. I will gain a greater understanding of how racism works and its effects on society. This will help me in help in my classes but also beyond that.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database

https://mappingpoliceviolence.org

During this internship I learned a great deal about researching and many skills associated with conducting research. For example, I learned about collecting data, such as where to find the information and how to chart/measure it once you have it. I learned what to do with that data once you have it and tools for summarizing and analyzing the data you received. I also became an expert at Excel. This is something that nearly everyone has on the resumes, but I can actually say with confidence that I know how to extensively use it. This is a great skill to have that I will need not only in some of my Brandeis classes but also in a career after I graduate. I am an HSSP and psychology major, so I will likely be going into a field involving research and I feel that I am confidant in collecting and analyzing data.

 

I also learned how to work well with others and listen to everyone’s thoughts and ideas. Before we make any decisions on what to do next, we meet together and have an open discussion where everyone weighs in on their thoughts and ideas. In the past I am usually put in situation where I am told exactly what to do, or I working alone and completely in charge of only my work. At my internship I am given a great deal of freedom and independence to do my work the way that best suits me, but I am also part of a team and have to consider other. For example, this week we finished all of our data collection and we met to discuss how to best organize and present that data in more readable form. We were all expected to give our ideas on what we thought was best to but to eventually all come to a common agreement.

I learned that I have developed really good listening skills, although at times it is best to hold back my thoughts and let others take the lead. I learned that we can all benefit from listening to one another rather than competing with each other. I have been given a lot of responsibility at my job and I can use it to my advantage, or do the bare minimum. Because I have so much independence I can choose if I want to put in effort or slack off. I have learned that when I am working on a topic I find to interesting and important, I am more likely to give it my best and do more than just the bare minimum.

Reflections

As an Intake Specialist, I have learned the significance of intuition, active listening and the importance of an open mind. While these abilities may seem like obvious life skills, working for a social justice organization has provided a new lens through which they take on new meanings. Specifically, when working for an organization in which interpersonal relationships are the core of their efforts, every interaction becomes a test of these skills.

For instance, often when filing a complaint, the complainant relies on the intake specialist to transform their story from a disorganized array of events to a comprehensive narrative that illustrates the discrimination they have faced. This involves keen active listening, as often I have to read between the lines of a story to find the significance of certain events. Additionally, each complainant wants to feel as if they have been listened to by someone who cares about their situation and is attempting to help. This is where active listening becomes significantly different from simply hearing the complaint. It takes additional focus in order to maintain a connection with the complainant during the two hours spent with them.

In terms of intuition, I have surprisingly found that it plays a key role in the interview and analysis part of my job. Whether it is the instinct that there is more to a complaint than initially meets the eye, or simply that someone has had a bad day, I try to connect with each individual I work with.

When I am not on intake, I am tasked with writing dispositions that determine whether a case has probable cause or lack of probable cause. When writing a disposition, the most important skill one can have is an open mind. As a neutral organization, it is our job to analyze the facts and come to a just decision. This involves reading the initial complaint, along with the position statement and rebuttal. There have been many occasions where I have found myself biased towards the complainant upon initially reading their complaint. However, once I have read the other side of the story my decision has been swayed. In this sense, it is vital to keep an open mind and to be unbiased during the investigation, as one fact may change the entire story.

Not only have I learned the value of these significant life skills, but additionally, I have learned new legal jargon and court proceedings that have become the basis of my legal education. Working for the MCAD has provide me with a base level of information that I can add to my education tool box as I continue at Brandeis and beyond.

As I write this blog post I am afforded the opportunity to reflect on my experience during the internship thus far. I believe I have grown tremendously from my first few weeks at the beginning of the summer. I have become more confident in my abilities and more independent in my work. I have developed and honed my interpersonal skills and have learned the importance of patience. Most importantly, I have cultivated my passion for law and advocacy.

I have also been asked to help in the marketing of the Fair Housing and Civil Rights Conference that the MCAD hosts every year. I am excited to use my writing skills to assist in the promotion of this event.

If you want to learn more about the event you can look at their agenda page from last year.

Jessica Spierer ‘18

CHIBPS Internship – Blog 1

Each morning, I sip my coffee on the commute to work. When I arrive to our building nested in New York’s Greenwich Village, I greet the security guard, tap my research ID on our scanner and make my way to the 5th floor. Once I reach our office, I say hi to whichever intern is taking their turn at the front desk and wind my way through the isles of cubicles to find an open desk to check the schedule for the day. My tasks vary between shadowing or administering assessments of study participants, venturing to another corner of the city to post flyers, entering data, screening potential patients on the phone and, alas, making folders and organizing cabinets. On weekends, we attend Pride events or hand out study info outside queer clubs and bars. While not every task is the most engaging, the work we do feels important.

NYU’s Center for Health Identity Behavior and Prevention Studies (CHIBPS) is a research program in the Steinhardt School of Public Health. The primary goal at CHIBPS is to pursue research that “improves the well-being of all people, including sexual, racial, ethnic and cultural minorities and other marginalized populations,” particularly members of the queer community. Current studies are focused on HIV, substance abuse and the overwhelming mental health burden facing sexual minorities.

The primary research projects at the moment include a longitudinal study of HIV negative men who have sex with men in the New York City area to assess behavior outcomes and syndemics of HIV, a study utilizing GPS technology to investigate spatial mobility across neighborhoods, and a study testing a model of resilience among older HIV-positive gay and bisexual men by studying the links between psychosocial burdens and health. My specific roles include in-person assessments of sexual behavior, substance abuse and mental health in hopes of developing interventions that are geographically contextual and rely on social networks. In addition, I assist in web-based/mobile recruitment and community outreach at local community centers and Pride events.

On paper, my tasks have a stark resemblance to internships I’ve completed in the past in clinical psychology labs. However, our approach at CHIBPS is vastly different. My bosses emphasize the importance of treating our participants as people. We do not wear business clothing to narrow the power distance between researcher and participant — to appear as a peer rather than an authority figure. While these details seem small, they cary weight and change the way we navigate research. It centers the people impacted by the research, rather than the researchers themselves.

