Midpoint Reflections at Harvard Lab for Youth Mental Health

 

Midpoint Reflections

 

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What summer looks like at Harvard!

Now that I am more than halfway done with my internship at the Harvard Lab for Youth Mental Health it is time that I reflect upon my work here so far! I have definitely become more comfortable with the working environment at the lab and feel like I am a helpful part of the research team.

After the initial excitement of starting out my internship, the next couple of weeks were a bit trying. There was a big push for data to be entered into Excel so a good portion of my time was devoted to data entry. After figuring out how to correctly code the data, I found the work to become monotonous after typing for several hours straight. On top of that I developed tendonitis in both of my wrists from typing too fast and incorrectly so I was a little bit disheartened. However, I remembered from the WOW advice given to me at the start of my internship that I should “embrace the grunt work” and try to look at the bigger picture of the work being done. I really took that guidance and applied it to my internship setting. I recognized that while the day-to-day typing was not the most glamorous job, that the results that came out of the study could really help children with mental health concerns.

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Manual for MATCH therapy used in studies

Furthermore, I was trained in the meta analysis project which is more hands on and utilizes some of the knowledge I have gained from previous neuroscience and psychology classes. The meta analysis is a paper that the PI (principal investigator) puts out every couple of years that examines many previously published studies. It is a way to streamline all the data that exists in youth psychotherapy approaches. There are many different criteria a paper must meet to “pass” through the screening process so my job has been to read the paper and code for different research elements. It is extremely interesting to read about all the current work being done, and I feel like it has really enhanced my internship this summer.

Links to previous meta analyses

I think that while my classes at Brandeis have prepared me for this internship, working is pretty different from university/academic life. I’ve noticed that I am much more tired after working in the lab for a couple hours, versus taking classes and participating in extracurricular at Brandeis. Sitting in front of a computer requires energy in a very different way than I would have originally thought! However, as the weeks continued I noticed I became more adjusted to a working schedule and it didn’t feel as overwhelming. I have also noticed that working in a research lab is not as much about what you know but how well you work with others. Key skills are thinking on your feet, problem solving, and multitasking. Collaboration is essential to being able to accomplish anything in the lab.

Overall I feel that my weeks working at the Harvard Lab for Youth Mental Health have given me a greater understanding in what research in a clinical psych lab looks like. While I am not sure if I would pursue a career solely in research, I can see myself being happy working as a research assistant after graduation and gaining more skills in the field. I am excited to finish out my internship and continue to develop professionally.

Melissa Viezel ’17

Halfway Point: Learning from the Bumps in the Road

Since my first blog post, I’ve conducted twelve additional experiments, mainly working to optimize conditions for the big experiment that I will be conducting in about two weeks. I spent about six weeks attempting to optimize an LDH assay (which measures the amount of lactase dehydrogenase, a chemical produced in the endogenous metabolic pathways of all cells that is released when they lyse). My supervisor believed that this assay would be a good measure of immune system activity against tumor cells, as the immune cells would attack the tumor cells, causing the release of LDH. This assay also does not use any radioactive substances and so is safe and easy to handle. Unfortunately, we ultimately determined that the LDH assay was not sensitive enough for our purposes, and so we had to move back to the old, tried-and-true method that involves labeling cells with radioactive chromium. So far we’ve conducted a few different experiments using this method, and we were very happy to see that it has worked every time. As my supervisor remarked, sometimes the old way is the better way, even if it does mean working with radioactive isotopes. Now that we have a working assay, I will be conducting an experiment to see whether our experimental compound increases the immune cells’ ability to attack the neuroblastoma tumor cells. This experiment will be a big undertaking, involving about 15 hours of work, several different experimental groups, and numerous controls, so we are crossing our fingers that we will get the results we desire.

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Setting up an LDH assay in the sterile hood

I am gaining confidence in my technical abilities, which was a major goal of mine before the summer began. Despite the fact that many of the experiments we ran had systematic errors, I’ve been able to learn a variety of research techniques through running these different experiments. I’ve become quite competent at cell culture, which is a heavily-utilized technique across the biomedical sciences. I’ve learned how to isolate immune system cells from rat spleens and whole human blood, as well how to prepare blood serum for analysis. Overall I’ve become more independent in the lab, in terms of planning and running experiments and analyzing data. Additionally, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the scientific research process, as I’ve now seen that despite extensive planning, research is rarely linear; the twists and turns can nonetheless be valuable learning experiences.

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Another benefit of this internship: I’ve gotten good at Excel!

Since my internship is academic in nature, it has aligned nicely with my experiences at Brandeis. I’ve been able to apply some of the molecular biology and immunology knowledge that I’ve gained through my coursework at Brandeis. However, I’ve also seen that research, unlike school, is a collaborative effort so being able to work with a team is very important to the process. I’ve also seen that even when the theoretical concepts are clear, the logistics of planning and running experiments can be complex. This has shown me how the “real world” connects to the science that I learn in lecture; there is more to being a scientist than just having an academic understanding of science.

In conclusion, while the research itself has definitely felt slow-going at times, I am excited to test our experimental compound in a couple of weeks and am hopeful that the weeks of optimizing will pay off. Nonetheless, I have grown through this experience and have gained a good understanding of the research process, which has been informative to my career exploration of fields related to veterinary medicine.

Michelle Oberman, ’16

First Week at Modulus

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

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

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

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

 

Modulus Audio room

The beginning: First Week

 

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

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

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

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Getting Started

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

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

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

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

Sooyoung Jeong ’18

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time!

Mira McMahon ‘18

My First Week with the ICM Program

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

My first week went something like this:

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first week at NCL

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NCL’s Office (1701 K St.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elese Chen

First Week at United for a Fair Economy

United for a Fair Economy (UFE) is a non-profit in downtown Boston that focuses on economic justice and supporting social justice movements that are fighting for a fair economy. The organization believes that the unequal distribution of wealth (and thus power) in our country leads to a corrupt society, and that this inequality is strongly linked to deepening racial divides. UFE works towards achieving their goals through a number of ways, including trainings for workers and movement leaders that provide accessible explanations of the economy using popular education, a methodology that elicits participants’ personal experiences to identify injustices. UFE also focuses on state-based policy change and a project called Responsible Wealth, which encourages people in the top 5% to become allies and advocate for progressive policies. Further, UFE is currently expanding their programs to places like North Carolina and Minnesota.

At the Training of Trainers Institute, reflecting on the weekend (I am second from the right, in the white shirt!)

This summer I will be acting as the Development Intern, working with the Development Director who oversees the fundraising and communication with donors. My tasks include assisting with mailings such as thank you letters and appeals; updating the donor database; assisting with donation processing; and generating lists and reports based on the information in the database that relate to our mailings. I also hope to be given projects throughout my internship that will enable me to create informational materials and content for UFE’s electronic publications.

This week, I was given tasks that would allow me to get acclimated with the organization’s database in conjunction with my orientation and training. I was included in staff meetings and retreats, phone conferences, and organizational meetings between department directors which really allowed me to experience first-hand the processes of non-profit management. All of the staff members are incredibly welcoming and eager to answer my questions, and they make my own opinions and suggestions feel valuable and legitimate as well. In addition, this past weekend I attended one of their Training of Trainers Institutes, a three day training that provides movement leaders tools on how to use popular education in their own workshops. The weekend was incredibly informative, transformative, and and participants ranged from non-profit leaders to students to immigrants and refugees, each with their own stories and struggles and talents.

There were many moments of reflection on current tragic events, of spirituality in the form of circle work, and of sharing experiences that sparked a community bond and awareness of the need for social justice movements. Moreover, I was given a great introduction to popular education and how to effectively prepare and facilitate a popular education workshop, specifically regarding economic justice. Another interesting and inspiring aspect of the training was that it was completely bilingual using simultaneous interpretation. The facilitators spoke both English and Spanish while interpreters translated into headsets that all participants wore so that people who did not speak English could participate.

 

The “State of the Dream,” an infographic put out by UFE every year that discusses ways that racial divides are linked to economic injustice. (http://www.faireconomy.org/infographics)

 

 

 

 

 

During this internship, I hope to gain a better understanding of non-profit management. As I begin to think about what I want to do after I graduate, non-profit work remains at the top of my list and I hope to use this internship as a way to gain the experience necessary to effectively be a part of how a non-profit operates. Further, I hope that I can contribute to UFE in a useful and effective way. I have only been here for a week, but I already feel like an integral part of the organization and I have already become incredibly passionate towards their cause and their commitment to social justice and equality, both in their work and in the way they manage their organization by ensuring equal representation and never losing sight of their values. I hope to harness this passion and use the values and tools that I develop by being included in the managerial processes not only during this summer, but beyond.

 

My Summer Planning a Film Festival

For the past few weeks I have been interning at the Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF), which is presented by Asian Cinevision and in its 39th year. The festival takes place across New York City and is running from July 21-30. The festival is the longest running film festival in the country dedicated to showcasing films by, for, and about Asians and Asian Americans. In an industry where Asian faces are underrepresented, or portrayed solely through stereotypes, the festival is meaningful in giving recognition to actors, directors, and filmmakers who might otherwise be overlooked.

Our first team meeting, in the Made in NY Film Center in Brooklyn, NY. (from the @asiancinevision Instagram)
Our first team meeting, in the Made in NY Media Center in Brooklyn, NY. (from the @asiancinevision Instagram)

All staff members and interns of the film festival participate in deciding the final programming that will be shown. In my first week, I watched the entire roster of selected short films. The shorts were categorized by themes, from international Asian stories, to films made in New York, to films about parents and family, to narratives and documentaries about the LGBTQ community. As a group we also discussed where and when to show our feature-length films. Because everyone on the AAIFF team is Asian or Asian-American, these discussions have always come with personally invested praise or criticism. Everyone is dedicated to making sure the best films with the most meaningful stories or characters will be shown. On Opening and Closing Night, the largest nights of the festival, we decided to show two films with LGBTQ themes, in continuance of our mission of recognizing marginalized communities in film.

However, the main part of my work thus far has involved coordinating the logistics of the film festival itself. I am responsible for special events and development, where I will see most of my work culminate during the 10 days of the festival. In coordinating special events, I maintain contact with our theater venues and contributing sponsors. Many sponsors provide catering for our biggest nights, so I must reach out to restaurants to partner with the festival. I am also responsible for building partnerships with new and old sponsors who can offer us monetary or in-kind donations. The fundraising that comes from our partners is often in the form of a product donation that we can distribute during the festival, or monteary contributions that help cover expenses such as venues, program booklets, or filmmaker travel expenses. My work is heavily rooted in preparation and assuring that things will run smoothly when the festival comes. The fruits of my labor are not instantly recognizable, but come July 21 with everything in action, I know I will be able to take pride in what I have contributed.

A promotional postcard for this year's festival. A still from our Opening Night film, SPA NIGHT is in the background.
A promotional postcard for this year’s festival. A still from our Opening Night film, SPA NIGHT, is in the background.

Looking ahead, I am confident that my goals of building stronger relationships and partnerships with people I work with can be accomplished. The event and development planning I am working on now has already enabled to begin achieving this goal, and during the festival I will have a chance to collaborate heavily with my peers and other volunteers to ensure events run smoothly. I hope in the coming weeks I will be able to prepare my team as best as I can.

My First Week at Williamstown Theatre Festival

Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF) is dedicated to producing top tier productions with some of the most acclaimed theater artists in the country. WTF is also known as one of the top training and professional development programs for new generations of aspiring theater artists and administrators. One of the most incredible parts of the Williamstown mission is its commitment to creating some of the highest quality theater in the country, while making sure to help nurture the next generation of top theater artists.

