Concluding my Internship with The Caterpillar Lab

Through this internship, I have met my goals to better understand New England’s caterpillars and plants. By caring for the animals, I began to familiarize myself with each species’ characteristics as well as gaining an understanding for identifying the native plants they eat. I especially furthered my learning of these species by listening to my peers at the lab and during programs. Once I grasped these facts and concepts I was then able to share it with visitors at programs. Programs were an important aspect of diving deeper into each caterpillars’ unique evolutionary traits as well as teaching broader concepts of ecology and the importance of species interactions. 

While I always loved insects, I was mainly drawn to the larger vertebrate species growing up. These used to be the animals I wanted to conserve the most, but through this opportunity, I gained a new appreciation for invertebrates and their critical roles in the ecosystem. The world of conservation is extremely devoted to protecting the large animals and this leads to people forgetting to protect and fund invertebrates. By learning the important yet overlooked facts about the roles of insects, it became apparent that these larger iconic animals and ecosystems cannot be well protected without conserving the staple organisms such as plants and insects. 

In New England, caterpillars consume more plant material than all other herbivores combined and are crucial in breaking down plants and becoming a new energy source for other organisms. On top of this, we can then see that wasps are the most prevalent consumers of caterpillars and without them, the caterpillar would be overpopulated and far too destructive to the ecosystem. This example interaction demonstrates the need for both caterpillars and wasps in an ecosystem to sustain a healthy ecosystem.

Insect decline is a serious threat to most ecosystems, yet it is often left behind in conservation planning. I’ve learned about the declines and local extinctions of these amazing caterpillars that provide significant ecosystem services and become far more aware of the need to protect and restore their populations. 

This experience has inspired me to explore new topics and ideas that I would like to pursue in the near future. It has completely changed the way I view wildlife, and I believe that it is a great internship for any students that are interested in conservation. I would recommend applying for this internship even if you may not love or be familiar with entomology. It can definitely make you fall in love with these beautiful animals and provide you with a learning experience from extremely knowledgeable people.  

(3) Learning to Appreciate the Importance of Interns

A central concept that I have taken away from my internship is that the mechanics of social justice work are just like they are in any other position. An organization may have an inspiring mission, but achieving these goals may involve a lot of grunt work. My internship at the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP) helps low-income people facing eviction get access to legal aid. Through this experience, I have had the opportunity to meet amazing people and hear their stories. However, on a day-to-day basis, I was working with spreadsheets, PowerPoints, and online filing systems. Social justice work can be life changing and extremely powerful, but it can also be quite boring. However, what makes it boring is also extremely important and this is a lesson I have learned quite recently.

Over the past few months, I was trained to complete what VLP calls “outreaches.” This is a task on VLP’s online filing system called Legal Server where I record what clients VLP has served. This entails documenting the client’s personal information (name, address, citizenship status, etc.), what services VLP provided to the client, which attorneys worked with them and how much total time was spent with said client. Initially, I enjoyed completing outreaches because it was fascinating to read all the different stories of who VLP has helped. However, after a while it got quite dull, especially because I was just copying information from an Excel spreadsheet into Legal Server. This puzzled me. Why did the information VLP had in Excel also need to be in Legal Server? What purpose was I actually serving? 

I posed this question to my supervisor, who had a very satisfactory answer. VLP is funded largely by a Legal Services Corporation (LSC) grant, which comes from the federal government. Along with this grant comes strict requirements about what type of clients VLP can serve and what aid we can provide. For example, all of VLP’s clients must be legal U.S. citizens or have proof of lawful residency. Even though VLP may wish to serve undocumented people, we are unable to due to LSC requirements. It turns out that making sure that VLP is compliant with LSC requirements is the entire purpose of the outreaches that I was completing. This detailed documentation in a legal filing system ensures that VLP has a legitimate record of the work they have completed, and that it was done so in a manner appropriate to the funding they receive. If this process is done incorrectly, VLP could be at risk of losing their funding.

58,800 Happy Office Illustrations & Clip Art - iStockIn this instance, I learned a lesson that I wished I knew at the beginning of my internship. When doing social justice work, every little task matters. Even if an assignment seems mundane or pointless, it is likely part of a bigger wheel that keeps your organization rolling. This is advice I would give someone pursuing an internship in legal aid or at any kind of non-profit. Grunt work is often given to interns, but this in no way means you are not doing meaningful work. You are still contributing to the valuable mission that your organization is striving to achieve.

(3) Do what you love

It has been quite a fulfilling experience interning with The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII) this summer. I’ve not only been immersed in immigration law, but I’ve had an opportunity to witness the law in action and learn more about the world of work. In addition to feeling much more prepared to take on the challenge of law school and hit the ground running, I have continued to build on soft skills like communication, self-accountability, and work-life balance in preparation for life beyond college.

One of the most important things that I have learned this summer is the importance of developing and nurturing soft skills, such as those mentioned above. A person’s ability to complete a job isn’t necessarily defined by their experience or qualifications, but rather by their ability to adapt, effectively communicate, and hold themselves accountable in terms of asking for help and managing deadlines. In the world of social justice, this is especially important, as clients put their lives in the hands of their attorneys, accredited representatives, and/or advocates.

In terms of the impact that I have had on TRII, I believe that just by participating in the first cohort of trainees to become accredited representatives helped to pave the way for advancing the program for future trainees. Having the opportunity to participate in a six-month program tailored to undergraduate students who want experience in the legal field is incredibly rare; what is even more rare, at least on the undergraduate level, is the opportunity to work alongside professional attorneys who are passionate about devoting their extra time and energy to bettering the skills of those who intern alongside them. While working on cases, I have been encouraged numerous times to take the lead on client meetings, file paperwork, or write client affidavits, on top of legal research. I have deeply appreciated and enjoyed the learning experience working at TRII and the support from our executive director and attorneys, and I plan to continue to intern with the organization until I graduate from Brandeis.

If I were to do it all over again, I’m not sure that there is a lot I would change. I got lucky in the sense that I found the program when I was able to find the time to do the training and to take on an internship doing consistent client work. In terms of advice to those interested in working with TRII or in immigration law in general, I would encourage you to not be afraid to ask all the questions you have. In my opinion, education is the greatest gift in the world, and you won’t learn unless you take an active role.

I am grateful to the World of Work fellowship program for supporting me in my internship with The Right to Immigration Institute this summer. This experience is an important step on my path to becoming a lawyer and the skills I have developed over the course of this internship will no doubt propel me further. Law school, here I come!

(3) Takeaways from the NCL Experience

My time at NCL will be my framework for shaping my expectations for future jobs and how I approach social justice. Through this experience, I learned the value of communication and collective action. Without them, nothing I worked on would have been possible.

In order to create positive change on the national level, collective action is critical. The likelihood of achieving desired goals increases immensely when organizations and individuals work together and form a unified front before lobbying Congress, governmental institutions, and more. Together, distinct groups can place pressure in different ways and offer diverse perspectives, incentivizing targeted parties to support or even vote in the best interest of the collective. However, this collaboration cannot succeed without effective communication.

This is imperative at all levels, from planned strategic meetings between organizations to my boss laying out clear instructions on what she needs from me as her intern. Some of the ways I have applied this at NCL are: replying to emails in a timely manner; asking questions when I do not understand an assignment or issue; and being direct with what I need and how I can help my bosses. I will take these lessons about the world of work with me throughout my career and incorporate them into future social justice advocacy.

At NCL, I wrote policy statements covering a range of health issues including copay accumulator programs, the monopolistic practices of PBMs, the unfair treatment of pregnant workers, the FDA’s ban on Juul, and the ongoing gun epidemic. In addition, I assisted in breaking down specific issues during lobbying meetings and took notes for my supervisors in meetings they were not able to attend. I also had the privilege of assisting the Director of Health Policy in her testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights. This included helping craft her formal statement, opposition research, and strategy recommendations for the Q&A portion of the hearing. Currently, I am working on expanding NCL’s “Where We Stand” health policy platform by drafting a section on health equity.

One of my most significant takeaways from my experience at NCL was how to approach lobbying. Before starting at NCL, the lobbying tactics I employed were almost exclusively rooted in applying pressure in order to achieve a desired result. However, watching and learning from NCL staff highlighted the importance of maintaining a more balanced approach. While pushing hard and using pressure-based incentives are direct and effective, it is also critical that this does not come at the cost of losing contacts and connections. Before going into a meeting, both parties have researched each other and have likely made their mind up about the issue. In this respect, lobbying can be a formality with a predetermined outcome, and therefore is not something worth burning bridges over. This is something I wish I had known before starting my internship and I will inevitably keep this lesson in mind throughout my career.  

John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy, holds up an NCL poster.

For future interns that have the privilege of working at NCL, my advice would be to be proactive about asking for work and to prove early on your ability to produce high-quality material. Oftentimes with internships, bosses do not know what you are capable of and correspondingly will delegate tasks that are not up to personal standards. Illustrating prowess with smaller assignments and then asking to be a part of larger ones not only leads to a more targeted and robust learning experience, but will ensure all parties feel fulfilled throughout this unique and amazing opportunity that WOW and NCL facilitate. 

(3) What I am walking away with

I learned two things about myself throughout my internship at United for a Fair Economy (UFE). One is that I would prefer to work at a nonprofit as a part-time job, and the other is that community organizing involves a lot of new client introductions and unpaid work. Overall, I learned the importance of organizing and networking in your community, especially maintaining and growing networks. These lessons are vital for understanding how grassroots organizations collaborate and help each other.

I am now brainstorming what skills and prior knowledge I wish to have to create a significant, powerful impact on my community and bring that talent back home. I learned much about project management, team building, fundraising, and healthy relationships during my internship. I was able to help the office accountant with receiving, cataloging, and cashing in donations. More importantly, I was involved in the correspondence process, thanking individuals, creating letterheads, and mailing them. One memorable quote from a colleague about this process was, “the best way to obtain new donors is to re-engage with old ones.” I also helped my manager by fine-tuning and editing prompts for the Conversation Deck project and arranging a focus group with a diverse group of outside partners. Last but not least, I helped promote and market UFE fundraising and informational events.

I will say that although popular education was a new concept to me, it was amazing to see it in practice. I learned a lot about this type of work. I also realized that the more I did focus groups, the more I learned about the last one and better ways of facilitation.

Someone I wish I had met when I started is a staff member called Eroc. His work is concentrated around Healing Justice and community resource pooling. I wished I had met him earlier and worked with him more often, mainly since he was remote. He was the type of person you would speak to and feel like you got something out of the discussion.

One piece of advice I would give to someone pursuing an internship or career in this field is to take advantage of the learning opportunity and be careful of burnout. Burnout is the reason why I would pursue nonprofit work as a part-time job. I would also recommend that people do their research into organizations, ex-employees, and the work and impact an organization has done because we must be careful of the nonprofit industrial complex. A high concentration of nonprofits in an area signals a structural problem in how society operates. Moreover, being a 501(c)(3) means that the organization does its taxes in a particular way. This means you could end up in a nonprofit organization that mimics and operates the way a corporation would. Therefore, good things to look for in a nonprofit are whether they acknowledge mental health struggles and burnout, and if they work on projects collectively and cooperate with tasks and roles.

Overall, I am leaving this internship very fulfilled and appreciative. 

Me and another intern Felix having lunch for the first time with Eroc and his kids.
Food is the best way to bond.

(3) Impact Is Ongoing

As student activists, leaders, and change-makers, we know that change is a slow and ever-evolving process. This also applies to the work we do at Fulphil as we try to impact as many high school students as possible. We update our curriculum each year to include the most up-to-date content, examples, and scenarios, which involves consistently supporting and aligning ourselves with the mission and values of the organization. I think of Fulphil’s work as slow but impactful steps towards building the next generation of highly motivated and like-minded students. 

At Fulphil, I have been able to support my own team of students working on the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion curriculum while assisting the development of other curriculums in Social Entrepreneurship and Financial Literacy. In addition to crafting curriculums, I created slides that teachers across the country can use in their classrooms as supplementary materials to the curriculum. The work that we do sits at the intersection of being independent and collaborative. Being able to work on multiple projects that I was in charge of, on my own schedule, while coming together with the larger team to discuss challenges and brainstorm ideas and solutions has been a great balance in work style.

Sample teacher slides for the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion and Financial Literacy curriculum

If there is anything I’ve learned this summer, it is to never be afraid to be creative, bring your ideas into the space, and take chances to make it happen. We are at a time in our lives where we can make mistakes, own up to them, and stand up again with a new road map in our grasp. What’s special about working at Fulphil is being able to bring your creativity to your tasks and projects—and that is how you make something personable and unique to you and enjoy your experience to the fullest. I learned to be adaptive, flexible, and curious, which allowed me to take on many opportunities throughout this experience. I was given the opportunity to facilitate team and department meetings, create curriculum and content surrounding topics and issues that I was passionate about, and provide suggestions and ideas for future iterations of the internship program. 

I’m incredibly grateful to have been able to work and grow with the staff at Fulphil, and I know that the impact we are creating together is huge, despite not being able to see it immediately. For others interested in pursuing a path in social impact, know that what you do on a day-to-day basis is always valuable and will contribute to the larger organization in ways you may not expect. This learning experience has taught me that the work and effort one puts into anything is always impactful, beyond what is visible to the eye. With that in mind, I know that with everything that I put my energy and efforts into, I am making a difference and contributing to the gradual process of building and creating impact.

(3) My last few weeks with Science Clubs International

The opportunity to spend this summer working with Science Clubs International  (SCI) allowed me to grow and learn in many ways. Having the chance to be involved in such an impactful organization certainly shaped my goals for my professional career. I understand the importance of making science education accessible to spark social transformation, especially in Latin America where there aren’t as many opportunities in the field. Teaching high school and college students about the impact scientific research can have on the world and introducing them to the field is the way to create change-makers. Through engaging assignments, I have grown into a better educator, collaborator, student, researcher, coordinator, and team member. My confidence and understanding of non-profit STEM education has grown, and I know I want to continue collaborating and working with a project like this in the future.

During my time with SCI, my confidence working in a professional environment increased. As an intern, I have been involved in the growth, development, and organization of an SCI international event that will happen next month for over 300+ students from different countries. Every year, the organization hosts young scientists, graduate students, and postdocs to share their knowledge and stories about pursuing careers in science with high school and college students, and to organize workshops to offer a hands-on scientific experience for them. As I worked in the organization of the event, I demonstrated initiative by increasing the number of Brazilian students applying to the event. I improved my communication skills by translating the website, documents, and tutorials across three languages: Portuguese, Spanish and English. While I’m working at the event next month, I’ll be able to see all of our work actually coming to life.

I’m proud of all of the work I’ve been involved in this summer and grateful I had the opportunity to pursue this internship. For those interested in interning with SCI or a similar organization, I believe I can offer advice on how you can make the most of your internship experience.

The main advice I would give is to learn from the experience each professional brings to the team. I understand that as an intern, it may seem scary to approach them in the work environment, but most individuals are open to talking about their careers in and contributions to the STEM nonprofit sector. When I felt comfortable doing that, I received extreme support from those I work with, developed a professional relationship with them, and learned to better advocate for what I believe.

Working with SCI was an incredible experience. This is something that I have always wanted to do since I participated in one of their programs in high school, and being able to be on the inside and learn how everything is put together was a rewarding experience. I also loved reflecting on my experiences by writing these blog posts throughout the summer. I hope  these posts inspire other students to pursue similar internships and apply to be a part of the wonderful WOW cohort in the coming years.

(3) Wrapping Up

The more that I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I’ve felt this to be the case in life, and certainly in my work this summer. Working with Consensus, I very quickly found out the depth of knowledge involved in expertise in the field, and my own excitement to delve deeper.

Unsurprisingly, conflict resolution and peacekeeping is a vast field. I knew this going in. What I failed in some ways to grasp was the degree to which it is tied in with academia. There is a massive body of work dedicated to these topics, and leading experts whose studies are focused on these disciplines.

This is all to say that a person could devote a lifetime to the field. From the delicate intricacies of mastering one on one negotiation to the unbelievable complexities of resolving conflicts between millions of people, it’s a field that requires real expertise. For any good work, including social justice work, success is dependent on deep research and experience, and learning from others more knowledgable.

My own expertise is more limited, but I do have skills to bring to the table. I hope that what I have been working on will have some sort of impact at Consensus. I’ve worked hard to help develop their online presence, and I hope that they will continue to succeed in connecting and communicating with clients in some small part thanks to my work.

But I realize that I am working with a team of talented experts, people who happen to have studied communications extensively. These are people who I am lucky enough through this work to have had access to. Considering my desire to improve my own skills, I have tried my best to take the fullest advantage of this opportunity.

I think if I were to start over again, however, I would have worked harder to connect with and learn from the experts at Consensus Group. Working virtually makes forming professional connections more difficult, but that’s the reality of the world we are in today.

If I were to talk to someone just entering into the field like I did, I would give the same advice I wish I had: Do not shy away from talking with the people you work with, as it is all an opportunity to learn. The experience you have in work such as this is very much “what you make of it.” This is an opportunity to meet interesting people and learn more about a certain field, so use that chance to the fullest. While I was able to do this with some success, I wish I had done so more.

I have learned a lot from my work this summer, but I can see now how I have only scratched the surface. I hope to dig far deeper in the future, and to use this as a jumping off point for further work in the field of conflict resolution.

(3) Overall Experience at the Greenfield Court Service Center

Throughout this summer internship, I have learned so much, and learning feels like the number one thing I do every day. What stands out to me the most out of my entire experience is that you are not going to be able to help everyone. Sometimes you have to recognize when you are not the one to help, and either the person may have to figure it out on their own or there may be other resources for people to turn to. What is upsetting is people who we help in this work who we turn away do not have the resources to get the proper help. It can be hard to put your own personal feelings aside and not try to do everything in your power and do something small. An important and difficult skill to develop is learning how to turn people away. Along with putting feelings aside, it can be difficult to help someone who has done something terrible. Learning to respond in an appropriate and professional way to anyone who comes in is also essential. 

The stacks of resources to go through

One of the biggest impacts I had was updating all of the in-person resources/pamphlets and helping to create templates of information that future interns will use to guide litigants. Some of these resources have not been updated since 2016 or before the pandemic. A lot has changed, and many people turn to these physical handouts to further educate themselves. One of the big projects I undertook when days were slow was to go through stacks of papers, see if what is there is the most up to date information, and update the information if necessary. The templates will make it easier for the next interns to understand the basics of what litigants will need in basic scenarios. This will benefit the interns and will serve as a better helping hand to the managers and supervisors from the start.

Something I wish I knew before I started this internship was that this internship requires you to constantly learn as you go, and that nearly every case that comes in will not be super cut and dry. I expected to know every kind of situation in a general sense going in so I could be prepared for anyone. This simply is not possible. You must be prepared to adapt and try to do everything to the best of your abilities. At the end of the day it’s okay to make mistakes because white out will always be there!

The view in person at the Greenfield Court Service Center

If I could share pieces of advice for the next person who wants to pursue an internship or career in the Court Service Centers, there are two big things I would want to share. First, sometimes you are the person who takes the heat for not being able to assist someone and know that this is not your fault. And second, advocate for yourself and do not be afraid to help someone with an issue you have not seen before. Again, the biggest thing you will be doing is learning, so do not be afraid to dive right in. Overall, I am very appreciative of the experiences that have come out of this internship. I have been able to grow as a more confident person, and most importantly, I have been able to get a better understanding of the characteristics that I want in my future career.

(3) A Hard Farewell

At the beginning of my internship at Our Sisters’ School (OSS), I was naïve about the world of nonprofits. As a Title I, independent, tuition-free school, the dedication of its community members is vital for its success. I started in May knowing that my contributions would significantly aid the school, but I did not realize the impact the students and educators would have on me. As an alumna, I was nostalgic each moment I stepped foot on their campus, yet I was invigorated by the changes I witnessed daily. As a staff member, I experienced new additions to the school in a way that fueled my inner child like eating lunch and completing tasks in the outdoor classroom, creating pottery, and attending surfing camp (as a chaperone and camper). As a low-income student myself, I felt grateful for the opportunities OSS afforded me years ago. I now feel even more committed to their mission as I witness other kids with similar backgrounds experiencing even more than what I could. 

Students and Director Tobey Eugenio partaking in the Whipped Cream Challenge

One unique aspect of nonprofits is the unwavering commitment of the staff to the organization’s cause. To describe OSS’ team as dedicated is an understatement. My supervisor this summer, Tobey Eugenio, started at OSS during my 8th-grade year in 2016. As the Creative Director, she has encouraged students to view themselves as creators, engineers, and critical thinkers. She is who I think of when I encounter the term “social justice” within an education framework. As I worked to incorporate social justice in an educational context this summer, I realized that we need to help students redefine themselves. When working with kids from economically disadvantaged areas, there are more obstacles than what appears on the surface. OSS successfully educates students because they provide a space for authenticity and recreation. When a student can view themself as capable and intelligent, we see the barriers begin to dissipate.

