Post 2: Gardens for Health In the Field

Throughout my first two years at Brandeis, I have been able to take a number of classes where I have learned what a good NGO should look like. In global perspectives of health with Professor Noble, I studied different health intervention cases, analyzing the most successful and worst forms of aid. In introduction to anthropology and introduction to globalization, I learned about the importance of transparency and cultural relativism.  Almost everything I have learned about social justice and the structure of an NGO is taken in stride by Gardens for Health International.

However, I believe there are two key lessons that the organization epitomizes. First, the importance of utilizing local leadership in order to remain as culturally sensitive as possible. Gardens for Health is made up of a 90% Rwandan staff. Although founded by an American woman, the organization hires purely Rwandan health leaders to teach their programs in the districts in which they operate. I believe that by using local staff to teach communities about sanitation and nutrition, their programs are more successful than a variety of other NGOs. This is because participants are more likely to trust a teacher if they can identify with them. This trust is one of the most important aspects of a successful intervention. One of the ways I was able to witness the success of GHI’s model was by attending the graduation of an Antenatal Care program at one of the health centers. Pregnant women, husbands, health center staff, and trainers all attended for an incredibly special ceremony and celebration. Seeing the mothers to be and the bond that the trainers had created with them was such an amazing thing to witness.

GHI, ANC Program Graduation: Musanze, Rwanda

Additionally, transparency within an organization is incredibly important, and Gardens for Health, from what I have seen so far, is incredibly willing to ask their staff for advice on how to remedy some of the most pressing problems within the organization. I was able to see this communication during an all-staff meeting last week. Staff were trucked in from all districts, and the founder, now current board chair, flew in from the U.S. At the meeting, we discussed the hard year GHI has had including budget cuts and layoffs, in addition to other challenges. However, each team was given a chance to share something positive they learned from this year and something they feel the organization as a whole needs to work on. Additionally, the board announced that the current country director had been promoted to executive director. Including all members of the organization in this announcement and asking for their thoughts over the past fiscal year speaks to the type of organization GHI is.

Gardens for Health International All Staff Meeting 2018

The work Gardens for Health International does falls perfectly in line with the definition of social justice. Through their trainings, they are increasing the equitability of Rwandans who would not otherwise have access to proper nutrition education. By looking at what I have learned about NGOs, social justice, and the mission of Gardens for Health, I am able to place the work I am doing in the broader fight against malnutrition and unequal access to health education.

– Eli Wasserman ’20

A Dream That Finally Come True

After being involved in undergraduate research for almost three years, working as a Japanese peer tutor for 2 years, completing a clinical research project abroad in Denmark, and browsing and researching different websites for hundred and thousand hours, I am finally here: Center of iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) at Kyoto University in Japan.

Outside View Of the 1st Building of CiRA

I arrived in Kyoto on June 8th, the Friday before the week I officially started my work at CiRA. My mentor, Peter Gee, offered to pick me up on the platform of the Kyoto Railway Station even though it was past 9pm right before the weekend. He walked me to the hostel that I booked for a temporary stay before I moved to the long-term apartment the next morning. He was so nice that he even bought me a bottle of iced tea and some snacks in case that I was thirsty or hungry. I was so grateful for his help that allowed me to settle in a new city very quickly and smoothly.

On Monday morning, Peter came to the place that I will be staying at for the next 2-months and we walked to CiRA together. Everything that I have seen in documentaries and on TV numerous times were all right in front of my eyes. Peter quickly showed me around the building and introduced me to the other lab members in the Hotta Lab. Everyone I met on the first day, including those from on the labs, was very nice and gave me a warm welcome. Indeed, I was very nervous going to work on that day. I was stressed about meeting and remembering a lot of new people while getting oriented in the lab in order to start working as soon as possible. With lots of new information and knowledge, that day definitely turned out to be intensive and heavy-loaded for me, but I was glad that I was able to start the experiments and to work with actual cell lines that we will need data from on the first day.