This summer, I am one of 15 Stage Management Interns. As Stage Management Interns, we serve as Assistant Stage Managers on the  main season shows and as Stage Managers and Assistant Stage Managers on the late night cabarets and other events. I am currently working as an Assistant Stage Manager on Orpheus in the Berkshires, which is a new work. This show is part of a new initiative to literally bring theater to the greater community of Williamstown, MA, and will be performed in an old mill.

The production team in Greylock WORKS (our performance venue)
The production team in Greylock WORKS (our performance venue)

This show has a cast of 80, ranging in age from 7-87, and is made up of both people who live in the area and actors in attendance at the festival. This is the first year that Williamstown Theatre Festival is producing a show like this, so my work on this show is incredibly influential in the continuation of this type of production in the future. With the success of this specific production, there will hopefully be an annual occurrence. Because of the scale of this show, my work has been extensive since the sheer number of cast members makes every task more complicated, but also more rewarding. Many of these community members have never been in a show before. The pure joy on their faces when they leave rehearsal is incredibly inspiring for me to watch and shows how theater can transform peoples’ lives.

Some of my amazing cast members on the first day of rehearsal.
Some of my amazing cast members on the first day of rehearsal.

In rehearsal, I am responsible for tracking all script changes because with new plays, the playwright is often in the rehearsal room and therefore the text can shift. As an Assistant Stage Manager, I help with the organization of all show materials and the coordination of all players involved within the production.

Updating the scene breakdown, which is used to show who is onstage when.
Updating the scene breakdown, which is used to show who is onstage when.

My career goal for this summer is to confirm that I want to pursue a stage management career in high level theaters and Broadway. Stage management is different depending on the level of theater due to different rules and expectations. In order to decide where I want to apply to work next year after I graduate, I need to make sure that this is the path that I want to pursue. Also, at Brandeis, I have served as a Stage Manager more than an Assistant Stage Manager, however when I first enter the field after graduation, I will be hired as an Assistant. It is important that I have the chance to develop these skills so that I am better prepared to enter the theater industry as a professional. Additionally, this internship will allow me to continue to make connections with Broadway actors, directors, and designers. In the theater world, like many other professions, networking is incredibly important.

My personal goal through this summer internship is to continue to improve my confidence in my stage management skills. I have found that working closely with and observing professional stage managers is incredibly beneficial because it allows me to compare my ideas and instincts to someone who is successful in the field.

Addressing the Needs of Youth for a Better Samoa

My internship with the United Nations in Samoa did not officially begin until the 6th of June, after Samoa’s long independence weekend; however, during the country’s celebrations my friends and I assisted with a government driven, youth education and outreach program that focused on the two themes of bullying and sexual reproductive health. The program entailed splitting into groups and going around the “hang out” spots in town where youth congregate to discuss the important topics that are a big problem in Samoa. It was a thought generating exercise resulting in fruitful discussions. Once my work officially started, I joined in with the UN Youth Employment Program (YEP) team.

Youth education and outreach program held in the first week of June 2016

Originally I was to be based at the UNDP office, but because I am working primarily on the YEP, it made more sense for me to be placed at the Ministry for Women, Community and Social Development (MWCSD), Division for Youth, working directly with the Project Manager of the YEP. The United Nations is engaged in a number of core development areas in partnership with the Samoan government. Their Millennium Development Goals include eradicating extreme poverty, ensuring environmental sustainability, promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women, universal primary education, and others. My task is to assist with some specific projects addressing the needs of youth. Preventing early school leavers and providing employment for youth, are important goals for the government and the UN in Samoa. I will be doing research to identify and highlight pathways between IT training programs and labor market opportunities for youth.  I’ve been asked to assist with some technology training related to a new government initiative called the “High Tech Youth Network”. This is a large project sponsored by the New Zealand government, aiming to give youth in Samoa the opportunity to learn IT skills at no cost whatsoever.

My workspace in the MWCSD Division for Youth office
My workspace in the MWCSD Division for Youth office

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The most interesting work for me so far has been in dealing with child vendors and their families. This assignment has entailed visits to low -income families in the villages surrounding Apia, the capitol of Samoa. While conducting a “needs assessment survey”, for the Ministry, I have become quite engaged with these families. In each case the family has been willing to speak openly and frankly about their personal economic situations. For the most part they are large families, with only one or two wage earners. One family in particular consists of 30 people and there is only one adult wage earner. Several of their children have been peddling goods on the streets, in a desire to contribute to the family and improve their conditions. Nevertheless they are extremely poor and struggle to eat. In my professional capacity I am able to listen to them, collect data assessing their needs and offer advice when I can. Witnessing their struggle and tough but positive attitudes makes it impossible not to want to offer some assistance!

This internship with the UN is a fantastic introduction to the operations of a global development organization within a small, developing country. Because my role within the UN has me working in cooperation with the Samoan governments’ MWCSD, I am also able to learn about the mandates of different government departments and the relationships between them. My goal is to learn from my experience working in Samoa, the core skills and practical knowledge that will help me better understand the relevance of my studies at Brandeis to real-world development challenges. I also wish to conduct research that will enhance my understanding of how technology may be used for youth empowerment and sustainable development. The internship is fascinating, and I know it will be a very busy two months.

A Summer of Research and Advocacy

The Boston University School of Public Health has a spectacular location in South Boston, just steps away from Boston Medical with an impressive presence on the Boston University Medical Campus. The mission of the School of Public Health is to promote health equality on both a local and global scale, and through research and innovation to significantly improve the health and well-being of disadvantaged and medically under-served communities. Throughout my internship I will be working directly with Dr. Michael Siegel of the Department of Community Health Sciences. I first had the pleasure of working alongside Dr. Siegel when I assisted with his research on the impact of internet alcohol advertisements on teenage alcohol abuse two summers ago. After I learned that Dr. Siegel planned to conduct research this summer on the intersection between intimate partner and firearm violence, I jumped at the opportunity to join his research team again. My first week working on Dr. Siegel’s research team was exciting and stimulating, and I got the sense that I was going to have a lot of responsibilities for multiple parts of the project this summer. The other professors and students working on this project were incredibly welcoming, and throughout the week I was able to spend a bit of time with each team member to learn how they are contributing to the project. 

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The Boston Medical center, which is the hub of the Boston University School of Medicine and School of Public Health
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The Boston University School of Public Health campus, featuring one of the school’s buildings. This building houses a spectacular library for the School of Medicine, and on the top floor has an incredible view of the entire city of Boston

(source: http://www.bu.edu/sph/files/2013/06/header-about.jpg).

In a powerful article on gun violence and increasing homicide rates, “Who Mourns for Brianna?”, Dr. Siegel writes,

“Somehow, there is a human tendency to pay more attention to a single tragic event than to a pattern of fatal violence that occurs on a regular basis. Maybe we need to reconsider what counts as a tragedy worthy of commemoration, versus a “normal,” everyday occurrence that we merely accept as a way of life.” (http://www.bu.edu/today/2014/pov-who-mourns-for-brianna/)

On the first day of our research, Dr. Siegel explained that in the wake of tragedies, such as Newtown (and subsequently Orlando), it is easy to forget that gun violence and deaths due to firearms occur every single day and affect thousands of lives. Although most of my responsibilities include punching numbers and data/statistical analysis, each day Dr. Siegel urges me not to forget that we are fighting for individuals, real children, parents, friends, and loved ones who have been affected by gun violence, through our research. According to recent data from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, it is five times more likely that a woman will be killed by her abuser if the abuser owns a firearm, and in 2011, nearly two-thirds of women killed with guns were killed by their intimate partners. (http://smartgunlaws.org/domestic-violence-firearms-policy-summary/) However, in my first week, Dr. Siegel set this extremely powerful and especially motivating tone for the summer that our research would truly mean something and matter to the individual lives lost every year to domestic gun violence!

My job for the first part of the project is to construct an extensive database on specific state firearm laws in order to determine how weak/strong individual state laws are concerning controls on firearm ownership/purchase for domestic violence offenders. We will then compare this data on gun control laws to the number of intimate partner homicides that occur state-by-state. From there, we will be able to extract data on which state gun control laws are the most powerful and effective in preventing intimate partner homicides, and will have the capability to make suggestions for public policy revisions regarding gun control. I hope that my work will not only help Dr. Siegel and the Dept. of Community Health Sciences with their research, but will significantly minimize the number of people who may be affected by intimate partner gun violence in the future.

One learning goal for this summer is to gain a deeper understanding of the scientific research project from beginning to end, a very attainable goal, since I have been participating in the conceptualization of our project’s research questions with Dr. Siegel, and at the end of our project we will write and submit a paper for publication. I also hope to integrate and fuse my passions for research and advocacy this summer by learning to use empirical research to suggest changes in public policy that would reduce social injustices caused by gun violence.

 

Rachel Kurland, ’18

Social Justice Fellow

Future Profession: Working with Cornerstone Church of Boston

I have just begun working with Cornerstone Church of Boston. It has been such an amazing and eventful internship thus far. Already, I have gone to Bridgeport, Connecticut to work with Habitat for Humanity to create homes for families that will impact their communities. We landscaped lawns and yards, and painted walls and doors. Although it was tough and dirty, the reward of seeing people’s lives changing was worth it. I was there for about 3 days and 3 nights, and wound up bonding with my team. With all the work, we also visited a few places in Connecticut in our downtime and ate amazing food. I learned through this small trip that service was not just supposed to be a 9-5, once a year kind of activity, but a sentiment to carry on in our daily life. Whether that be as a person of a faith or not, helping others should be something we as humans should strive for. Relating to my internship, it opened my eyes to see that working in a church ministry setting isn’t just at a local level, but outreaching to communities nearby.

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In terms of getting my feet wet, I would say that it has been fairly easy to get into the swing of things with the staff team. I have attended Cornerstone Church in Boston during my time at Brandeis so I knew the pastors on staff, and I just met the other intern. We attend a weekly meeting on Tuesday and the interns get to see how some decisions are made for the church community, and we also get to see how relationships work between coworkers in a non-cubicle setting. During the second half of the meeting, we discuss our lives and get to know each other more on a personal level. The meetings have really connected me with the pastors and allowed me to feel a lot more comfortable with them and with the new environment.

In terms of duty and responsibilities, they have presented a lot of opportunities for me to lead the community and get hands on work to learn what it feels like to be a pastor and leader within the church. I have been given tasks to lead college ministry events, a weekly community group, and also to lead music ministry, also known as worship ministry. I have had experience leading, but I have never had the responsibility of logistics and seeing how these ministries fit into the bigger picture and vision of the church. It has been easier than I expected, but challenging as well because it is a lot more responsibility to handle. Thankfully the pastors have been by my side the whole time training me and giving me constructive criticism to allow me to improve! I cannot wait for what the rest of the internship holds.

Daniel Choi ’18

Photos Library

Interning at AVODAH

This summer, I am interning at AVODAH at their New York office. AVODAH works to alleviate poverty, mainly by running a service corps program. In four cities, New Orleans, Chicago, Washington D. C., and New York City, corps members live together while working at different, local anti-poverty non-profits and organizations. The wide range of issues that corps members, from immigration to criminal justice to housing to youth programs to community mediation programs as well as many other issues, allows for a diversity of corps members with a wide range of skills and interests. AVODAH has also recently started a fellowship in two cities, New York City and Chicago, for people in the social justice field with full time jobs. Instead of living together, as in the service corps program, participants go to a variety of educational sessions, retreats, and events to grow their career and explore the intersection between social justice work and Judaism. (More information can be found here).