Students receiving signed copies of “Strong is the New Pretty” by author and photographer, Kate Parker

A facet of OSS that should be applied to other institutions of education is the dissociation of grades and success. Students are encouraged to try their best and are supported when they find material challenging. In addition to providing support, OSS strays from traditional academia. While they still offer the necessary classes, they expand these constraints through their Creative Suite, offering courses such as Art and STEAM. The interdisciplinary nature allows students to discover their niche and releases the pressure to just be “smart” in a society where the term does not have to be defined one way. OSS’s students are intelligent, courageous, persistent, and always ready to try something new. When approaching an internship or career within education, especially if you plan to serve a disadvantaged population, it is paramount to get to know your students. Without understanding your students’ backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses, you will never be able to justly serve them. 

I am honored to have spent my summer back at my home base, where the foundation was set for me. I genuinely associate my personal and academic successes to the characteristics that were instilled in me during my time at OSS. I am eager to see what the future will hold for them. Thank you to the Social Justice World of Work Fund for enabling me to complete this work. Most importantly, a huge appreciation to the OSS team for being the most supportive and committed team—you are the reason change endures. 

(3) A Lesson in Collaboration at NNABI

I had an incredible time at my summer internship with NNABl, a women’s health startup that is creating a natural supplement for women experiencing perimenopause, the lesser-known stage prior to menopause. The experience has given me valuable insight into the world of work due to its focus on entrepreneurship. The brand has yet to launch, and plans to do so in March, meaning that my internship was crucial in laying the groundwork for their branding and consumer interaction.

Because the company is still in its infancy, I was given a unique perspective working directly with NNABI’s founders. I learned of the many factors someone needs to consider when starting a company, ranging from the look of the website to social media outreach to analyzing the results of a clinical trial. I can confidently say that if I had worked for a larger, already-established company, my work would not have been as varied nor as important to the company’s growth as it was with NNABI. An important lesson I learned was that working for a small company means you experience incredible highs, such as hearing good reviews from the trials, as well as incredible lows, such as seeing other, larger companies, making similar product claims as you are.

In terms of social justice, I have learned a valuable lesson about empowerment. While knowledge and research on perimenopause is growing among experts, there is still much work to be done to educate the general public about the symptoms that women go through and how they can impact a woman’s life. It was uplifting to see my bosses recognize a growing field and ask themselves how they could contribute to solving a problem that they themselves were experiencing. There is a lot of social injustice aligned with women’s health, particularly in issues like the gender data gap, the lack of comprehensive sexual education, and the misdiagnoses of women experiencing perimenopause. However, NNABI has made it clear that they do not plan to shy away from any of these, and their efforts have been reflected in my work for this summer, like the conversational “cheat sheet” between patients and doctors and a survey asking younger women about their views on menopause.

There are many things that I wish I knew before I started my internship. The first is that time management is a crucial part of any job, but especially in a virtual internship. The fact that there was no office for me to commute to meant I was the one holding myself accountable for getting the work done. It is important to know yourself and how you work, so planning my work time has been crucial for my success. Another important lesson is to adapt to your supervisor’s leadership style. I had gone into the internship assuming I would be given orders and tasks only, but due to the small nature of the company, my relationship with my bosses was much more collaborative. It meant I had to be much more creative with my work and come up with ideas outside of my tasks.

Finally, I would say a good piece of advice for anyone wanting to pursue an internship in women’s health is that you must learn how to collaborate with everyone.  My internship in women’s health was marked by the constant collaboration that my bosses and I had with other women, some of whom weren’t even involved with NNABI. One of my supervisors is involved with a company called Chief, a networking community for women, and through that service, we were able to meet with lifestyle influencers, naturopaths, doctors, and graphic designers, each with unique advice to give. The lesson is that nothing can be gained from not reaching out to others, and it is always beneficial to ask for advice if you need it—a message that will continue to be helpful for me during my time as Brandeis.

(3) Becoming more familiar with an office job

Working for BAGLY Inc. this summer has been very informative for me in regards to social justice and nonprofit work, as well as learning how an office job works. This has been an especially amazing way for me to learn about work after college because it is explicitly safe for members of the LGBTQ+ community. The organization is staffed by many people within the queer community and its purpose is to help the members of the LGBTQ+ community. My coworkers and bosses have all helped make this an informative work environment while feeling socially comfortable within my own identity. Although this internship has been mostly online, I have gone into the office once to do some written work and it was interesting seeing such a safe queer working environment. The office also functions as a community center for Boston, so it has a very safe and open feel to it.

While I was at BAGLY Inc. as an intern, I mostly did work behind the scenes that most people would not see. My impact mainly took work off the plates of the paid employees and made it easier for them to do less monotonous and more person-to-person work. I essentially helped BAGLY function better by doing administrative work such as sending emails to donors or thank you letters to people for donating. Although this is not very direct work for social justice, it does help to get more donations for BAGLY that can then enable the company to grow and help more people. It has also been nice seeing my coworkers help the company grow along by doing similar work because we know what we are doing is meaningful and a good cause. Getting to know my coworkers who are within the LGBTQ+ community also helps expand my connections as well as expands the LGBTQ+ community. My coworkers and I have come a long way since we first met.

Starting at BAGLY, I wish I had not been so afraid to meet and get to know my coworkers. Sometimes I can be hesitant in social situations and this time I was very hesitant. Through working at BAGLY, I have learned how amazing and supportive my coworkers are. This will help me greatly in a post-college career because I know not to be afraid to reach out and make connections. I have especially grown to know my coworker Mary, who is the one always in the office.

Someone who is going into the social justice or nonprofit field cannot be afraid to make connections. Connections are extremely important not only to secure a job, but also for doing anything within the field. If one needs people to donate, someone to write a blog post, or speak at an event, then one must be able to make connections. Social justice is not an easy field for a career, but it can be an extremely satisfying one if one truly believes in what they are doing.

(3) The Value of Experience

There is no better teacher than experience. Being an intern allows you to gain work experience and helps you to understand the inner workings of a field. Even when the internship doesn’t live up to your expectations, it still provides a valuable learning opportunity. While interning at Someone Cares Atlanta, I learned many important lessons, although they were not necessarily the lessons that I wanted to learn when I started my internship this summer. 

When I applied to intern, I was interested in doing outreach work with people who have been exposed to or have contracted HIV. Unfortunately, I was not able to do this during my time at Someone Cares. Instead, I worked primarily with clients participating in the Intensive Outpatient Substance Abuse program (IOP). This provided me the opportunity to learn about how intensive outpatient programs were run and operated. I was able to look into the lives of people recovering from substances and understand them better. I also learned about the link between substance abuse and mental health and how mental illness can be a co-morbidity for addiction. Many people turn to substance abuse due to untreated mental illness. This emphasized to me the importance of making sure everyone has access to mental health services.

During my time at Someone Cares, I also learned the importance of clear communication. Unfortunately, my internship was sometimes hampered by the failure to communicate important information and general disorganization. For example, I arranged for the first day of my internship to be June 6; however, when I arrived they were unsure of who I was or what to do with me for almost an hour. Problems like this persisted throughout my internship experience, many of which could have been avoided through communication from management. I believe one solution would have been allowing me to have access to general communication channels for my department so I could stay in the loop.

Despite some of the setbacks, I believe I was able to have a positive impact during my internship. I assisted with the intensive outpatient program group and provided consistency for clients since I was the only person who was in the office every day. I also helped to lessen the load placed on case managers by doing administrative tasks and data entry. Overall, I was able to improve the quality of life for both employees and clients.

One thing I wish I understood back when I started my internship is the importance of knowing what you want to get out of an internship and being able to advocate for it. This is especially important when you’re not participating in an established internship program. If there is a particular experience that you are looking forward to getting during your internship, you should let your supervisor know. Being an intern is about gaining experience and opportunities for growth. It is important to take an active role in your internship experience.

For someone looking to find an internship, I would recommend interning with an organization with an established program or an organization that is willing to work with and support you as an intern. If you’re not participating in a program, I would meet beforehand to establish an itinerary for the internship. Overall, I believe it’s beneficial for someone interested in social justice to do an internship. The work is not easy and the world of nonprofits can be a little disorganized, but the opportunity to have an impact on even one person’s life is why I came to Brandeis.

(3) Post-Internship Reflections

Bye, Longwood Medical Area!

I greatly enjoyed my internship at Beth Israel Deaconess’ social work department. Although I was working mostly with the department’s Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery (CVPR), I had the opportunity to learn about several other types of hospital social work, including in obstetrics/gynecology and the emergency department. I learned a lot about what I may want to pursue in the future, and I think I would enjoy both working at a hospital and doing inpatient social work. I’d like to continue my education with a master’s in social work. 

The importance of this type of work was clear to me after working with CVPR and the social work department. Social work was there to provide not only advocacy and resources for patients, but also psychological support and mental health care that nurses and doctors didn’t have the time or training to provide. Specifically for CVPR, it was evident how crucial a contact point health care can be for people who are in need of resources such as shelter, addiction treatment, trauma-informed mental health care, and domestic violence safety planning. I saw how easy it is for our society and institutions to let people slip through the cracks of social support (especially people of color and/or other marginalized identities). It was clear how much of a need exists for support networks—such as the Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery—that attempt to seal these cracks. 

Working with CVPR, I assisted with several projects and collaborated with many of the CVPR’s staff. Along with the Center’s director, I updated the CVPR website to include current information and resources, and to increase accessibility of these resources and information. The new and improved website is now up on the Beth Israel Deaconess site!

The project I most enjoyed was conducting research for and writing a draft of a chapter on the trauma and neurobiology of sexual assault for a book by the Victim Rights Law Center, which provides free civil legal services to survivors of sexual assault. 

If I were to give advice to a younger me who is interested in social work but not sure where to start, I would encourage myself to research and experience the many ways that there are to be a social worker. Many stereotypes exist in how social work (and mental health care in general) is perceived by the general public, and I would encourage myself to do the research to discover how vast and diverse of a field it really is. This summer, I learned that there are so many different careers under the label of “social worker,” and I started thinking about what kind of career I might like to have. My internship at Beth Israel gave me not only experience and connections, but a clearer image of what my professional path may look like. I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn and explore, and I am excited to continue doing so in the future.

(3) Nearing the end of my internship

My internship experience has shown me the importance of humility, cooperation, and self-care. The Riverside Behavioral Health Community Partners (BH CP) team is comprised of care coordinators who provide resources and support for members.  This may mean finding resources (food, mental/physical health, housing, etc.), assisting a member with support programs (disability, SNAP, housing, etc.), or something else entirely. The job can at times require extensive research to finding specific bits of information, like searching for free and low-cost moving resources or obtaining government benefits. I’ve realized that with the wide variety of responsibilities that a social service worker my take on, it’s vital to give oneself patience and understanding, remembering that no person knows everything. Asking for help, taking an opportunity to learn further, or even learning for the first time, are all needed moments for such a job.

Along with a willingness to put in work for what you don’t know is the importance of asking for help. Care coordinators within the BH CP team use one another as resources. Maybe someone is looking for a service in which another coordinator has already found valuable information. This saves the person both a lot of time and work, and builds trust between colleagues.


Although my internship was primarily remote, the team utilized creative strategies to help them remain engaged with one another and build team cohesion. Technology and the new normal of working from home makes it much easier to connect in different ways. Group check-ins allowed for a short pause to see how colleagues were doing, with light activities things like yoga or taking a walk. These short group meetings were a fraction of the weekly schedule, yet vital for maintaining the wellbeing of direct care workers. To best serve the member, a provider needs to take care of their own mental, emotional, and physical health.

As a part of the team, I created moving guides to help support members and care coordinators during a change of address, I updated patient records, I formed care plans, and more. Overall, I wanted to make the jobs of the care coordinators easier, even in a small way. People in these positions work incredibly hard, so getting a little off their plate matters.

As I near the end of my internship, I’ve proud to say I’ve grown more confident in my advocacy skills and ability to try new things. For someone else wanting to pursue an internship or career in the field of social services, I would suggest taking some time to think about what you want out of the experience/position. Would you like to work in direct-care services, on the administrative or policy side, or somewhere in between? Developing this sense can allow you to come into the interview prepared. Just as the interviewer will ask you questions, so too should you ask them about how they plan to utilize you at their company. With open communication, this hopefully increases the chances that the organization and the individual both feel they benefited from the experience.

(3) Closing the Book at the Harrison Public Library

Working at the Harrison Public Library has been a fantastic experience, and I am very glad I had the opportunity to pursue it. I not only enjoyed my summer at the library, but also learned quite a bit about both working at a public social justice institution and simply working in general. I truly feel that the time I have spent here has been helpful both for my own personal growth and the organization as a whole.

I have been surprised by how my workload fluctuates from day to day. There are days when I find myself busy from the moment I begin working to the minute I leave, but there are other days when the phrase “hurry up and wait” comes to mind. I do wonder how much of that is because I am, at the end of the day, an intern, and as a result what I can actually provide help with is somewhat limited. It is also true that the nature of my position as a summer intern has made some things surprisingly difficult due to scheduling. For example, I will be finishing my internship a week before the finals of the Battle of the Books trivia competition.

Despite some minor difficulties, I do feel like I have proved helpful for the library. The area I have put the most work and time into this summer has been the aforementioned Battle of the Books trivia competition. It is hard to say how much my presence as a coach has helped the Harrison teams, but I have done what I can to make the experience fun and rewarding, and to set them up for success as much as possible. The younger team has so far gone undefeated, and I am hopeful they can win the whole thing.

Beyond that, a lot of what I have done is time-consuming work that nonetheless needs to get done. It can feel somewhat unglamorous alphabetizing shelves or ensuring that books are labeled correctly, but someone has to do it. I am happy to free up the time of the full librarians to focus on other important work.

I wish I had possessed more confidence at the start of my internship. It took me a few weeks to grow comfortable working with kids, and also in asking for help or more work when it seems like there is nothing for me to do.  It can be anxiety-inducing to take that initiative, especially when you have just started working and do not know your boss or colleagues well. Even so, once I began taking the initiative, I found a much wider variety of projects to sink my teeth into, and I developed a closer relationship with my coworkers.

For anyone looking to intern at or work at a library, I think it is important to consider what you want out of the experience. If you just want an excuse to spend time surrounded by books, I would recommend first volunteering to see how you enjoy it. While the main part of the job involves books, of course, I have found that a lot of the job is focused on community outreach. A library is a community center, after all. Still, if you enjoy books and want to really engage with a community, interning at a library can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

(3) Flexibility is Perfection

One key lesson I learned from my work in social justice, specifically with a law firm, is that boundaries are essential. When coming into the social justice field, I mistakenly felt that every task in my workday would line up perfectly from logging in at 8:00 AM to logging out at 5:00 PM. I quickly learned that this is not the case. There are points during the day where there is a lull, and then out of nowhere, three new clients call the office wanting to schedule consultations, then the insurance claims adjustor finally emails you back, and then you realize that you are missing one more document from your client a month and a half before their filing deadline. Working at a law firm is messy and it can start to feel like tasks are melting into each other and over into the next day. One piece of advice that I would give to prospective interns is to make sure to set boundaries with your coworkers and supervisors early.

This is not to say that the people you work with will be disrespectful of your space, but rather to ensure that you are mentally checking in with yourself and ensuring that you are not overworking yourself. Sure, you could take on that new project that is due before your existing projects, but you need to ensure that it is the right move for you. Again, this is not to say to avoid contributing to new projects, but rather to make sure that you are prioritizing your mental health instead of worrying about being a superhero. That phone call can wait until tomorrow. That project can wait to be started next week. If a task at your internship severely inhibits your mental well-being, you need to have an honest conversation with your supervisor. Work with your supervisor to be flexible, and come to a compromise with them to ensure the maximum efficiency of the organization, while prioritizing your well-being.

Learning how to set boundaries is necessary at any job, but even more so in the social justice field. Working with different people of different backgrounds can affect your mental well-being greatly and can make you feel attached to your clients easily. While it is important to feel some attachment to your clients, over-attachment can overwhelm the boundaries you set for yourself and can be draining. This is something I wish I had been able to conceptualize before I started my work at the firm.

I have made an impact at the firm due to my ability to speak Spanish. Because of this skill, we have been able to take on a more diverse range of clientele. As such, we are servicing people looking into a more diverse set of legal matters. In particular, my work has helped the firm widen the variety of immigration matters we take on, such as temporary protected status, consular processing, and permanent labor certification application via program electronic review management (PERM). I believe that my ability to bring in a wider range of clientele has benefitted the firm since the firm now has a wider range of knowledge of immigration processes for future clients.

(3) A Reflection on the “Real World”: My Internship with Legal Outreach

Two months ago, when I was packing up my belongings to move to New York City for the summer, I faced a fear that most college students face: the so-called “real world.” The real world that I would face this summer, as my dad explained, would hit me like a ton of bricks. I was scared that I wasn’t prepared or experienced enough to take on a full-time job as a teacher at a non-profit organization, and didn’t have as much faith in myself as I should have. So, this is what I wish I knew when I started: when you enter the world of work, or the real world, you might not feel ready, but you will learn along the way. If you dedicate yourself to your work and are passionate about what you are doing, the evidence of your efforts will be clear.

The first three weeks of my internship served as a preparation period, where I was joined by five other interns and twelve teaching fellows. We created lesson plans for the upcoming Summer Law Institute (SLI), organized student files, learned how to be effective teachers, and coordinated with our individual law schools that would be hosting our institute.

Funders - Legal Outreach
The 6 law schools that host students for a 5 week Summer Law Institute. I spent my summer at Cardozo School of Law. Source: Legal Outreach

Training was incredibly overwhelming. Learning how to be a teacher in three weeks when most people have an entire degree in education seems like an impossible task. Looking back, it only seems impossible until you’re doing it. After wrapping up our final week of SLI at Cardozo School of Law, I can confidently say that my eighteen students have left a lifelong impact on me. Our daily lessons went far beyond their criminal law curriculum; they taught me about the educational barriers they faced as young women of color entering the public high school system in New York City, and I imparted the knowledge I have acquired on how they can overcome these barriers. I helped them research scholarships that they could apply for as first generation college students, internship programs targeted toward underserved students, and even clubs at their high schools that would give them a sense of community. I’ve spent countless hours outside of the classroom reading applications, essays, and study materials. I’ve developed close relationships with every single one of the young women in my institute, and I know that we will stay in contact far beyond the end of SLI.

When I think of my overall impact on Legal Outreach as an organization, I can’t think of much. However, thinking about my impact on my eighteen students makes me feel an immense sense of pride. Throughout the summer, I was learning alongside them and figuring out what worked and what didn’t. I didn’t know which teaching methods worked for me or which activities would be engaging, and I certainly didn’t know how to be a mock trial coach. However, after watching my students compete in a mock trial competition in front of a real judge at Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in Manhattan and being praised for their confidence, I am reminded of the classroom full of silent students that I walked into on the first day of SLI who could not speak loud enough for me to hear their names. 

(3) Reflecting on my internship at REACH

This is the waiting room where survivors wait for their appointments.

I feel really fortunate to have had the internship experience I did this summer. I have never been a part of a team that is so supportive and appreciative of my work experience. This internship taught me many things, but it most importantly taught me the importance of a positive and healthy work environment. Especially in an organization focused on a social justice issue, having a stressful work environment can be detrimental to employees’ mental health, and therefore harmful to the mission of the organization as a whole. REACH emphasizes self-care and supporting one another, which is key since working with victims of domestic violence can impact people in different ways. This emphasis on self-care has made coming to work so much more enjoyable, and furthermore, it has made dealing with very difficult cases much more manageable. I feel comfortable advocating for myself and prioritizing my mental health because the organization I am a part of prioritizes these things. 

During my time at my internship here at REACH, I have been contributed to many logistical day-to-day tasks such as answering phone calls and supporting people via online chat. Everyone at REACH has many important duties, so I am happy I was able to offer this logistical support to their already very demanding jobs. I also offered some ideas on how to reach out to the community in order to recruit potential volunteers, and also to inform people who may need our services. 

Throughout this summer, I have grown a lot in my role at REACH. I wish I could have told myself that sometimes there will be hard days. I knew that this work would be impactful emotionally, but I do not think I fully understood the meaning and implications of that. I wish I had known that some cases will really hit close to home, and will impact me more than I would think and that this is okay. Even on the hard days, my supervisors made me feel supported, and I was able to do what I needed to do to take care of myself. Additionally, I wish I could tell myself how important it is to seriously reflect on what self-care is to me. Self-care is different for everyone, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to taking care of oneself. 