The people most at risk for contracting HIV are among the most marginalized members of our country: queer people of color. At the moment, the president of the United States has ambiguous plans for future HIV and AIDS policy. While acting as the governor of Indiana, Vice President Pence’s severe cuts to public health funding led to a massive HIV outbreak. The Trump administration’s proposed healthcare plan had the potential to severely devastate the mentally ill, HIV positive people, and limit access to sexual health services. Put simply, the American government is sending the message to LGBTQ+ and other marginalized people that they do not matter. Conducting research is key to changing that narrative. CHIBPS brings together experts in the areas of public health, psychology and social work to harness their powerful role in producing research that helps push policy forward, offers practical solutions to solving the issues unique to LGBTQ communities, and gives marginalized communities a voice in their own liberation.

I entered this internship in the hopes of improving my research skills while simultaneously assisting in research that is accessible, applicable, politically relevant, socially just and ethical. I am hopeful that I will feel I have accomplished this by the end of the summer, and that I will feel confident conducting research visits independently.

-Alex Shapiro

Skills I’ve honed and the faith that I’ve gained

Two major events of my internship are over, and it’s time to thoroughly reflect upon what they have taught me. 

(My realization that I’m reaching the end of this internship journey, illustrated by the pathway towards the Chicago Botanical Gardens)

The first skill that I’ve found to be infinitely useful in the world of social justice is adaptability. Situations can change quickly and you have to be able to quickly reassess what needs to be done. While at the Convening, there was one particular instance where I was forced to think on my feet.

The first one: At the Convening I was in charge of recharging the translation equipment and I learned the hard way that some of our charging equipment had broken and most of the batteries had not charged over night. Given the immediacy of the next bilingual panel, I found out how many receivers we actually needed, replaced those with batteries from other working receivers, and assessed which chargers were actually working so that they could be continually replaced. 

As technology is continually developing and society is changing, the demand for particular jobs ebbs and flows. Being able to adapt to the circumstances presented before me will help me make an impact in a dynamic workplace.

Another quality that has proved to be important is that of patience. 

(A statue of Mother Cabrini at the Cabrini Retreat Center. Her story is one of kindness, patience and persistence.)

I joke often that this manifests most apparently in the commute I take to work. While public transportation is overwhelmingly a net good, I’ve had my fair share of delayed trains and nosy passengers. Music helps.

But in the case of organizing, patience is realizing that most of the issues we are dealing with are systemic and well-rooted. One demonstration isn’t going to always result in change. I may have to call hundreds of people before one agrees to attend an event, or donates towards a certain cause. Those frustrations, however, is what makes the success all that sweeter.

When it comes to myself, I’ve found that beyond exhibiting these two qualities, I found great joy in listening, learning more and adapting my world view from the experiences of those around me. At this national convening, I was honored to make the acquaintance of organizers from New Mexico to Maine and learn their stories and I networked with the IWJ representative from Massachusetts in hopes of continuing my involvement once I return to Brandeis.

Furthermore, I’ve realized how important it is that I continue to hone my communication skills and continually think outside of the box like Kim Bobo did when she formed an organization to bridge the communication gap between labor and religious leaders. Sometimes one just has to take the first step in starting the conversation. That’s why I’m excited about Labor in the Pulpits encouraging religious leaders to talk to their constituents about faith and worker justice. That first conversation can change everything.

In the future, I hope to take these general and infinitely important skills to be a leader in my future workplace that will be attentive to my clients and always striving towards creative and efficient problem-solving. 

Things I have learned from my internship

So far into my internship at National Consumers League, I have learned valuable skills I do not get exposed to on a daily basis in the academic environment of Brandeis. My first assignment there was to get used to using Twitter as a means to connect our followers. At first I was mentally hesitant since I was not used to constantly being on social media, and it was overwhelming to handle all aspects that come with it. But gradually, I learned that social media is a very effective way to reach out to the general public.

Except for researchers or reporters, who are responsible for finding extensive and reliable sources backing their news or findings, average people find minced and succinct news to be easier to digest and more accessible. Thus I constantly have to find a way to jam the load of information into a tweet with a maximum of 140 characters. And when I don’t have to give out information in the form of tweets, I keep my comments and article brief and concise. This job not only gives me the opportunity to practice and improve my research skills, it makes me realize the most effective way to feed the general public news and information. In the future, I may not continue to work on social media or Twitter, but this has become a mentality I keep in mind whenever I write something: be succinct and be mindful of how my target audience will best absorb the information.

Weekly meeting with all the staff and interns

Another skill I have learned is interpersonal skill. When I first came to my job, there were things I believed should be done in certain ways that might not be exactly what my supervisor believed should be handled. At first, I chose to blindly follow what my supervisor wanted, although there was some frustration with having to redo the project all over. But later, I realized that it was a complete waste of my and my supervisor’s time and energy, and it could be potentially straining for our relationship. After that, I was determined to have better communication with him. Now, whenever we enter a project or assignment, we make sure to talk to each other first. We think about the approach we’d like to use, what expectation we have, who the project targets, and if there are better ways to do it. After our session, we come out with an agreed upon solution and keep on that track, so as to not waste our time and improve our relationship and trust.

I also learned that I should voice out my disagreement in these sessions in a contributory manner. It may seem scary to tell your supervisor you disagree with them, but my supervisor is a very kind and patient man who is more than happy to hear out concerns about our work. Plus, when both parties understand the expectations we have, it is easier to work with each other in the long run. Last but not least–and I can’t stress this enough–it is important to remember that asking a lot of questions does not mean you are unqualified for your job or that you don’t know what you are doing. Asking question simply means you care about your work and you want to do it properly.

My supervisor in Child Labor department

Flying Towards the Future

With the help of thousands of donors, volunteers and staff, WINGS offers its services to men, women, and families that are survivors of domestic violence. WINGS does this in a myriad of ways, but it mainly accomplishes this goal through its housing program. WINGS safe houses, shared transitional homes, and permanent houses help tens of thousands of survivors each year. And while both shelters are in the greater Chicago area, the shelters cater to a large variety of people. Since I’ve begun my internship, we have received guests from Illinois, the Midwest, New York, and Arizona; as WINGS is one of the few domestic violence agencies in the Midwest that is large enough to offer housing services to men (and boys older than thirteen that might be fleeing with parents) along with women.