Avodah

I work under the Recruitment Director, so my focus is helping find places to recruit applicants. Since AVODAH has a fairly small staff, it is impossible to recruit individually at every university in the United States. I am helping to find more ways to recruit applicants with their limited staff. It is important to find qualified applicants from a wide range of backgrounds and colleges across the country.

I have also enjoyed helping other Jewish social justice organizations. With interns from AVODAH and other Jewish organizations, I helped to put together mailings for Bend the Arc. Bend the Arc planned a “Vigil Against Violence” on the anniversary of the deaths of three civil rights activists, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, in 1964 in Mississippi. The three activists, two of whom were Jewish, tried to register Black voters. In honor of their commitment to social justice, Bend the Arc held vigils where people lit yahrzeit (Jewish memorial) candles.  They also mailed out kits with posters and candles for people who would not be able to attend a vigil. The vigils took place in multiple places around the country, but especially in New York at Trump Tower to protest Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric and proposals.

candle-and-poster-3-480 (Photo credit: Bend the Arc)

I think these vigils were important, but on a more general level, I think it is important for Jewish social justice organizations to have strong relationships of collaboration with each other, as well as with non-Jewish organizations. This is one of the goals of the service corps programs, as alumni of the program go on to work for a wide variety of social justice organizations, creating a large network of alumni that can turn to each other for support and collaboration. I am excited for this summer because I will continue to learn more about the domestic non-profit world, but specifically the Jewish non-profit world.

Lydia Ruddick-Schulman ’17

My First Week at Lawyers for Children

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Lafayette St. where the Lawyers for Children office is located. It’s within walking distance of Chinatown and Soho, so there’s always a good place to grab lunch at lunch break.

This week I began working as a social work intern at Lawyers for Children. Lawyers for Children advocates for children in New York City in abuse/neglect situations, children placed in foster care, and those involved in custody battles and paternity cases. The free advocacy service matches children with both an attorney and a social worker to ensure that they are adequately represented.
The quality that sets LFC apart from other advocating agencies is that they are dedicated to advocating for what the children want in their cases, not only for what they believe is best for the kids. They work hard to ensure that the child’s voice is heard and that they have a say in decisions that are made for them. Lawyers for Children also has numerous special projects that focus on high-risk children in the foster care system such as an LGBTQ task force, an immigration project, a project for youth aging out of the system, a task force specializing in sexual assault, and a mental health project.

As an intern, I was matched with a social worker and a youth advocate at the center. Social work interns are directly involved in the work LFC does and I felt very welcome in my first week. Interns accompany social workers on home visits, client interviews, and to court. I have really enjoyed working with my mentor, and already sense the dedication LFC has towards giving their clients a voice in their future. So far, it seems that the most trying part of the day is commuting on the subway during rush hour in New York City!

On top of shadowing a social worker, I have also been working with a Youth Advocate in the office. This Thursday the Youth Advisory Board met at the office to discuss their experiences. The Board is led by Youth Advocates and is composed of young adults in the foster care system who are clients at LFC. We provide them with resources at the end of the meeting such as an application to help them find employment, and resources about youth-led projects in NYC.
Serving as an intern at Lawyers For Children has thus far given me an opportunity to put into practice some of what I’ve learned and read about in classes at Brandeis. Now, I’m not only reading about court cases where individuals fought for their rights, I’m sitting in a court room with attorneys and social workers working to get the children what they need and want. I hope to learn how to effectively advocate for individuals who are in a difficult position to advocate for themselves, especially in a flawed system, such as the NYC foster care and child services systems.

  • The Lawyers for Children office in Tribeca, NYC

Rachel Geller, ’18

Social Work WOW Fellow

Week 1 at the Harvard Lab for Youth Mental Health

It has been a great first week at the Harvard Lab for Youth Mental Health! The lab is located at William James Hall, which is named after the famous psychologist.

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William James Hall, Harvard University

 

The lab’s main mission is to improve child and adolescent mental health through the dissemination of evidence-based mental health practices. The projects span across many clinics and schools to test the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions. The lab’s work is of further importance as many of the projects deal with providing quality mental health services to youth in lower income communities. One of the research projects I am helping out with tests the effectiveness of the “MATCH therapy”, which is an evidence-based treatment of childhood anxiety, depression, trauma, and conduct problems. Given that many of the studies are conducted over multiple years and have 100+ participants, maintaining the database is an integral part of the work being done in the lab. I help out with a lot of the “behind the scenes” work such as entering data from psychological measures in the database, verifying that information is correct, and updating participants’ files. For further information about the research projects you can follow this link.

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The office where I work. (the desk behind me was once owned by the well-known developmental psychologist Erik Erikson!)

 

For me, it is really interesting to see what the actual assessments look like and how data is put together to examine the psychological needs of a child. The work I am doing in the lab will hopefully help me figure out what my specific interests are within the field of child clinical psychology.

Another interesting aspect to my internship is getting the opportunity to sit in on lab meetings and presentations. I attended a presentation by one of the post-doctoral students regarding her work at Boston Children’s Hospital. The presentation topic was about the emerging field of pediatric psychology and how psychologists can positively impact a patient’s hospital stay and overall outcome. Several case studies were presented in which children who had traumatic injuries and severe illnesses had their psychological needs met in addition to their medical ones. The hospital can be a scary place for a child and having adequate psychological services can help kids cope with their illnesses. Pediatric psychologists can help with explaining the illness/injury in a developmentally appropriate way, addressing emotional concerns, and working through issues regarding self-identity. We also learned that it is also important to conduct a comprehensive screening as some children with chronic medical conditions have had their psychological needs previously overlooked as a result of their serious illness. The importance of early intervention and streamlining psychological screening was also discussed.

I also attended an MRI safety session at the Harvard Center for Brain Science. I went for training to obtain a “yellow badge” so that I can observe MRI scans and be a “scan buddy” for child participants. The training emphasized the importance of being vigilant about safety and how powerful the MRI machine is. We discussed what conditions/implants would be contraindicated for an MRI scan and what the safety procedures are. At the end of the training we went into the room with the machine and threw around a tennis ball filled with magnetic paper clips!

One of the videos that we watched during training can be viewed here:

Overall, I had a very exciting (and busy!) week at the lab and I can’t wait to see what is in store for the upcoming weeks.

Melissa Viezel, ’16

 

Budding at Roots

Roots (also known as שורשים or جدور) is a joint Israeli-Palestinian initiative aimed at building a grassroots movement of understanding, nonviolence, and transformation among Palestinians and Israelis through projects such as dialogue groups, photography workshops, interfaith exchanges, and children’s activities. Roots is based in the Gush Etzion/Bethlehem region, in the West Bank, on a plot of land that is owned by the Abu Awwad family and lovingly referred to as “the field.” Instead of a formal office space, the administrators of the organization, along with a network of volunteer activists, mostly work from their homes, while holding meetings and events at “the field.” This plot of land includes a room lined with beds, a small kitchen, an outdoor area with couches and plastic chairs, a greenhouse, and a freshly planted field with a small playground.

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Chairs set up for a dialogue group at Roots

Roots was founded on the basis of “dignity, trust and a mutual recognition and respect for both people’s historic belonging to the entire Land.” Their mission is to build a grassroots model for co-existence through non-violent means, believing that this can affect larger change in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This young organization has managed to reach nearly 13,000 people in their productive two years of existence.

The intern position at Roots is an informal role, so my schedule and tasks vary tremendously. As someone who is passionate about the work Roots is doing, but is not yet a member of either community, I see myself as a helping hand, assisting whomever I can however I can. For example, my first major task was to navigate Israeli bureaucracy in order to get twenty cameras out of customs for a women’s photography workshop Roots is running in a few weeks. While this was not a task I was expecting to undertake, it was definitely a learning experience nonetheless.

Aside from the cameras, I have been tasked with setting up a Facebook page for Roots’ international supporters, learning how to use Salesforce and enter donations data, organizing a meeting between an Israeli and a Palestinian who are each interested in running interfaith gatherings through Roots, helping with shopping for an interfaith iftar (break-fast during Ramadan), and other miscellaneous responsibilities.

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One of my goals for this summer is to gain insight into an Israeli/Palestinian non-profit, observing how grassroots peace organizations are built from the bottom-up. In the short time I have spent with the organization, I have already learned a great deal about the details and discussions that go on behind-the-scenes. Through my attendance at meetings of the leadership and the volunteer activists, I have already seen how much deliberation goes on about every decision – both regarding logistics and ideology.

Another goal that I have already begun to work on is my language skills. During meetings and events and just sitting around the field schmoozing, there is almost always a mix of English, Hebrew, and Arabic. I have sat through entire meetings in Hebrew, and while I don’t understand everything 100%, I am sure that my Hebrew is improving already. Additionally, I have begun to talk to Palestinians in Arabic and attempt to adjust to their dialect. While my Arabic is barely conversational, I have already received appreciation for trying to talk to others in their mother tongue.

I look forward to learning more, to doing more, and to becoming more inspired by these selfless individuals who care so much about their work every day.

Rivka (Rebecca) Cohen ’17

Inside the EPA: My First Week in the Office of Water

This summer, I have the privilege of interning with the Office of Water at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Washington, D.C. I am an Environmental Studies and Economics double major, and I am working with an economist on water quality policy. The internship is a perfect fit as I get to apply my economics coursework, help impact our nation’s water bodies, and learn about the incredible work of the EPA. I appreciate the OW’s warm welcome for me, and I am fortunate to work with so many talented environmental professionals this summer.

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My cubicle for the summer

My first week has been a whirlwind of getting my cubicle set up, meeting lots of new people, weaving my way through the labyrinth of the EPA headquarters’ building, and getting a taste of the economics work in the EPA Water Policy office. For the first few days, I shadowed my supervisor and read environmental economics academic papers pertaining to water quality. I sat in on engaging meetings, ranging from discussions about the water quality index to planning for a stated preference study (a survey given to people asking how much they would pay for improvement in water quality for a water body near them). I enjoyed learning about economist’s role in the EPA and seeing coursework theory applied in the meetings.

The welcoming and friendly vibe of the EPA has been one of the highlights of my internship. The EPA feels like a community, as everyone is passionate about the environment and effecting change. My co-workers have gone out of their way to introduce themselves and make me feel part of the office. The Water Policy Staff has an interesting variety of professionals in the office—staff that focus on climate change and water, tribal affairs, water scarcity, ecosystem services, water quality economics and more. Throughout the summer, I will try to get to know more of my co-workers to learn more about their career path and their current work in the office. I am sure that I have a lot to learn from them!

This week I also started my first intern tasks. I started brainstorming water indicators for EJSCREEN, an environmental justice mapping tool that maps proximity of at-risk populations to environmental hazards. There are few water indicators on the tool, so I began to brainstorm new indicators, such as water scarcity, access/proximity to water resources, and drinking water violations. It is a lot of work to collect the data, create a methodology, and pitch my idea to the EJSCREEN committee! I am happy to be making a difference, and I hope the additions in the tool can be used to flag environmental hazards, like Flint Michigan, and to help the EPA implement policy.

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My ID badge

In addition to my intern tasks, my supervisor is encouraging me to attend water-related EPA and NGO seminars throughout the summer and to write summaries for the office. Today I attended a talk about urban ecosystems, and tomorrow I am going to a seminar at Resources for the Future to learn about the federal coal leasing program. I cannot wait to delve in to my internship, and I am very thankful for this learning experience.