For the next set of interns coming to REACH, I would tell them exactly what I wish I would have told myself. I would tell them that sometimes, this work is hard, and it’s very important to reflect on how you can support yourself. It is easier to do this reflection before you have those hard days, but regardless, it is very important to have that conversation with yourself. I would also tell them that they should advocate for themselves and that this advocacy is very much supported and encouraged by the supervisors at REACH.

(2) Seemingly Small Efforts can Change Another Person’s World

Among many lessons at Brandeis, one of the most essential was learning that a person’s passion toward a cause can make an immense difference. Before going to Brandeis, I used to think that an individual’s effort is not that crucial in a world where there are so many influential people with lots of power, wealth and privileges. However, I have met lots of people at Brandeis from different walks of life and witnessed their motivation and consequential success, and I can see that highly motivated individuals are able to make a future for themselves and also to help others. 

This has made me believe that I can achieve my goals of helping others as long as I believe in myself and put in the effort. I had already volunteered and served my community in my high school years, but with this motivation, I was able to pursue managing roles  where I could organize projects. I became a Lead Rescuer in the organization Rescuing Leftover Cuisine and was able to serve the homeless community in New York City. I realized how my volunteer work can put a smile on people’s faces. I also realized that small acts of service can make a huge impact. 

This is 13-year-old Vuk, who has cerebral palsy.  People’s donations through Pokreni Zivot were able to provide him with a neurological wheelchair!

I decided that working for a humanitarian organization like Pokreni Zivot—which fights healthcare injustices and poverty—would be a perfect way to make an impact.  My approach to my internship was with confidence and passion toward expanding humanitarian aid and reaching out to more possible partnerships in the hopes of them sponsoring humanitarian projects. One of the ways I utilized this skill was by directly reaching out to major chain store CEOs through LinkedIn. I did this in order to create partnerships with their company, which would result in donation boxes placements, sponsored humanitarian project activities, and many other beneficial humanitarian causes that could raise more funds for the poverty ridden communities.

Fortunately, most of the people that I reached out to responded positively and were interested in collaborating with our foundation. It turns out that some companies did not have humanitarian organizations directly reach out to them and weren’t aware of the ways that they could contribute. They indicated interest in collaborating with our causes and finding ways to organize fundraising.

If I didn’t have this confidence and strive, I would have never reached out to company executives, as I would have believed that they would never respond to me. The companies would also not have collaborated with a humanitarian organization, as they would not be aware of ways that they can help. Through this, I learned that one person’s effort can go a long way and create connections, partnerships and new ideas. 

I believe that seeing Brandeis students utilize their resources such as LinkedIn and alumni connections has motivated me to do the same. My thoughts have been shaped to believe that I can use my available resources to establish partnerships and lead to greater impact on impoverished families.

(2) Continuing my work at UFE

As an international student from Honduras, I was not really exposed to different cultures or backgrounds growing up. Coming to Brandies was one of the first times I realized I am a minority, and I got to befriend many people from different places and cultures. I grew up only seeing people with my skin color and similar complexion for the most part. When I arrived in the United States for college, the culture shock was pretty big for me. Transitioning to this environment and switching to English all the time was challenging. 

Over time, I built my own little community within Brandies that made me feel a bit closer to home. I have learned so much from different cultures, languages, backgrounds, and communities during my time here. At Brandeis, in class (mostly my politics classes) and through conversations with other students, I have learned how race impacts so many layers of our lives, which I have used as the foundation for the knowledge I have built at United for a Fair Economy. 

Minority groups are disproportionately disadvantaged when it comes to the economy, the healthcare system, and the education system. My identity in terms of ethnicity is not something I paid much attention to while I was in Honduras. Everyone I interacted with was Latino; I was not a minority. I have been in the United States for two years. Over that time, I have gotten more informed about what it means to be a first-generation Latino immigrant in the United States and what it means – the good and the bad – to be part of a minority group. 

Lunch with a new staff member!

I feel like I have really grown during my time at United for a Fair Economy. At first, I was nervous about engaging in conversation with United for a Fair Economy staff and offering my help to people. Now, I can confidently say that I have bonded with some UFE staff members and can network with them and offer my support.

Since my last blog post, I finished the Conversation about the Economy series and the Avila Retreat Center interviews. I am working on the Storytelling Project, a series of interviews with workers in North Carolina. My supervisor, UFE’s National Communications Director Richard Lindayen, and I meet at all steps of the video editing process to brainstorm and discuss ways in which we can improve the video. Editing and working on the Storytelling Project is a joint effort between him and me, and what makes the process and my work experience so great is the amazing communication we have. The workers are mostly Latinos, which lets me learn more about the struggles Latinos and Latin-Americans face in the economy. 

I plan on going to the Boston office a lot more to strengthen my relationships with my colleagues and to seek more opportunities in projects I could help with and get involved in. I have really enjoyed my time at UFE and am glad I still have a few weeks left!

(2) Intersectionality in Grassroots Organizing

Kimberlé Crenshaw (photo credit: Columbia Law School

A social theory that I have found to be relevant to my work with Act-Up is the theory of intersectionality. Intersectionality was coined by the Black feminist scholar and lawyer Kimberlé Crenshaw when discussing the nuanced experience with discrimination that Black women face in the United States along the lines of race and gender. By definition, intersectionality is “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” The theory of intersectionality allows those who observe the social order to understand that all social constructions affect one another and, often times, rely on one another to function. With grassroots organizing, specifically, intersectionality is a concept that is ever present in the work.

If intersectionality is not applied to your activism, you will not be able to work towards equity for all marginalized groups of people. Personally, as a Jewish queer person, intersectionality has allowed me to examine and better understand the nuances of my identity and how systems of oppression both harm and benefit my existence. I believe this self introspection is needed when involved in social justice work. You must understand your own positionality to adequately and ethically help others.

HIV/AIDS activism is an intersectional sector of health care activism and health care prevention. Many different aspects of identity determine who is at a greater risk of contracting the disease. For example, low income folks of color are at a greater risk of contracting HIV/AIDS than their middle to upper class white counterparts, since resources like comprehensive sexual education and contraceptives are not as accessible. If you do not consider the relationship between financial and racial discrimination, you will not be able to acknowledge the nuanced struggles this community faces.

In regards to the theory of intersectionality and its importance within the Boston chapter of Act-Up, I believe that the lack of racial diversity informs my thinking about our work and the image Act-Up Boston is creating for itself. Act-Up has a history of not being an inclusive space for HIV positive people of color. Many documentaries showcasing HIV/AIDS activism in New York City in the eighties and nineties highlight this in the demographics of folks involved in their work and interviews with certain Black members of Act-Up.

I still see remnants of this exclusivity present in how our chapter functions. For example, an organizer who is much older and more experienced than me suggested collaborating on projects and events with organizations of color across the northeast. This would be a step towards gaining more racial diversity for our chapter and creating a space where decolonizing racism is an integral part to bettering HIV/AIDS prevention. I suggested partnering with specific student organizing groups in the Boston area as a way to work towards this goal and giving student organizers the chance to work with a very well-known international organization. Unfortunately, after sharing this idea, the fellow organizer did not respond enthusiastically or even follow up with me to discuss further steps. I found this very interesting, as this person spoke at great lengths about why this supposedly bothered her, but when I took time to think of solutions and be proactive, they did not take part.

I have tried reaching out to student organizations like the Brandeis Leftist Union to collaborate on events for this summer. My close friend who runs our leftist union is very excited for the collaboration of our safer sex ed workshop for college age students that will center HIV/AIDS prevention in its curriculum. However, when it comes to being proactive, I find that I am one of few who follow through with the logistics that are necessary to making these creations and connections with folks possible.

(2) Beyond the Theoretical

Studying sociology at Brandeis has provided me with the theoretical and methodological tools for understanding human social life and institutions. It is important especially in today’s society to understand the social structures at play and how individuals’ experiences are related to that structure. In my coursework, I have studied how large-scale social phenomena such as class, race, and gender inequality affect the everyday experiences of individuals and how individuals affect society as a whole. 

By studying social groups and seeking explanations for social stability and social change, I am able to apply my learning conceptually into real-world projects and initiatives. Having taken courses that cover religion and ethnicity, health and community, political and social change, migration and globalization, and social movements and organizations, I have advanced my understanding of issues that span topics such as social inequality, racial and ethnic conflict, law and justice, social and political movements, immigration, education, health, the family, and the role of gender and sexuality. It is important that I understand important trends that exists within modern society.

Working with Fulphil, I’ve been able to turn the theoretical approach to solving issues into real actionable steps—and applying critical and analytical skills to solve challenging problems. Our curricula are evolving each year, with case studies that apply real-world examples and social issues that are happening in the world as we speak. Our curriculum aims to instill a sense of purpose within our students by structuring the curriculum around relevant social problems for students to connect with. In developing and crafting our diversity, equity, and inclusion curriculum, I put into practice and investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, and how people interact within these contexts.

A sample curriculum section from the diversity, equity, and inclusion course. 

I develop curricula covering many interconnected subjects, such as understanding how race, gender, sexuality, and class inform and shape social life, the divisions of race and social class within a common culture, and resistance to radical change in communities and societies. This curricula aims to help high school students develop a multi-faceted perspective and critical approach to understanding issues around identity, culture, and social power. In my role, I aim to develop curricula in which DEI helps inform students’ understanding of how human action and consciousness both shape and are shaped by surrounding cultural and social structures. 

After this experience, I am grateful to have the opportunity to put my problem-solving skills to work. By getting to connect my interests to real world experiences, I have now developed the skills needed to navigate and thrive in a rapidly evolving world. By bringing classroom readings and discussions to life within project-based initiatives and collaborative working environments, I’ve been able to satisfy my own curiosities and apply knowledge beyond the classroom. Overall, I’ve grown immeasurably as a team member and as an individual after working with the generous, passionate, and driven people at Fulphil.

(2) Investigative Thinking

Something that I have learned at Brandeis is to be an investigative thinker and to keep looking for alternatives, counterarguments, and to pose new questions even if you think you have reached a conclusion. This principle is at the crux of effective research and is a sentiment that has pushed me to think creatively in my academic pursuits.


Cambridge Juvenile Court (

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to shadow an ADA at the Cambridge Juvenile Court. There, I was able to see firsthand how juvenile court operates and was also able to chat with Judge Gloria Tan. That day, Judge Tan had either diverted or dismissed all the cases that came in during her session. I learned that ADAs ultimately decide whether or not to request diversion for a defendant, and are sometimes responsible for searching for alternatives to punishment on the spot if they wish to divert. At the very last second before court was in session for a case regarding online sexual harassment, the ADA frantically emailed a colleague at the office to ask whether we had a program that the defendant could enroll in so that he would not need to be committed to DYS. Fortunately, there is a Cyber Protection program offered at our office, and the ADA agreed with the defense counsel to refer the defendant to the program instead of sentencing him as planned. Although thinking creatively about alternatives is helpful, ADAs are unable to divert unless they have access to and knowledge of alternatives.

Investigative thinking = creative thinking = creating alternatives

Investigative thinking has proven to be especially helpful in my internship as it encourages me to be critical and sensitive to logical patterns and details. One way I have applied this is in the way I have approached my open-ended research project to analyze juvenile court data by charge and disposition. For example, while looking at the juvenile cases database, I noticed that there were a large number of motor vehicle cases. What makes motor vehicle cases different is the fact that these cases are not diversion eligible, creating a category of cases that, if not dismissed or continued, result in probation or commitment to DYS rather than providing an alternative.

There are cases in which a number plate violation or failing to wear a seatbelt can result in DYS sentencing, probation, or the creation of a criminal record. A large number of these motor vehicle cases were non-traffic-related and included offenses such as larceny, unauthorized use, and driving without a license or with a suspended license, among others. Although these offenses are overall unfavorable outcomes, besides larceny, the offenses do not necessarily create a traffic-safety issue and perhaps point towards a more deep-rooted issue that should be addressed by other means that do not require law enforcement.

Further research is necessary to examine the socioeconomic or cultural issues that may play a role in this data point as well as the possible racial disparities that lie in the data. The Vera and Harvard’s Criminal Justice Policy program reports on non-traffic stops in Suffolk County have helped me orient myself in my analysis of Middlesex County and juvenile data. You can read more about it from this presentation I made that summarizes key points from both reports.

(2) Lessons from Brandeis at United For a Fair Economy

During my time at United for a Fair Economy (UFE), I have thought a lot about how the work I do for them relates to my studies at Brandeis. I have reflected on my skills, ambitions, and future career goals. One of my major takeaways is that leadership and facilitation skills are universal and applicable in any space that requires initiative. I further developed this skill while a part of the Community Engagement Ambassador Program (CEAP) for the Department of Community Service at Brandeis. While at UFE, I facilitated a team-building activity that helped our staff reflect on the projects and initiatives we would like to promote and market on social media and our website.

Erick participates in a group activity for United for a Fair Economy
Photo courtesy of Erick Comas ’24.

I have also been more confident and relaxed in taking advantage of opportunities, and I have moved away from my comfort zone. Thus far, one project I worked on was phone banking for a webinar on a Billionaire’s Income Tax proposal that UFE is working on. I was incredibly nervous at first, but I found out the answer was to print and surround myself with images of calves, puppies, and memes. I increased my productivity, reduced my anxiety, and accomplished my task. I was very proud of myself.

One particular skill that I practiced at Brandeis as a CEAP ambassador and as an intern for the Office of Health and Wellness was developing a learning plan and a long-term expectation plan with my manager. This was useful because while at UFE, I have been clear and straightforward with my manager. I have been comfortable approaching them to have this conversation and requesting that we develop these expectations together. It has helped me get where I am today. I look forward to doing research, and UFE has guided me about possible research topics, how to draft a grant or organize the numbers, and communicate among staff effectively.

My overall experience at UFE builds on my experience at Brandeis. This has been significant to me because I have been able to use my previous experiences to guide and prepare me to produce favorable outcomes for my manager and for me. Indeed, it has allowed me to see how working for a nonprofit would look and feel. Moreover, this opportunity has allowed me to reflect on topics of research that I might be interested in pursuing later in my undergraduate career. In particular, it has further exposed disparities in people’s lived experiences with the economy. I have been particularly grateful to have participated in popular education workshops because that is where we, as a movement-building organization, got to interact with people’s stories and help partner organizations strategize on ideas during those conversations.

Those conversations have gotten me thinking about a lot of things. It has been peculiar because our work clashes with what I’ve learned about economic theory (trickle-down economics). My strategy has been to pursue the work that I do with a set of morals and ideas on what the highest impact areas are for individuals. One example is housing affordability in communities of color and job/opportunity access. Above all, one goal of mine has been to present accurate, factual, and well-written information. I have also emphasized the need to present information more conversationally so that individuals can have easier access to the material we offer. I have found what works best for me is being communicative and setting goals. This has allowed me to organize myself better, manage my time, and improve the quality of my work. This quality of work will help me obtain the experience and knowledge required for employment in other nonprofits or fields of work in the future.

(2) Learning About Black Reproductive and Maternal Health

I recently learned about the troubling statistics that pregnant Black women are three to four times more likely to die than their counterparts, while 60% of those deaths were preventable, according to the CDC. In spite of the disproportion of healthcare and health rights, not enough has been done to truly revolutionize the safety and wellness of Black mothers and babies within the healthcare system. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black maternal health crisis has only worsened due to limited resources and education provided for Black mothers in need of security. 

Brandeis Black Maternal Health Logo 2021 – Property of BBMH

There are many stories about difficult pregnancies with no or minor prior health issues, unresponsive medical staff who ignore mothers’ concerns, and a lack of knowledge about the resources available to make the birthing and pregnancy process more safe and comfortable. There were many misconceptions that this issue mostly impacted poor, uneducated women, but some of today’s most well-known Black women such as Beyonce and Serena Williams have shared similar experiences. Learning all this motivated me to explore reproductive and maternal education opportunities in the Boston area.

The Resilient Sisterhood Project was one of the few reproductive-focused nonprofits in Boston that I came across, which is why their work is so valuable! As I studied in my HSSP courses, health factors, racial and environmental barriers all contribute to health inequalities and the challenge of obtaining and accessing quality healthcare for many Black women and families around the country even within our local community. But like many health disparities faced by people of color, Black maternal disparities can be avoided and improved through education and awareness. Even though this internship is completely remote, it’s interesting to see the many strategies RSP has implemented to create their online presence and ensure that their work is attainable and accessible to the public.

 There are numerous approaches to reducing healthcare disparities, such as providing remote access to reproductive health information. COVID-19 has changed the experience of in-person internships, but this summer challenged me to venture beyond my comfort zone and develop new skills such as graphic design, content writing, blog posting, and more. As I mentioned in my first blog, I am developing a research project based on the lack of preconception health education among Black women, which can contribute to the high death rate. RSP has allowed me to come up with innovative ways to grab the attention and awareness of young Black women through podcasts and circle gatherings. I hope to continue and expand on this way of communicating in order to create various projects that serve Black women, Black babies, Black families, and coming generations.

As my internship comes to an end, I am considering how I can bring what I learned from RSP back to Brandeis and expand the goals of educating prospective STEM professionals on Black maternal and reproductive health. Altogether, I am grateful for this opportunity, the networks, the experience, and the mentorship from the team of women who have had an influence in public health.

(2) Trailblazers

Brandeis’ African and African American Studies Program has taught me that small contributions can contribute to big change. The media highlights particular stories and icons, but the reality is that many people are fighting for change every day behind the scenes. Rosa Parks was not the first person to resist segregation on the bus, but her story was the one that spread like wildfire. The Stonewall uprising is credited with being the start of activism for the gay rights movement, but Black trans legacies had been doing the work before this historic moment. The main lesson my courses have taught me is that we must consider who is laboring behind the scenes to produce a better environment for all. We must appreciate anyone contributing to the cause and search beneath the surface to ensure we acknowledge all the working hands. 

The author and an OSS Camper during the SPARK Summer Program. SPARK is a STEAM and art fusion designed for students to engineer and problem solve.

With my prior knowledge from Brandeis courses and my experience as an Our Sisters’ School (OSS) student, I entered my fellowship with an unexplored perspective. As an alumna, I can recall the many components that allowed the school to function. As someone who now contributes their time to further OSS’ mission, I have gained a new sense of gratitude for the students, teachers, administration, volunteers, and donors. Change starts with the desire to improve the spaces around you; therefore, there is no contribution too small. Any action that you take is bound to produce transformation. 

My lessons from Brandeis have remained true during my WOW internship. OSS relies solely on grants and donations. Many contributions beyond monetary gifts allow the school to thrive. It is vital to recognize a donor who invests money the same way we recognize volunteers who offer their time. OSS works to assuage the academic and social gaps for inner-city kids. They provide rigorous teaching along with access to social experiences like full scholarships to sleep away camps, introductions to diverse art forms, and participation in community events.

While these significant opportunities make for notable change to the outside community, many resources are overlooked. OSS provides organic, sustainable food to their students’ families from their own gardens. While this gift makes a huge difference for OSS families, the numerous contributors are not always recognized. Community members collaborate to garden and harvest food for anyone who can benefit from it, and it takes a team to enable this process. 

I am appreciative of the whole OSS community. Their commitment provides a meaningful, educational environment to students who deserve to experience more than what their socio-economic status can provide. Teachers and administrators alike commit their lives to supporting their students and cultivating a safe, enriching environment. Instead of solely highlighting the changes, we can celebrate those who allow operation. As Howard Zinn reminds us, “There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at critical points…” This lesson is one we can all take in and remember in order to cultivate worthwhile change.

(2) Self Advocacy in Women’s Health and the Ecological Model

One of the most impactful things that I have learned at Brandeis came from the class Public Health: U.S. History and Policy with Professor Sarah Curi. The class quickly became a favorite of mine for its rich discussion, relevant material, and its holistic view of public health in American both then and now. It was there that I learned a theory that has become a mainstay in my approach to my internship: the ecological model of public health. This model claims that public health measures may be implemented at many different levels of society, starting with the federal government, and specifying all the way down to the self. In the same way that the U.S. government can create legislation to strengthen the wellbeing of all citizens, individual communities can work to care for its members, and vice versa. Learning about the ecological model of public health can be empowering for many people. In the same way the outside world impacts our everyday lives, we can be just as impactful through self-advocacy and education. 

One great example of individuals applying the ecological model of public health is the health non-profit GirlTrek. Started by T. Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison, GirlTrek was founded with the mission of addressing the growing rates of preventable obesity-related diseases among black women in America by arranging daily walks in neighborhoods across the country. This is a prime example of the ecological model because it is just two people noticing a health disparity in their community and starting a movement that radiated outward to their state, and then the whole country. Learning about this model and this example are incredibly meaningful to me. If these two women can create meaningful change, there is nothing me or anyone else doing the same.