I felt extremely supported and trusted being the youngest student researcher in the lab. Peter carefully went through the possible projects and experiments I could do in these two months and asked for my thoughts and opinions on the first day. He said that the lab hopes for me to have an experience where I learn the knowledge and techniques that will be the most useful and beneficial for me. We decided that I will be working on not only the main focus of the lab,  the induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD)  patients, but also on differentiating cortical neurons, which is closely related to my neuroscience major, previous research experience, and the research that I would like to pursue in the future.

One of the Exits of the Closest Station Next to CiRAMany People Working at CiRA or Other Facilities of Kyoto U as well as Students of KU Get to School from Here Every Morning

Starting from the second day, the remaining 4 days of the first week were all packed with experiments, but I was much more relaxed compared to the first day. Surprisingly, while I still felt like I was dreaming, I adapted to life in Kyoto and in the Hotta Lab quickly.  Although I received extensive mentorship and support from the lab members throughout the week, I was also given significant freedom to think and work independently just like an experienced researcher. It was a great research, academic and cultural environment where everybody is open for discussions and different opinions. I could hear active conversations not only in Japanese but also in English as a significant amount of people working at CiRA came from all over the world.

Along with Dr. Akitsu Hotta, the principle investigator in charge of the lab, the lab held a welcome party for me on Wednesday night. It was a casual pizza night where we got the chance to learn about each other a lot outside of work。

Part of the Drinks and Pizzas from the Welcome PartyIt has only been a week since I started my work at CiRA, but I have learned so much academically and experienced many new things in daily life as well.

– Xiou Wang

Post 1: My first two weeks at Integrationswerkstatt in Germany

Integrationswerkstatt is an integration initiative in the small town of Unkel located on the northwestern side of Germany.  In 2015 Germany decided to open its borders to refugees and asylum seekers. Thousands of refugees from all across Africa, Afghanistan and Syria since then have made Germany their new home.

When I first arrived I was invited to an Iftar (breaking the fast meal) with a Syrian family that has been living in this town for almost two and a half years. The young couple, a former lawyer and an artist, talked in length about what their life in Syria was like. When I asked about how their life, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, has changed since they settled in this small German town, the husband responded:

“We lack a sense of community here. In Syria we could stay up all night eating and chatting on the balcony with neighbors and passersby, here everyone goes to bed at 8pm. And so we had to train our kids to also sleep at eight so they don’t disturb the neighbors. We feel safe here but when Germany opened its borders, it was not solely motivated by humanitarian sentiment. In fact, Germany is not a young country and needs young families and young children just as much as they need it. And so when we arrived, they made sure to disperse the families all around the suburbs of big cities in these beautiful but sleepy small villages and towns. The idea is to revive these areas socially and economically.”

That is when I realized how important a role organizations like Integrationswerkstatt play. It is not enough that refugees have access to language and integration courses provided by the government, because most don’t get the opportunity to practice these skills outside of the classroom. Integrationswerkstatt provides a platform for refugees to navigate German society and get to know their neighbors. The non-profit organization plans social get-togethers, one-on-one meetings and other community events to break boundaries between refugees and  locals. This is in hope that the future German society can grow as one united with no divides socially or economically. Integrationswerkstatt wants to insure that refugees are not at a disadvantage and ease the transition for both the locals and the newcomers.

My first couple of weeks I dedicated to getting to know some of the refugee families and some of the locals on a personal level. I have been learning and hearing from them about the day-to-day struggles and frustrations and it has been an honor. This has helped me navigate the dynamics in this small town and explore the many ways I can assist while interning for Integrationswerkstatt.

The first event I was part of here was the kinderfest in Unkel, which is a festival for children organized by Integrationswerkstatt and several other partners. It was great to witness children from all backgrounds play together, make art and enjoy the nature where the festival took place. It was also a great opportunity for the families to come together and interact in a relaxed non-politicized or tense environment.

Seeing the success of this event, I am even more determined to continue this work. Although the work can be a bit slow and sometimes frustrating, due to bureaucracy and the many persuasions we must make to put on an event, it is rewarding and important. There are so many ways to break stereotypes and create lifelong friendships. We have started with chatting  and sharing stories over coffee twice a month, repairing bicycles together, making music, and bringing kids together for fun activities.

