Post 3: The 30,000 Foot View From DC, and Other Lessons

I have learned so much this summer–about judicial nominations, of course, but also about working in advocacy and all of the options that are available to me. Social justice work is more layered and diverse than I had ever dreamed of. I could never have imagined I’d meet so many people at different organizations who were all working on judicial nominations, for example. Being in DC has given me the opportunity to learn that I both don’t need to have it figured out yet, and that I can take everything I’ve done and still do so much more.

At Alliance for Justice, I got to work with a great, outgoing team that exemplified everything I would want in a workplace. We brainstormed out loud in our alcove in the office, we proofread each others’ emails, and my fellow interns and I were encouraged to ask questions and speak up in meetings. These small things helped me learn about the kind of professional environment I will thrive in after graduation. For me, that was incredibly important, especially because it wasn’t at all what I was looking for when I started my summer internship search.

Myself and my wonderful Outreach team on the steps of the Supreme Court!

I was also encouraged to network and grab coffees with people I met who were interesting, which has so far been one of the best and most educational parts of my summer. Networking wasn’t something I felt comfortable doing before this summer, especially as a student; it was intimidating to ask someone for their time when there wasn’t anything I could give back in return. However, these were the conversations that I’ll remember for the rest of my life because they helped me define what kind of social justice work I feel most impactful in. All this time, I’d wanted to work in policy in DC, only to learn through these chats that what I need is to be much, much closer to the communities I’m working with. A 30,000 foot view is way too far away for me (at least for now), but I’m glad I had the chance to figure that out.

I also implemented a series of brown bag lunches for our interns that happened almost weekly, where we learned about the different parts of our organization and also got tips on going to graduate school or law school, professional development, and social media management. These were not just mini-lectures or debriefs; they gave all of us interns a chance to speak, informally, with the staff at our organization. They helped to foster a sense of community and opened the door for one-on-one talks.

A room of people seated at a bookstore, with an interview happening at the front.
A full room at our conversation with Dean Strang, whose book stoked my interest in early radical labor organizing!

My advice for people who think they want to do nonprofit social justice advocacy is to open every door. There are so many different ways to engage with this work and all of them are vastly different. It isn’t about picking an issue or a job title as much as it is doing something that you enjoy and do well. You will have the biggest impact where you feel committed to the work you’re doing and happy to be doing it.

This was another site of learning for me, as I enjoy running events and building organizational relationships, yet I was seeking out opportunities to sit back and do research. More than anything, I’ve learned that I don’t need to have it quite figured out anytime soon; now’s the time for trying it all out and seeing what fits best. This summer was the next step on an unpredictable path and I can’t wait to see where I go.

Renee posing with a bust of Louis D Brandeis
Me and Louis Dembitz Brandeis himself at the Supreme Court!

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