This lesson has been crucial to my internship with NNABI, a women’s health company currently developing a natural holistic treatment for women in perimenopause.  Perimenopause is the hormonal stage that women starting at age forty experience and can last several years. However, because it is not as well-known or researched as its successor stage, menopause, many women seeking medical guidance for their symptoms are often misdiagnosed by physicians. The psychological symptoms like brain fog and irritability are often misdiagnosed as depression or anxiety. The hormonal symptoms are often confused with other conditions like a thyroid disorder. Using the ecological model of public health has helped me consider how NNABI can make an impact among women going through this stage.

One project that I am working on is a conversational “cheat sheet” that details to women how to initiate a discussion about perimenopause with their healthcare provider, giving them the tools to advocate for themselves to ensure they are not misdiagnosed. One example of these tools is to advocate for hormonal testing in the long term. Since perimenopause is categorized by undulating hormone levels, one blood test may be just a snapshot, and if levels were normal that day, perimenopause may be disregarded as a possibility. Information and advice like that is essential to the ecological model, because once one woman is informed about their symptoms and how to address them, that knowledge spreads to other women as well. The goal of NNABI is to empower women to be responsible for their own wellbeing, and to radiate that empowerment outwards to larger communities and even towards legislative change. My internship and my class have both taught me that social justice, in public health or otherwise, often starts with the self.

(2) Environmental Diplomacy Led Me to Think Bigger

In my junior year at Brandeis University, I took a class called Atmospheric Civics and Diplomacy with Professor Chester. In part, the class taught practical information about environmental pollutants and the players involved in solving international environmental disasters. We learned about different types of pollutants, and we became familiar with the relevant NGOs, international bodies, and governmental organizations that were and are involved in climate advocacy.

But we also learned about the difficulties and intricacies of international diplomacy and advocacy relating to environmental problems. This was the part of the class I was most fascinated by, and that felt most unique compared to other classes I have taken.

I specifically remember one important lesson that was taught in relation to climate advocacy and cooperation. It’s one of those issues that transcend borders entirely. That is to say, if one country is having a negative effect on the climate, it is rarely self-contained within that country. It will spill over into the rest of the world.

This creates a tricky diplomatic situation. While there is a principle of sovereignty within a country’s borders (that is to say, a country is mostly allowed to do what they want within their own country) there is also an idea that countries have an obligation to their neighbors and the international community to not cause a problem for them, either.

What this ends up meaning, however, is that any agreement about fixing the climate necessarily needs everyone to agree, since everyone on the planet is involved. Practically speaking, diplomacy will only succeed if there is a universally agreed-to set of environmental regulations. Because it is so hard to get every country in the world to agree to anything, oftentimes negotiations fall through and instead nothing is done. It’s sort of a reverse tragedy of the commons.

This informs my work and my thinking about Consensus because it demonstrates the importance of negotiation skills in the next twenty or so years, and into the future. Climate change is an existential threat, and we need to find a way to reach some global commitments. Isolating from the rest of the world simply is not an option.

I am learning more through my work in Consensus about conflict resolution and negotiation strategies. This is the bedrock that my knowledge base is building on. But also, with my role specifically, I am finding ways to communicate these sometimes complicated topics in a way that educates people while keeping them engaged. I think that this is a focus that can have great benefit on a smaller scale for individuals facing problems in their lives or businesses needing to resolve issues. Before the class with Professor Chester, I would have thought of these smaller-scale issues as being the area in which conflict resolution is most important and effective. I now am also looking and thinking bigger to the massive global implications of having leaders and experts in this field.

(2) Taking Action and Honing Passion Through MCAD

One of my favorite parts about my education at Brandeis has been the opportunity to take so many amazing interdisciplinary classes.  As a Sociology major with Legal Studies and Social Justice and Social Policy minors, all my classes connect with strong foundational themes of advocacy, social justice, and working to identify and combat inequities in society.  While these classes have been terrifically informative and engaging, they have often left me wondering what action steps there are to take.  These classes may prepare me to analyze and understand structural issues, but genuinely participating in the change has always felt lacking from an academic standpoint.  I am involved in several student groups that partly fulfill my need for tangible involvement, but my time at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has allowed me to be further involved.

One specific example of an experience where I have learned something at Brandeis that has impacted my approach to my work at the MCAD was the opportunity to create programs as an undergraduate representative (UDR) for the Social Justice and Social Policy program.  Through this opportunity and experience, I was able to take all the important lessons and themes that I had learned through my classes at Brandeis and apply those teachings to the development of programs, such as a panel discussion with Brandeis professors and the student body in regards to the ongoing ban on abortion in states throughout the United States.  This experience allowed me to take the content and topics that I was passionate about from courses at Brandeis and create a space for others to learn and engage with that content. This same approach is how I have looked to work in my position at the MCAD, taking the foundations of Social Justice from my academic interest, and applying them to my efforts to engage and assist community members who are experiencing alleged discrimination.

One of the ways I am able to do this is through my job as an intake specialist.  For the Commission to be effective, it needs to be made available to all people alleging discrimination, whether they have the means to afford attorney representation.  As such, pro se litigants—people representing themselves without attorneys—call the Commission to share their story of alleged discrimination in hopes of their experiences falling under the jurisdiction of the Commission to merit an investigation. As an intake specialist, I am trained to receive those phone calls, hear the stories of the people alleging discrimination, and draft an official complaint of their narrative as a starting point to be inspected for jurisdiction and potentially start an investigation.  

As my internship has progressed, I have been trusted with more opportunities to be on intake and draft complaints, which has allowed me to hear the stories of many more people.  On intake, I hear allegations ranging from disability discrimination, to racism, to the denial of proper accommodation, to harassment, and countless other situations.  At times, these calls can be long or difficult to hear, but the opportunity to be the starting point in many of these people’s journeys to justice and compensation for the discrimination they have endured is powerful, and has provided me with that sense of involvement and action that I have sometimes felt is missing in the academic setting of Brandeis classes.

(2) My Experience at Science Clubs International

I have been working with Science Clubs International (SCI) for over a month and my position has been more exciting than I expected. I have been able to do regular team meetings and truly feel a part of the organization itself. When I first decided to pursue this internship, my goal was to learn more about outreach STEM opportunities. Now, I’m helping organize a six weekend-long international event with ten workshops for +300 high school and college students.

Since my last blog post, the open call for students interested in participating in the event opened. I was assigned as one of the people responsible for reviewing the students’ applications according to the program’s rubric. It’s interesting to be on the other side of the application process, helping in the selection of students. A few years back I was the one applying to one of SCI’s programs. Right now, I’m mainly responsible for assessing Portuguese and English-speaking applicants, since I’m fluent in both of those languages. Included below is the information about the open call for students, which is a large part of my work right now. Check out SCI’s Instagram page to learn more about the program and deadlines!

Compared to my academic work at Brandeis, my working dynamics require me to be self-motivated. For one, the work is completed remotely, and as an incoming sophomore, I didn’t experience the Brandeis COVID era. Although I enjoy being in the comfort of my home, I try to change my clothes, close random web pages, and truly experience the workspace from my computer screen. Also, besides some regular team meetings at assigned times, I’m given tasks to mainly work on alone at my own pace. Not having restricted deadlines lead me to look for ways to organize my time productively. Every day I make a list of what I have to do and assign a time for each task. Doing my tasks as soon as I’m given them also helps me feel better about my work. Additionally, I believe the absence of grades combined with the possibility of improving my work after feedback allows me to explore new ideas, embrace challenges, and go beyond my comfort zone.

Lastly, the internship has been a challenging yet amazing opportunity to improve my Spanish skills. At Brandeis, I took Spanish 105, focused on writing/reading, and the knowledge from this class has been helpful in my internship. Some of my main tasks in the internship are translating documents/forms to Portuguese/Spanish/English, and having acquired this knowledge in the previous semester at Brandeis has been helpful. Most of the SCI’s team also comes from Spanish-speaking countries and Spanish sometimes is the main language during a Zoom meeting. I believe that by knowing the three languages used by SCI’s team, I can take more advantage of this internship opportunity and reach more students.

I enjoy reading all of the WOW recipients’ blog posts and I’m grateful to be a part of such an incredible cohort.

(1) For Every Child to Have the Childhood That They Deserve

My mission in life is to help as many people as possible and have a positive impact on my community. I have been working with the humanitarian organization Pokreni Zivot, which organizes humanitarian projects for Serbian families that are in extreme need of proper housing and resources. The organization also works to provide financial assistance to young kids in Serbia with serious health issues to go abroad and receive medical attention. I chose this field for my internship because my own family was in unfair situations due to poverty, wars, and occupations. These situations cause great suffering among the most disadvantaged communities, which is why I believe it is important for organizations such as Pokreni Zivot to exist.

Before and after images of the sixth successfully renovated home by the humanitarian foundation Pokreni Zivot.

This humanitarian foundation is run by youth who put an emphasis on helping the most vulnerable people within our society, including impoverished families, single parent homes, sick children and the disabled. The mission statement is “for every child to have the childhood that they deserve,” and the accumulated donations are utilized to help renovate homes by installing basic necessities such as beds, electricity, and proper infrastructure. The foundation believes that these home improvements allow for disadvantaged families to reach their full potential by being able to focus on their educations and careers.

This organization directly confronts the social injustice of unfair worldwide healthcare inequity and poverty.  It works to help people that are affected by limited healthcare resources and people that are in urgent need of basic necessities. Throughout this summer, I am responsible for organizing fundraising events, managing marketing, implementing donation boxes in various locations to raise money, talking with families, and in-person volunteering, among other tasks.

My future career goals are to be involved in charities that aim to improve world health and equity. This internship experience will further inform me of inequities in our societies and how we can work to dismantle them. Therefore, I aim to come out of this internship with more knowledge on how to help marginalized communities effectively. I hope to become an effective advocate for housing and food resource reform in impoverished communities.

One particular achievement that I am proud of is reaching out to shopping center executives and getting a positive response for creating a donation bank, which will allow for more donations to be raised in a highly visited location. A general achievement of the organization was opening a humanitarian store (where all profit goes to helping people) and renovating a sixth home for an impoverished family.

Humanitarian store in Leskovac, Serbia, where profit directly goes to medical treatment of children.

Progress would be to encourage more privileged people to help give back to their own disadvantaged communities. Another form of progress would be for governments to take more action into helping these marginalized people around the world and to be involved in redistributing resources. I am proud to witness how a youth-run organization such as Pokreni Zivot can improve the lives of  many through the donations and help of regular citizens.

(2) The Real World Application of Social Movement Theory

One of the most significant takeaways from my Brandeis experience has been learning the optimal structure for creating and sustaining social movements. Heavily influenced by political theorists such as Charlotte Ryan, William Gamson, and Alicia Garza, I learned that effective social movements require a multifaceted framework for framing, coalition building, and resource mobilization. Framing is valuable for focusing dialogue with target constituencies. Coalition building is critical because social movements are grounded within existing power relations. As a result, garnering supporters and allies is critical in placing a movement in the most advantageous position. Lastly, resource mobilization is fundamental, as effective social movements must be prolonged and sustained efforts. This is only possible through the creation of a reliable and robust supply chain for resource acquisition. 

I keep this framework in mind in all the work I do. For me, it is imperative to fully understand my role within any collective movement to advance a specific cause or issue. In the past, I have worked as the field director for candidates running for local office; as member of the senior staff of Congressman Jamie Raskin’s Democracy Summer, a nationwide program dedicated to teaching youth the nuts and bolts of political organizing; and now as a public policy intern for the Health Policy Team at the National Consumers League. All three of these positions placed me in different parts of a broader movement, each with distinct objectives and opposition.

Recognizing my role in the framework I outlined above enables me to increase my effectiveness in furthering specific agendas. For example, during my time at Democracy Summer, we employed roughly 400 fellows across the United States. In the context of the resource supply chain, we had the unique ability to influence key elections by phone banking, canvassing, and more due to the massive amount of people we had at our disposal. In contrast, as a field director, it was my responsibility to build a coalition and incorporate organizations like Democracy Summer into the campaign. These two roles are distinct and understanding my place within the context of organizational structure was critical for success.

The Health Policy Team at NCL works in all three of these areas, but there is a large emphasis on the framing aspect required for an effective social movement. As a consumer advocacy organization, our job is to understand consumers’ needs and then fight to ensure these needs are met. This is accomplished by honing in on specific policy objectives such as eliminating copay accumulator adjustment programs or making PBMs more transparent. In order to ensure these are enacted by Congress, we not only need to target specific representatives based on their constituencies and values, but also to enlist support from the people most adversely affected to make our argument more compelling. 

As a public policy intern, the majority of my work revolves around writing policy statements and blogs about a diverse set of public health issues. Within the context of movement structure, NCL must make itself available to other groups as a potential ally in areas ranging from expanding healthcare to protecting reproductive rights. This is why publishing policy statements is critical. By making the organization’s position known, other groups are able enlist our support and vice versa.

Jeanette Contreres testifying at the Senate Subcommittee on Competition Rights, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights’ hearing on the baby formula crisis.

An excellent example of this is when Senator Amy Klobuchar asked my former boss Jet Contreres to testify on the baby formula crisis after seeing NCL’s blogs and policy statements about the issue.

Using what I learned from Brandeis, when crafting statements, I try to make NCL’s position as clear and specific as possible. This places the organization in a more advantageous position to not only build coalitions of support, but to also unite like-minded groups. From there, we are able engage in weekly/biweekly meetings to strategize on how to best achieve key objectives aligned with NCL’s mission.

(2) The Importance of Empathy and Respect in Legal Aid

Two major concepts I have come to appreciate during my time at Brandeis are empathy and respect. I have learned the importance of these concepts both in my classes and through interpersonal experiences. The ability to keep an open mind and put myself into the shoes of others has informed the way I interact with clients at the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP). Oftentimes, when clients come to VLP, they are facing extremely stressful situations such as evictions. They are understandably frustrated and anxious. Meeting these individuals with patience, kindness, and compassion is crucial for me both to respect my clients and their situation, and for me to do my job effectively.

During the fall 2021 semester, I took Professor Kabrhel’s course Law and Society Internship and Seminar. As the course name indicates, students partake in an internship and the class with Professor Kabrhel guides us through this experience and allows us to reflect on it. In this course, we learned how to appropriately conduct legal intakes and other types of  interviews (see here for literature provided to us by Professor Kabrhel about legal interviewing). She emphasized the importance of addressing clients with kindness, respect, and empathy. Ensuring that clients feel reassured and comfortable around you is key. This will make it easier for them to share their whole story with you. If someone is involved in a lawsuit, this likely means they are entangled in some kind of conflict. This can be extremely stressful, and lawyers need to create an environment where they can reassure clients and make them feel comfortable. This allows the lawyer (or legal intern) to truly understand a person’s situation and therefore discern how best to help them. 

Edward Brooke Courthouse

The interpersonal skills I learned in Professor Kabrhel’s class have been extraordinarily helpful in my internship at VLP. This was especially true last week when I had the opportunity to attend VLP’s Lawyer for the Day Clinic in-person, which is run out of the Edward Brooke Courthouse in downtown Boston. This program connects people representing themselves in housing court with pro-bono attorneys. As an intern, my job is to speak with clients referred to VLP by the clerk at the courthouse before they meet with an attorney. This involves screening the clients to make sure they are eligible for VLP’s services and conducting intake interviews, often with very emotional and upset clients. These individuals are navigating a complex legal system without much help and are in danger of losing their housing. I found myself thinking back to Professor Kabrhel’s advice as to how to handle these situations. I did my best to make clients comfortable by treating them with as much empathy and respect as possible. This helped us have a productive conversation where clients could feel reassured and I could get the necessary facts I needed to understand their case. 

In the past, I have conducted these types of conversations over the phone and over Zoom, but doing it in person was vastly different and impacted me greatly. It made it clear to me just how much pressure and stress VLP’s clients are under. It reminded me of the stakes of the work VLP does. When working in an almost exclusively virtual environment, I lost sight of the more human aspects of my internship. This is a mistake I will not make again.

(2) World of Work

Last fall, I took a class at Brandeis called Sexual Violence in Film and Media. In this class, we learned about the stereotypes and discrimination people face after experiencing sexual violence, especially when encountering social systems such as hospitals, law enforcement, and the courts. We explored how society’s responses to sexual violence—not just the sexual violence itself—deny survivors choice, control, and autonomy. This summer, I’m interning with the Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery (CVPR) at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Much of what CVPR does is respond to and support survivors of sexual violence. The social workers who work in CVPR are often there in the Emergency Department as trauma-informed guides through the immediate aftermath of an assault, which is exactly what we learned in the class is usually missing for survivors. 

I am helping to write a book chapter that will teach lawyers how to support their clients who are survivors of sexual assault. The chapter attempts to help lawyers who work with sexual assault survivors (most often in civil rather than criminal matters) understand the facts and science behind the aftermath of sexual assault, including how the brain reacts to trauma. Hopefully, this information could help reduce re-traumatization of sexual assault survivors as they navigate the court system.

In doing some of the research and writing for this project, I have drawn on what I learned in my class at Brandeis, specifically what we discussed about how people of minority and marginalized identities are often both more vulnerable to sexual violence and less able to access services in its aftermath. Much of the research I have done for this project centers on how social marginalization affects survivors’ access to accessible, adequate, and culturally competent care and support in the criminal justice system. The project hopes to increase this access by educating lawyers about the specific challenges their clients may face when navigating the courts. 

In researching all the ways in which formal systems fall short and fail survivors, I am reminded of a particularly impactful class period in which we learned about an organization in Israel whose goal is to avoid the re-traumatization of sexual assault survivors by creating a trauma-informed space for healing. I am reminded that we do not know which practices lead to re-traumatization, but we know which practices lead to healing. This reminder, and the reminder that the work I am doing is to help improve the experiences of survivors after an assault, helps to mitigate some of the inevitable negativity that comes from doing this research. 

Coffee from Caffe Nero before my internship!

At Brandeis, I’ve also learned how to do effective research. The skills I’ve acquired from doing research projects for classes—such as searching the database, reviewing literature for relevant content, and compiling references—have allowed me to be able to work on this project. Despite the heavy topic, I’ve greatly enjoyed working with CVPR in this endeavor. I’ve come to better understand some of the psychology and neurobiology that underscore our experiences—something that I haven’t (yet) had the chance to study at Brandeis. I’m excited to return to campus and to take courses which will enhance my knowledge and understanding of these topics.

(2) Turning the Page at the Harrison Library

In my sophomore year at Brandeis (something very much recent in my memory, as I am currently a rising junior), I took part in a program called Splash. Splash is a one-day event in which students are Brandeis teach a course on something that interests them to a group of students from a local middle school or high school. I have always loved stories, so on a whim I decided to teach about what went in to building a setting for a novel. I did a lot of research and created what I hoped to be an engaging and fun lesson plan. When the day of the event arrived, however, I found that only one person had signed up for my class.

This was somewhat discouraging, of course, but I tried to take it in stride. Despite the low turnout, I found that the teaching itself was, at least for me, something I quite enjoyed. That realization helped drive me towards this internship. After all, a major role of a public library, especially during the summer, is to provide engaging and educational experiences for children.

The low turnout to my class stuck with me as well. I certainly could not take the low turnout in one class taught by a college pre-grad in the middle of the COVID epidemic as emblematic of anything larger. However, I am very well aware that most people do not love to read and write as much as I do. It can be hard to find time as an adult, and for children and teens one can’t exactly call sitting down with a good novel particularly “cool.” Even so, I know I find incredible joy in just that, and I believe others would as well. Encouraging the development of a love of reading, and helping someone sustain that love, is to me one of the most important things a library can do.

Harrison Children’s Library

I have a somewhat varied role within the Harrison Library. I primarily work to support the children’s librarian, but what that actually means can vary from day to day. I’ve done everything from writing trivia questions to designing flyers to ensuring the shelves remain alphabetized (which can be somewhat tedious, but remains a necessity). The thing I enjoy the most, however, is working with children. I have worked quite a bit with the Harrison Library Battle of the Books teams especially (I discussed BoB in my last blog post) where I have found myself in the role of essentially an assistant coach.

When I was in middle school, I actually participated in the first few Westchester Battle of the Books competitions. That participation, I believe, went a long way towards driving and encouraging my own love of reading. My hope is that by working with these teams, I can provide the kids with a fun summer experience and help keep reading fun and engaging for them. Of course, I do not think anyone would be on the team if they did not already enjoy reading, but that does not mean the joy can’t be nurtured into something that, hopefully, lasts a lifetime.

(2) Using Brandeis Skills at BAGLY Inc.