– Siwar Mansour

Post 1: Doulas Crucial in Ending Racial Disparities in Maternal Health

Hi everyone!

My name is Marleny and I am a rising junior and STEM Posse Scholar at Brandeis University. This summer I am an intern and co-coordinator at Ancient Song Doula Services, a Brooklyn, NY-based and low-cost doula service.

As a reproductive justice organization, our goal is to serve families of color and low-income families who do not have access to doula care. Through a collective of several services and resources for parents of color and low- income families, we ultimately aim to bridge racial disparities in maternal health by addressing racial and implicit bias.

In New York City, the maternal mortality rate, for example, is 12 times greater for Black women than for white women. Given that systematic oppression is a social determinant of the high Black infant and maternal mortality rate, shifting tasks and responsibilities down the hierarchy of the healthcare system are both necessary and ideal for the survival of marginalized communities. For these reasons, the most crucial aspect to birth equity is free and low-cost doulas services such as Ancient Song Doula Services.

Given that there have been recent opportunities for reform within maternal health as New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo proposes a state doula pilot program that includes Medicaid reimbursement as well as a Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee, Ancient Song also centers their work around political reform and advocacy for the marginalized communities it serves. Prioritizing the reimbursement of community-based and culturally-relevant doula services through Medicaid is key to bridging racial disparities in maternal health, so we have been gearing most of our attention towards this lately.

A lot of my responsibilities, as of now, include community outreach, writing testimonies to present to the city council, planning events to gain momentum for our #ourtimeisnow campaign for birth equity, and creating promotional material to share with the community and with other local and national organizations.

Additionally, while we continue advocacy at such a crucial time, I am responsible for coordinating our third annual Decolonizing Birth conference called “Decolonizing Birth: Addressing The Criminalization of Black and Brown People within the Healthcare System,” which is being held September 22-23. This involves looking for sponsors, keynote speakers, and reviewing proposals for prospective workshops. My internship requires a high level of responsibility and I am really enjoying my time at Ancient Song for the second year.

The work I am doing is super important and falls in line with my career goals. By the end of the summer, I hope to have improved my ability to manage my day to day tasks and become more familiar with the policies that have been and will be put in place to address the disparities in maternal health. I am looking forward to sharing my journey at Ancient Song with you all this summer and I am looking forward to what is to come!

Post 1: Exploring Consumer Interests at NCL

My name is Caleigh Bartash. As the Brandeis fellow at the historic D.C.-based advocacy group National Consumers League, I help promote the interests of consumers in areas such as safety, health care and personal finances. My organization defends consumers with a broad approach that includes special emphasis on fraud, child labor, medical literacy and development of life skills for teenagers.

My colleague at the League’s fraud center, for example, talks to consumers every day and teaches them how to recognize and avoid scams. I was surprised to learn scam artists have technology so advanced they can disguise their numbers to look like a reputable organization. Innovation improves our lives for the most part, but it also makes scams much harder to detect. I would recommend anyone worried about scams to check out to learn how to stay safe.

NCL’s Child Labor Coalition branch alerts consumers about suspect working conditions and and lobbies for stronger protection.

A slightly cluttered, but cozy workspace shared with two other interns.
I share the front section of desks with two awesome fellow interns. I love to hang out and learn from them.

A program known as Script Your Future teaches people how to navigate the healthcare system, properly administer legal medicine and avoid illicit drugs.

The LifeSmarts scholarship program uses a trivia-style competition to teach young people about consumer issues and make it fun for them at the same time. Each week the other interns and I write at least twenty-five questions for the competition covering topics from personal finance to technology.  The middle and high school students eligible to take part get a chance to win thousands of dollars in scholarships, but anyone can take a shot at their daily quizzes.

My LifeSmarts questions have tackled food labeling, safety, nutrition, and dietary supplements. The MedlinePlus site is a great resource for understanding those topics. The information is fascinating, but I am more impressed with the kids who participate in the competition. I practiced answering some “easy” questions, but it was hard. It was quite the learning experience!