 

-Allison Marill

Working for Peace: First Week at Massachusetts Peace Action

This summer I am working as a Legislative Intern for Massachusetts Peace Action (MAPA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to develop the sustained political power to foster a more just and peaceful U.S. foreign policy. Massachusetts Peace Action is an affiliate of Peace Action, the largest grassroots peace and disarmament membership organization in the U.S., with some 100 chapters nationwide. Through grassroots organizing, policy advocacy, and community education, we promote human rights and global cooperation, seek an end to war and the spread of nuclear weapons, and support budget priorities that redirect excessive military spending to meeting human and environmental needs in our communities.

My experience with this organization began in late May when I attended the Peace Action National Organizers Conference and Lobby Day in Washington D.C.. During the first two days, representatives from Peace Action chapters from around the country (California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, New York, Florida, Ohio, etc.) met and discussed foreign policy and the role of the national Peace Action organization in the affairs of the affiliates. Some of the policy topics that we covered were the Syrian War, nuclear disarmament, the People’s Budget, Saudi Arabia/ Yemen conflict, and climate justice. It was fascinating to not only hear the perspectives of progressive leaders from around the country on these issues but also to learn about the framework of the organization and non-profit work in general. There were also several student chapters represented including Syracuse U., Tufts U., Harvard U., Hofstra U., and several state colleges from New York. It was helpful to engage in political discussion and form alliances with other students who share a similar vision.

Peace Action delegates at the National Organizers Conference in Washington D.C.
Peace Action delegates at the National Organizers Conference in Washington D.C.
MAPA interns in front of the United States Capitol building.
MAPA interns in front of the United States Capitol building.

On the final day of the trip, along with other delegates from the Massachusetts Peace Action, I participated in lobby meetings with all of the eleven Massachusetts federal legislators or their staff. It was such an amazing experience to travel between the Senate and House offices on Capitol Hill and actually speak with the individuals who develop policy and represent large populations of Massachusetts residents. Often times it seems that officials in Washington are alienated from the public so it was interesting to get some insider knowledge of the legislative processes of the federal government and other congressional procedures.

MAPA interns with MA Senator Elizabeth Warren!
MAPA interns with MA Senator Elizabeth Warren!
Members of Massachusetts Peace Action meet with MA Rep. Jim McGovern.
Members of Massachusetts Peace Action meet with MA Rep. Jim McGovern.

Since my return from Washington D.C., I have been working in the MAPA headquarters in Harvard Square (Cambridge, MA) and have been involved in a wide range of tasks including fundraising, community outreach, event planning, and legislative affairs.

I am really looking forward to the rest of the summer and hope that I will be able to continue strengthening my network by building friendships and alliances with those that I meet along the way.

Remington Pontes ‘17

My First Week @ Supportive Living Inc

Hello dear readers! My name is Amy Zhang and I am an intern at a Supportive Living Inc., a brain injury rehabilitation clinic located in Lexington, Massachusetts. Supportive Living is an organization that is dedicated to aiding brain injured members of the population through funding, housing, and rehabilitating programs at their multiple locations. I work at the Douglas House in Lexington that acts as sort of the hub center of all Supportive Living management. As one of ten new college interns, I participate in assisting with the physical therapy and other rehabilitating cognitive activities designed for each individual clinic’s residents. I, in layman’s terms, interact, help, and motivate the residents through different programs.

I just finished my first week of work and it certainly was an experience. You know that feeling of when you are in the cart of an ascending roller coaster? You know when the descent is going to happen and how it’s going to feel and yet that prior knowledge doesn’t really prepare you for the fall anyways? That’s kind of similar to how I felt during my first week. I had a pretty solid idea of what I would be doing for the internship and yet I still found myself being apprehensive throughout the whole week. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the work. The best part about this internship was the opportunity getting to interact with residents and other interns on a personal basis. But I was still constantly getting surprised by the kinds of conversations I would have with the residents. Working with brain injured patients, I had a vague idea of how difficult interacting with them might be. And yet, as I was working on activities like horticultural therapy with some of the patients, I found myself constantly being surprised by how easy it was to partake in regular daily conversations.

The first picture depicts interns interacting with some of the brain injury residents during a music therapy class while the second picture is some of the horticultural plants we work with.

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I get to also partake in a research project directed at creating the outlining foundation of a new wellness center. As I interview residents and employee staff, research online, and visit other wellness centers, I will summarize all my new information into a final research paper provided at the end of the summer. I also get to help with a video documentary directed at advertising the program to the community. On my fourth day, I got to attend video training at a local company called LexMedia. The documentary should and will showcase the daily activities of the residents and also the struggles of dealing with different brain injuries.

This picture is of the video lecturer at LexMedia.

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From this internship, I am hoping to attain a personal experience with working within a strong developing public health institution. As I hope to work in some aspect of public health one day, I think it is important for me to understand how a quickly growing public health institution works. I also hope I get to create more personal relationships with not only the other employees and interns, but also the residents at Supportive Living. I really want a more intimate perspective on how the inner workings of the institution operate and how effective it truly is.

Working with Refugees on the Path to Employment at IIB

I have so much to reflect upon about the beginning of my summer as a Workforce Development intern at the International Institute of Boston (IIB). IIB is a refugee resettlement agency, with two other locations, in Lowell, MA and Manchester, NH. When a refugee (or asylee, Cuban/Haitian entrant, or Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa recipient) is resettled in Boston, they are enrolled in Case Management, Employment Services, and English classes. I work with Employment Services. You can read IIB’s mission on their website, but to explain it in my own words, I will describe my job as a Workforce Development intern.

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This summer, IIB is in a temporary location, since their new building is under construction. Their interim space is now with the Asian American Civic Association (AACA), another non-profit with a goal of developing the workforce and promoting economic self-sufficiency.

My walk to AACA in Chinatown.
My walk to AACA in Chinatown.

I do many different projects and tasks with Employment Services. I create resumes for clients and then meet with them to review. I apply for jobs for clients after knowing their preferred positions and locations– the positions are mostly entry level, but the jobs vary on the English level of the client. I make retention calls to clients after they get jobs, and update the records, which is important for IIB to track how clients are doing in their jobs. Clients are enrolled in CRES or TAG, and both are funded by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, and you can read about them here. Something I did not expect was the amount of French I would be speaking (I took French from 6th-12th grade). I am often assigned to meet with Haitians with low-English literacy because I can translate material.

A big part of my job is teaching. On Mondays, I teach the Cultural Orientation Program (COP). New clients are enrolled in COP which runs for four weeks. This class covers living in the US, rights/ laws, education, personal finance, government, health/ hygiene, and sex ed. I never thought about these aspects of life in the US since I grew up here, but many of the clients come from countries where there are different cultural norms and expectations.I never pictured myself teaching consent to a group of young men from Somalia, but this internship always surpasses expectations.

On Fridays, another intern, Sylvia, and I lead the COP trip. Examples of the trips include the Freedom Trail, Boston Public Library, Harvard Square, and the State House. Also on Fridays, Sylvia and I teach the Workforce Orientation Workshop (coincidentally, another WOW acronym) to the same students in COP. After the trip, we give the students a break, and we prepare for the afternoon class, which also runs for four weeks. This class covers getting a job in the US, job etiquette and workplace standards, interview skills, and personal finance/ budgeting/ taxes. This class is a great way for people to learn about jobs they may have in the US, and how to apply and interview for them. It is difficult to find a job in a new country where you may not speak the language well, do not have professional references or a career network, and do not have an equivalent degree in the US to one you may have earned in your home country.

COP trip to the State House. IIB often requests this guide, Brian, who adjusts the tour for people who are new to the country and who may have low levels of English proficiency.
COP trip to the State House. IIB often requests this guide, Brian, who adjusts the tour for people who are new to the country and may have low levels of English proficiency.

My main goals for this summer were to see how this furthered my career interests and to apply what I am studying in school to my work. For my career interests, I have become more interested in non-profit management. For my academic goal, I have seen how my studies apply to my internship. I have been able to apply Politics and Economics classes, as well as certain classes like American Health Care. When I am teaching US policies, laws, and personal finance, I want to think more about what I have learned at Brandeis, and how it can help refugees who are assimilating to American social, political, and economic life.

I have already seen how rewarding the work can be– two brothers were recently resettled in Boston and enrolled in programs at IIB. From teaching them in COP and WOW, I could see how determined they were to get jobs. They were excited the day they received Social Security cards, which meant I could help them apply for jobs. I helped them apply for a job, took them to the local Citizens Bank to set up bank accounts, and practiced interview skills. In the same week, they each interviewed and were hired at the same full time job. After their first job, they can come back to IIB to enroll in the Service Industry Training Program or the Hospitality Training Program, and they can use any other employment service.

This is just the beginning. I’m looking forward to a fulfilling summer at IIB!

Emilie Kahn-Boesel ’18

My “First Week” at The Improper Bostonian

Like everyone else here on the World of Work Summer Internship Blog, I’m writing about the first week of my summer experience. I’m interning in the editorial department at The Improper Bostonian, a lifestyle magazine focused on restaurants, events, trends and shopping in Boston. However, it’s not really my first week at The Improper since I’ve interned here since January, hence the quotation marks in the title of this post.

The location of The Improper’s offices on Berkeley St. in the Back Bay.

Even though I’m familiar with my supervisors and workspace from the spring, it’s been my first week of a completely different experience. Instead of interning twice a week in the midst of classes and other extra curricula activities, I’m able to focus more on the work I’m doing at my internship while taking a step outside the comforts of Brandeis. Thanks to the WOW scholarship, I’m able to sublet an apartment in Somerville and practice living like an actual young professional—cooking dinner for myself each night, commuting on the T, etc. Aside from the opportunity to continue pursue my dream of being a professional writer, I’m most grateful for the freedom granted by this scholarship.

Improper Intern Desk
Intern computers and work area

Before I get sidetracked, I should mention what I’m actually doing each day at The Improper. The foundation of the editorial internship experience and what I did throughout the spring is fact-checking articles for print, laying out calendar pages in InDesign and writing short blurbs—’callouts’—highlighting upcoming film screenings, performances or book readings around the area to be published in the print issue. It was comforting to get back to the same “meat and potatoes” work after a few weeks off but my goal for the summer is to move beyond these tasks and conduct more research, investigations and generate articles and online posts. The Improper’s website is pretty out-dated and bogged down but is in the process of a complete remodel.

Once that gets up and running, I’ll be able to focus more on different topics and trends around Boston to write about. In the meantime, I’ve been relentlessly fact-checking for the magazine’s biggest issue of the year—Boston’s Best. While I can’t share any of the winners (you’ll have to check out the print issue once it’s published next month), it is exciting to read about the best wedding caterers and local musicians as determined by our panel of judges. In the midst of my work this past week, I was reminded of a passage from a book I read for Professor McNamara’s Ethics in Journalism class I took this past spring.

Talking about the lure of journalism, especially while working at a publication like The New York Times, Seth Mnookin explains why journalists go into this stressful, typically underpaid, field. It’s the immediate access to the news and being among the first to learn about something makes it all worthwhile. While I might not be interviewing global leaders or reporting on multi-million dollar business deals, the access I have in The Improper’s editorial department is still enthralling. Not only do I get to read the magazine before it’s published, but I get to learn all about what’s going on around the city. If anything, interning for The Improper has made me a more well-informed citizen. Even if it concerns the newest restaurants and shops opening in Boston.

First Week at Rosie’s Place

The front doors of Rosie’s Place located at 889 Harrison Ave in Boston.