These past few weeks at BAGLY Inc. has been a great learning experience. Settling in after the first month has helped me learn more about my coworkers and how the organization works. I have gotten more into a routine with my work, and my manager now assigns me more long-term projects. At first, I was working on shorter-term things such as cleaning up my coworkers’ backlogs and sending out emails to donors to BAGLY. Now, I am working on bigger projects.

The main project I have been working on is creating a spreadsheet with the contact information to as many school GSAs and school administrations as possible, which makes planning things such as pride events and awareness campaigns as easy as possible. This will allow BAGLY to spread its messages and help those in the LGBTQ+ community all over Massachusetts, especially LGBTQ+ youth.

I have actually been using some skills I have learned at Brandeis to create this list. For example, to get a list of all of the high schools in Massachusetts, I created a short and simple Python program to extract and clean the information I copied from the Wikipedia page of all the high schools in Massachusetts. I learned how to do this in my programming courses that I took at Brandeis. This means a lot to me because this is also one aspect of computational linguistics I will need to learn in order to get my degree in computational linguistics. That skill is the extraction and cleaning of language data.

Helping BAGLY create this contact list helps me to actually see the first steps that BAGLY makes towards helping the LGBTQ+ community, especially in places outside of Boston, because people mostly think of BAGLY as an exclusively Boston-based organization. This experience has also taught me how to look for data online and quickly find it, which is very helpful for any sort of online project or work project. Knowing how to find data is a super important skill in any internet based work environment.

Meeting my coworkers has also been great because I would really like to meet other members of the LGBTQ+ community and to network with them so as to build my own network of support, but also to strengthen the LGBTQ+ community itself. If we are all separate then can we even call it a community? Knowing that all the people I meet really care about the LGBTQ+ community like me also helps to start conversations and get along with my coworkers. Just being in contact with so many people who are part of and care about the LGBTQ+ community is amazing for my mood and outlook on life. It gives me hope for the future, even at a time when our rights are being taken away. A community is what brings a group of people together and allows them to fight for their rights, and organizations like BAGLY provide the resources to make these communities possible.

(2) Discrimination in Medical Care and Social Services

Through classes at Brandeis University, I have gained a greater understanding of the discrimination faced by people with disabilities and/or people of color in obtaining medical care and social services. Often times, accessing a doctor free of charge, getting needed medical equipment, or receiving government benefits are extremely difficult for people to access. Supplemental Security Income, which benefits people with disabilities who have limited income or resources, unemployment benefits, and care work—defined as care processes in the services of others done by family, kin or a professional—are just some of the many examples of the services that people need but must fight to obtain.

Care work, for example, is a difficult job that takes many forms and is often devalued and goes unpaid. This could be an adult caring for their parent, a parent caring for their adult child with developmental disabilities, looking over someone else’s children, and so much more. People do the work because they love and care for the person, and what they are doing is labor. The two are not mutually exclusive. Yet many people who perform care work do so without financial compensation, which is further complicated because this work tends to fall on the shoulders of women and particularly women of color. There are ways for people to get paid for care work; however, the policies include stipulations making it difficult for folks to actually obtain the benefits.

In exciting news, a member at Riverside Community Care was actually able to receive monetary compensation for their care work. This is a great accomplishment and one that is not easy. This truly shows the persistence of the member and care coordinator because, in order to plead their case, they must have been extremely prepared.

Hearing goods news such as this reminds me of the importance of the work I do as a member of the team. My internship is involved with the Behavioral Health Community Partners program, which provides care management and coordination to adults with significant behavioral health needs. I have worked on tasks like updating patient records to make sure new care team members are added and phone numbers are up to date. While this can be a tedious task, the member mentioned above serves as a great example for why this work is needed. It is essential to have the correct information to best support the member. Care coordinators need the correct information to know who is on this member’s care team (i.e., their nurse, PCP, psychiatrist, etc.). Then, not only do they need the care team names, but care coordinators also need accurate phone numbers to contact the care team in support of the member. Updated records help members and care coordinators to apply for government benefits and services—a long, detailed process that requires accurate information. The little things really do matter.

(2) The Importance of Understanding

One of the most important things I’ve learned at Brandeis is understanding. Understanding is the ability to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. It’s the ability to put aside superficial differences and see another point of view. At Brandeis, I interact with many people from different walks of life. To succeed, you have to be able to communicate with diverse groups of people and be able to see the world from their perspective to gain a better understanding of where they are coming from. When someone disagrees with you or shuts down, it can be easy to respond with anger or become frustrated, but sometimes it’s best to step back and reorient yourself by looking at the situation from the other person’s perspective. By doing that, it is possible to find common ground and move towards agreement.

In order to move toward a caring and harmonious society, we have to be able to understand one another and practice kindness and compassion. This is why understanding is something that I always have in mind when approaching my work with Someone Cares. As a case management intern, I interact with clients from many different walks of life. Most clients I work with come from backgrounds that are very different than mine. Often they come from extreme poverty, have debilitating mental health issues, or were introduced to street drugs at a very young age. I have to be able to understand them to help them reach the goals they set for themselves regarding their recovery. 

Someone Cares Atlanta is built on empathy and understanding. It was created to serve populations who have trouble accessing essential resources, including clients who are queer, trans, HIV positive, homeless, sex workers, and/or struggle with substance abuse issues. Many of these population groups have stigmas attached, which can make it hard for them to receive the services and help they need in a compassionate and understanding environment. Someone Cares staff members take time to understand how their client’s background affects them, while also recognizing their individuality. Working and learning in this environment has enabled me to use the patience and understanding that I developed as a Brandeis student. 

Many clients I interact with are in substance abuse therapy and sometimes need assistance with tasks that seem simple to me. For example, many clients struggle with technology literacy and need help with signing into their Gmail or figuring out how to make video calls. This requires me to be patient and understand that not everyone has the same level of familiarity as I do with technology. This also applies to important things like helping them access food or housing. Some clients just need to be assisted in looking for resources and are self-sufficient once pointed in the right direction, while others need you to sit with them and walk through the whole process. My experience at Someone Cares has made me better equipped to recognize and respect the differences in people.

(1) Inspiring Resilience & Sistership in a Time of Reproductive Injustice

The past few weeks have been devastating and overwhelming for millions of women, transgender, and nonbinary individuals nationwide. Recently, the Supreme Court made the life-changing decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade case, removing the right to choose at the federal level. Now more than ever is the time to advocate for the right to reproductive justice for all women and anyone included. But until we can also recognize and combat the unspoken issue of Black reproductive and maternal injustice, no one is truly protected. 

Sisterly Resistance, 2019, by Jules Arthur – Property of Resilient Sisterhood Project

Resilience is a powerful word for durability or having strength through difficult times. For years, Black women (and those affected) have been exercising their resilience and strength in the face of reproductive inequality, maternal health disparities, and other challenges. And through sisterhood, Black women continue to support each other and challenge systems that have historically hindered their pursuit of health and autonomy. This summer, I have seen the importance of resilience and sisterhood through my internship at Resilient Sisterhood Project (RSP). The organization’s name speaks for itself! RSP is a non-profit organization based in Boston, MA. It was founded by Lily Marcelin, a Haitian woman who started her journey in this field back in 2012 by listening to stories of Black women and their struggles with fibrosis. Today, RSP keeps true to its origins by continuing the education and empowerment of women of the African diaspora regarding the reproductive system that disproportionately affects them. 

The organization approaches these inequities among Black women through conversation, educational programming like webinars, and the distribution of educational resources on their social media platforms. The website provides extensive information about obstetric complications, incarceration injustices, environmental concerns, and community outreach projects meant to support and empower Black women of all ages. 

As a summer intern, my research project will focus on the impact of endometriosis on the reproductive health of Black women ages 25-40. According to the National Institute of Health, endometriosis is among the leading causes of infertility in Black women. This is a huge concern as endometriosis is commonly misdiagnosed in Black women as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). In all women, misdiagnoses can typically delay endometriosis detection by 7-10 years, which is a huge problem. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will work with the RSP team on contacting individuals with endometriosis and hearing about their experiences. At the end of this internship, I will have educational content on endometriosis available for the public. 

I’m looking forward to watching this project grow and eventually make an impact where it is most needed. Right now, in the early stages, I am learning how a small nonprofit operates, how to do research, and how to cultivate innovative ways to address this deeply-rooted problem in our country’s healthcare system. It’s been so gratifying to work with a great team that values the importance of resilience and sisterhood—especially as the future of reproductive health and security in this country remains uncertain.

(2) Seeing People as People

“See people as people, and nothing else.”

One concept I have learned during my time at Brandeis is the idea of trauma-informed care. I first remember hearing this term used at Volunteerfest in interactions with volunteers. I had never heard this type of language used before, which intrigued me. I remember feeling that the phrase felt sanitary and performative at first. Another area in which I began to hear this phrase used frequently was in immigration advocacy settings. For example, I heard this word used in volunteer training with The Right to Immigration Institute. The discussions that followed were about centering the client and how to treat them with empathy, while understanding that their own experiences are unique and different. It is when I heard this concept applied in real-life situations like these that I began to grasp the functionality of this idea.

The idea that you are not someone’s savior is one key component of trauma-informed care that I seek to implement when applicable. My original aversion to applications of trauma-informed care occurred because the trope seemed all too similar to relationships such as the white savior complex. I felt that, while trauma-informed care was helpful at its core, it would be misused and damaging in the process. Therefore, I remind myself to mentally check-in and ensure that I am not attempting to save a client that I am working with, but rather, work WITH them to achieve THEIR goals.

Trauma-informed care has become more significant to me due to my internship. Working with clients at the Law Office of Saikon Gbehan, LLC has been unlike any other experience. One reason why I believe this experience is unique is that it has been entirely virtual—just me, my desk, my computer, and my phone sitting alone in my office working in the cool air while the Georgia heat melts away at the outside world. While this may seem repetitive and mundane, in reality, each nine-hour shift feels like I am powering up a new tool to use. And the tool that I have been powering up recently is trauma-informed care.

Now that I am nearing the end of my work on a client’s family-based petition for legal permanent residency status, otherwise known as a green card, I have begun to reflect on my relationship with that client. I am proud of the work that we have accomplished together, but at times I felt frustrated. Why didn’t they do X? How could they forget Y? I thought they needed Z? As I pondered these questions during my time working with this client, I realized that I was acting selfishly and assuming that my thoughts were my client’s needs, and not focusing enough on their perspective. I realized that my perspective needs to take a back seat in this environment and should instead focus on the client’s needs and wants. I believe my crucial tenant of trauma-informed care can be summed up in one sentence: see people as people, and nothing else.

(2) A Positive Mindset

Something I have learned at Brandeis both in and out of the classroom is that when you go into a new job, you are not going to know how to do everything, and that is okay. In one of my classes, we had a guest speaker who is now a very successful businessman. At the end of his presentation, the one thing he said he wished someone had told him before he started on his career path was, “you are not going to know everything when you start somewhere new, and nobody is going to expect you to know everything at first.” This really stuck with me because he was someone who has made millions of dollars and made a great future for himself. It reassured me that even people who are the most successful do not know everything, and no matter if the people around me have amazing past experiences, we were both hired in the same place for a reason.

Coffee to start every morning on the right foot!

Hearing this from a successful businessman and other people in the Brandeis community was really significant for me for many reasons. First, entering a new job for the summer in an area that I am somewhat unfamiliar with, but want to learn more about, was very daunting for me. Having this advice before starting my internship was extremely helpful in calming my nerves and put me in a good mindset. When I am working, there are many things that come up every day that I do not know the answer to. Coming in with this mindset has allowed me to not be afraid to ask questions, which is something challenging for me. Also, I have realized that the more questions I ask, the more I show that I truly want to learn, grow, and know what to do the next time a similar situation arises. This has allowed me to approach the internship and tasks with more confidence because I know they hired me for a reason, and when I am asked to do something, they believe that I am capable of doing it, so I should be too!

Many tabs = working hard

This mindset that I have come in with has also allowed me to reflect on the work that goes on within the Court Service Center. I realized that the women who supervise me are also real lawyers, and they know a lot about many different areas of law. However, it has obviously taken them years to get to this point, and they do not expect us to know everything they do. They have said if we did know even fifty percent of what they did, we would be lawyers already. That being said, for the most part, there are only two women who work directly above me and anywhere from two to six interns working with them. This means these women really do so much work even before/after hours or during lunch breaks because they do not have enough time during the day. On top of normal workload, they have to keep up to date with all the new court rules and understand many different types of law and the processes within them. They are able to do so much for so many people, but sometimes they could use one more person who knows as much as them. It really takes so much knowledge, time, and energy to be doing what these women do.

Additionally, the Greenfield Court Service Center and the other Court Service Centers around Massachusetts are incredible resources and are extremely important for those who cannot afford lawyers. Yes, they have amazing interns like me, but again, they do not expect us to know everything. What I have realized is if the Court Service Centers had more full-time staff, they could help so many more people in the same amount of time, or have extra time to update pamphlets, documents, and other resources. 

Glimpse of online work

This has allowed me to reflect overall on the different roles in an organization and their expectations. This brings back what the guest speaker said, that as an intern I am not expected to know everything. I am expected to learn, try hard, and assist in any way possible. Though I can still question what I should/should not know, knowing the expectations they have for me is always a good way to ground myself in any new role, and further reassure that I am meant to be there and putting in my best efforts.

(2) Overcoming Inequity in Education with Legal Outreach


When reflecting on my Brandeis education and the copious amount of information that I have learned as part of a liberal arts curriculum, it is easy to identify material that I have utilized during my internship. As a legal studies minor, I have gained an incredible foundation and understanding of the law, which has helped me effectively teach legal subjects to the Summer Law Institute (SLI) students. However, my motivation to help these students succeed in their academic and professional careers stemmed from what I learned in Sociology of Health, Community, and Society, taught by Professor Siri Suh. In this course, we discussed education as a social determinant of health, which has proven to be incredibly relevant to my internship. Education is one of the most influential determinants, as people with higher levels of education are more likely to live healthier and longer lives. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

“They [children from low-income families] are less likely to get safe, high-paying jobs and more likely to have health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and depression.” (Healthy People 2030, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

Due to a variety of factors, children living below the poverty line are less likely to graduate high school, and are therefore likely to remain below the poverty line. However, this disparity in education accessibility is inevitably influenced by race. Figure 1 (below) shows the percentage of people, by race, that have attained various levels of education.

Figure 1 (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)

While white Americans are likely to obtain a bachelor’s or professional degree at some point in their lives, the majority of Latino adults receive less than a college degree due to a lack of education accessibility. This puts minority populations at a perpetual disadvantage, not only regarding health outcomes but economic success overall. 

Motivating underserved and underrepresented students to overcome these statistics is the driving force behind Legal Outreach. Of the twenty eighth-grade students in my Summer Law Institute at Cardozo, every single one wants to go to college. However, the majority of them would be first-generation college students. Some of them would be the first in their family to graduate from high school. This inevitably leaves them with questions about how to apply to college, how to study for the SAT, and whether or not they can afford a college education. Legal Outreach’s College Bound program, a four-year high school program that students join upon completion of the SLI, helps underserved students overcome these unjust barriers. The College Bound Program provides students with academic and college advisors, free test prep, writing courses, internship opportunities, and college scholarships.

I am so honored to be part of an organization with such a targeted and important goal, and it is inspiring to see the motivation that the students have gained in just the past two weeks. These young women of color are gaining confidence in themselves and their ability to overcome the barriers that stand in their way. They want to become lawyers, even if no one in their family has ever reached that level of education before, and they know that they will be able to achieve that goal with hard work and the help of Legal Outreach. Learning about the benefits of an education and the obstacles these students face in obtaining it has allowed me to see this program in a new light. Their aspiration to succeed is the most inspiring aspect of this internship. 

(2) The Connection Between Public Health and Domestic Violence Education

During the spring semester of my first year at Brandeis, I took a class called Health, Community, and Society with Professor Siri Suh. In this class, we learned about the sociological perspective of health inequality and how barriers and trauma can manifest themselves in physical health. While this concept is seemingly obvious, taking the time to unpack and analyze these trends was one of the most impactful and relevant things I have learned during my time at Brandeis. I was introduced to this concept during my first year, and it continued to present itself throughout my Health: Science, Society, & Policy coursework throughout my time at Brandeis. As a rising senior, I still feel as though health inequality impacts me more and more each time I discuss it in an academic setting.

As someone who has always had access to comprehensive and adequate health care, I did not know how pervasive and complex the issue of health inequality in America is. However, given how important physical health is to quality of life, it immediately became significant to me. I was always interested in the scientific pathway to disease but was never really given the opportunity to reflect on the social and environmental pathways to disease. While not all biological problems are easily solved, it seemed as though society created systems that lead to such problems, and much like biological issues, social factors are also not easily solved. There is, however, so much opportunity for education and prevention measures. I quickly became passionate about finding these effective education and prevention measures and implementing them in my own life.

This art piece was created by survivors of domestic violence and sits in the lobby at REACH.

REACH is an organization that serves domestic violence survivors, and much like physical health, certain groups face a greater risk of experiencing domestic violence. REACH offers services for those who are experiencing domestic violence, but the organization also creates prevention measures in order to better educate the community on how to understand what characterizes abuse and healthy relationships. They use this model of advocacy and prevention that I learned about in my coursework to better inform the community about domestic violence, and I find that inspiring. 

During my internship, I interact with a wide variety of people who have had a wide variety of life experiences. From different racial identities and sexual identities to different socioeconomic statuses, it is very important for me to be aware that these differences may exist when interacting with victims. Throughout my training, my supervisors spent a lot of time going over boundaries, proper language, and how to support someone experiencing domestic violence. While I still have a lot to learn, this training has made me much more aware of how to be aware of others’ traumas, and I am able to use this knowledge both in my personal and professional life. This training and internship is an example of the difference proper awareness can make in impacting social structures and community understanding. 

(1) Starting at the BPS Office of Equity

I have been working for the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Office of Equity for around a month now. The BPS Office of Equity exists at the district level and has a variety of functions. Primarily, the office handles Title XI claims by either conducting investigations into bias-based or sexual misconduct reported by schools, or assisting schools in their own investigations and documenting their findings. Bias-based misconduct can be anything by which an individual is harmed on the bases of a protected category, which includes but is not limited to race, class, nationality, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and ability. Cases may be between students and students, students and employees, or employees and employees.

Accountability is one of the key components of change-making, and is one of the major reasons I chose to work in this field. Anyone can say they would like to make change, but what will be done if there’s no way to ensure it happens? As a person committed to doing anti-racist work in whatever field I end up in, and as someone who loves education and learning, the opportunity to influence the environment under which students learn—and to create a more respectful, welcoming, and equitable place for all students to flourish—is a great and important place to start. I am also interested in education policy, so working in an office within a school district has been a great way to get to know a district and the ways policy determines how districts and schools run.

It is interesting to think through what change looks like in this field. Despite efforts to change the future actions of any one individual, or to repair the harm that has been caused as a result of bias-based conduct, or even the more structural re-imagining of an anti-racist educational system, the district itself and the office by extension are nonetheless parts of a system that perpetuates white supremacy and racial capitalism. It seems the way of making change, then, is a multifaceted, multi-tiered approach that starts with education and the changing of hearts and minds on the interpersonal level, to a rethinking of how schooling occurs and how schooling can be better suited for all students regardless of race, gender, nationality, and class, etc., despite the capitalist system within which schooling in the United States is situated.

The individual level work is time consuming and is the majority of the change-making the office is able to do. However, those bigger projects, larger ways of thinking, and new proposals for restructuring schools and supporting teachers are things on everyone’s mind in the office. As the school year comes to a close and the number of cases begin to decline, I look forward to a shift away from administrative work and towards work with more members of the team to continue imagining the potential for the office and creating programs which can work towards racial justice in schooling in myriad ways.

(1) Riverside Community Care


Riverside Community Care provides individualized behavioral health and social services in a community-based setting. This organization respects individual consumers and believes accessible, quality care should be available to all. Riverside is a community-based non-profit organization, serving more than 40,000 people a year in Massachusetts. The non-profit offers a wide range of care, including behavioral health services and services for people with developmental disabilities.

I work as an intern within Riverside’s Behavioral Health Community Partners (BH CP) team, a program that provides care management and coordination for eligible adults who are enrolled in a MassHealth ACO (Accountable Care Organizations) or MCO (Managed Care Organization) and have significant behavioral health needs. BH CP aims to serve vulnerable populations and connect enrollees with services in their own community. Some of the consumers need the support of BH CP to know what care options are available to them and how to go about accessing these. A care coordinator is assigned to the member and meets the consumer where they are. The care coordinator works with the enrollee to build confidence and independence in navigating the healthcare system and social services. Together, they create a care plan that helps connect enrollees to resources in their community and provides support for people who may face challenges on multiple fronts such as health, food, and medication.