When I am not tabulating data or creating trivia questions, I engage in extensive research. I like to use government sources such as the EPA and USDA websites. I spent the last week drafting a policy memo about food labeling after learning more from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service database. I was surprised that food date labels are not nationally standardized. It turns out dates on packaging are guesses and usually refer to freshness. People who judge safety based on so-called “expiration dates” often discard products early and contribute to food waste. The canned goods you throw out after the printed date passed likely could last much longer.

A flyer for a GWU sports betting panel that I attended with NCL.
I accompanied the executive director of NCL, the public policy manager, and two other interns to a panel discussion about the legalization of sports betting.

Other highlights of my internship include writing a newsletter on how to reduce dairy waste and learning how to shape laws to protect consumers from the dangers of gambling.

I can help NCL promote consumer rights by providing a fresh perspective on the issues that affect young people. My LifeSmarts questions will help inspire kids to be independent, while the information I gather from my research will contribute to NCL’s legacy of supporting people who need it most.

By the end of my internship, I hope to have sharpened my writing skills so I can communicate more effectively. I want to have learned how to best influence the government to make laws fit basic standards of decency. Most of all, I hope to have helped consumers lead a better life.

– Caleigh Bartash

Post 1: Moving Portland in a Greener Direction

My name is Mahala Lahvis, and I’m a rising sophomore studying International and Global Studies, Environmental Studies, and French at Brandeis. This summer, I have the incredible opportunity to be an intern at Environment Oregon, a non-profit organization in Portland, Oregon that focuses on standing up for clean air, clean water, and open spaces.

There are many social injustices that affect our local community and entire state that the people at Environment Oregon and our sister organization OSPIRG (Oregon State Public Interest Research Group) work to combat everyday. Goals that we are currently working towards include banning plastic bags statewide, completely removing lead from drinking water in the Portland Public School District, banning bee-killing pesticides nationwide, and many others. The goal I am working towards is getting Oregon’s main public transportation organization, TriMet, to transition to a fully-electric bus fleet.

I have learned a remarkable amount of information about global climate change from listening in on the first meeting of the new Joint Interim Committee on Carbon Reduction, meeting with representatives and other environmental groups, and doing research on my own. From the meetings and hearings I have listened in on and participated in, I have also gained some of the most valuable knowledge that I didn’t necessarily expect that has forced me to see these issues from different perspectives. For example, I have learned where the resistance exists for anyone who is working towards constructing a more sustainable world. I have learned how money plays a large role and can create resistance when considering transitions to more sustainable practices. I have also listened to politicians discuss their hesitation or even opposition to commit to be more sustainable when it is not in the best interest of their constituents.

I have had the opportunity to meet with the General Manager of TriMet and others who are able to influence the future of the city to learn what my job will be to have a voice in this process. I have learned the impact of public support and the importance of spreading awareness to give people who really care about issues – in this case decreasing diesel pollution in Oregon – a chance to speak up.

Businesses that sign-on to our “bus-line business” coalition letter will frequently put a sign up in their window (So far, 45 businesses along bus routes have signed-on!)
Here are some community members who are “100% for a 100% electric bus fleet” in Portland #ChargeAheadTriMet

My tasks for this summer mostly surround forms of public outreach. I have been reaching out to business owners to sign our “bus-line business” coalition letter, contacting neighborhood associations to help raise support within smaller communities, writing Letters to the Editor for local magazines and newspapers, planning community events, talking to individuals to sign-on to our petition and taking pictures with our sign and attending events, and meetings to learn more about my role as a public educator.

By summer’s end, my goal is clear: to get TriMet to commit to a plan to stop purchasing diesel buses by 2020 and eventually transition to a fully electric bus fleet. I will be raising as much public support as I can before the fall (when TriMet decides where to allocate their funds), and my job is to show TriMet that the City of Portland is ready for this transition.

Here is more reading material if you want to look more into the specifics of the campaign!

Post 1: Three Weeks into BridgeYear

This summer, I am interning at BridgeYear, a nonprofit startup. BridgeYear was founded two years ago to change the way high school graduates approach college and careers. The organization focuses on broadening and showcasing options beyond a traditional four-year college to lower-income high school graduates in Houston.