No one knows better the direction of WINGS than CEO Rebecca Darr who came to speak at our final day of training. With the opening of WINGS Metro last Valentine’s Day, WINGS became one of the largest domestic violence service and housing provider in the state of Illinois. And, while Darr hopes that WINGS will expand into cities all over the country, she truly wishes that her job ultimately becomes negligible as domestic violence becomes a thing of the past.

Here is an example of one of many information sheets that WINGS provides for members of the community

Though we are a long way from eradicating domestic violence, WINGS does what it can to help those in all forms of domestic violence situations. For those staying in the shelter, WINGS staff provide intakes, program referrals, phones through Verizon’s Project HopeLine, mechanical services through an affiliated church program, legal advice, a safety plan, and a plethora of other services. For those who use the WINGS hotline and who are alumni of the WINGS program, many of the same services are provided. Safety Plans are perhaps one of the most important services that WINGS provides. Guests along with various staff members collaborate together to create emergency plans for a multitude of different scenarios. Even if a victim is not ready to flee their abuser or they have successfully gone through WINGS’s entire housing program, they still create a safety plan because one never knows what scenario they can be found in as victims and survivors. WINGS also does outreach work in the community trying to educate men, women, and teens about domestic violence and dating violence.

The kids loved our very own “Easter in July” egg hunt.

Summer Camp primarily focuses on the children and how we can provide them with a safe space in which they can interact with peers and have fun. We do this through a variety of activities that stimulate conversation, movement, and thought. Many kids in the camp have never had experiences that are considered “normal” such as a celebrated birthday or watching fireworks on the Fourth of July. Thus, one of my favorite parts of camp is coming up with new, fun activities that the kids can then take with them and do themselves. At the end of each day of camp we do a different craft, showing the children what they can create when they put their minds to it. One child, Brad*, is oftentimes unresponsive and lashes out without notice, but when it comes time for craft he is actively engaged in creating a work of art for both himself and his mother. Creating a paper plate pirate ship is a big deal to some of the kids who have never made anything for themselves in their lives. I love being able to provide them with new experiences and activities, and—if I get to make a pirate ship or two along the way— I’m a happy camper.

 

Additional information, statistics, and facts about domestic violence can be accessed here.

Halfway Through (well a bit more) and Still Having Fun

It is a bit more than halfway through my internship and I have been enjoying my time at FCD immensely. As mentioned in my first blog post, for the first half of my internship, I worked with Client Relations and Administration. One of the main things I did for my supervisor in Client Relations was look for community coalitions in different parts of the U.S. FCD has worked with substance abuse prevention community coalitions in the past, but they wanted to expand their relationships and see if they could cultivate more contacts with these different groups. I focused on finding groups in New England, New York, California and the Chicago area and tried to find their contact information and contact person for my supervisor in Client Relations.

In Administration there were a few projects that I was involved in. I consolidated line items on their financial statement that Hezelden sends over to them monthly. I did that for 2016 and part of 2017. That involved spreadsheets and moments of panic when the totals I found for each month did not match up to the financial statements we received, which led to backtracking and trying to see where I entered the wrong amounts. I was also tasked to do was create a form for interns to evaluate their internships and to foster discussion between a supervisor and their intern. FCD has had interns in the past but had never had that many. This year, there were three interns including me. Two of them have left but two high school interns will be coming in. The director of FCD wants to make internships more systematic and to create a way to evaluate both the interns and allow interns to evaluate their experience at this organization. I was sent a few links that had information about evaluation forms schools used and some other examples that businesses had. I did some of my own research and then created an evaluation form based on these examples. It is still in the working stages but they have used it with the two interns that have left and we will see if they have any comments on it.

The second half of my internship I will be working with Program Services and Surveys. From what I have been told, I think I might be helping with the editing and updating of some of the educational materials they use in the classroom and I might be working with the high school interns.

Posters that have been presented

I worked with Surveys this past week. The first day, I was introduced to the survey they give to students whose school opt to do it. After the data is collected, the results are given back to the schools. I learned about how it was created and how schools might use the data. I also looked at some of the posters they have presented at the APHA using data they have collected. One of the first assignments I will be doing is a literature review. Individuals at FCD have presented their findings about adult supervision when using alcohol and other substances and how that affects usage. It seems that contrary to what is widely believed, adult supervision may be protective in short term effects but long term effects of usage are not protected against. Their findings are summarized here. I will be looking more in depth about this and hopefully do a literature review about it.

Interning at FCD is different from school and it so far has been a very good experience. I like not having a structured day and just having a list of tasks that I have to do per day. I can divide up my own time much more easily and it just feels easier as time management goes. There is also a lot of collaboration in this organization. It might be because it is a smaller one, but I often hear people calling to each other from their rooms to ask questions or solicit advice from each other. To me it is just interesting that individuals who specialize in different departments and areas can come together and drive FCD’s mission forward. Being only one of the three interns, and for a week, the only one, I also feel like they give me a lot of time and space to ask them questions. I can just walk into their office a lot of the time, or they will come visit mine, and we can just sit down and talk. I ask them about FCD, about public health issues and even about how they got to where they are and they are always so open and encouraging. I never feel suffocated here, or mollycoddled, but I never feel intimidated when I have questions to ask; I really enjoy the freedom I am getting at this internship to not only do the tasks I have been assigned but also to ask questions and learn from them.

Some research for the lit review

I also have felt immediately welcomed into their group. During a few of the group meetings they have once a week, I have sat in and the director of FCD has always asked how I was and for my opinions about different topics or problems they are discussing. I am always allowed to jump into the discussion if I have any input or questions and it has made this internship a very comfortable experience. I have been even allowed to sit in on in person interviews and a phone interview for prevention specialists. They have asked for my opinion about each one, and if I don’t talk, the director will ask me to speak and give some feedback.

At this internship, I do think I have been learning and gaining some new skills that I can definitely use in the future. In general, I do think my organization skills have increased so much after having to keep track of so many files and line items when making spreadsheets. I also have learned how to be more deliberate and precise with my wording when creating documents for them. When I listen to how they talk about things, they pay so much attention to the wording of what other people say and how they say things. Having a proper tone and using the right words is not some new idea for me exactly, but the precision they have makes me think twice about how I word things now; it just never hit me exactly how much it can affect how something is seen or presented. I also think that sitting in on interviews has given me evidence that being deliberate and precise is so important. Being able to sit in on these interviews has enlightened me on how interviewers look at a potential candidate during an interview and what things are liked and what things are frowned upon in this setting. A bit more than halfway through my internship, I am having an incredible time at FCD and I definitely believe that the rest of my time will be just as enjoyable and will be a great learning experience.