By now, I have worked as an intern within the BH CP team for about three weeks. Besides orientation, of course, I have been working on a project to create a moving guide that is catered to our members’ needs. Moving homes alone is a huge undertaking for anyone. For people without the financial means or friends and family support, moving can be made even more difficult. The document doesn’t solve everything, but it does try to make the moving process a little easier. Not only does the moving guide help members, it is also a resource for care coordinators on the BH CP team. Unfortunately, finding resources for moving expenses is not as easy as one might think. By having the information in one place, care coordinators can more easily access what they need and, in turn, support enrollees.

Before my internship started, I identified two goals for myself. First, I want to gain an understanding of state agencies and programs (DMH, Social Security, MassHealth, etc). As someone interested in behavioral health and health equity, I believe it is vital to grasp the intricacies of the U.S. health care system and how this impacts patient care. Second, I want to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from experienced professionals in the field of social work. I feel very fortunate to have the chance to observe, ask questions, and receive help when I am unsure. Having now started my internship, I still really like the goals I chose for myself. I’m grateful for my experiences so far and I’m looking forward to continuing this work.

(1) Working with Consensus Group

Maybe it’s just a product of getting older and becoming more aware of what’s going on in the world, but it feels to me like we’re all becoming more stratified. I look at the communities I recognize myself as part of, and feel like we’re all crumbling apart.

My work with Consensus Group feels like I’m stepping in the right direction, for a change.

Consensus Group is a consulting firm with specific focuses on conflict resolution, communication and peace building. Their work includes giving classes on conflict resolution, negotiation and communication in the workplace and in everyday life, helping in specific conflict and negotiation situations, and working with the United Nations to facilitate long-lasting peace in conflict regions around the world. It sounds at first quite specific, but it touches on many things.

If you are trying to help people learn new skills—in this case, that includes how to communicate better, how to resolve conflicts effectively, and how to improve negotiation skills—the challenge is not just providing them with the information. You also need to find a way to present that information in an engaging and informative way. It’s just one small part of what happens at Consensus Group, but it’s needed. That’s been my focus in the past few weeks.

What that boils down to is wrapping up real, important lessons in a package that would catch a person’s interest and keep them engaged throughout the lesson. If done right, the person will leave with a genuine new tool in their toolbox, and a desire to learn more.

With this in mind, I work with Consensus Groups to write articles that present their lessons in an exciting and intriguing way. For me, as someone who of course is just starting on this work in the summer, it means I need to first learn about what they teach, and then find an inventive way to present it.

Fortunately, Consensus Group has been unbelievably supportive and helpful, and I’ve been learning from them those tenets of their teachings in depth. Therefore, I’ve been able to focus on learning how to write about something I care about in a way that makes other people care too. And I’ve learned more about conflict resolution, negotiation, communication and peacekeeping than I ever had before.

These are subjects that we all know about a bit. After all, we communicate and we deal with difficult problems needing resolution constantly. But this type of learning is a whole other beast altogether.

Hopefully my work with Consensus Group does something to help get others interested in the core focuses of the group, and to realize the importance of communication, and of finding better ways to resolve our problems than the less-than-ideal ones many of us tend to default to. It starts small, with people caring about communication, and learning ways to do so in a productive and peaceful way.

(1) The Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery

As a sociology major at Brandeis, I’ve learned over and over how our systems and institutions fail many of the people they are supposed to help, but are actively designed to uphold patriarchal and white-supremacist norms. It’s clear to me, then, how much of a need exists for community resources that are trauma-informed and able to provide mental health services. This summer, I have the opportunity to work with the Center for Violence Prevention and Recovery (CVPR) with the Social Work Department at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. CVPR is the department at Beth Israel that works to reduce community, interpersonal, and domestic violence in and around Boston, Massachusetts. Social workers from CVPR respond to and support victims of sexual assault and other types of violence. The Center also runs support and healing groups for survivors. In general, CVPR provides many of those resources that are lacking when a person seeks institutional support from law enforcement or even hospital services. Indeed, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault often face secondary trauma in the hospital or from engaging with law enforcement or the court system.

It is clear that institutional services that provide support in times of crisis are essential to our society and our communities; however, in reality, many of these institutions do more harm than good. I wanted to intern specifically with the CVPR because I see it as an example of what institutional services should include: trauma informed care, mental health services that are both responsive and ongoing, and an active effort towards combating the embedded racism, misogyny, and homophobia that are pervasive in our society. 

In the past few weeks, I have gotten the opportunity not only to learn about what the CVPR does but to engage actively with staff and department activities. I have spent time updating the CVPR webpage, making it more accessible and relevant to visitors to the site, designing a flyer for a healing-through-gardening workshop, working with CVPR staff to update the Center’s new employee manual, and assisting with grants. I have also spent time compiling and writing up the latest research on trauma and mental health.

In addition to working with CVPR, I have learned about the broader social work department at Beth Israel Deaconess and to meet social workers who work everywhere from the Emergency Department to the NICU. I have begun to learn the workings and the rhythms of the CVPR.

Although my work is a small part of what is done at the CVPR, I feel that I have been able to contribute to this space that truly cares for the needs of its patients and the community. Spending time with the staff at CVPR, I am reminded that change happens slowly, but it happens when people who have a genuine care for their community do this type of work that is so greatly needed and so greatly lacking in most places around the U.S. I am excited to see what the rest of the summer will bring, and how much more I will learn about the world of social work.

(1) United For a Fair Economy

Erick sitting in the UFE office holding a welcome Erick sign while sitting down
First Day at UFE

I am currently interning for United for a Fair Economy (UFE). UFE is a nonprofit fighting for a resilient, sustainable and equitable economy. UFEs caught my eye because of their work to raise the minimum wage in North Carolina. Most importantly, three aspects of the organization caught my attention: their expertise as grassroots organizers, the fight for higher wages (even if it’s not in MA) and their work as supporters of on-the-ground organizations. I chose UFE because I think it can teach me a lot about nonprofits and guide me toward the right career choice. I hope to learn more about the hard work that community organizing entails and about the difficulties of working in the industry.

Erick with UFE and community partner staff at the end of a popular education training.
First Popular Education workshop

While working for UFE, I learned that most of their work revolves around giving a voice to people who have experienced injustices. They encourage people to talk about their struggles and hardships and then summarize this impact by providing additional facts for contextualization. For example, they discuss facts like the federal minimum wage losing its purchasing power due to inflation. UFE also works on other projects. One of these projects is called Responsible Wealth. This program addresses the inequity resulting from billionaires not paying their fair share of taxes. For this reason, they actively work and advocate for a Billionaires Income Tax. To achieve these goals, UFE uses popular education as an alternative to traditional classroom education, where ordinary people define their problems and cooperate democratically to understand the successes and failures of past political policies to assess their situation.

Currently, I am working on a project meant to encourage popular education. The Conversation Deck uses a deck of cards to facilitate a conversation about people’s experiences, struggles, and barriers with the economy. I hope to host a focus group with staff, interns, and community leaders to gather feedback on the conversations we want people to have. While at UFE, I also work with donor relations by responding to correspondences and other funding-related administrative tasks. As a grassroots organization, this is a vital part of my work and necessitates being responsive to donor needs and requests.  

Furthermore, I also help staff with databases and phone banking for events, webinars, and popular education workshops. For my main project, The Conversation Deck, we hope to distribute the cards to our partner organizations. We want to encourage, engage and promote dialogue surrounding issues affecting our daily lives like our identities, our communities, the economy, and the actions we should be taking to address our concerns.

Overall, I am looking forward to learning more about nonprofits as a field and as a future career. It is very exciting to learn about the jobs, roles, and responsibilities that individuals are responsible for. I am also very grateful to see and experience what a healthy work environment looks like. I look forward to bringing this experience to my next jobs and internships and coming into the workforce with open eyes and with hindsight knowledge of what I should expect from an employer.

(1) My time at UFE

Hello, my name is Monica Alfaro, and I am a recipient of the Social Justice WOW grant. I am a rising junior at Brandeis and am double majoring in International Global Studies and Politics with a possible minor in Legal Studies. With the help of this grant, I have the incredible opportunity to intern with United for a Fair Economy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to challenging the concentration of wealth and power that corrupts democracy, deepens the racial divide, and tears communities apart. 

I work as the communications intern at United for a Fair Economy. UFE accomplishes its goals through three programs: Popular Education, Responsible Wealth, and Inclusive Economies. Through these programs, UFE strives to close the wealth gap. The Popular Education program provides training for activists to grant them the tools and resources they need to build a collective approach and expand their movements. The Responsible Wealth program comprises business leaders, investors, and inheritors in the richest 5% of wealth or income in the U.S. They advocate for progressive taxes and greater corporate accountability by speaking out in Congress and engaging in critical conversations to examine and change corporate and government policies. Lastly, Inclusive Economies brings together grassroots groups, business leaders, faith communities, unions, and think tanks in a coordinated effort to influence local policy toward equity. They speak out in Congress and participate in activities that promote progressive taxes and greater corporate accountability.  

Interning for United for a Fair Economy is the perfect opportunity for me. I have previous experience working with nonprofit organizations, which is how I know I am very passionate about community service. As a Latina from a low economic background, I can directly relate to UFE’s mission to challenge the unequal distribution of wealth and power and advocate for a more egalitarian society. United for a Fair Economy aligns with my interests. Its friendly, open environment empowered me to take initiative and direct projects, such as the video series “A Conversation About the Economy.” I know that after getting my undergraduate degree, I will go on to either law school for immigration law or join a nonprofit organization like UFE. 

As the communications intern, it is my job to support UFE’s mission through communication like editing videos and writing for their website and social media. My recent projects include a video series about the economic obstacles marginalized communities face, including the housing crisis, minimum wage, the cost of healthcare, and higher education opportunities. I am also working on videos documenting the retreats for trainers that UFE hosts, and I helped direct our most recent event, Tax the Rich. This event was a five-hour Zoom meeting with activists, rich people, and senators from Boston and North Carolina. We talked about how the rich can use their resources and social capital to advocate for an equal distribution of wealth, such as the rich getting taxed more. My upcoming project this week is an interview series from workers in North Carolina, highlighting the stories of those most impacted by economic inequality. I have gained much more experience with software such as Canva and Adobe Premiere. In the near future, I plan to connect more with people from other departments at UFE and help them in any way I can. I wish to learn more about UFE’s different programs, which is the perfect way to do so. 

I do not doubt that by the time I conclude my internship at UFE, I will have gained some expertise that will be necessary to excel in my desired career path.

(1) An Introduction to the World of Public Health

The logo of the National Consumers League

Being a part of the Public Health Policy Team at the National Consumers League (NCL) has categorically been the most rewarding and meaningful experience I have had so far in my professional career. Although I have worked here for only a month, I have helped prepare testimony for a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the ongoing infant formula crisis, staffed events, and written public policy statements. More importantly, I have found invaluable mentors who trust me and my work and are eager to help me learn and succeed.

Founded in 1899, the National Consumers League has long advocated for a fair and transparent market for consumers. NCL focuses on research, advocacy, and education on some of the most pressing issues affecting consumers including fraud prevention, healthcare, food and nutrition, child labor, and workers’ rights. In the past, my experience in the public health arena has been limited, but it has always been a field I have wanted to explore. The issues NCL addresses such as health equity, consumer choice, food and drug safety, and people’s ability to access safe, affordable, and quality healthcare impact the lives of millions of Americans. I have always believed that public policy is a potent mechanism for making positive and impactful changes in people’s lives. NCL’s work reflects my own values, making it an incredible organization for me to contribute to this summer.

The National Consumers League Team present at the HAC Summit.

As a nonpartisan organization, NCL works with nonprofits, grassroots coalitions, congressional staff, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders to fight for consumers and ensure that people are able to receive necessary and sometimes lifesaving health services. NCL’s strategy for meeting these objectives begins with listening and amplifying the voices of underserved communities. From there, the team blocks out targeted and coalition-based approaches to help these people struggling in the U.S. health system. Final steps in this process include communicating the importance of these issues with congressional offices, putting pressure on regulatory agencies such as the FDA and FTC, and outlining health policy needs in collaboration with other groups. 

In my current capacity, the majority of my work centers on drafting policy statements, but I also attend meetings and brief NCL staff on specific issues and the meetings they can not attend. So far this summer, the policy statements I have written cover a range of different health issues such as copay accumulator programs, the monopolistic practices of PBMs, the unfair treatment of pregnant workers, the FDA’s ban on Juul, and the ongoing gun epidemic. I am also working on creating a health equity policy stance/agenda for the NCL website and had the immense privilege of assisting the Director of Health Policy in her testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights. This included helping craft her formal statement, opposition research, and strategy recommendations for the Q&A portion of the hearing. 

Looking forward, I want to explore the full scope of public policy advocacy. From learning effective lobbying tactics to the process behind building a coalition of support, these skills will be invaluable to me throughout my future career. As someone new to public health, I also want to develop a more holistic understanding of the industry and how seemingly distinct issues, such as stringent immigration policy and health inequities, can intersect.

From my time at NCL, I have learned that progress can appear in many forms. While usually associated with policy and regulatory changes, increasing awareness, disseminating knowledge, and building coalitions around key issues are also mechanisms that create a base for the implementation of positive change. I am absolutely ecstatic to continue working at NCL and I can only imagine all the new things I will learn in the coming months.

(1) Getting back on track with Someone Cares Atlanta

This summer I am working as a case management intern at Someone Cares Atlanta. Someone Cares is a nonprofit that works primarily with people who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and heterosexual people who are a part of high-risk groups for HIV. Someone Cares offers a variety of different services including HIV/STD testing, primary care services, and behavioral health treatment. The majority are clients are HIV positive, sex workers, and/or houseless. These populations often have trouble accessing health care and other important services. Someone Cares provides these kinds of services to help people get back on their feet and to look out for people who have nowhere else to turn.

As a case management intern, my job is to listen to clients and assist them in connecting with the different services. Many of the clients I interact with struggle with substance abuse and are low-income or no income. They often need assistance finding housing, healthcare, and employment. Depending on the client, this could just mean providing them with the phone number and address of the resource they would like to get connected with. Other times, you have to be on the phone with them or help them complete an application because they might have trouble using technology. Many of our clients do not have a readily available source of transportation, so sometimes it is also necessary for a case manager to set up transportation for them through Someone Cares or by providing them with a MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) card so they get there themselves.

The Someone Cares table at Atlanta Metropolitan State College

One of the other responsibilities of a case management intern is shadowing the IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) group that meets three days a week. This group is for clients dealing with substance abuse issues who need more support to develop positive mental coping mechanisms and substance abuse recovery skills. The session is run by a therapist or therapy intern. Clients often have questions about primary care and other services, which is why it is necessary to have a case management intern. We also occasionally do outreach events in the community to help promote our different services. For example, we went to Atlanta Metropolitan State College to do a tabled event along with other organizations. 

The mission of Someone Cares is to help people who are HIV positive, houseless, or struggling with substance abuse access resources and services necessary to their survival; my role in achieving this mission is to help where I am needed. Every individual I assist in accessing food, housing, and/or healthcare puts Someone Cares one step closer to fulfilling its mission. Success can be seeing how far the clients have come since they started the program. Often clients come in houseless without any identification, access to food, or employment. Being able to see clients obtain these things during the duration of the program is the most noticeable measure of progress. This also helps complete Someone Cares’s secondary objective of creating a welcoming and caring environment for people who may have nowhere else to turn.

(1) The Safe Passage Project

Through the WOW Grant, I am able to continue my work with the Safe Passage Project this summer.  Safe Passage is a non-profit organization located in NYC that frames its mission around providing free immigration services to refugee and immigrant children. What makes Safe Passage so special is that they also work with a team of social workers and are attentive to research into the home countries of the youth migrants. I am currently completing this internship virtually, but will have the opportunity in July to begin working in person. I focus on starting special immigrant juvenile applications, reaching out to clients, interpreting, and translating. My daily work schedule usually consists of working closely with one supervisor. I appreciate this work environment because my supervisor is available any time during the day to ask questions about the projects I am working on. I also receive helpful feedback at the end of every day.

I am confident that this work environment will ensure that I leave Safe Passage with skills that I can apply to other work experiences, especially since I hope to continue working within immigration law. Beyond working with my supervisor, Safe Passage also holds weekly opportunities for interns to meet one another and other attorneys. Every week we are able to virtually have lunch with one another. Each attorney also holds a weekly meeting where they explain and hold an open Q&A session in regards to specific topics within immigration law. Since this internship consists of both law students and undergraduate college students, it has been most interesting to learn from the questions being proposed by law students. Many of them are in positions where they are practicing the law topics we learn about. From this, they can apply and share real-world cases they are working through. 

Developing meaningful relationships with attorneys and members of Safe Passage last summer has enabled me to deepen these connections now. Finding my voice and space within this work has also supported me in reaching out to other first-generation lawyers. Being a second-year intern also exposed the attorneys I get to work with to a greater understanding of who I am as an individual and intern. From this, they have shared fellowships, schools, and scholarships they relied on to support them throughout law school. 

This summer I made it a goal for myself to ask very honest and genuine questions about pursuing higher education. Safe Passage exposes me to many different lawyers with different motives regarding immigration law. During the first few weeks of my internships, I scheduled one on one meetings with questions on how attorneys, paralegals, and social workers navigate work life and their journey in higher education. I started at Safe Passage with a desire to work closely with Central American migrants. I am very grateful for this experience because I get to work with youth and passionate people within immigration law. I knew I had a strong passion and skills that could make me an effective team member. However, this summer with Safe Passage, I am able to embark on more leadership roles and explore the different paths in immigration law. I am excited to continue working with youth and supporting them. I am also excited to continue learning how to apply my skills and grow within this field.

(1) My Part at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) is an independent state agency for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts working to enforce anti-discrimination laws by conducting extensive investigations of discrimination complaints from citizens to determine if said cases will continue to conciliations or a public hearing.  In addition, the Commission also provides trainings and information as strategies to prevent future discrimination from occurring in these different spaces.

A view of my morning commuter rail stop

The Commission has four office locations: Boston, New Bedford, Springfield, and Worcester.  At these offices, alleged complaints are organized into scopes of discrimination such as employment, housing, and public accommodations.  My position is an Employment Investigative Intake Intern working out of the Boston office.  This entails me waking up early and taking the commuter rail from the Brandeis Roberts stop in Waltham all the way to North Station in TD Garden in the middle of the city.  From there, I walk to the McCormack Building, right next to the Boston City Hall and the Old State House.  The Commission is just one of many agencies in the McCormack building, along with the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Higher Education, and many more.

My job as an Employment Investigative Intake Intern has two main areas of focus.  The first is to be an intake specialist.  For the function of the Commission to be effective, it needs to be made available to all people alleging discrimination, whether they have the means to afford attorney representation or not.  As such, pro se litigants, or people representing themselves, call the Commission to share their story of alleged discrimination in hopes of their experiences falling under the jurisdiction of the Commission to merit a neutral investigation by investigators to present the facts of their case.  If those facts present a case of probable cause where discrimination is present and within jurisdiction of the Commission, the case has the opportunity to proceed to conciliations, mediation, or a public hearing, all of which are steps closer to justice. 

My cubicle on the first day!

As an intake specialist, I am trained to receive those phone calls, hear the stories of the people alleging discrimination, and draft an official complaint of their narrative as a starting point to be inspected for jurisdiction, and potentially start an investigation.  These calls and drafting of the complaints allow me to talk to a range of people, and it is empowering to be participating in the process of providing neutral legal assistance for all—many of whom would otherwise have no way of reporting their experiences.  

The second part of my duties as an investigative intern is to do case management.  At the start of the internship, myself and my fellow interns were assigned a handful of cases for which we are responsible during our time at the Commission.  These responsibilities involve reading each case from front to back, including the stories of all parties involved in the alleged discrimination and every piece of evidence that they submit to the Commission.  For some of these cases, there can be hundreds of pages of exhibits and written explanations that must be sifted through, and it takes a significant amount of patience and focus to read through all of it and make sure that I have a grasp of what each document contributes to the case. 

Furthermore, I am also responsible for the outlining of each case, which entails—after reading each case’s materials in their entirety—summarizing and organizing all the information to make a judgment of investigative analysis.  The investigative analysis is almost like a preliminary assessment of if the investigation has revealed the facts of the case to be either a Lack of Probable Cause or Probable Cause.  This is by far the most exciting and interesting part of my position because it gives me the opportunity to be involved in the actual legal understanding and application of the facts of the case that will then actually be used in the next steps of writing a disposition to be used for an official judgment.  In addition to the drafting of an outline with investigative analysis, I also have the responsibility of drafting and sending out interrogatories, or additional questions to the parties involved in the alleged discrimination to fill in missing information that is necessary for coming to a finding in the case.