BridgeYear focuses on three main issues:
First, it addresses the expectation that students should know which career to go into, without having any prior exposure.
Secondly, BridgeYear aims to alleviate the issue of “summer melt,” in which students who plan on attending community college after high school, end up dropping school due to lack of support and direction.
Lastly, it highlights the employment gap in high-growth jobs, which could provide higher  wages and a better option for some students. 

BridgeYear addresses each of these issues through Career Test Drives (CTDs), advising, and pathway mapping. CTDs are mobile fairs that are set up in high schools, in which each student can “try on” a different career and experience what the work is like. This provides students a tangible essence of whether a career is right for them, and exposes them to options they may not have considered before. Interested students are then paired with an advisor, who helps them evaluate their next steps in terms of community college or employment, and guides them through the process.

Each intern is responsible for advising students, running CTDs, and working on their own summer projects. My tasks mainly focus on communications and marketing. I am writing the impact report, sending the board of directors biweekly updates, creating the newsletter, redesigning the website, and developing a social media strategy. This will help spread awareness about the mission, strengthen and refine the brand, and maintain a dialogue with the board, donors, students, parents, and all stakeholders involved. This leads to growing presence and credibility for the organization, which should lead to  increased donations and involvement.

I am very excited about my work, and can see numerous opportunities for growth and development. Since this is a startup, I am able to take initiative on multiple projects, during meetings, and make decisions to develop my leadership abilities. There is also opportunity to collaborate on different projects, expanding one’s expertise and skills. I hope to bolster my project management and critical thinking through my work, as I need to handle multiple projects at once. In addition, planning, implementing, and testing a strategy for the first time will build my analytical and evaluative skills.

Advising students has been highly insightful, as I am able to learn about the purpose and mission of the organization, while directly influencing its final customers. Presenting at CTD fairs is also extremely rewarding, as you are able to see the excitement and curiosity on students’ faces when they succeed at a career task for the first time. This has improved my interpersonal and presentation skills greatly, and offers a great complement to the work I do for the organization internally.

– Aninditaa Agarwal

Post 1: Kicking Off My Second Summer at the Hartford Public Defender’s Office!

Hi! My name is Olivia and I am a rising senior majoring in Psychology. This summer I am interning at the Hartford Public Defender’s office located in the Connecticut Superior Court of Hartford, Connecticut. The Division of Public Defender Services is a state-run agency that works to ensure that indigent persons charged with a criminal offense have access to quality legal counsel in the event that they are unable to afford to hire a private attorney.

The entrance outside of the courthouse where I work

Here in Connecticut, the criminal courts are divided into two parts: Judicial Districts (JDs) and Geographical Areas (GAs). There are 13 JDs and 20 GAs in the state. Hartford has both a JD and a GA, ours is known as GA #14. Cases are sent to either the JD or GA based on their severity and the level of charges a person is facing. Misdemeanors and lower level felonies are heard in the GA while higher level felonies are heard in JD.


As an intern, I am often the first point of contact for many of the clients we serve. Every morning, myself, along with the other interns in the office, go down into the courthouse lockup to interview everyone who has been arrested the night before and inquire if they want to apply for a public defender. Afterward, we put together all the files needed for their arraignments. An arraignment is a person’s first appearance before the court and it usually involves an argument related to that person’s bond. In addition to overseeing this aspect of our office’s work, I participate in investigative trips into the community, write up record reviews for social workers, and shadow attorneys. This is my second summer interning here, and because of that, I am able to work more closely with many of the people in the office and be more thoroughly involved with cases.

My view from my usual seat inside one of the courtrooms

I believe the work that I and the other interns do is important for helping our clients to feel supported in a time where many of them may feel they have no voice and are likely experiencing a myriad of difficult emotions. I hope that through working even more closely with the lawyers and staff this summer, I am able to learn more about important communication tactics I can use in my future law career to ensure my clients feel as though they have agency throughout their case. Additionally, my academic goal for this summer is to examine more closely how psychology and mental health intersect with the legal world. By strengthening my existing connections with the office social workers, I hope to gain more exposure to this aspect of legal defense.