The Art of Listening

As a Cultural Anthropology major, I have come to understand the significance of experiential learning as a way to expand my education. In fact, the very nature of Anthropology requires fieldwork to fully understand how to analyze and internalize a culture. This became apparent to me this past semester as I had the unique opportunity to participate in an experiential learning fieldwork practicum called “Sages and Seekers.

As an addition to an Anthropology course on aging, I conducted interviews with an elderly community in order to enrich my understanding of ageism and marginalized groups within society. What began as simply an opportunity to gain extra credit, transformed into an inspirational experience that forged new relationships and developed key interpersonal skills. Using my well-honed communication skills, I conducted in-depth research and interviews with community elders that required discussing sensitive subject matter. Each student was paired with their elder counterpart, allowing for unique relationships to form.

Throughout the semester, I became extremely close with my Sage Sandy. With each personal story he shared and research questions he answered, our relationship deepened. The process of researching and personally connecting with each interviewee sparked my interest in advocacy. I became passionate about telling each senior citizen’s story to fight against ageist discourse.

This ability to intuitively listen has become extremely vital to my role as an Intake Specialist. When filing discrimination complaints, I must develop a relationship with each individual I interview in order to create an atmosphere of trust and understanding. While the MCAD might not be able to help each individual who enters our doors, we provide them with the opportunity to share their story.

Additionally, the MCAD affords me the opportunity to advocate for individuals with claims of discrimination, specifically in categories I have studied in depth. In this way, my interdisciplinary background has fueled my specific interest in the MCAD. My Anthropology and WGS courses specifically study marginalized groups, providing me with a distinctive and valuable perspective.

For instance, recently, the MCAD has expanded its jurisdiction to include new protected categories including age, sexual orientation and disability. Specifically, a governmental recognition of sexual orientation as a protected category is a major win for the LGBTQ community. As the MCAD explains:

“In 1965, gender was added to the Commission’s list of protected classes, opening up a huge new front in the battle against discrimination. Protection for families with children and recipients of public assistance came in 1972 and 1973. In 1975, a law was enacted to prohibit discrimination on the basis of age. Discrimination on the basis of disability and sexual orientation was added to the Commission’s jurisdiction in 1984 and 1989 respectively, while increased attention to the issue of sexual harassment generated a large number of complaints. Moreover, the Commission’s expanded jurisdiction to award emotional distress damages, back pay, and legal costs contributed to the dramatic increase in filings” (http://www.mass.gov/mcad/).

I am honored to work for an organization that is committed to advocating and fighting against social injustices. I believe that my past academic experiences, specifically, my interdisciplinary liberal arts education has deeply impacted my approach to this internship and my passion towards law and advocacy.

Jessica Spierer ’18

Small steps to equal opportunities for success

One of the biggest reasons that I decided to work at MUA is because I felt that it was important to try and make a tangible difference in helping combat wealth, education, and health disparities faced by the Hispanic population in this country. In our current political atmosphere, growing anti-immigrant sentiment has made living in the United States even more of a challenge for ethnic minorities. It is imperative that we take action to ensure that immigrants – especially woman immigrants, who face even more barriers to success – have the resources they need to thrive in the United States.

MUA’s mission is to provide a means for low-income Latina women who have limited education or English language skills to effect social, political, and liberating changes in their families, communities, and in society at large. This goal is no easy task, for various reasons. Poverty presents a significant barrier to success for many Latinas: one in four Latinas live below the poverty line, while more than half live near the poverty line. Furthermore, Latinas make 56 cents for every dollar earned by white males. They also have the least access to health care among any group of women and have the lowest high school graduation rate of all women.

So how does MUA help work toward a world without these significant gaps in success?  The answer lies in small steps. MUA’s focus is on helping Latinas learn English, which is a common prerequisite for employment – and more generally, for success – in the United States. Some women come to MUA with no reading or writing skills. These women first learn how to read and write in Spanish, and then progress to English classes. Following basic literacy skills, MUA has various levels of English classes. It also has various job certification classes, to be taken in conjunction with or upon completion of English classes. These classes, along with social services such as daycare and affordable housing counseling, serve as stepping stones to allow the women who come here to gain employable skills, seek new career opportunities, and overall build better lives.

On a personal level, progress is seen in both subtle and clear ways. As students continue to take classes, their language skills increase, they become more comfortable in social situations that require them to speak English, and their confidence grows. On a national scale, progress is more easily measurable. The percentage of Latinas who have graduated high school from 2003 to 2013 grew by 14 percent. College degree attainment has been increasing by roughly 0.5 percent every year, and their representation in the fields of teaching, law, medicine, and management has grown by 30 to 40 percent in the last decade.

These changes are steps in the right direction, but there is still much work to be done. Latinas deserve equal opportunities to achieve success in the United States, and it is partially through organizations like MUA that they will eventually be able to.

 

Resettlement and Placement Services

The overall social justice goal of my internship organization, the Refugee Services of Texas-Houston Service Center, is to build and foster a welcoming environment for all vulnerable populations, including refugees, asylees, individuals with Special Immigrant Visas, Cuban-Haitian entrants, Central American minors, and survivors of human trafficking. The many services these clients receive during the 90-day period help them to become integrated within the American lifestyle. After this 90-day period, clients may choose to apply for additional support if necessary.

A monitoring tool that allows for us to check whether each file of a client contains all the necessary documents.

 

Based off of my experiences from the past week, I have witnessed the continuous care and support that the employees of the non-profit invest. Whether in the office making phone calls and writing case notes, or out on the road transporting clients to apply for benefits, all employees and interns work together to serve the clients’ needs. It all begins even before the clients arrive to the United States. People from the agency work hard to search for a vacant apartment, find the best electricity provider, and prepare all documents in order for admittance into the States to go smoothly. Once arrived, the clients are situated into their furnished apartments and the 90-day process begins. For more information about the first 90-day period, click here. During this period, the agency helps the clients to apply for a social security number, enroll into ESL classes, find employment opportunities, receive medical insurance and federal assistance, provide monetary assistance, amongst many more.

