Enter the dog days of summer. Enter the hours spent bobbing and weaving around the Massachusetts State House, enter meetings with organizational endorsers of a campaign to increase state-funding for an important welfare program, enter beautiful walks through Cambridge and Somerville. Enter Sandman (*que Mariano Rivera’s entrance into the ballgame*). The midway point of my internship at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless is here.
When I decided that I wanted to continue interning at Mass Coalition over the summer (I am fortunate enough to have been with the organization since this past January) I had a few goals in mind. I wanted to learn how to manage a successful policy campaign. Check. I wanted to learn what it takes to be a good community organizer. Check. I wanted to learn what life is like spending extended amounts of time at the State House. Check. Crossing these aspirations off my to-do list was incredibly rewarding. But there’s more.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge the benefits I’ve reaped from living in Waltham over the summer. Specifically, interning so close to campus enabled quite a few valuable opportunities to present themselves. I won the opportunity to meet with Waltham’s State Representative Tom Stanley with the help of my mentor, Brandeis’ Director of Community Service Lucas Malo. Through this meeting I was introduced to a few consulting operatives who help manage local Massachusetts elections, and it was they who offered me an opportunity in the fall to do what I love and help create a database to identify the characteristics of the average voter that supports their clients. It is an exciting project and I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of the opportunity to work on it had I not been interning in proximity to Brandeis. Other benefits to remaining on campus over the summer include: taking professors out to lunch, seeking out Waltham’s hidden gems, teasing out ideas for a senior thesis with advisors, receiving ample support from Hiatt for truly anything that I need their assistance with, and taking the time to walk all the way from Waltham to Cambridge along the Charles River Reservoir Trail – something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the time to explore during the semester. Seeking experiences in other parts of the world and the country are valuable and important, but, simply put, life ain’t too shabby in Waltham over the summer. I mean it.
Aside from the traveling across the State that I pursue in my spare time, I do quite a bit for my internship too. Presently I’m visiting organizations that have endorsed the Coalition’s campaign to increase funding for EAEDC, a Massachusetts program that supports elders, children, and those who are disabled and are unable to afford their living expenses. Most organizations that have endorsed our campaign include nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state. I visited two of these organizations a few weeks ago; Lynn Economic Opportunity (LEO) serves those who experience poverty in Lynn, and Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services provides stable living for the elderly. The purposes of these meetings are to educate organizations on exactly what the legislation would accomplish and how organizations can contribute to our campaign. Typically endorsers are willing to distribute postcards to be signed by colleagues and clients addressed to legislators, write a letter to the editor in support of the campaign, sign and distribute online convio-action letters, and in some cases, are willing to help the Coalition collect testimony to show legislators why what we are working on is so important.
Heading into these meetings, truth be told, I wasn’t confident about leading them. I wasn’t certain of what to talk about and when. I reached out to one of my supervisors and she agreed that I shadow her on one of these meetings prior to me leading a few on my own. The plan worked to perfection. As I watched my supervisor lead one meeting I figured out how to do the same; what stories to tell, what actions we want to focus on, and ironing out the details to follow up and ensure that progress be made. I walked away from this experience with an understanding of just how important it is to ask for help when needed. It certainly paid off.
The more time that I’ve spent at Mass Coalition the more I have discovered areas in which the organization could improve upon its resources available for the talented community organizers it employs. At the beginning of the summer I set a new goal for myself: create a new tool that will allow Mass Coalition staff to reach out to and solicit more participants for its policy campaigns. That tool came in the form of a database that I created which includes university-affiliated clubs in Massachusetts that address topics of homelessness, poverty, and justice. Not only will it allow the Coalition to garner more support for its campaigns and programs in the future, but it will hopefully inspire the leaders from these clubs to join forces and address homelessness together more cohesively. I look forward to speaking with my colleagues in the future about how they were able to use this tool to strengthen the policy campaigns that they work so hard on.
It’s been a rewarding summer so far. I’ve learned a lot about community organizing and how I see myself using the skills and experiences that I’ve gained throughout this internship in a professional setting. I love politics. Good politics requires good community organizing. I will, no doubt, use what I’ve learned to pursue a career in political consulting. Until that pursuit begins in full, however, feel free to reach out to me and ask me about my experience interning at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. Until next time. – Max Parish
PS. One of my supervisors from Mass Coalition, Lois Ferraresso, will definitely be reading this blog. How do I know? Because it is her job to read every subject matter on the internet that includes “Mass Coalition” in its content. With this knowledge in mind, I want to thank you, Lois, for being a helpful supervisor but even more so a wonderful friend. I am so grateful to have you in the office to make me laugh, talk college hoops, and keep me awake when the air conditioner is set too high and my fan isn’t enough. Looking forward to creating more memories with you.
Max Parish, ’16