This summer I am working at Rosie’s Place located in Boston’s South End. Rosie’s Place is a sanctuary for poor and homeless women founded in 1974 by Kip Tiernan as the first women’s shelter in the United States, with the mission to provide a safe and nurturing environment that helps guests maintain their dignity, seek opportunity, and find security in their lives. Rosie’s Place provides a wide range of services and support for women including meals, emergency overnight shelter, education, advocacy, and many more found in the directory of programs and services.

One of the first things I learned about Rosie’s Place during my phone interview and reiterated during my first day was Rosie’s prides itself on being a sanctuary – not just a shelter – for women and being there to help with the needs of the guests who walk through the doors. Rosie’s is committed not only to help guests and their needs on the day to day basis but also working in public policy to change laws to bring social change in issues relating to poverty and homelessness.

My first week at Rosie’s as one of the eight summer interns (including Ari Keigan ’18) was overwhelming but very rewarding. I am in the Direct Service department and am on the front lines helping guests at the front desk.

As the first point of contact for guests, I work to create a warm, friendly, welcoming, and supportive environment and learn about the needs of the guests and direct them to how Rosie’s can help. I have covered the front desk before at my job at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, but I had not expected how busy and demanding it would be. It truly requires me to be flexible and be able to multitask.

The bulletin board with bios of the summer interns posted for the community to see.

For example, some of the tasks I am responsible for include answering questions in person and over the phone sorting, organizing and checking mail for the guests, and helping guests sign up for showers, laundry, phones or computers. During my first week I have already experienced having to answer the phone while organizing mail and politely asking a guest to wait before I can help them all at the same time. At first I was quite intimidated working at the front desk because I was afraid of giving out the wrong information but with the help of my supervisors, I was encouraged to ask questions and assured that it was okay if I put people on hold because I was not required to know all the answers right away.

I am grateful as part of my internship, all summer interns participate in a series of seminars that explore social justice issues on Friday afternoons. During our first meeting, we got the chance to listen and discuss how the week went in our individual departments. Two points we had discussed were checking our own privilege and wanting to help as much as we can but learning how to say no. We also discussed the four main goals of the internship and our two individual department goals.

The four internship goals are to gain a deeper understanding of poverty and oppression from the women who come to Rosie’s Place as well as the root cause of these conditions; to learn more about who are poor and homeless women in Boston and what circumstances brought them to Rosie’s Place; to develop a greater sense of responsibility and ability to work to bring about social chance and equality; and to better understand how a medium-sized non-profit operates. My two department goals are to learn how to communicate effectively with all the different people that I encounter and to learn to take more initiative as I get more comfortable with the front desk.

The work that I am doing is difficult but it is work that needs to be done, and I am excited for what is more to come.

Tina Nguyen ’17

My First Week at the Anti-Defamation League

One of the many things I confirmed upon completing my first week interning at the Anti-Defamation (ADL) League was that you can learn a tremendous amount in just one week. Although I knew that I would leave this internship feeling more inspired, educated, and passionate, I hadn’t anticipated feeling all of those emotions so early on. In this blog post, I’ll share glimpses into the short, yet prolific, time I’ve spent interning at the ADL. Before I dive into what I’ve been doing at the ADL, allow me to paint a picture:

I walk into the South Florida ADL office bright and early on a Monday morning. I’m immediately taken by the aroma of altruism in the air. I can already sense that there are intelligent, passionate, and kind people in this office. The Anti-Defamation League, one of America’s leading civil rights organization, works vigorously to combat anti-Semitism, racism, and all forms of bigotry. Given their strong efforts to promote understanding and diversity, it makes perfect sense that driven and dedicated people are steering the ship.

The morning was devoted to orienting me on the computer systems, teaching me the best way to delicately handle phone calls with victims, and introducing me to the ADL staff (my intuition was right: they are all intelligent, passionate, and kind individuals). The majority of my first day was comprised of following up on incident reports, which means that I communicate with victims or witnesses of discrimination, who have filed or wish to file reports. Initially, it was incredibly disheartening to hear about the terrible incidents that occur on a daily basis (not to mention, in my hometown of South Florida). However, I’ve chosen to use this discouragement as fuel, empowering me to take the lessons I’m learning at the ADL and bring them back to Brandeis.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed attending and participating in ADL staff meetings, where I get the latest scoop on how the organization is working towards attaining social justice. It has been truly inspiring to witness important decisions being made, and new ideas being shared, and to be in the presence of such idealistic people. I also went on an out-of-the-office field trip to assist with a presentation highlighting anti-Semitism on college campuses. As a college student and a Jew, it was disconcerting to learn how often these incidents occur. However, I’m committed to converting these uneasy feelings into ammunition, and choosing to peacefully fight against all forms of bigotry.

NPFH Logo

A part of the WOW application asks participants to identify the goals we have for our internships. One of the three goals that I listed was “to challenge myself to stretch far beyond my comfort zone and prove that I am indeed capable of successfully handling matters of great importance.” Although it’s only been a week since I began interning at the ADL, I really believe that I’m on the right track toward achieving the goals I’ve set for myself. I’ve already learned that it takes motivated people to make a true, lasting difference. I’ve learned that, unfortunately, bullying and discrimination are still very much present. I’ve also learned that we still have a long road ahead of us in regard to social justice, but that we can make tremendous strides when more individuals step up and take action.

I want to sincerely thank Brandeis University and the incredibly generous donors who have made this experience possible. I promise to ensure that your generosity – both in time and in funds – is worth every second and every penny.

 

ADL 2013 LOGO BLUE

My First Week at Verité

This summer I will be a research intern at an organization called Verité, which is located in Amherst, Massachusetts. Verité is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that promotes fair, safe and legal labor practices around the world. In particular, they address forced labor/slavery, child labor, systemic gender inequalities and discrimination within the workplace, and dangerous working conditions. They provide four major services including assessment, research, training and consultation in order to help companies identify any problems or violations within their labor supply chains. Verité facilitates working relationships with local NGOs, governments, and international institutions in order to increase accountability among corporations and to expand the capacity of local NGOs.

The entrance to the lower floor of Verité, where the interns work
The entrance to the lower floor of Verité, where the interns work

The community at Verité is warm and welcoming, and the interns are made to feel like a part of that community. On my first day, my fellow interns and I congregated around an oval table in a small conference room where we were introduced to our supervisors, and were given a presentation outlining our responsibilities. The presentation contained staple resources which we will use in our research, such as the US Department of State Trafficking in Persons reports, and the International Labour Organization’s website.

Throughout the summer, I will be assigned to help out with various projects. My first project is to update a few annual reports assessing production labor practices in specific countries; at the moment, I am working on the Taiwan report. A large American pension fund uses these updated reports to guide their investments.  Highlighting changes in each country’s labor practices report, whether the new information is positive or negative, will allow the pension fund to make more socially responsible investments, thus supporting countries with fair labor practices.

Because there is a no naming-and-shaming policy at Verité, much of the information I am given to research, as well as the standing of certain organizations, must remain confidential. However, the research I do will be used to establish statistics that will eventually be presented to the public.

Much of the Verité’s work revolves around combating forced labor. In this TEDx talk, Dan Viederman, the former CEO of Verité, gives an in-depth explanation on modern-day slavery in labor supply chains.

13460834_1336623749686676_874045514_o
My desk space and research materials

At Brandeis, I hope to create an independent interdisciplinary major (IIM) in human rights. I believe that this internship will be a highly valuable experience that will contribute to how I shape and focus my major. I hope to expand my researching skills, in order to positively contribute to Verité, as well as to learn new information for myself. Being immersed in an organization that focuses solely on human rights is an incredible opportunity, as I will be able to communicate with and learn from people who have varying roles in the world of human rights, which will allow me to explore the abundance of careers available in that field.

Verité's beautiful backyard/lunch break destination
Verité’s beautiful backyard/lunch break destination

Georgia Nichols, ’18

 

A new day at the American Red Cross!

This is almost my third week at the American Red Cross Puerto Rico Chapter. Every day here is different because the organization’s work is heavily influenced by what happens in the world. Right now, we have been sending volunteers to Orlando to help at the Mental Health Department of the Red Cross. Since 23 of the victims were Puerto Ricans, we are also establishing support services in the island. The fact that I’m working with such an active organization is a privilege. We have also been sending volunteers to Texas, where there are heavy floods and people have been moved to refuges. Although I don’t go on these trips, I have the opportunity to see how these activities are planned and interact with the volunteers that are sent.

Shirt that I was given for the pillowcase talks!
Shirt that I was given for the pillowcase talks!

I mostly work under Disaster Relief Department but some days I help out with other departments such as the Volunteer Services.  In the disaster department, I am in charge of managing a Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, which means that I am in charge of planning and implementing the program. Through this, I have also begun training to become a “Pillowcase Presenter”. The Pillowcase Project is a “preparedness education program for children in grades 3 – 5, which teaches students about personal and family preparedness, local hazards, and basic coping skills” (Red Cross website). I have had the opportunity to attend these talks and I’m excited to be given the opportunity of presenting a talk soon.

Picture from a Pillowcase talk! There were aout 50 kids, and the presenter did a really good job!
Picture from a Pillowcase talk! There were about 50 kids, and the presenter did a really good job!

 

The first day of my internship, I had the opportunity to attend a symposium on volunteering in Puerto Rico. They talked about making volunteers feel useful and important. I think this applies to internships as well, and I have felt very useful and important at the Red Cross so far. Moreover, I have gained a new perspective on running an organization like the Red Cross. They are an amazing and well-respected organization, but this is because of the work and dedication of the employees. The employees get here at 8 am and try to leave by 4:30pm, although most of them stay way past that. The “work environment” is also very friendly, from people constantly offering me coffee in the mornings to everyone knowing my name since my first day, and every day we all have lunch together.

Needless to say, I’m learning a lot from a business perspective, but also gaining tons of administrative and logistical skills that I didn’t have before. I’m also learning a lot about disaster management, which is very unique but important. I’m excited to see how the following weeks unfold, and I’m excited to have such an unpredictable but amazing internship opportunity thanks to the WOW fellowship.

Claudia Roldan Rivera ’18

Justice is not a Puzzle: Week 1 at the Boston DA

Courthouse
Outside of Boston Municipal Courthouse

I used to think criminal justice was like a puzzle. Lawyers and judges were given a set of rules to apply and, as long as they followed those rules, they could ensure a just outcome. I have since realized, however, that unlike puzzles, criminal justice does not come in a box with a picture of justice on the front. We can only ensure that the rules will lead to an acceptable outcome if we constantly discuss and define what it means for law and punishment to be just.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Victim Witness Assistance Program, where I am interning this summer, is a product of this continually evolving understanding of justice.

The Victim’s Bill of Rights was established in 1982, resulting in 44 states adopting statutes to give victims access to funds, protection, case information, and rights to attend trial. Massachusetts enacted the legislation in 1984, establishing Victim Witness Assistance Programs in every District Attorney’s Office in the state. The VWA Program is a source of legal and emotional support for the victims and witnesses of crimes and their families and ensures that their legal rights are not forgotten during the criminal prosecution process.

Boston Municipal Courthouse
Inside of Boston Municipal Courthouse

 

As an intern, I work directly with the two full time advocates. In my first week as an intern, I have come to learn how the small VWA office—easy to miss in the corner of the bustling Boston Municipal Courthouse—plays a fundamental role in maintaining the morality and justice of many proceedings. The advocates are primarily charged with contacting and meeting witnesses and victims of crimes to ensure that these individuals remain aware of the status of their case, know their participatory and compensatory rights, and feel comfortable during and after the trial. The job of the advocates is not only important for the well-being of the victims and witnesses, but is also essential to the legal process as a whole. Often these vulnerable individuals provide material testimony and, without the support of the advocates, would be unwilling or unable to come to trial.