Clients who enroll into one service lead to further services. All of the services are required and are outlined in each client’s file. Case managers, employees who are directly responsible for the clients, are required to meet deadlines assigned in regards to the different services that the clients must receive. What progress looks like in this scenario is when, by the 90-day period, the clients become self-sufficient and are able to live on their own, and are employed. Very few of the clients who are able to be employed are unable to find employment. If you are interested in connecting refugee with employment opportunities, please visiting this link. This demonstrates how successful the agency is at getting the clients integrated into the American lifestyle.

 

However, many of the clients who come to the United States know little to no English. Although the clients are enrolled in ESL services, I would like to see how the clients have improved their English skills. This pertains to the adults specifically, who are not enrolled into schools unlike the clients of age to enroll into local public schools. There is still lots to learn, especially from the perspective of the clients. How comfortable do they feel as they have a new life now in the United States? What do they hope to achieve now that they have many more opportunities in life? What is the biggest barrier in life here in the United States? By knowing the answers to such questions from the clients themselves, it would give me a better idea of the different progresses that the agency makes throughout their 90-day service period.

 

In relation to my work of interest, I hope that clients will soon become autonomous of their own health care. While cost may be an issue, I believe that there are many ways and techniques to learn about preventative care that are low in cost, which will help to reduce any future higher costs procedures. As each client has health care insurance, taking advantage of such benefits means for them to become more healthy and independently aware of their holistic health.

Investigating Prejudice Amidst Demographic Changes

The main goal of SIM lab is to investigate the neural and physiological factors that underlie social interaction and motivation in human beings. For this summer specifically, we are researching interracial interactions and how neural and physiological responses may vary when someone interacts with someone else of the same race, versus of another race. As a place of science, our main goal is to collect empirical data; meanwhile, individually we all hope that the information we find will be used to further the dialogue about prejudice and social attitudes and lead to a more egalitarian society.

 

As mentioned, our main strategy is to be as objective as possible when screening participants, collecting data, and analyzing data. We try our best to ensure that every participant that enters our lab has the same experience, and if anything should vary we take detailed notes. The screening process for me has been especially informative, because it highlights just how fluid the construct of racial identity truly is.

(credit: national geographic, Visualizing Race, Identity, and Change)

When screening a prospective participant, I have to ask them directly about their race, and there is a lot of uncertainty at times. For example, take a person who has one Caucasian parent and one African-American parent. Is this person white or black? Has their lived experience been more similar to a white person in America, or a black person? Factors like appearance and geographical location greatly inform how this individual has experienced him or herself, as well as the world around them. Moreover, how has this individual’s perception of their “in” and “out” group been affected by their biracial identity? There are so many confounding variables that factor into how someone socially interacts, and it is impossible to truly control for all of them, but we try out best.

 

The 2015 U.S. census predicts that by 2044 more than half of the U.S. population will belong to a minority group. That is a huge demographic change in a very short amount of time. It is impossible to predict what this sort of demographic shift will mean for America, but it makes it all the more important to be studying how people interact across race, and how social identity shapes human behavior. I hope that as our society becomes more diversified and mixed, social constructs such as race and ethnicity will become less important and less impactful in daily life.

(2015 U.S. Census)

For us, here at the lab, evidence of prejudice and attitude changes comes in the form of anonymous data. Individual participants are turned into numbers in a data system. The data that we collect now can ideally be used as a reference and comparison point in the years to come. Nevertheless, it is exciting to know that the data we are collecting is impactful and meaningful, both in this moment and also for future research.

Empathy vs. Dehumanization

The dichotomy between empathy and dehumanization is ever-present in our daily lives. We are faced with daily decisions about to what degree we should care about a certain social issue, be it the decision to give money to a beggar, to share an important article, to join a protest, to donate… the list goes on. There is no dearth of social injustices in the world that need attention and support, and in the age of information overload it becomes emotionally draining to pay attention to everything; so, human beings naturally compartmentalize the world around them into neat categories with emotional tags attached.

(Credit: Graphic artist Yanko Tsvetkov, a world map according to President Trump’s prejudices)

For example, one may associate homelessness with drug addiction, and they associate drug addiction with disgust or repulsion, so that when they encounter a beggar they are not compelled to give money because a.) They have a pre-existing association with disgust, and b.) They cognitively justify the emotion by thinking something like “well, they will just use the money for drugs so they are undeserving.” It’s these same kind of cognitive-emotional snap judgments that makes black people much more likely to be stopped, shot, and killed by police officers than white or Hispanic people.  And it’s the same reason why most of the western world is rejecting Muslim refugees. People make snap decisions about who deserves their empathy, and whom they can discriminate and dehumanize. In psychology, these delineations often fall into “in-group” categorization or “out-group” categorization.

When discussing prejudice and discrimination, we like to talk about the socio-economic effects, the emotional toll, the institutional factors; how does prejudice affect people in daily life? As a middle-eastern American living in post 9/11 America, prejudice has been a felt experience for me, as well as something I have studied in various academic settings. Now, I get to investigate the science behind prejudice. There are real neural and physiological differences in the brain of someone who is prejudiced vs. someone who is not, and that is fascinating to me.

(Credit)

A lot of what we are researching in the lab is how does brain activity reflect this difference between ‘in’ and ‘out’ group interactions? How does your brain respond to someone it considers a member of “us” versus a member of “them?” And furthermore, how does this affect whether or not you feel empathy towards another person?

Defending with Diligence and Zeal

Attorneys practicing in DC and other states are obligated by local bar associations to adhere to certain rules of professional conduct. One of the most pressing requirements is to defend one’s client with “diligence and zeal.” We take this very seriously at PDS, where all our work is client-centered. By this I mean that the client makes all the important decisions. After all, we do work for them.

 

One place where we see this play out is within the context of plea deals. Even if a certain deal is clearly unfavorable to the client, PDS attorneys (and others) must inform him or her of the deal and its repercussions. And, while we’re always willing to take a case to trial, the client invariably has the final say.

