Post 2: Brandeis to NCL

As a rising senior, I have accrued plenty of knowledge and skills over my last three years as Brandeis student. Above all, I am most grateful for the flexible, proactive approach to opportunities that I have developed since my first days at Brandeis. My college career started a little unorthodoxly when I received my acceptance letter to Brandeis as a midyear student. As a high school senior, I had daydreamed of walking to class in the beautiful New England fall. I never imagined that I would be moving into my freshman dorm in the dark, cold month of January after spending the fall at home.

Despite this unexpected twist, being accepted as a midyear was one of the best things to happen to me. When I began in January, I was surrounded by a cohort of midyear students who were mature, adaptable and ambitious. We each had diverse paths during our fall semester, but we all began our college years shaped by our experiences and eager to jump into campus life. Although all Brandeis students are passionate and inquisitive, I believe that midyears are exceptional in their open mindedness and initiative. Midyears are open to challenges, see opportunity in the overlooked, and are ready to hit the ground running.

My exposure to other midyears and integration into the Brandeis campus cultivated the flexibility and resourcefulness that had enabled me to take advantage of my gap semester. The Brandeis community has so much to offer, both on-campus and resulting from its location in the bustling Greater Boston area. Being immersed in a student body that is passionate and eager to learn taught me the value of reaching out and keeping your eyes peeled for opportunity everywhere. This is how I found my summer internship at National Consumers League. I saw a listing for the WOW pre-approved fellowship while going through my clogged Brandeis inbox. Going through my emails with diligence is one habit I’ve adopted at Brandeis, since you never know what random opportunities may be nestled into a message from Hiatt or a club listserv. This instance was no exception; National Consumers League seemed like a perfect fit, and the WOW stipend made moving to D.C. a financial possibility. Much like my choice to enroll as a Brandeis midyear, I decided to move to a new city and take on whatever it had to offer me.

Since arriving at National Consumers League, my adaptability and Brandeisian initiative has served me well. Although I am mostly working with LifeSmarts, NCL’s consumer education competition for high schoolers, there are always additional projects and events for interns to take advantage of. I’ve been able to write blog posts about environmental policy, work on press releases in support of lifesaving legislature, attend hearings on the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines, and sit in on several congressional committee hearings (including one where Alexandria Ocasio Cortez gave a rousing argument in support of Obamacare). I would not have been equipped to participate in these experiences if it wasn’t for the ability to bounce between projects and jump in wherever needed and be proactive. These strengths, cultivated on the Brandeis campus, have allowed me to make the most of my time at NCL and in D.C., a city with countless cultural, professional and educational experiences to take advantage of.

Myself and several other NCL staffers standing with Presidential candidate Jay Inslee at a protest outside the U.S. Customs & Border Protection building.

I see a similar open mindedness and passion in National Consumers League itself. The organization has four main priorities–Health, Privacy, Labor and Food–but often shows flexibility in the work it takes on. The NCL understands that many other issues are interwoven into these topics. They show a well-rounded commitment to the consumer through collaboration with other groups and a willingness to speak up on issues beyond their immediate scope. One perfect example of this occurred last week, when the staff attended a protest organized by educators’ unions to call for better conditions at the border. Although NCL does not have an official focus on immigration, the staff understands that immigrant rights are inextricably linked to many issues within our labor department. It is inspiring to see the intersectional nature of social justice work firsthand at NCL.

It has been eye-opening to see how national nonprofits like NCL and other like-minded groups interact. When doing social justice work, it is essential to remain flexible, collaborate and find solidarity wherever possible. I believe that the adaptability, can-do attitude and proactivity I have gained as a Brandeis student and NCL intern will be an asset to me in the future, inside and outside of the nonprofit sector.

Post 1: Advocacy and History – Starting My Summer With NCL

This summer I have the honor of working as an intern with the historic National Consumers League, or NCL. NCL is a DC-based consumer advocacy organization with a long and impressive history reaching back to 1899. The League was chartered by Jane Addams and Josephine Lowell, two of the most admirable social reformers and trailblazers in American history. Additionally, Eleanor Roosevelt was a lifelong supporter of the League, even testifying in Congress on behalf of the NCL and serving as the group’s vice president for a period of time. This is an interesting parallel to her role in the founding of Brandeis University in 1948. Justice Louis Brandeis himself had ties to the organization and its founding staffers. Working with the NCL has been a humbling glimpse into the long, interwoven timeline of social justice and reform that I have the privilege of participating in, as both a Brandeis student and this year’s Brandeis fellow with the National Consumers League.

The National Consumers League has been at the forefront of America’s ongoing struggle for worker and consumer rights, dating back to the establishment of eight-hour work days and minimum wage. The goal of NCL is to represent consumers regarding workplace and marketplace issues. The group focuses most heavily on matters of privacy, child labor, medication and food safety. While these topics are of deep importance to the health and success of all Americans, what I appreciate most about NCL is that they advocate on behalf of the unheard. I grew up in a diverse, working class city with a substantial immigrant population. Because of this, I witnessed firsthand how those who are most frequently taken advantage of also face significant barriers to speaking up. Such people often do not have the time, energy, education or opportunity necessary to fight the injustices they face everyday. The National Consumers League works tirelessly to represent all consumers, and I see their work as a vital aspect of remedying social and economic inequality.

I was drawn to NCL because it hones my passion for social justice in a tangible way. Their work creates social change through a variety of methods, both within and without the political system. During my first two weeks at the organization, I witnessed advocacy in action as staff supported the introduction of two major pieces of legislation and continued to work towards their passage. The NCL also has several long-standing programs that educate and protect consumers. One of these is LifeSmarts, a nationwide consumer education competition for high schoolers. Much of my work at NCL will be centered around creating resources for LifeSmarts, in addition to exploring ways to expand the program. I have been able to experience how NCL empowers consumers through my work on LifeSmarts. In addition to my work on LifeSmarts, I have the opportunity to do research projects on vital consumer issues and attend some of the fantastic events in DC on behalf of the organization.

As a Public Policy major interested in a broad spectrum of political and social issues, it is often difficult to pinpoint a professional outlet for my interests. NCL grants me an exciting glimpse into how I can translate my social justice foundation and Brandeis education into a meaningful career. I am excited to learn more about what advocacy, lobbying and policymaking looks like from the perspective of a non-profit while soaking up the excitement of living in Washington.

– Elaina Pevide