In my first week, I was primarily tasked with writing letters to victims of crimes to updates of proceedings so they know when they can or should appear in court. I also spent time editing case files to ensure Assistant District Attorneys had updated information during arraignments and trial. My biggest task was to learn the workings of the office and gain my footing in the courthouse. I learned how to use the internal management software to find past crime records, which courtroom to go to depending on the stage of the proceeding, and have accumulated a lengthy list of the important legal jargon.

I also shadowed the advocates and spent time in the courtroom during different stages of the criminal proceedings. This included observing trials and arraignments and participating in advocate-victim meetings. I hope to utilize this internship to clarify my future career options and interests. The knowledge and exposure to the courtroom this internship is affording will make this goal not only achievable, but nearly inevitable.

It is easy to forget that criminal justice serves a purpose beyond punishment. We want law to reflect a code of fairness and equality and to protect the inherent moral worth of both the criminal and the victim. Ensuring that our penal code maintains a standard of justice is certainly not a simple goal, but it is undoubtedly one towards which we must constantly strive.

This summer, I am excited to contribute to that goal.

 

 

My ID to get into the courthouse each day

Dustin Fire, ’17

 

Two Summers, One Mission

I recently started my second summer internship with One Mission (OM), a pediatric cancer foundation that does whatever it takes to help kids get through cancer. “Rather than fund long-term solutions like research, One Mission programs and services provide immediate relief from the relentless wrath cancer unleashes every single day,” says the OM mission statement. One Mission is located in Framingham, MA. The organization is very small, currently only 5 employees and a few interns, yet they do big things for the pediatric cancer community.

The Shave Line at the Buzz Off. Where all of the buzzing happens
The Shave Line at the Buzz Off. Where all of the buzzing happens!

On Sunday June 5th, 2016, I helped out at their 7th annual Buzz Off for Kids with Cancer at Gillette Stadium. “The One Mission Buzz Off is a fun and unforgettable event where passionate people come together to shave their heads in honor and support of kids with cancer; kids who don’t have the choice to lose their hair. Just like a walk or road race, participants raise money by asking family and friends to sponsor their participation,” explains the Buzz Off website. Last year was my first Buzz Off and I immediately fell in love with the organization and their event. Seeing 8 year old girls walking in all excited to shave their heads is an amazing site for which words cannot do justice.

Working the Volunteer Registration table the day of the Buzz Off!
Working the Volunteer Registration table the day of the Buzz Off!

Since the Buzz Off is such a large event, drawing thousands of people and raising over a million dollars, most of my time so far has been spent preparing for the Buzz Off and helping with all of the post event tasks like reorganizing the office and inputting offline check donations into our online fundraising system. These tasks at times can be tedious, especially when I have a giant stack of checks on my desk and spend hours straight working on them, but I know it is important for the Buzz Off so that OM can do all it does and more for patients.

Packing for the Buzz Off
Packing for the Buzz Off.

As time passes and we get further away from the Buzz Off I will start working on more long term projects. I have begun to work on an internship outreach project. Essentially, I am working on how to advertise my job to other college students and contacting local universities about how to post the opportunity for their students. Interns have a large impact on OM. Since it is such a small organization, any extra people around are helpful. We often do things that the main employees don’t have much time for, such as unpacking and organizing the office after the Buzz Off. Therefore, despite the fact that this project does not directly impact patients, it does help OM to function better and have the capacity to do more for the patients in the long run.

One Mission funds yoga classes for patients and their families as a way to manage stress during treatment
One Mission funds yoga classes for patients and their families as a way to manage stress during treatment.

My goals for the summer are to work on more long term projects in order to have a bigger impact on the organization. This internship project is not what I originally pictured but at the same time it does help me work towards my goals.

– Jennifer Rossman

The Truth Will Set You Free: Interning at CIC

This summer, I will be interning at the Chicago Innocence Center in Chicago, IL. The Chicago Innocence Center (CIC) is a non-profit organization that uses an investigative journalism lens to find evidence towards exonerating wrongfully convicted prisoners. Unlike most Innocence Projects throughout the nation, CIC is not attached to a legal clinic or law school and instead sits at the intersection of law, journalism, and social work. Since 2011, this incredible organization has helped exonerate four wrongfully convicted individuals. Some of these individuals were in prison for thirty years or more. Some spent much of their time in prison in solitary confinement, which was detrimental to their psychological well-being. Many individuals experience police brutality leading to false confessions. Through CIC’s research, they are able to right the wrongs of the criminal justice system and find the truth in cases that have been ignored or lost in bureaucracy.

 

The CIC Office Building

CIC strongly believes in independence, diversity, and community engagement. Their team of summer and year-round interns come from colleges all over the country and represent diversity in race, gender, hometown, and academic concentration. As one of the summer interns, I am so lucky to work with six other college students from schools all over the country. On my first day, I met my fellow interns, who are truly an incredible group of young people interested in social justice and positive systemic change in the criminal justice system. I am really looking forward to working together with the interns to help CIC with its mission. While the main CIC office is located directly in the heart of downtown Chicago, my work as a research intern will take me all over the city. In addition to working at CIC headquarters, I will travel to libraries, prisons, archives, and courthouses.

While my research will take many forms, I am starting by introducing myself to criminal law through text. Right now, I am reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, which discusses the mass incarceration of African Americans in the United States as well as The Death of Innocents by Sister Helen Prejean, which chronicles the Sister’s experience working with men on Death Row whom she believes to be innocent. These texts will give me an introduction to the flaws in our criminal justice system. Additionally, I am working on finding relevant events to attend that explore race, violence, the prison system, criminal and restorative justice, and community development. I look forward to networking with important leaders in the criminal justice reform community through attending workshops, speeches, and symposiums.

Taking the Train to Work

 

I am so excited to continue my work at the CIC in order to fulfill my goals for the summer. I hope to apply sociological theories I’ve learned in school to real-world situations, gain experience in both legal and social work strategies to determine if I want to pursue law or social work in post-baccalaureate studies, and develop a stronger personal confidence. I truly believe CIC will serve as a catalyst to help me achieve my goals and I am so honored and excited to continue to contribute to an amazing organization.

Technology Consulting — Life Inside the Office

Getting out of the plane at 11 pm, a heat wave strikes. Typical of Dubai, I thought, but it was only 34 degrees Celsius. Soon I will discover that 45 would be something much more appropriate for Dubai. Below you can observe The Galleries at Downtown Jebel Ali where the Ericsson Dubai offices are. An interesting part about the Ericsson office is that there are no assigned tables but rather everyone is welcome to take any spot every morning which greatly enhances an open corporate culture that facilitates sharing and collaborative work.

My first day at the office, briefing with my mentor and straight to work, consulting in a nutshell, I thought. Research on pricing that I have done previously needed to be expressed through graphs and put into PowerPoint until the end of the day. I thought that would be easy. What’s a bit of Excel manipulation and PowerPoint? I did it so many times at Brandeis before. But alas, the required graph was nothing close to what I have seen before, so Lynda.com came in as a great resource to learn Visual Basic and a bit of programming that was of great use throughout the entire internship. In the coming days, my mentor gave me a fast course in working with cash flow statements and how to analyze them, along with an introduction to Ericsson-specific technology and basic information on how it works. I won’t lie, I was so happy that I had a good physics teacher in high school who enabled me to grasp the concepts much faster and perform the analysis more efficiently. After learning about cash flow analysis, it was time to perform the forecast and update the business model which was used to estimate the revenues from specific technology installed on-site. Forecasts are always very hard for anyone since they include many assumptions, but with right data and many years of working in field, my mentor’s model was very accurate in predicting which sites needed to be updated and with what technology. This is yet another time when previous learning of Visual Basic was more than welcome.

Week One at SACHI

It had just finished raining when my plane landed at Edinburgh airport in Scotland; the runway was covered in small puddles and the air felt damp with that after rain musk. But the sky was clear and blue and a wonderful signal that my drive to St Andrews would be dry and my luggage wouldn’t get soaked. And that’s when I learned that the Scotland sky is a liar. It can always rain.

But St Andrews is old and beautiful, home to the ruins of a castle and the creatively named University of St Andrews. The university has a long list of titles (the oldest university in Scotland, Prince William attended this university and met Kate here, etc.), but most importantly (or at least most relevant to me and you the reader), they also house the SACHI research group in their School of Computer Science. SACHI is a catchy acronym for St Andrews Computer-Human Interaction, where they perform research into innovative technologies to aid in the daily life of people. Computer-Human Interaction, or HCI, is the “people-person” of computer science; we focus on the applications of developing technology rather than the theories and algorithms behind much of computer science.

This summer I’m working with Dr. Uta Hinrichs on updating the Speculative W@nderverse, an international research project between computer scientists and literary scholars at the University of St Andrews and the University of Calgary. This project explores the potential impact of early science fiction stories on the development of the genre through the use of digital visualization tools. Its focuses on the “Bob Gibson Anthologies of Speculative Fiction,” a unique collection of thousands of sci-fi stories. I’m designing, implementing, and evaluating a novel interactive web visualization to help literary researchers investigate the role of pulp magazines and periodicals within this vast and unique collection.

To summarize, I’m developing a visualization to explore and understand all of these hundreds of anthologies. Information (or data) visualization is the limbo between the intersections of computer science, graphing, statistics, psychology, and design. Robert Kosara explains it more eloquently in his post.

Dr. Hinrichs has been developing the Speculative W@nderverse long before I arrived here; here’s a screenshot of the interactive visualization:initial

 

My work is going to be added to the existing site. Here is a very preliminary exploration of the data that I created in this first week (showing the categories of science fiction themes and each anthology’s inclusion of these themes):

vis1

It certainly fulfills the graph aspect of visualization (and has wonderful colors), but is useless for exploring the data in terms other than the themes of each anthology. But I have two and a half months to go, so I’ll improve my design and software development skills during this time. I’m excited to work alongside experts in the field and become more familiar with research practices in computer science, human-computer interaction, and information visualization. And while I learn from the graduate students and faculty here, I hope to make more personal connections and friends. And hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll learn how to understand the temperature in Celsius.

Katherine Currier ’17

 

 

My First Week at ExpandED Schools

For my internship this summer I am working at ExpandED Schools, formerly known as TASC (The After-School Corporation), a non-profit organization in New York City dedicated to closing learning gaps. Thee Glossary of Education Reform defines learning gaps as the difference between what a student has learned… and what the student was expected to learn at a certain point in his or her education”. The organization focuses on creating an expanded school day and increased learning hours through after school enrichment programs to help reduce learning gaps. Part of the organization’s work is directly with schools and after school programs. The other part focuses on research and policy to fix issues effecting community partners through policy reform, advocacy, or other means.

Expanded pic
http://www.expandedschools.org/about-us#sthash.n5MHnT91.dpbs

I am working as a member of the research and policy team. Previously, most of my work in education has been direct work with children. I greatly enjoyed my Education Policy class in the fall semester and realized it was an area in which I wanted to gain more experience and insight. I can already tell that my internship will provide me with wonderful opportunities. My boss and mentor is Saskia Traill, Vice President of Policy and Research. She and the rest of the office have been so helpful and welcoming to me. I appreciate that the office actually respects me as an intern. I have been given real work and feel like a member of the staff. I even have my own desk and phone extension!

