I had an incredibly meaningful and informative summer thanks to my internship experience, and I already miss all of the colleagues and guests that I worked with during my time at St. Francis House. Because I learned so much from and so enjoyed my work this summer, I am now planning to continue work in the social service arena by applying to graduate schools of social work. At the beginning of the summer I was hoping that my internship experience would help focus my career search, and, sure enough, I was exposed to a career that I wish to pursue in the future. The work I completed in my final weeks solidified this career interest after I interacted with more guests and shadowed social workers.
In addition to gaining exposure to services that St. Francis House offers that I had not observed earlier in the summer, the second half of my internship involved a great deal of interesting meetings and off-site trips. The meetings that I attended with my supervisor included meeting a representative for Spare Change News (part of the Cambridge Homeless Empowerment Project), a professor from Northeastern, a woman who teaches people to make their own shoes, and individuals in the Massachusetts Treatment Center. These experiences taught me a great deal about networking and collaboration in a professional setting. The meetings also expanded my understanding of homelessness and the challenges that people who are homeless face, and my knowledge about the criminal justice system was also deepened by the direct, unique experience of meeting with individuals at the Massachusetts Treatment Center.
I also helped organize a free legal clinic for criminal cases, and setting up appointments for guests taught me a great deal about how the criminal justice system both furthers and prevents what I conceptualize as “justice.” My views of social justice were challenged this summer in that I now see people less as “criminals” and “victims” and more as simply individuals. Working with people who had been incarcerated demonstrated for me how complex criminal actions are, and I began to examine the ways the media and dominant discourse often present issues of criminality.
Meeting with homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals taught me about social justice in a way that built upon my learning at Brandeis but was much fuller due to the face-to-face and “real world” experiences I had interacting with these issues. In the fall I will be taking several courses that discuss social justice issues, issues including poverty, evidence in the criminal justice system, and alternative methods of handling conflict. I think that taking these courses will be a perfect way for me to continue my education on these issues, and I imagine that these courses will be more meaningful after my experiences this summer. If I end up in graduate school for social work, I will also be able to learn much more about these subjects both inside and outside of the classroom, and I look forward to expanding my knowledge on topics of criminal justice, homelessness, poverty, and the distribution of social services.
For anyone interested in a similar internship, I would suggest taking advantage of all that a host organization has to offer. St. Francis House in particular is a large non-profit with a variety of services and programs occurring simultaneously, and it was very helpful to me to learn about and observe the different services offered within the building. I gained a much more complete view of homelessness after spending time on different floors of the building. Meetings, both inside and outside of the building, taught me a great deal about how non-profits are run and how people in different organizations connect to best serve people. Therefore, taking advantage of these meetings and hearing the perspectives of many different people, whether in the lunchroom or outside of the building, is very enlightening. Interacting with guests was the part of my experience that was the most moving and educational for me, and I suggest that future interns take time to get to know the wide variety of people that enter the St. Francis House building. I had an incredible internship experience and look forward to continued work in the social service sector in the future.
– Sarah Schneider ’13