 

At PDS, defending our clients zealously is our main objective, and we accomplish this in a variety of ways. First and foremost, we investigate, leaving no stone unturned. Sometimes this means virtually the entire organization listening to hours of jail calls, and other times it means canvassing a crime scene for witnesses late at night or early in the morning. Whatever it takes to gather the facts of case, we do it, from a deep appreciation that many times we are our client’s only voice before the prosecution’s charges.

 

Our attorneys also file motions and submit documents on our client’s behalf, often balancing the fine line between annoying the judge and acting zealously. Although as an Intern Investigator I work on the fact-finding side of cases, I’ve also been provided the opportunity through my assigned attorneys to learn about the legal side.

 

Working in PDS’s civil division has also afforded me a view of housing, employment and custody issues. Typically, the civil cases we handle are in some way related to a client’s criminal case. And, like with criminal cases, our goal is advocate for our client as zealously as possible.

 

In custody cases, this may mean providing a story to the judge why our client is the best fit to have legal and/or physical custody. With housing cases, this may mean preventing a client’s eviction by gathering funds from local churches, or arguing in court that the landlord has no due ground by which to evict. For employment cases, we might argue that our client was wrongfully fired, for example if he or she was fired due to criminal charges that were dismissed.

 

All of this is to say that we help our clients, many of whom are members of marginalized communities, to navigate complicated bureaucratic procedures and maintain their dignity in the face of some of the worst circumstances of their life. The best part is that as an Intern Investigator, I’m a full and important part of the team, doing work every day on behalf of the people who need it most.

 


One of our neighbors at PDS, the US Capitol building. 
Two of our other neighbors, the Navy Memorial and Archives Building, which contains the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. 

Resource Equality for Elders

The elderly are a traditionally underserved population when it comes to health care issues. Elders’ decisions and values are not necessarily respected on their own terms. They are frequently sidelined from the general population. Often, elders are not given the services to accomplish their goals. Orchard Cove seeks to upend this trend by providing residents with the resources and support they need to actuate their goals or potential. For example, the vision board activity provides the residents with an opportunity to reconsider their goals and desires and in doing so gives them a stimulating environment. It enhances their sometimes dull and isolating environment. Stimulation and personal fulfillment should not be a privilege, but rather something that is accessible to all. Orchard Cove strives for that every day.

Fitness center at Orchard Cove. Many classes are offered so residents can be healthy and reach fitness goals.

The Vitalize 360 program promotes the change in this social justice issue one step at a time. We gauge this change by the number of clients reached per month through the program and have found that we have significantly enhanced their quality of life via goal assessment and thoughtful conversation.

Picture of the vitalize lounge, a place in between the fitness center and my supervisor’s office where residents can meet up and play games.

The Vitalize 360 coach supports this issue by guiding residents in leading healthy, fulfilling lives. First, the vitalize coach has a meaningful one-on-one conversation with a resident. Along with discussing the resident’s daily routines, issues, and interests, the resident discusses what matters most to them with the coach. The worksheet helps the resident to narrow in on what matters most to them in life. I have sat in on several of these meaningful conversations now and have seen a range of answers to this important question. For many, it is family that matters most, while for others, retaining as much independence as possible is most important. I am constantly reminded that each person has his or her own preferences that should not be assumed.  

After the resident is able to define what matters most to them and has a vitalize plan, the vitalize coach makes sure that the resident has a health care proxy and knows who their agent is. The vitalize coach informs the resident how important it is to have conversations with their loved ones about not only end of life wishes but their quality of life now. Vitalize 360 emphasizes that people need to have conversations about sensitive topics including death and preferences with their health care agent. My supervisor gave me an article to read called “Death Over Dinner” that recommends having these conversations over the dinner table.

I am working with my supervisor on coming up with clear responsibilities for each person involved in the Vitalize 360 process. My supervisor is also training other staff members to be vitalize coaches for the first time, which has forced us to look at the details of the process of Vitalize 360 and sort out any kinks in the system along the way. This is helping us to create clear steps and procedures for Vitalize 360 that can be taught to the new coaches. Having meaningful conversations and strengthening Orchard Cove’s Vitalize 360 program can further change the way Massachusetts views and treats the elderly and health care.

Social justice question 1

My first week at Boston School of Public Health was quite the interesting one – even my first day was very exciting. I am researching firearm violence and specifically looking into police shootings. I believe this topic is very relevant and important to spend money and time on given the current state of America. I work under Dr. Siegel and with two other interns who are also in college. We are looking at shooting by state and ultimately attempting to link lower rates of police shootings with stricter gun regulations in that state.

We are at the first stages of this project, so we are focused on looking into why police shootings happen. Racism is one of the biggest causes and motivators behind fatal police shootings, so we are gathering data to document and prove systemic racism in each state. This topic is a necessary one to asses because it has caused such harm and damage to American society. To my surprise, there is not many public health articles showing the correlation between racism and adverse health outcomes, and we are the first people to research this specific issue. There is also no comprehensive database breaking down clear statics of systemic racism on a state level, so we are also the first to do this. We plan on creating an extensive database assessing racism each state by looking at factors such as education, incarceration, segregation, and unemployment. Within the past two weeks, the team I am working with has been collecting data on these topics. There are not many primary sources that document this so we’ve been mainly having to use the census, which can be very time-consuming because there is so much data in the census. We hope that having this completed database with help to combat racial issues, specifically police shootings.

My first day I was told to find the statics of people incarcerated, broken down by race and state. I was shocked to find how little information is out there. The Bureau of Justice only had data on years 1994-1998, 2005, 2015. This is one of few reports that had the information we needed. This is clearly a topic that needs more attention and needs to be better documented by federal organizations. For the other years, I had to go to the censuses and search for numbers state by state and do some math.  This website coded the census, making it fairly readable. This is pretty time consuming and took a full day to do one year. The data found was pretty disturbing, but unfortunately not surprising given how problematic the justice and prison system is. All the state had drastically higher percentage of the Black population in prison compared to the White. The next day I was alarmed to find that the Bureau of Justice had completely shut down its website and was forced to start on an other topic and hope the website would be back to running soon.

I find this work to be importation, and since it is a cause I care about and deeply worries me, I do not find spending hours searching through and analyzing data to be boring. I also enjoy the people I work with and my boss has had many interesting and important projects that have had very important effects on public health and has also focused on marginalized groups.