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I am currently researching partnerships between after-school programs and colleges and universities, and I am exploring ways to create a central system for university students to easily get involved in after school programs for elementary, middle, and high school students. I will be writing a policy memo about what I discover in my research to be used in future projects. I have also helped the advocacy department put together and deliver letters from some of ExpandED Schools’ partners to their council members. These personal messages to council members were part of a big project for the advocacy team during the very important budget allocations taking place this month.

I hope to gain a great deal from my internship this summer and I know ExpandED Schools will provide me with many opportunities to grow. I look forward to learning more about what it means to work in education policy; connecting with other professionals within the field of education who can share a variety of perspectives about careers and approaches; and improving my research and writing skills.

I have really enjoyed my internship this past week and am excited to see what the rest of the summer brings.

 

Working with ETE Camp: A Summer of Growth and Literature

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Retrieved from https://etecamphaiti.wordpress.com Date accessed: June 6, 2016

This summer I will be working with the Empowering Through Education (ETE) Camp located in Hinche, Haiti. This organization’s primary mission is to serve underprivileged youth that do not have access to comprehensive education and positive leadership. One of the ways this organization achieves its mission is by strengthening their students’ academic skills in courses such as Engineering, Math and Literacy/English. Coming into this position, I felt relatively comfortable as I have worked with educators during my last internship as a teaching fellow. Nonetheless, I was eager to gain new ideas and skills to strengthen my curriculum for my camp class.

I am now forming a literacy curriculum that will be critiqued by the Boston Public School English as a Second Language (ESL) volunteer teachers. In this pre-departure section of my internship, I am charged with the task of collecting pieces of literature that would enhance students’ vocabulary in order to form this curriculum. The topics range from writing introductions to learning new vocabulary. The fear I have with this task emerges from the language barrier as most citizens speak Haitian Creole. Additionally, teaching English poses as a challenge for me because my teaching experience reside exclusively in Mathematics, specifically Pre-Algebra and Algebra.

Here is the daily schedule for the camp. I will be teaching three classes with a co-teacher. My classes are circled in blue.
Here is the daily schedule for the camp. I will be teaching three classes with a co-teacher. My classes are circled in blue.

My first week of work was filled with anxiety and uncertainty. However I am aware that comfort and growth do not co-exist. In order to combat my anxiety, it is my desire to perform adequate research in what an English literacy curriculum will look like. This anxiety sheds light on the importance of organizing and planning. This internship allows me to build skills in planning and ultimately developing an efficient curriculum. I am quite simply learning how to properly plan in the realm of education. While improving my planning skills, I am learning that one must consider elements such as environmental factors, time delays, and progress of the students. I am learning to organize a curriculum that is flexible and almost invincible to any possible curve ball. Planning is essential in this internship. During one’s class time, it is important that they maintain composure and diligence in the presence of students.

Thankfully, I have the help of my co-workers and my amazing director. I am learning quite quickly that I should seek help in times of uncertainty. With that being said, self agency is celebrated in my academic life especially at Brandeis. Yet, in collaborative workspaces such as these, asking for help is not a sign of incompetence. As a new employee, I didn’t want to live with the fear of appearing incompetent or too dependent on my director for assistance. After engaging in other conversations with my peers, I’ve learned that many of them seek inspiration from online sources for curriculum ideas from other teachers. Most importantly, I’ve learned that feeling stuck or nervous about the efficacy of one’s curriculum is not a foreign feeling in education. If anything, I am learning that it is a sign of ambition, passion, and intrinsic care for the students. A mantra that is often repeated in this workspace is “Kids don’t care what you know until they know that you care.”

Along with building a literacy curriculum, I plan to conduct a writing project that includes West Indian literature that centers around self-agency or coming of age stories. I wish to include works from the Haitian diaspora including the works of Haitian-American writer Edwidge Dancticat. One of the core texts I wish to examine and pull inspiration is from Haiti Noir 2 : The Classics and The Butterfly’s Way : Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, a collection of fictional stories created by young writers of Haitian descent. I believe the texts will help me in including materials that are culturally relevant to students and not to mention that both texts are edited by Edwidge Danticat. For those with knowledge of writers from not only Haitian literature but other West Indian literature, please feel free to comment with texts or articles you think will be helpful.

Literacy Curriculum ETE
The director was kind enough to give me a sample Literacy curriculum from previous sessions. This was incredibly helpful. Never be afraid to ask for help!

Kids and Cataloging: My First Weeks at the Swedish American Museum

I’ve already been at the Swedish American Museum in Chicago for two weeks, although it feels like a lot longer! The Swedish American museum is a mid-size museum in Chicago that tries to connect people with their Scandinavian heritage as they educate both children and adults on what it was like to be a Swedish immigrant in the United States, describing Swedish-American culture from the nineteenth century to the present. They operate a children’s museum that aims to detail the difficulties and dreams of people who arrived in Chicago (here’s the website: http://www.swedishamericanmuseum.org/childrensmuseum/). Although it’s called a museum, it’s really more of a playground for the kids- with hands on play, they explore what life was like for a Swedish American in the late nineteenth century. However, the museum doesn’t concentrate on solely the past, as they also endeavor to present modern Swedish-American culture, such as the exhibit currently in the gallery, which is about Scandinavian drinking culture (you can check that out here: http://www.swedishamericanmuseum.org/exhibits/currentexhibit.php).

The Swedish American Museum Brunk Children's Museum
This is the outside of the model stuga, or Swedish farm house, that kids can play inside. There are even smocks and work shirts so the kids can dress up like nineteenth century Swedish kids.

At the museum, I’m a shared intern between the Collections department and the Children’s Museum. My first day, I was dropped head first into my project for the summer in the archives; basically, I’m digitizing records associated with different artifacts. It’s giving me an in depth look at how the cataloguing system at a museum works, which will no doubt be important for my future career as a historian. For the museum itself, though, organization right now is key, as they are in the process of reorganizing the archives. By digitizing these documents, I’m making it far easier to locate forty years worth of information, so that anyone looking can find a description of the artifact itself as well as its history.

When I’m a Children’s Museum intern, I’m actually working on several different projects, such as a revised self-guided tour for adults in the Children’s Museum. Many grown-ups are put off by the sign on the door that says the museum was designed primarily for kids between 6 and 12, even though there’s so much more for people of all ages to learn. I’ve really enjoyed this project because it’s allowed me to explore the Children’s Museum more and get a close look at all the objects that the kids are allowed to handle and play with; it’s helped me build up a cache of facts so I can answer questions by the kids and the parents when I act as a docent. I enjoy this part a lot because it outlines what people are most curious about; since I want to be a historian one day, it’s important for me to know what people are interested in and how they best react to that information so I know how to share what I’ve learned as a researcher.

I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity to explore my chosen career field more and I’m really looking forward to getting more involved in my projects throughout the summer, as well as getting to know all the super amazing staff and volunteers at the museum!

The Children's Museum is basically a playground, including a model American cabin and farm that the kids can play inside.
The Children’s Museum is basically a playground, including a model American cabin and farm that the kids can play inside.

 

 

A summer about books and businesses

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This is Cinco Puntos Press from the outside. I love that it is a colorful place; it is what a publishing company that has come be known for their colorful picture books should look like, I think.

Minutes before the airplane landed, I knew I was not in Kansas anymore… I am just kidding with all of you. I happen to come from New York. But, I have come to a land that I never thought of coming: El Paso, Texas.

I bet a lot of people would instantly assume that I have come here to do some work with immigrants because I am coming to a place very close to the border between Mexico and US. I don’t know, I get the sense people would just think something completely opposite to what I have really come here to do. To answer your questions, I found an internship in Cinco Puntos Press, which is a publishing company that exists since 1985. Their main aim when the founders, Bobby Byrd and Lee Byrd, created Cinco Puntos was to publish stories that would represent different diverse groups of people in literature. What I have been able to discover, in the little time that I have been here, is that they publish literary work that focuses beyond the Chicano (Mexican-American) experience. I mean right now I am proofreading a book, called Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel, which is coming out in October. The story is about an Indian-American girl, specifically Gujarati, who deals with her parents’ divorce and a dreadful sexual abuse experience through hip-hop in the early 90s. The book takes place in Moloka’i, Hawaii, and what makes it interesting and compelling is this clash of cultures in this remote place we do not hear about too often. Mrs. Byrd told me that the great thing about publishing books, such as Rani Patel, is that the book is a vehicle to another world; a portal that yearns for other people to glance at a completely different world from ours.

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This Mrs. Byrd reviewing all the artwork that it is going to be part of one of their new picture books. Although, Cinco Puntos does not just publishes pictures books.

The book won the BEA (BookExpo America) Book Buzz Award in the YA (Young Adult) section and it is getting ready to come out this upcoming October. But first I am going through the text, proofreading it, before the press prints the all copies that will be distributed all over the country’s bookstores. In addition, as a way to promote the book, I have also been sending ARCs (Advance Readers Copy) to different critics and reviewers all over the nation, including at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, among others.

What I love about the working environment at Cinco Puntos is that it is quite calm and informal. The staff is incredibly amicable and they all want me to learn and glean as much as possible about the publishing industry through their internship. For instance, John Byrd (the vice-president and son of the founders), told me to read The Chicago Manual of Style. He said that every editor needs to know this manual by heart. The book sort of introduces you to a new world. It explains you the dos and don’ts of being an editor reviewing a writer’s work or a writer submitting work to an editor. If you are an editor reviewing a writer’s work, there are even several different marks that you need to learn when proofreading—always, of course, with a red pen, which John Byrd emphasized very well.

I think the world of work is different to my academic life, in the sense that it focuses on two aspects: quality but also making business. Selling a book is not easy, especially these days with a lot of self-publishing books, meaning way more competition. A book must sell, that is the primary concern that an editor questions when reviewing a manuscript. In my academic life, I do not worry so much about whether what I am reading is publishable or not. Or whether the work has been read by a lot of people or by very few. At school, we concern more about interpreting what we read and understanding it. However, this internship has allowed me to do both, hone my skills interpreting and close-reading texts, but in addition to learn more about the business wise aspect of it.

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These are Mrs. Byrd (to the left) and Mr. Byrd (to the right). Both are my supervisors this summer.

I am quite content working this summer at Cinco Puntos. My bosses are nurturing and caring. They care about me as a human being and my learning—they bring this human quality that is unforgettable, and that I bet it is hard to obtain if I were interning, perhaps, in New York. I mean, they even bothered to pick me up at the airport and have invited me twice to their house for dinner and it has only been a week.

The skills that I am learning here will obviously transfer to the way I will interpret texts in the future and it has also opened a door for me to conduct more research on the different efforts that have been made to diversify the book industry. Mrs. Byrd and Mr. Byrd have their own take on the subject and it is refreshing and nuanced. I think, whether I decide to work in the publishing industry in the future, my time at Cinco Puntos Press will definitely prepare me for me to plunge into it.

 

Best,

Santiago Montoya ’19

Starting at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center

This summer, I am working at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, located a bit north of downtown San Antonio. The Esperanza Center serves primarily the Westside of San Antonio, but also reaches out to other underrepresented and marginalized folks—women, people of color, queer people, the working class and those with low income. The most condensed way to explain what Esperanza actually does is arts programming and community organizing, but that includes a broad spectrum of activities. The Esperanza Center will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary in 2017.