Working for the MCAD is teaching me a lot about the moving parts of legal cases and investigations, while also allowing me to be an active participant in providing investigative assistance combatting discrimination to all people, no matter their identities or access to legal counsel.  I look forward to learning more and seeing what else I can achieve in this position to promote equity and legal justice for all people.   

(1) My internship with Legal Outreach

My internship with Legal Outreach has undeniably put me out of my comfort zone. I moved to New York City, started my first 9-5 job, and was forced to learn the ins and outs of the moody office coffee maker. But more importantly, I was confronted with topics that I had never discussed before—the most prominent being the racial injustices of the education system. Legal Outreach is a non-profit educational organization that seeks to bridge educational gaps by providing underserved and underrepresented students from the NYC area with skills they are usually deprived of, but are necessary for future success. Legal Outreach provides students with opportunities to develop these skills via tutoring, test prep, and extracurricular opportunities such as a mock trial team.

Their best-known program is the Summer Law Institute, which I am working with this summer. The SLI is a 5-week program for rising ninth-grade students, focusing on criminal law and taught by law students. This program, which is incredibly selective, pushes students to see themselves as future lawyers and provides them with the skills they need to one day succeed in the legal field. There are six individual institutes within the SLI, with each one taking place at a different law school in NYC. Every week, the students take tests and submit essays, converse with guest speakers, visit law firms and courthouses, and compete in a cumulative mock trial competition at the end of the program. 

I chose the position as a Coordinating Intern for the SLI because I have developed a passion for non-profit legal organizations, stemming from my first legal internship with the Volunteer Lawyers Project. Most of the full-time employees of this organization are lawyers who have chosen to trade in their legal careers to be mentors and advocates for students that have dreams to become professionals, but have faced incredible obstacles in their education that prevent these dreams from coming true. 

As a Coordinating Intern for the Cardozo School of Law SLI, my main responsibilities are to assist the Legal Teaching Fellows with grading student essays and tests, along with preparing and teaching one academic skills workshop a week. These lessons vary from plagiarism and citations, to essay-writing and public speaking, and so on. Additionally, it is my responsibility to reach out to attorneys and judges to serve as guest speakers and field trip hosts for the program, and to schedule and organize their visits. 

This summer, I am going to support Legal Outreach and their mission by sharing the valuable information, tools, and skills that I have gained throughout my own education with the students. I want to be an outlet for students to describe the areas of education that they have been wrongfully deprived of, with the hopes that I can supplement these gaps. 

At Legal Outreach, progress is seeing the SLI students gain confidence in themselves and their abilities after the program. Progress is them deciding that their dream to be a lawyer is within reach, and dedicating themselves to achieving that dream.  

(1) The Next Step in my Criminal Justice Journey

Today marks a full month at my current internship at the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office! Before I get into my current activities as a summer intern, I owe it to the Legal Studies department to explain how I got here in the first place. As a Politics major on the Pre-Law track, I have fortunately been able to participate in multiple immersive learning opportunities in the past year – mostly thanks to the Legal Studies Department and Professor Rosalind Kabrhel, who graciously notified me of this internship opportunity at the beginning of the Spring semester. In the summer of 2021, my good friend and fellow Legal Studies buddy Maheeb Rabbani introduced me to the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. Throughout the year and into the summer, the BEJI team conducts one of many incredible programs, the Partakers Empowerment Program (PEP). PEP is a virtual 13-week series of educational workshops for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, facilitated by Brandeis staff, graduate, and undergraduate students. Workshops include Civic Engagement, Financial Literacy, Technology, Health and Wellness, and Education. 

Alongside BEJI, which is co-founded by Professor Kabrhel, I have gained further enrichment through the Legal Studies program’s experiential learning courses: the Legal Studies Practicum (LGLS 145a) and Legal Studies Internship and Seminar (LGLS 98a). These courses have allowed me to deepen my understanding of the criminal justice system with hands-on experiences including assisting Professor Aaron Bray in facilitating his course on Pre-Trial litigation (Street Litigators Academy) within the Nashua St. jail facility, as well as working as a legislative advocacy and research intern at Citizens for Juvenile Justice for their Raise the Age campaign.

This is to say that I owe it to the Legal Studies program’s unorthodox yet crucially impactful courses for preparing me for my current internship. At the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, I work under Antonia Soares Thompson in the Racial Justice Initiatives Unit. This is a new department that was created in response to the racial reckoning in 2020 that urged every institution to investigate the racial responses both within and beyond its offices. The department’s novelty does not reflect the critical Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work that has long been—and continues to be—conducted by those in the legal field. 

My first day at the office with Director of Racial Justice Initiatives Antonia Soares Thompson

As an intern, there are a number of projects that I work on. One of the long-term projects I am currently working on includes going through the prosecution case management database and analyzing demographic data and diversionary outcomes for juvenile court cases. In Massachusetts, once you turn 18, you are automatically prosecuted as an adult. Those aged 12-18 are charged under the jurisdiction of juvenile court, which is critically divergent from adult court notably for defendants’ ability to be diverted and for criminal record confidentiality. With diversion being key to a young person’s development and accountability, as opposed to being processed in the justice system, it is crucial to investigate who is granted diversion—and why certain demographic groups may be left behind. 

My attempt to justify this mess of a workspace. It’s called multitasking!                                             Image Credit:

Another project I am working on is revamping the Social Justice Roundtable curriculum that will pilot in the fall. The SJR is a traveling 4-6 week workshop for public schools around Massachusetts. The goal is to educate students on matters of social and racial justice; instilling self-confidence in their intersecting identities; and empowering young people to engage with emerging cultural and political discourse in an empathetic and nuanced manner. From the district court meetings that I have attended with superintendents, teachers, and police departments, it is clear that these young communities are disproportionately prone to bullying, discrimination, and violence that often lead to assaults or hate crimes—offenses that we have a vested interest in investigating as a prosecuting office. These meetings have allowed us to hear directly from the community and its stakeholders to gain a better understanding of school environments and the overall well-being of young people in Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has created a mental health crisis in young people and a less stable school environment for adolescents of color and LGBTQ+ youth. Hopefully, with the continuation of these workshops and my incorporation of social-emotional learning, we can foster empathy among these communities and kickstart a movement of healing and understanding on a local level. I am beyond delighted to be a part of such integral work that investigates crime and hate at their root causes, rather than prosecuting its symptoms. What we do not need is to contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline and over-prosecute young people by thinking of hate and violence as issues easily resolved via incarceration. Young people have the capacity to learn and change, only if we lead by example and provide them with opportunities to learn and practice empathy. I am overjoyed to see and be a part of this restorative work at the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and am excited to see what else is in store for me this summer.

(1) The Beginning

Act-Up is a grassroots international organization that advocates for HIV/AIDS prevention and other intersecting social justice struggles related to the epidemic (safe drug use, anti-sexual violence, etc).

I wanted to work with Act-Up for many reasons.  First, I took Prof. Vijayakumar’s course “HIV/AIDS, Society, and Politics” and found an interest in HIV/AIDS activism because it is so intersectional with women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.  I also have volunteered for harm reduction services as a high school student, many of which provided needle exchanges, and taking Prof. Vijayakumar’s course allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of the work I had previously done but was too young to understand, and how important the field of harm reduction is at large.  Second, I am a New York native who is also a theater kid.  Inevitably, I am very familiar with all of the performance art that came out of the 80-90s in New York City that centered on HIV/AIDS activism.

The chapter is comprised of members with a lot of experience in harm reduction work, specifically with people who use drugs.  There are also members in medical schools, nonprofit work, and fine art, which makes a group of adults well-versed in how one can advocate for human rights in many mediums.  

Act-Up Boston addresses a lot of social injustices as they intersect with HIV/AIDS activism.  Besides working towards reduce HIV/AIDS transmission, the Boston chapter of Act-Up does a lot of community education on safer drug use, unsafe drug use, and the houselessness crisis in Massachusetts.  This, inevitably, intersects with combating homophobia, racism, transphobia, etc. Strategies include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Rallies and protests
  • Live and virtual panel discussions addressing safer drug use, HIV/AIDS prevention, etc.
  • HIV/AIDS prevention via community education workshops
  • Narcan trainings
  • Creating art projects as a means of prevention

So far, I have been responsible for facilitating or note-taking during our weekly meetings.  I keep track of our action items (upcoming events and projects) for each meeting, along with taking on the multitude of small tasks that need to be completed (emailing, social media updates, checking in with members). I help design promotional fliers for our virtual panels in the Month of May and for Boston Pride events that Act-Up was involved in, and I help think of new events and activities for each month, along with spearheading them. 

I think my eagerness to incorporate more arts activism into Act-Up’s work will inspire the mission to continue to include the arts in their work, especially during community engagement activities as a form of processing emotions and seeking creative solutions as a collective.  Additionally, I am currently starting to outreach with other organizations to host community facilitation courses on safer sex and safer drug use, which are incredibly relevant to the present atrocities occurring in the Supreme Court in regards to reproductive rights.  

In addition to the impact my work will have, I think my personality has allowed me to bring more mindfulness into the organizing space.  Most of my fellow organizers are adults with a bunch of jobs, adult obligations, and life stressors that I am not experiencing yet.  Being the youngest member and being a very extroverted person, I’ve started to make a conscious effort to check in with everyone and create an environment where everyone is getting to know each other a little more each day.  

Change and progress look like a million different things.  Change looks like having difficult, tedious conversations with close friends and family or total strangers.  Change looks like listening to your colleagues/peers when they are discussing their expertise.  Progress looks like consistent public outreach and seeing 2-3 new members at each chapter meeting.  Progress looks like acknowledging your own implicit biases and harmful beliefs that you may have stuffed down, but now have the language to understand and correct.

(1) Exciting Summer in Women’s Health

This summer I am working as an intern for a women’s health startup called NNABI. NNABI a hormonal wellness company that is currently developing a holistic, natural supplement for women experiencing perimenopause, the lesser-known health stage prior to menopause. Perimenopause is incredibly common, with all women starting at the age of forty experiencing symptoms. Despite its prevalence, one survey shows that 73% of women are currently not treating their symptoms, instead choosing to “tough it out,” a view largely based in the stigma surrounding menopause.

NNABI aims to lower that percentage by raising awareness of this phase, both through helping women treat their symptoms naturally and through educating other groups about the overall importance of women’s health. I chose to work in this particular field because of my background in Health Science and Social Policy (HSSP), where I learned about many injustices that occur in the healthcare world. One of the most impactful is the gender data gap, or the disparities in research quantity and quality between medical issues that more commonly affect men, and issues that more commonly affect women. Research shows that healthcare solutions, like medications and their dosages, are often based in male physiology, which can lead to women experiencing adverse affects to medications.

NNABI, as well as other companies focusing on menopause, are dedicated to closing the gender data gap. One of my responsibilities this summer is to create a survey that the company will use to gain insight into how both women and men think of menopause. The main goal for the survey is to show that despite being extremely common, menopause is incredibly stigmatized. With NNABI, I am also working on ways to raise awareness of menopause among younger women. I have been researching possibilities of getting menopause to be in sexual education so that students of all genders will be informed later on in life.

My current project is to do audits of the category and of the audience. I am currently researching other menopause supplement companies and analyzing their formulas and claims. I am also studying women’s conversations on social media surrounding perimenopause, looking at potential customers’ biggest concerns and frustrations. These projects will ultimately be crucial for NNABI’s branding. Since the company is still new, there is work to be done in explaining exactly how this company is different from its competitors. The small steps of combing through competitor websites, completing their product quizzes, and viewing their social media are all ways of understanding the current market. Reading and watching real conversations between women about perimenopause are smaller steps towards revealing what gaps exist in women’s understanding of their symptoms and the solutions that are available to them. My observations from these two projects will be synthesized into a company reference sheet, which will help when deciding on branding choices like pricing and audience interactions.

I believe that the work I am doing this summer will be a small part in the overall fight to redefine women’s health in the United States and worldwide. Overall progress in this fight will be when issues like the gender data gap and menopausal stigma are minimized. NNABI is a company that is committed to changing the definition of women’s health by highlighting menopause as an issue that impacts everyone. In my research, I found this sentiment echoed in this quote: “…women’s health, in other words, contributes in a significant way to stronger, healthier societies.”

(1) Volunteer Lawyers Project

This summer I am interning with the Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), which is part of the Boston Bar Association. VLP is a nonprofit that provides legal assistance to low-income people living in the Boston area. I am excited to work in the field of legal aid because it is an arena in which real positive change is achieved. At VLP, I get to interact directly with clients in need and help provide them with services they desperately need. VLP is not only working towards an abstract, far away goal; they make real, tangible change in people’s lives every single day. Furthermore, I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have access to legal representation and advice regardless of their financial situation. Justice should not come with a price tag. Additionally, VLP’s work relates to my academic interests at Brandeis, where I study Politics and Legal Studies. At VLP, I can further my academic and occupational pursuits in a manner that helps people in my community.

I am working in VLP’s Housing Unit, which primarily aids people facing eviction. These clients face a massive uphill battle brought on by a number of injustices. The Boston area has a severe shortage of affordable housing and therefore, the clients VLP aids with their eviction cases often need to stay in their current unit because they are unlikely to find another one in their same area. Furthermore, landlords are often more likely to be able to afford an attorney than tenants, giving them a strong advantage in a legal dispute. More information about the issues faced by VLP’s clients can be seen from the screenshot below of a virtual training I completed.

As an intern at VLP, I have the opportunity to help rectify these injustices. My role in the Housing Unit will involve conducting intake interviews with clients to collect information about their housing predicament. This information is then passed on to an attorney who will do what they can to aid the client in their case. During the time when clients meet with attorneys—meetings VLP calls “clinics”—I will help attorneys draft legal documents pertinent to the client’s case. So far, I have only shadowed document drafting and intakes, but I am excited about the prospect of doing it myself.

Another facet of VLP’s Housing Unit is a program called Lawyer for the Day, which is run out of the MA Eastern Housing Court. This program trains and connects volunteer, non-VLP attorneys with clients in need of representation. I will be attending this program for the first time on July 5. I am excited about this opportunity because it will allow me to attend the courthouse in person. Most of my internship has taken place on Zoom. Although this can be convenient, I feel that I will be able to learn much more through in person experiences.

Overall, I am inspired  by VLP’s mission and practices and I am thrilled about the prospect of getting more involved with their work through hands-on experiences!

(1) What does social impact look like?

For many young people, the idea of creating positive change in the world can feel daunting. This goal seems bigger than oneself. We often ask ourselves, “How can a single individual create impact?” This is where Fulphil comes in. 

Fulphil is an ed-tech nonprofit striving to empower high school students to make an impact on their local communities, society, and the world through engaging in social entrepreneurship education and training. Driven by the mantra, “the people closest to the problems are closest to the solution,” Fulphil inspires every young person to start tackling the very issues happening within their communities. Fulphil aims to harvest the potential for the greatest innovation by unlocking the most dynamic minds in the community—the youth. Thus, it is crucial to provide equitable and equalizing education to youth in underserved communities and to equip them with the tools to break out of their personal economic barriers and dream, execute, and materialize innovative answers and visions to problems that affect them, their local communities and beyond.

Image Credit: Fulphil Team

Fulphil’s E-Lab brings online curriculum to teachers and students to continue leveraging experiential learning in times of distance-learning. Fulphil’s online curriculum covers topics across social entrepreneurship, sustainability, 21st century soft skills, diversity, equity, inclusion, financial literacy, design thinking, and mental health and wellness. Through fun and engaging content, ​Fulphil hopes to directly empower students with a social entrepreneurship education that will propel them to take on global citizen mindsets to be catalysts of change in their own communities. Social entrepreneurship is an excellent vehicle to catalyze individuals to be excellent changemakers and problem solvers, which is the mindset students need to succeed in their future careers.

Fulphil’s curriculum is co-created by high school and college students and iterated yearly by former students and current teachers to ensure that curriculum content is engaging, relevant, and includes up-to-date case studies and current events. The iterative curriculum process also allows students to contribute new content they want to see into the curriculum. Since its founding, Fulphil has served over 3000 students across the country.

At Fulphil, I manage the diversity, equity, and inclusion curriculum development team to develop and iterate DEI curriculum spanning examples in educational institutions, in the workplace, in social media and brand development, and STEM. I work with the leadership team to create fun curriculum content for Fulphil’s e-curriculum, and to create partnerships with teachers and schools across the country. Students graduate from Fulphil with the skills and mindset they need to be an effective and impactful changemaker in their communities.

Every student, teacher, and staff who comes across Fulphil learns how impact can come in a variety of forms. For us, it is crucial to understand that impact can be created through small-scale efforts, and one can start right where they are at. We inspire students to recognize that they too have the ability to make a difference in the world. Fulphil aspires that each student can take away a newfound understanding of what impact can look like. Because the secret is: everyone can create life-changing impact right where they are. 

(1) Opening the Book at the Harrison Public Library

I have always loved the library. I have loved to read for as long as I can remember, and for me the library is a natural extension of that. Libraries serve many purposes, acting not just as repositories of books but as centers of communities that foster a love of reading in people of all ages. Before the pandemic, I regularly volunteered at my local library, but I always wanted to play a larger role than simply shelving books. Working as an intern at the Harrison Public Library, I am able to play a role in organizing and running library events I never could have as a volunteer.

The Harrison Public Library serves many functions, as I mentioned. As with any library, it loans out books for the people of Harrison, and indeed anyone who has a library card in the Westchester Library System. The library also organizes numerous community events for people of all ages. This includes but is not limited to Q&A sessions with authors, art receptions, and various workshops covering topics ranging from painting to resume writing. It also provides numerous opportunities to aid people learning English as a second language, including conversational hours and a book club. For children specifically, the library hosts a number of events, especially during the summer. This includes cooperation with the 4-H STEM program and Westchester Battle of the Books.

My workspace at the Harrison Library, with BoB books.

For my part, these first few weeks have seen me largely assisting in the training of the Battle of the Books teams and researching into The Human Library. Once the school year ends for most children, I will be spending more time helping to supervise various library events, but for now this has meant a lot of time reading books and doing research.

Battle of the Books is a kind of trivia competition for children from grades four to twelve. Each library involved in the Westchester Library System organizes teams, who read five pre-selected books in preparation to the event. There are different selections of books for teams from grades 4-6  and for grades 7+, and the Harrison Library has one team for each grade range. The Battle itself is a trivia competition, where teams compete to answer questions about the books chosen. My part in all this is helping the Children’s Librarian to write practice questions specifically for the 7+ team, and to help run practice sessions for both teams.

Human Library is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to confronting prejudice by creating spaces of open dialogue. It does this by organizing “books” (volunteers who have faced discrimination and are willing to tell their story) to attend public events where they will have one-on-one discussions with “readers,” giving a brief synopsis of their lives and then engaging in an extended Q&A session. The library will not be able to hold an event until after I return to college, but I will be doing much of the research and helping to recruit for and advertise the event.

My presence here frees up the time of the librarians to pursue other projects. Given the time it would have taken to organize a Human Library event, I am unclear if the Harrison Library would have really been able to get it started without me providing extra manpower. Ultimately, the goal is to get kids excited about reading, and in the case of Human Library, to help people confront their prejudices. I do not think I will be volunteering here long enough to really see the fruits of my labors, but I hope I will help in accomplishing those goals.

(1) The Right to Immigration Institute: Providing Pro Bono Immigration Legal Services

This summer, I’m interning virtually (from my home in Reno, Nevada) with The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII), a non-profit organization based in Waltham, Massachusetts. TRII provides pro bono immigration legal services to non-citizens seeking citizenship, asylum, a green card, or a visa. TRII also provides humanitarian assistance in the form of advocating for clients in housing, employment, and school matters, and referring clients to organizations which specialize in rent assistance, access to warm clothes, and food. In order to reach those in need within the Waltham community, TRII is frequently involved in community outreach (tabling at various community events), popular education, and know-your-rights sessions.

I first learned about TRII at one of Brandeis’s volunteer events at the beginning of the year, where I met some of TRII’s student volunteers who introduced me to the organization. Before I knew it, I had begun a six-month intensive legal training offered by TRII, intended to train those who took it to become certified as Department of Justice Accredited Representatives. In addition to learning about U.S. immigration history, various types of immigration relief, filling out specific immigration forms, court etiquette, legal jargon, and the intimacies of client work, we were broken up into six teams to prepare for an immigration court mock trial to test our skills. About halfway through our training, I had the opportunity to begin working on cases with our executive director and attorneys, which I am continuing to do from home this summer having now completed the training.

At-home office!