Here is some examples of the work that I analyze, the top photo is data from the 2010 census and the bottom photo is some of the reading that I was assigned to prepare for the project.

Internship Training at Care Dimensions

During February break, I began researching hospice positions around Waltham and, within a week, I received a call back from a volunteer coordinator from Care Dimensions. What I had expected to be an informative conversation about the role of hospice turned into an impromptu interview and an informal offer for a volunteer position. Though I was ecstatic to have a summer job, I was most appreciative

Reading my Volunteer Training Manual

that the volunteer coordinator seemed to understand my fear that I wasn’t ready to visit and form relationships with terminally ill individuals. Since then, I’ve completed six of the eight volunteer trainings she spoke of over the phone, and my confidence has grown with every exercise, Q & A, and guest speaker. All volunteers received a manual covering topics from the role of nurses and social workers to dementia to grief and bereavement. Through the trainings and given resources, I’ve developed a greater understanding of hospice’s mission and of my own contribution toward that mission.

When an individual is admitted to hospice service, it means that two physicians have certified that, if their disease follows a normal course, the patient will likely live no more than six months.  Following admission, the patient and family are assigned a care team comprised of a nurse, a social worker, and a chaplain who will visit regularly. This clinical team is assembled to care for a person medically, emotionally, and psychosocially. As part of my training, I met three people representing each aspect of the team and was struck by their commitment to the service they are trained to provide. As they spoke of their duties, they revealed the enthusiasm for their work that drives them to give the highest quality of care possible. I was also lucky to join Care Dimensions just in time to receive an invitation to their summer volunteer appreciation dinner, during which I met people who contribute a variety of talents to the hospice; I chatted with a volunteer coordinator from Danvers about her five pets, I laughed as a media specialist snapped my photo, I asked a woman a million questions about her therapy dog as I petted the very same dog, and I shared my excitement over joining the volunteer team with a woman who later rose to give a speech and introduce herself as the new CEO and president of Care Dimensions.

As I prepared my application to join the WOW program, I already knew that my responsibilities would include an extensive training, weekly social visits to patients, administrative work, and involvement in the

Token from Volunteer Appreciation Dinner

monthly volunteer support meetings. I knew that the volunteer coordinators were lovely people committed to the hospice cause,but I didn’t know just how much everyone at Care Dimensions values the volunteers. The sincerity they express in their gratitude for our service has been my motivation to finish the assigned readings, travel an hour to Waltham for trainings, and ask tough questions. I’ve learned so much about end-of-life care, and I am eager to begin visiting patients and to share the passion and dedication I’ve seen as characteristic of Care Dimensions. My greatest hope for my role as a volunteer is that I can have a positive impact on people who, as a consequence of their situation, are pulling further away from society, but still deserve awareness and respect from their community in a way that preserves their dignity.

 

 

wow journal 3

The social justice goals of my internship are to help combat police shootings and bring more public attention to racism in America. One major strategy that my company uses is being part of an institution. Boston University has a lot of credibility, which is helpful when addressing issues of injustice that marginalized populations face. It is has been very useful to use an institution that has power and influence when dealing with this topic that is often overlooked by many.

Currently we are looking to create a large database measuring racism in each state. We are looking at factors such as incarceration rates, housing segregation, medium income, unemployment, educational attainment, and homeownership. We made a big step recently, as we finished gathering all the information. We still have a long way to go before we finished with our project and ultimately relate it back to police brutality, but this is still a huge accomplishment. We will be the first people to publish information on this topic that is this extensive. Nowhere can someone find a breakdown of these measures of racism on a state basis charted across a span of twenty-five years. The only comparable article is this wallet hub article that only measures a couple of factors and only does so for one year.

Our data collection can be used beyond our work as well. Having statistical evidence that proves systemic racism can be incredibly useful combating racism in America. Many Americans deny that racism is an issue and doubt the validity of various social activist groups, so having hard facts will help strengthen the arguments to defend the cause. There is a huge backlash against social justice, and there even news outlets where millions of views can be influenced into thinking that America does not have a problem with racism, thereby overlooking and invalidating a real cause. This is an example of one of these programs. We hope that this data will be useful in arguing against this kind of rhetoric and hopefully inform people.

With our data we are planning on creating a points system to rank all fifty states on a scale to most to least racist. We hope to find correlation between states that have higher rank on racism with higher rates of police shootings. This will prove that police brutality and race are interconnected and it is a real issue that disproportionally affects people of color. After this step we are then planning on looking at states that have high rates of police shooting and seeing if there is any correlation with that state’s firearm laws and restrictions. We are hoping to find that state with more lenient firearm regulations have higher rates of police shootings. This information will give us a plan to try and lowering police shootings. Finally we then hope to publish our findings and use them. There is a long journey ahead of us and sometimes it is hard to imagine this happening in one summer. Our progress with our data collections however is an important mark of what we have accomplished thus far. Progress at our site works when we all have an imaginable goal.

Blog post 2

In my career at Brandeis I have taken classes that talk about systemic racism and its effect on American society. Currently at my internship, we are finishing up creating our database tracking systemic racism at a state level and seeing the effect it has on police shootings. Some factors we are using to measure this are incarceration rates, managerial positions and housing segregation. We are attempting to prove that police shootings are caused by racism by showing that states that have higher levels of racism and prejudice also have higher rates of police shooting unarmed black people.

In my classes, I have leaned that racism at the systemic level can lead to a society that acts upon a racist subconscious. For example, in a community with a particularly high rate of black incarceration, a low rate of minorities in managerial positions and highly segregated housing, citizens are much more likely to believe in racial stereotypes and engage in the misconstrued dialog of the black typecast. Law enforcement brought about by police also plays a powerful role in this cycle.

In my research, I have found that in 2010 a black person in Wisconsin was eleven times more likely to be incarcerated than that of a white person. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s housing was 83% segregated in 2010. So, a non-black police officer that lives in a predominately Caucasian neighborhood in Wisconsin, whom most likely does not have much exposure to the black community because of his residency in a white-dominated suburb, is more likely to believe and contribute to minority stereotypes. Because of this, it is more likely that this particular officer, who witnesses a high percentage of African America incarceration rates, believes that it is common for black people to be criminals and or violent. This belief would lead to a higher likelihood for the officer to seek out or arrest black citizens due to his own prejudices.