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Esperanza Peace & Justice Center (photo: A.Christilles)

Since there are only five full-time staff, interns take on various responsibilities. I am more involved in Esperanza’s environmental work, which consists primarily of reading and analyzing the SA Tomorrow Sustainability Plan and writing about the proposed Vista Ridge Pipeline. SA Tomorrow is a three-part future plan for the city. This week, my job has been to read and critique the Sustainability portion. Often, “sustainability” or “green” measures detrimentally affect low-income and marginalized people by raising prices and forcing people from their neighborhoods. Much of the critique I am doing revolves around implementation of the plan and gentrification. Representatives from Esperanza and the greater community will meet city officials to address these concerns while the draft undergoes finalization this summer.

I will also keep track of the Vista Ridge pipeline. The proposed pipeline will transfer water from Burleson County south to San Antonio. The pipeline poses different issues pertaining to privatizing water. The financial instability of the project, only recently addressed, and steep water rate hikes are the top of these concerns. The Esperanza Center and other organizations like Mi Agua Mi Vida Coalition have demonstrated against the pipeline’s construction.

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Proposed Vista Ridge Pipeline (image from the San Antonio Water Authority website)

With all of the other events going on at the Center, information about this deal has fallen to the wayside, so part of my job is keeping folks updated about this through La Voz, the Esperanza Center’s monthly publication.

I’m excited to be back home and interacting with the issues that first led me towards environmental justice. I have already seen firsthand how climate change affects my home, and I appreciate the opportunity to approach these issues from an intersectional perspective. Environmental destruction affects people on different axes, and the Esperanza Center takes this into account. I find it more productive to work in a place where I grew up and where have context. I also appreciate the opportunity to work off of a college campus. I hope pursue a career in grassroots activism and social justice work, and this would internship would grant me the opportunity to see how it works in the real world and not just a campus bubble. This internship will guide me in exploring parts of the city I’ve never seen before and hopefully inform me more about my Chicana culture as well.

Anastasia Christilles, ’18

My First Week at Kids4Peace in Jerusalem

Since joining the Kids4Peace family, I have grown in more ways than I could have ever imagined. Kids4Peace is an interfaith youth movement for Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Israeli and Palestinian youth. Last summer, I worked at Project Harmony Israel, an integrated Arab-Jewish day camp hosted at the Hand in Hand Bilingual School in Jerusalem. Since working there to provide a space for Arab and Jewish youth to play and just be kids in the midst of the Gaza War, I knew I had to come back and continue doing the work I had begun. In leaving Jerusalem last summer, I felt guilty that I had the privilege to leave this conflict whereas my Arab and Jewish campers could in no way escape it. I am glad I made the choice to continue this effort through an internship position with Kids4Peace based in East Jerusalem.

My favorite part about my work here is that my colleagues are both Israeli and Palestinian whereas last year, I worked only with other Americans. It is exciting and interesting for me to learn about what life is like for my Israeli and Palestinian coworkers who are living within this conflict and also doing work in it. I think am learning the most from them.  Before coming here and after my summer here last year, I thought I had a good idea for a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but since speaking with my colleagues, I have learned about the complexities of approaching a peaceful end to this war. Through their experiences, I am gaining a perspective on the situation in Israel/Palestine that I would not have understood otherwise without this dialogue.

horizontal-logo-transparent1-300x71Other than learning about the big picture of the work I am doing through my colleagues, I am gaining an incredible understanding of how an NGO is run. Since the staff is so small, I have been given many great opportunities to do real purposeful and meaningful work. For example, I am working with the director of Kids4Peace on creating a platform for Israeli and Palestinian youth to search for integration, coexistence, or interfaith programs that fit their interests. In addition, I have designed a budget for one of the overnight camps that Kids4Peace runs, allocating grants from USAID, the US Consulate, and the European Union. Most excitingly, I got to write a letter to Natalie Portman, who is one of Kids4Peace’s biggest donors!

As an intern at Kids4Peace, I have learned to stay on top of all of my responsibilities because I know that my boss is not constantly checking up on me. Rather, she expects me to do the work I am assigned without holding my hand. I know this will help me in the future when I become a professional. I am also learning about how to work in a diverse environment. It is an interesting experience to fulfill my duties as an intern alongside half my colleagues who are observing Ramadan. I have become much more sensitive to people’s backgrounds and the way that their personal lives play a role in their job performance. In the future, I would like to go into education policy and my motive is to desegregate the American public school system and narrow the achievement gap. Lofty goal, yes. However, if I want to do this type of work in the future, it will be an important skill for me to understand how to work with people who come from different backgrounds from mine.

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-Leah Susman, ’18

Project Harmony Israel Internship

One week into my internship at Project Harmony Israel I have been engaging with a lot of introductory and new logistical components of the more content-rich work I will be doing in a week or so. Project Harmony Israel is focused on the individual:

“All curricula are tailored to meet individual developmental, behavioral and linguistic needs, and couched in the principles of universal youth development. We believe that by creating a safe integrated space for children to share experiences, our campers are able to build organic, lasting relationships–on their own terms.

In order to achieve these programmatic goals we offer a wide variety of daily activities, including fine arts, music, athletics, team building, community gardening, American Sign Language, and English games. We go on weekly field trips and also host guest teachers to lead week-long workshops. Every summer we also host a community event in which we invite families, friends and community members to join us in celebrating our campers’ remarkable achievements.”

I’m still getting used to the commute and the work environment in Israel; it is all very casual. A number of times I have been sure that I have strict deadlines and then things end up being very flexible; the timeline here is entirely different here and the friendliness and collaborative work environment only adds to that feeling of accommodation and appropriate informality.

Most of my time has been spent developing a lesson plan. As an arts specialist I have been trying to think of the best ways to combine the efforts of normalization in a way that brings meaning to the fact that there are people engaged in this project and camp who come from such varying narratives. I’ve primarily been developing a portrait unit directed towards the goal of seeing and experiencing one another as full people. In my lesson plan I have considered comparing fast-paced portraiture as well as longer sessions wherein which two people take turns doing portraits of each other. The goal of this is to really get to know the faces and the (visual) experience of another person in a very personal way. As a supplemental component of the unit I hope for campers to conduct short interviews with the person they are drawing and to then use one phrase or quote from that interview as the title for the portrait or as an accompanying linguistic element to the visual experience of the portraits. I feel like there is something very inspiring about taking the time with another to notice the details of their being.

I have yet to work directly with other staff members, as they arrive on Sunday and we enter formal training for one week together prior to the camp’s start. I can’t wait to get to know those other staff members and experience this with them. So much more is in store! Meanwhile, here’s some photos of the space I’m working in at the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem.

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First photo: The Max Rayne Hand in Hand School

Second photo: A communal staff brainstorm on the process of how to have the greatest impacts on campers

First Week at NARAL

This summer, I am a Political Organizing Intern for NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts (NARAL PCM). NARAL PCM is a nonprofit, pro-choice organization and affiliate of NARAL Pro-Choice America. The organization’s mission is to develop and sustain a grassroots constituency that uses the political process to guarantee every woman the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices. NARAL is committed to expanding abortion access and ensuring that all women can exercise their right to comprehensive and unbiased reproductive healthcare information. In addition, NARAL advocates for comprehensive sex education and for a woman’s right to a safe and health pregnancy if she decides to carry her pregnancy to term.

As a Political Organizing Intern, I am assisting with NARAL PCM’s legislative and organizing efforts. NARAL PCM has endorsed five bills being put to vote in the current legislative session in the state. The majority of my duties have to do with constituent outreach in regards to these bills. My intern cohort and I must find creative ways to show the legislature that these bills are important to a large percentage of their constituents. One strategy that we frequently use to do so is by collecting signatures. Another effective strategy we use to generate support around these bills is through testimony. It is crucial to present these testimonies, both written and oral, at legislative hearings. NARAL PCM has found that stories play an extremely important role in the legislative process because they provide a personal aspect to the proposed legislation, which enables politicians to see how their decisions on our bills will directly affect the lives of their constituents.

Finding stories can often be difficult, which is why our Political Organizing team must be strategic and creative. We must be sure to always mention that we are looking for stories at any event, petition signing, etc. We also make sure to utilize our social media presence to ask for stories. This also means posting on our personal accounts so that we can tap into the largest network possible. However, these strategies are not as extensive as we would like them to be. When dealing with reproductive health, people often tend to hold back on disclosing personal information and are reluctant to share their stories, which is something we respect but also struggle with at NARAL. Some bills are harder to collect stories for than others, while some may apply more to a specific community than it does to others.

My overarching goal for this summer is to improve my communication skills. This position requires me to be in close contact with politicians and constituents and will help me in becoming more proficient in communicating with others. I hope to become more confident in making asks of politicians and constituents for their support of NARAL’s efforts. I also hope to become more skilled at making cases for support of NARAL’s mission to those who are unfamiliar with the organization and the pro-choice movement. I care deeply about NARAL’s mission, and I hope that I can connect to others and have them feel the same way too.

Here is our Pro-Choice legislation for this session:

Here is the Anti-Choice Legislation that we are opposing:

NARAL Interns at the Boston Pride Parade

Menstrual Health Conference

*this post was originally published on June 14, 2015.

– Ari Keigan ’18

Dominican Republic and the Preservation of the Afro-Dominican and Dominico-Haitiano Cultures

The Fundacion Cultural Cofradia, is a non-profit organization that promotes and preserves the Afro-Dominican and Dominico-Haitiano traditions in the Dominican Republic. Cofradia is located in Santo Domingo, the capital, but their mission extends throughout different regions of the country. They work closely with the portadores de cultura, which are the people in the community in charge of keeping these traditions, in order to provide support in the areas most needed. This support comes in different forms, such as the creation of schools, workshops and festivals centered on these traditions.

People dancing perico ripiao in Yamasá

I contribute to their mission in two different ways, the office and field work. As part of the office work I file documents, communicate with el Ministerio de Cultura, (the government office in charge of approving the projects and providing the monetary support) and follow up in the updates of previous projects. During the fieldwork, the Cofradia team and I travel to diverse parts of the country and visit the communities that most need our support. Here, I interviewed the portadores de cultura on their traditions and how they function in the communities. I also document events by photography and videos which are later used as documentation to create new projects.
Last summer I traveled to the Dominican Republic to visit some family members. As part of my visit I wanted to learn more about the Afro-Dominican traditions. When I expressed this to my aunt she put me in contact with the Director of Cofradia, Roldán Marmol.  Director Mármol invited me to a fiesta de palo, a religious practice that mixes African and Taino religious beliefs with Catholicism. Later I expressed my interested in learning more about these traditions and religions. He told me about his organization and we discussed the possibility of an internship.

Gagá group
Gagá group

 

During my first week of work I met the entire team of my co-workers and learned about the projects they been working on.  I was provided with books and articles that talked about the diverse traditions of the Dominican Republic. That week we participated in the celebration of San Antonio sponsored by the Brothers Guillen in Yamasa. There I photographed the event and first experienced Gaga, a tradition born out of the sharing of cultures between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. For me, it was the first time, since I arrived to the island, that I have witnessed such a harmonious and unifying manifestation of the two countries traditions living as one.

The more I work with Cofradia the more I realize the importance of providing visibility to the Afro-Dominican and Dominico-Haitiano traditions. One cannot set apart these traditions with their communities, which means that if the traditions remain invisible and unappreciated the community suffers the same condition. These traditions are rich in knowledge, dance, music, art and history. I want to learn how to work with both the communities and the government to create projects that support the preservation and changes, that come naturally with time and new generations, of these traditions.

Me documenting the inauguration of La Escuela de Gagá in the Romana.

Me documenting the inauguration of La Escuela de Gagá in the Romana