My passion for social justice, particularly with regard to TRII, stems not only from my interest in immigration, but from my family’s history. On my mom’s side of the family, we are a family of immigrants; all of my great grandparents immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe to escape the pogroms in the late 1800s. For many like my great grandparents, the U.S. acts as a sanctuary from the persecution and violence in their home countries and provides protection, security, and agency. As someone who is passionate about politics and history, it is my conviction that we are a nation of immigrants, by immigrants, and for immigrants.

That said, while I strongly believe that the U.S. provides a sanctuary to those fleeing persecution, I have also observed that U.S. immigration law makes it incredibly difficult for them to do so. This, on top of the fact that many immigrants are unfamiliar with U.S. culture and customs, and do not speak the language, makes it incredibly difficult for them to get and maintain a job, put food on the table for their families, and adequately provide for their own healthcare. TRII works to guide clients through the immigration system while accounting for the humanitarian aid they need to survive in their new home. In addition to meeting with our clients weekly over months to thoughtfully build their applications, we also ensure they have a place to live in the community and are able to provide for themselves and their families. It is our job to help them navigate a complex and intimidating immigration system and ensure that they feel secure in their new community. It is for these very reasons that I so deeply enjoy working with TRII and providing the assistance we do.

Check out TRII’s LinkedIn and Facebook!

(1) Sparking social change through STEM education

This month, I started my summer internship at Science Clubs International, a nonprofit organization that aims to spark social change by expanding access to high-quality STEM education. Founded in 2016, SCI has the goal of supporting the growth and organization of Clubes de Ciencia (Science Clubs) internationally. This is a program that invites scientists, graduate students, and postdocs to share their stories of pursuing careers in science with high school and college students and to conduct a series of intensive, hands-on workshops on topics across multiple STEM fields. SCI currently has clubs in eight countries: Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Paraguay, Spain, and the U.S. They organized +600 clubs around the world, with +25000 hours of activities and +15000 students involved.

I realized I wanted to work with SCI when I participated in one of their clubs back in high school, so I know from first-hand experience the impact this initiative can have on young students by boosting their confidence and reassuring them that they belong in STEM. Additionally, during high school, I taught mathematics to young girls and adults, which helped me understand how STEM education is essential to thriving in today’s rapidly changing world, creating community-oriented citizens, and empowering changemakers.  As a Biology and Neuroscience double major, I know the importance of breaking barriers in STEM, and I’m eager to work with an NGO that perfectly aligns with my goal to further develop outreach for scientific educational opportunities, especially for Latin American students.

I’m currently working on the development a six-day online event that will happen in September with +300 students from different parts of the America Continent. The event will happen in three languages— Portuguese, Spanish, and English—and will host panels with scientists from around the world, workshops with specific themes, and presentations at the end where students will showcase what they learned. This will be the second edition of the event and we’re currently selecting the mentors that will coordinate each one of the workshops (clubs).

At SCI, I work on the technology committee and my main task is to supervise and improve the STEM educational online platform developed for running the program. This includes analyzing and testing the platform’s requirements, enhancing its performance, creating comprehensive guides to ease the platform use, facilitating the students’ engagement and participation during the event, giving technical support to students and other committees, directly talking to and helping Portuguese-speaking students navigate the event, and other duties as assigned. 

The work I’m responsible for this summer will contribute to the organization and success of the second international edition of the Science Clubs Event, therefore furthering SCI’s mission. I’m currently writing guides on how to sign in to the platform, and these guides will make it easier for students to apply for the program. Additionally, by translating the guides/platform to Portuguese, Spanish, and English, I’m helping to make the program more accessible to students. I’m excited to get to know the team of renowned scientists working side by side with me and learn from their experiences developing such an amazing program.

(1) Zealous Advocate, Zealous Community

As a second-generation Mexican-American, I have heard stories from family members about their journeys immigrating to the United States. This inspired me to delve into immigrant advocacy and learn about the American immigration system. I began pursuing this interest with the Right to Immigration Institute (TRII), an organization that seeks to provide legal aid to Greater Boston area immigrants. Throughout my work with TRII, I have learned about immigration processes and the history behind the system. After graduating from TRII’s intensive legal training program in Spring 2022, I realized that I wanted to experience working at a law firm to potentially pursue a career in immigration law.

My immigration background brought me to my current role as a legal intern with the Law Office of Saikon Gbehan. I was drawn here due to Attorney Gbehan’s dedication to being a “zealous advocate” for her clients, a Brandeisian principle of jurisprudence. From my interview with her, she relayed to me how she zealously advocates for clients, overwhelming judges with insurmountable evidence of eligibility for the clients in pursuit of various processes. The concept of a zealous advocate resonated with me, as I feel that it is the job of a lawyer to stand up for their client in the face of institutions that must attend to the needs of individuals in society. By implementing this legal style in immigration firms, it serves to challenge unjust institutions and center the client, which is a main goal for me.

In my role, I assist Attorney Gbehan primarily in immigration matters for her client, which includes but is not limited to: researching current immigration statutes and case law to incorporate in matters of asylum, family-based petitions, and adjustments of legal status; drafting research memos and contacting representatives of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to inform clients of their prospective immigration opportunities to the United States; and meeting with clients to gather supporting evidence for their case and work on their applications.

In my time so far, I have primarily worked on family-based immigration petitions for individuals who are receiving legal permanent resident (LPR) status—commonly known as a green card holder—via a relationship with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, through blood or marriage, for example. In addition to other forms, the primary application for this procedure is called the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.

I believe that knowledge is power, and I am intentional about informing clients of their options and why the law functions the way it does. By putting information back into the hands of clients, it gives them the power to have a greater role in determining the outcome of whatever immigration matter they are involved in. In my work at the firm, I hope to create a ripple effect in which knowledge is disseminated among immigrant communities. In this ripple effect, I would hope that it leads to a more systemic reformation and change of the current immigration system by putting power back into the backbone of American society.

(1) Pride Month with BAGLY

June was my first full month as a development intern with BAGLY Inc. BAGLY is an acronym that stands for “The Boston Alliance of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Youth.” BAGLY provides many services to members of the LGBTQ+ community, such as community events and temporary housing for homeless trans youth. This work is essential for underprivileged people of Boston, especially at a time when trans, abortion, and other rights are under attack.

I work as a development intern, which means I do mostly back end work. I have sent and created emails, created thank you letters, and sorted donor information in my first month as an intern. It is inspiring to see how many people support and donate to help the LGBTQ+ community in Boston.

Being a development intern has helped me prepare for my post-graduate career path in that I have had to delegate and be delegated tasks within projects. Working on these projects has taught me to also make sure to schedule my time with work, even if what I am doing does not need to be done for a while. It has also taught me to be able to work within a company, as it is my first real “office job.” I have learned to teach myself to navigate various programs such as Sales Force, which are used by many companies to manage their clients.

It has been amazing working at BAGLY during Pride month. Pride month is during June because the Stonewall Riot—which started due to police oppression of a well-known gay bar—occurred in June of 1969. This means that BAGLY has been supporting lots of Pride events such as Roxbury Pride Brunch.

I also attended a Pride event in Attleboro, MA to show my support. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it makes me very happy to see so much support for our community both within BAGLY and outside BAGLY. I have met many people within the LGBTQ+ community at BAGLY, which has been great for networking. I have gotten to know my manager Michael and the other interns Mary and Misty. It’s nice to know that I am accepted and can feel safe at this company because many of the employees are members of the LGBTQ+ community and its mission is explicitly pro-LGBTQ+. It is also nice to know that my own work is helping those who need it and getting funds to those who don’t have any.

Although most of my work has been remote, I still get the feeling I am part of a team at BAGLY because the cause we work for is worth working for. Through BAGLY, I can also meet corporate donors, which is amazing for networking with companies that support the LGBTQ+ causes, which may lead to more jobs after I graduate. My experience with BAGLY so far has been great and I hope to continue it for the rest of the summer.

(1) Interning at REACH: Bridging the Gap in Accessibility

This summer, I am excited to be interning at REACH. REACH is a local non-profit organization that supports domestic violence survivors by offering a variety of services and resources, as well as providing advocacy and prevention resources within the community. They work directly with survivors to assist them in their current situations and ensure they feel supported and heard. When researching summer internships, I was interested in working with a non-profit that supports disenfranchised and underserved members within communities. REACH supports all survivors of domestic violence regardless of their financial background, race, and sexual/ gender identity. I was immediately drawn to their work and mission because their philosophy is that any member within the communities they serve, even those who are marginalized, has access to their resources.

Domestic violence can impact anyone, no matter their social identity, but REACH’s definition of domestic abuse is when control and power are taken away from someone. REACH works to empower survivors by attempting to give them back their control and power. In every interaction, they trust that the survivor is the expert on their situation and allow them to make their own decisions. By offering a variety of services such as counseling, housing, and legal resources, they allow survivors to take control and leave unsafe or unhealthy situations if they wish. They also run workshops within different community groups (from faith groups to K-12 schools) to educate the community about what abuse is, how to recognize it, how to cultivate healthy relationships, and how to respond to abusive situations.

These mirrors are in the REACH waiting area, where many survivors wait before they meet with a REACH team member.

As an intern this summer, I will be working at the front desk, greeting survivors, answering the phone, and responding to anyone who seeks help on the online chat. The online chat is a place where survivors can ask for advice, emotional support, or seek resources. Additionally, I am responsible for small projects and data collection, such as updating manuals and collecting contact information for potential community partners. In all my interactions with survivors, whether it be through the phone, in person, or online chat, I am able to use REACH’s philosophy in trusting that survivors are the experts in their situation. Regardless of my own opinions or thoughts, I trust that survivors are making the best choices for them. Giving survivors their control back and empowering them can be a crucial step in ending the cycle that is domestic violence, and these small interactions can lead to major changes in someone’s life.

Domestic violence has been an issue for centuries, and unfortunately, will likely be around for a long time. Ideally, the change would be eradicating abuse as a whole, but change can also look like a changed social perspective regarding what abuse is and how it can be prevented. Through REACH’s work, more people in the community can recognize abuse and can feel empowered to seek help.

(1) The Greenfield Court Service Center and Discovering Injustices of the Court System

Greenfield District Court

This summer, I have the pleasure to be interning at the Court Service Center (CSC) in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The Greenfield CSC is located in the beautiful Greenfield District Court (pictured at left). People either come in person or contact the CSC remotely, and we provide pro bono assistance to people who do not have lawyers while they navigate the court system. I chose to work in this field because I wanted to gain real-life experience and knowledge about the justice system and to see how people in society are directly impacted by the court system. 

My workspace

Something I have noticed that comes up a lot in every space I have been present in so far is how complicated the court system is. The reason why people in the community come to us at the CSC is because they do not have a lawyer to help them figure out which forms to fill out, how to fill out those forms, or the possible options of what to do next. Starting out, many people do not know the processes of the court system and do not have the money to afford a lawyer. When someone has more money and resources, they typically have an easier time getting through their case. In our society, not everyone is fortunate enough to have their own lawyer and can be left in the dust, figuring things out for themselves.

The CSC addresses these injustices by being a free resource for legal information, referrals, pamphlets, guides and much more. Unfortunately, there can be many filing or publication fees, which under certain circumstances can be waived, but many people are unaware that there even is a fee waiver available. A second injustice that I have seen is for those who do not speak English very well. They have a more difficult time understanding what they need or could do and how to fill out paperwork correctly. A woman I work with speaks Spanish and English, and she told me how scared some people are just being in the court building and feeling lost about what to do, especially for someone who does not speak English or is an immigrant.

Notes on old guides

One of my main tasks is doing initial intakes to figure out what services a litigant is in need of or interested in. Once they meet with one of my supervisors, I may be asked to help litigants fill out forms correctly or contact them for more information if the person is contacting us remotely. Another one of my tasks includes updating guides and pamphlets to make sure they are accurate and written in a way that is easy to understand. Lastly, I attend meetings in the community and in other areas of the Greenfield District Court to learn about upcoming events or to gain knowledge on other topics relating to the court system. 

In a larger, direct way, I will be helping by just being another person to guide people through the complicated court system. This lightens up the work for my supervisors so they are able to help more people. There are so many people who interact with the court service center every day, so the more hands on deck, the quicker litigants get what they need. In a smaller sense, keeping guides up to date and written in plain terms so everyone can understand them is very important because they can be essential resources.


From a basic standpoint, making people more aware that the CSC exists and is an important resource will be a first step towards progress. Having pamphlets, forms, and guides in different languages would make the CSC more accessible for non-native English speakers. Through the community meetings, I have seen how many community organizations have come together to try and find or workshop possible solutions to problems in the community. The court system has been very concrete for a while, but the biggest changes that could be made are finding ways to make the system easier to navigate for someone who does not have a lawyer. I am excited to see what I will learn and experience the rest of this summer in the complicated court system.

(1) Assuaging the Education Gap in New Bedford, MA

Our Sisters’ School (OSS) is an independent, tuition-free, non-sectarian middle school that educates and inspires economically disadvantaged girls from the New Bedford, MA area. OSS offers the perfect intersection between education and my Health: Science, Society and Policy major. OSS provides unique experiences to students whose economic status disables them from obtaining certain opportunities. Through providing a rigorous and engaging environment at no costs to families, they start to assuage the equity gaps within education. OSS reaches beyond the academic scope. Through discussions with current students, I learned that they feel grateful for their teachers’ commitment to their learning and the small knit community that fosters meaningful relationships. They relish nautical learning at the Community Boating Center where they learn how to sail, and their fitness class where they are challenged mentally and physically. In other conversations with some students from the 8th grade graduating class, they shared that they will miss attending classes, community meetings and lunch in their outdoor classroom. 

OSS shares my commitment to improving my greater community, and while I have an established relationship with them as an alumna, I am now gaining professional experience under a team of passionate advocates and educators. My duties thus far have included: 

  • Supporting current students in their academic and social lives 
  • Helping the Summer Program Director design learning experiences, prep materials, organize and set up lessons for the day, and instruct and support students
  • Supporting the Creative Suite: STEAM and Arts program.
  • Supporting health teachers and the health curriculum by attending classes, working as a mentor, and observing and interacting with students
  • Working in the Graduate Support Program to help support, communicate with, and share resources with OSS graduates as they transition into high school, college and beyond 
  • Setting up and facilitating the annual Festival of Art and Achievements 
  • Assisting the weeklong “Circus-Up” Summer Program
8th grade gallery (Anyis Mendes)

My favorite experience so far was assisting their Festival of Arts and Achievement, where students showcased over 1200 pieces of artwork. The distinctive Creative Suite Program at OSS allows for different modes of art where students can fully express themselves. The night was filled with artwork, but also showcased different groups such as African Dance, Step, Guitar and Percussion instruments. The 8th grade class even orchestrated their own personal galleries that included their work from all four years. This event was open to the greater community and truly demonstrated the commitment of each OSS student. 

5th Grade African Dance Performance

Moving forward, I will support their summer programming throughout June, July and August. OSS is a private institution, so they rely heavily on outside donations and volunteer work. My help as an intern allows them to contribute their money to their programming, which directly helps their current and future students. They produce change every day as they inspire and educate the future leaders of the world. Coming up, I am honored and excited to attend a conference in Boston on June 27 hosted by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools. The goal of the event is to gather educators, researchers, advocates, authors, and practitioners from around the world to share ideas about “how best to prepare and empower girls to be ethical, globally minded change-makers who lead with courage, competence, and empathy.” At this event, OSS’ Creativity Director, Tobey Eugenio, and a few student will be presenting their outdoor classroom.  I will be able to not only attend this conference as a product of an all-girls school, but be inspired as a future change-maker as well. 

Art Work – all grades

(1) Creating Windows Into Black Reproductive Health

A Bond of Sisterhood, 2019, by Jules Arthur – Property of Resilient Sisterhood

This summer will undoubtedly be memorable! I’ve always aspired to be an advocate, a source of empowerment, and an innovator, and during my internship at the Resilient Sisterhood Project (RSP), I’ve been flooded with sisterly mentorships and advice on how I can become that leader. Prior to interning at RSP, the women of my family shared similar experiences of maternal complications, which helped me survive and prepare for Black womanhood and a professional career as a health administrator. Nevertheless, it is good to have examples of resilience, healing, and grieving to create spaces for young Black individuals like myself to understand our interconnected identities. These anecdotes and real-life experiences can be used to formulate policies, resolutions, and cultural competency in the medical field, which is why I am grateful to be a part of RSP, a Boston-based reproductive non-profit! 

RSP was founded in 2012 by Lilly Marcelin, who has dedicated her career to furthering reproductive health education and access. Their mission is to educate and empower women of African descent regarding common but rarely discussed diseases of the reproductive system that disproportionately affect them. RSP approaches these diseases and associated issues through a cultural and social justice lens. They believe that poor knowledge of reproductive health is primarily related to health, racial, and socioeconomic disparities. These diseases include: uterine fibroids, endometriosis, infertility, and polycystic ovarian syndrome, as well as breast, cervical, ovarian, and uterine cancers. Their slogan, “Creating windows into reproductive health,” exemplifies their work with Black women and young adults to address health and medical inequities based on deeply-rooted racial discrimination, oppressive cultural/gender norms, environmental/food injustice, and other social determinants of health that perpetuate the silence, secrecy, and inaction surrounding these diseases. 

Sisterly Resistance, 2019, by Jules Arthur – Property of Resilient Sisterhood 

The Resilient Sisterhood Project has a Youth Advisory Leadership Council, which is made up of young professional women of color from Boston and Washington, D.C. who work with RSP staff to raise awareness about reproductive health concerns that affect women of color. RSP is building safe spaces for young Black women and extending the notion of early access to reproductive health care. Furthermore, RSP has many strategies for addressing injustice, such as hosting multiple webinars and events about reproductive health conditions such as “The Harm of Medical Racism as Experienced by Black Women Physicians,” “Exploring the Intersection of COVID19,” and more.

As a summer intern, I am conducting a research project on preconception health awareness of Black women ages 21 to 40. Preconception refers to the health of one during their reproductive years, when they are able to produce a child. It focuses on taking measures to protect the health of a baby they may have in the future. It also entails understanding how certain health issues and risk factors may affect a pregnancy and an unborn child. Some foods and lifestyle choices—even certain natural hair and makeup products—can harm your baby even before he or she is conceived. Myself and the RSP team will be distributing a survey on preconception health in the coming weeks. To end my internship, I will create a resource guide and podcast regarding preconception health for Black women, which will both be published on the RSP website.

Overall, I have learned a lot in a short period of time. RSP has taught me about the professionalism that comes with working in a nonprofit, particularly in public health. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn these skills early on, such as how to write and design a research project, as well as how to create a health-based resources guide for Black women. I am excited to see the end product of this project on the RSP website! Although my project is only a small part of what needs to be done, it all contributes to improving reproductive health access and equity, which serves to the greater RSP vision. 

Introducing the 2022 WOW Fellows

Monica Alfaro– Social Justice Award

Priscilla Appenteng– Social Justice Award

Ligia Azevedo– Social Justice Award

Audri Bhowmick– Universal Award

Jovana Bijelic– Social Justice Award

Jenna Blocher– Social Justice Award

Lilian Bresler– Social Justice Award

Xavier Butler– Social Justice Award

Bonnie Chen– Social Justice Award

Emanuel Cohen– Politics/Public Service Award

Ori Cohen– Universal Award

Erickson Comas Hernandez– Social Justice Award

Jennifer Crystal– Theater, Writing, &  Creative Arts Award

Lia Dankowicz– Jewish Service Award

Esther Daube-Valois– Women’s Rights & Education Award

Ava Faria– Social Justice Award

Eric Feigen– Social Justice Award

Joshua Gans– Universal Award

Peyton Gillespie– Social Justice Award

Joshua Gladstone– Social Justice Award

Deb Haimowitz– Social Justice Award

Anna Hirsh– Social Justice Award

Jasmine Huang Fu– Social Justice Award

Eli Issokson– Arts Award

Gabriela Katz– Social Justice Award

Norah Khadraoui– Senior/Immigrant Community Service Award

Casey Lindemann– Social Justice Award

Allissa Masse– Social Justice Award

Alaysia Penso– Arts Award

Lucca Raabe– Social Justice Award

Juliana Rivera– Universal Award

Ilannysh Rodriguez– Social Work Award

Catherine Romero– Social Justice Award

Anthony Ruiz– Social Justice Award

Natalie Sadek– Social Justice Award

Amy Schroder– Social Justice Award

Arielle Schutt– Universal Award

Jessica Schwartzman– Politics/Public Service Award

Micah Seigel– Social Justice Award

Forrest Shimazu– Climate Change Award

Ruby Siegel– Social Justice Award

Krupa Sourirajan– Jewish Service Award

Hannah Spear– Universal Award

Jessica Umanoff– Social Justice Award

Dee Whyte– Social Justice Award