Building on that idea, when encountering a minority he may also suspect them to be violent or have a history of crime, leading to a higher level of fear and increased irrationally on the job. This may cause the officer to use excessive force while warranting an arrest and if the situation were to at all escalate, the officer may fear for his life and lead him to shoot the perpetrator. Usually in these situations the officer is in no real threat and the supposed “criminal” is usually unarmed and often not breaking a law or merely committing a very minor non-violent crime.

In my classes I have learned how racism leads to much injustice in America, and I have learned that it kills. These statics that I am researching are not only problems themselves but also lead to big issues like police brutality and unfair deaths. What I have learned about race in America has helped to contextualize the work I do and understand how they are all connected. Creating an extensive database documenting various indicators of racism state by state is an important resource to have because it can used to expose other issues. It is important to learn that these things are not coincidences and we must address systemic racism and other inequalities, which will cause a ripple effect helping to solve other issues. Without this knowledge, I may have not understood the importance of spending the day looking at a census charting numbers such as incarceration rates or home ownership, and I may have missed the full picture.

The way we work at National Consumers League

These last two weeks I have been increasingly assigned to work directly with the director of National Consumers League. As the director, she works on many issues regarding consumer’s rights and safety, ranging from hotel cancelation period, increasing regulations on table saw safety, better laws to protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in public, to discouraging automakers from lobbying to rollback fuel efficiency standards. To be able to work on these different issues is an great opportunity for me to better understand not only the values and the extent of work the NCL cares about, but also how the process works in a small and dedicated entity like NCL.

Among the issues that the interns have been working on, such as those mentioned above, none of them really fits into any department we have at NCL, except for Public Policy perhaps. But that department does not handle these issues. And to be honest, I have no idea what Public Policy is specifically working on right now. Instead, to have the director of the whole organization delegate these issues to interns and personally oversee the research, the report and communication process is amazing in its own way. How are the content of issue selected? It is actually a very random but up to date process. Usually, the director would find these issues in the daily news. These could be big and obvious and receive a lot of attention from the media and the public, or they could be very elusive and only appear in a column in the local newspaper. Regardless, when she assigns them to the interns, we treat them with the same standard of intensive research, expressive statements and in a very timely manner.

6 page research with more than 12 sources, all for one blog post

Many might think it is inefficient, and that she should have department heads work on these issues instead. They maybe right, but the NCL is a small organization with about twenty employees in total. So department heads may already have too many responsibilities on their hands already and may not be able to catch up with that is going on. Instead, here the interns not only get intimately within the system and are mentored by the person with the highest position in the organization but we are also working with the latest issues and are not hindered with the bureaucracy of chain of command. This way the NCL can have the resources to both deal with long-term battle like health care, child labor and other work extensive issues and have a say in sneaky matters that many may not even realize are there but have a significant impact on our lives.

Just finished a big media project raising awareness on how child labour fuels the chocolate industry

Honestly, this is a very effective strategy that I have never heard from other organizations. We are participating in on all fields when it comes to protecting consumers and people’s rights in general, which is much broader than I have imagined when I first applied to NCL. And every step we make in the process ensures that the view the NCL holds are scientifically and empirically supported, helping consumers make informed choices.

 

The Bigger Picture at IWJ

This past weekend was IWJ’s National Convening, and being a staff member for the event has made me realize both the necessity of and the labor that goes into national coalition gatherings.

Currently, IWJ has been going through a period of transition, in terms of leadership and overarching objectives. Thus, there are important discussions to be had about the means of implementing IWJ’s core tenets, and which organizations and projects should be garnering the most focus and resources. While observing these discussions about IWJ’s future, I noticed how they had to balance the possibility of measurable success with moral ideals and ideological consistency. No one answer was found at the Convening, but coming together meant tangible bonding as a community in a way that could not be achieved with conference calls alone. In order to enact change, you have to create connections with like minded people from a variety of backgrounds. At the Convening, I saw religious leaders and worker center leaders interacting about their commonalities, and it gave me hope for the future.

Personally, I found it extremely gratifying to see the small details that I contributed adding up to create a bigger picture, even if they seemed insignificant at first. For instance, knowing that we were successfully able to have the programming simulcast in Spanish and English, and having near seamless transportation and registration for the individuals involved gave me great pride, since I knew the role that I had played in putting everything together. When it comes to organizing, especially organizing around social justice where it constantly feels like an uphill battle against entrenched norms, every little bit makes a difference. Small tasks and projects that I took on, including finding more efficient ways of organizing equipment and schedule, were important components of an enriching experience.

There were two major events that stood out to me at the Convening.

The first was participating in a boycott action. We took buses to Wendy’s and stood in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers by asking passerby to protest Wendy’s. It felt powerful; taking a tangible step to turn the theoretical ideas discussed in the conference rooms into reality. It reminded me how every person I observed and conversed with at the Convening is truly dedicated to the betterment of workers everywhere, especially as I heard the powerful speeches of the individuals I recognized from our day-to-day activities.

The particular issue that we were taking a stance on is related to Wendy’s refusal to join the Fair Food Program. As a brief summary, the Fair Food Program guarantees safe working conditions for tomato pickers in Florida and has been signed by Walmart, Burger King, Subway and many other large corporations. To learn more about this important campaign, please check out the website.

The other event was the viewing of David DeSario’s documentary, “A Day’s Work.” “A Day’s Work” delves into the story of Day Davis, a temp worker killed on the first day of work. The documentary was heart-wrenching because it both painted a picture of how much Day Davis meant to his family, and the way workplace negligence and proliferation of temporary worker agencies that don’t care about worker safety led to his demise. I was surprised at how common temporary work is within the United States, and how a labor activist who infiltrated the temporary work agency that placed Day Davis at his position at Bacardi reported that trainees are only given a thirty minute video before operating heavy duty machinery. Realizing the extent of worker grievances in the United States has made me more happy that IWJ and its affiliates are there to push for a system that puts worker humanity first and foremost. I encourage you to watch the documentary itself.

Onto the next project: Labor in the Pulpits!