I look forward to updating more about the always interesting events that take place in and out of the courtroom, as well as discussing the complex issues that relate to criminal law. I am so excited to be back in Hartford for the summer and back in this office that I love so much! Stay tuned!

– Olivia Kalsner Kershen ’19

Post 1: Nonviolence International

Hi everyone! My name is Zosia Busé, and I am a rising junior at Brandeis. This summer, I am working for Nonviolence International (NI), a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C. The D.C. office is considered the headquarters of the organization, but they consider themselves “a decentralized network” so there are small satellite offices all over the world. There is also an office in New York City that works directly with the United Nations on disarmament, as NI is a non-governmental organization in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. At its core, Nonviolence International is an organization dedicated to the principles and practices of nonviolence and nonviolent action. What is nonviolence and nonviolent action, you may ask? Check out this link to learn more!

NI’s initiatives manifests in a variety of ways. The beauty of NI’s decentralized nature is that NI supports coexistence efforts in conflict-ridden areas all over the world. In the few weeks that I’ve been here, I’ve learned so much about the different aspects of the conflict resolution process, and how principles apply to real life scenarios. NI supports nonviolent action programs in countries such as North/South Korea, Ukraine, Thailand, and Palestine/Israel.  On a grand scale, Nonviolence International seeks to address the vast injustices of war and conflict. But as we all know, there are a variety of injustices that occur within the context of war and violence, such as poverty and human rights violations.

Protesting outside of Senator Mitch McConnell’s office!

This summer, I am serving as the lead intern for the Palestinian projects, which I could not be more excited about (especially in light of current events). In this capacity, I have started working on research about the application of nonviolent action and mediation, but I will also be working as a liaison and as programmatic support for nonprofit organizations such as the Holy Land Trust, Center for Jewish Nonviolence, #FreedomFlotilla, and many more. This link will give you an indication of some of the cool stuff I get to work on. (This page will lead you to more links to learn more about all the different groups!) Many of these projects have different tasks that come up daily, mostly related to research, updating social media, editing websites, and administrative assignments.

Additionally, NI tries to support any active organizing efforts in D.C. For the interns, that means heading out to protests, teach-ins, demonstrations, or anything that comes up! On my third day on the job, we went to the Russell State Building with Reverend Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign, protesting “The War Economy: Militarism and the Proliferation of Gun Violence.” We ended the rally at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office by dropping white carnations to represent lives lost to violence.

I hope that my work in supporting NI’s projects in Palestine will help to create more awareness for the entire situation on both sides, and hopefully work towards humanizing the victims of the violence. I know I won’t solve the conflict from D.C. in a few short months, but I hope my role will work towards the ultimate goal of coexistence between Palestine and Israel.

Looking forward to the rest of the summer!
-Zosia Busé

Post 1: First Week At The ACLU of Utah

I was extremely anxious before beginning my internship at the Utah affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Although I had been learning a lot about the court system and legislative argumentation in legal studies courses at Brandeis, my undergraduate level of education made me feel insecure in a work environment with graduate students and legal professionals. However, my nerves faded away the moment I met the welcoming staff and interns. Everyone greeted me with a warm smile and open arms to the conference room where I joined the rest of the interns to work on our respective projects. I soon sat down with my supervisor Leah Farrell to discuss her expectations for the rest of the summer. Unlike internships that force their interns to fetch coffee and stay in the background, the ACLU of Utah urges its interns to find a social justice project that sparks their passion and to pursue as far as they can. 

In general, the ACLU of Utah follows the three-part strategy of public education, litigation, and lobbying at the state and national level to protect the constitutional rights and freedoms of everyone living or visiting Utah. Racial justice, immigrant rights, the criminal justice system, protection of the First Amendment, reproductive freedoms, and equality is a short list of all of the topics this organization covers.   

Recently, the ACLU of Utah celebrated its 60th anniversary and I was lucky enough to be a part of the festivities. Throughout the evening, student activists received scholarships for their advocacy work. The photo above is of the delicious birthday cake!   

Already in my first week, I am researching attempts to both remove and protect gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in Utah public high schools. Historically, the ACLU of Utah fought to establish the acceptance of GSA in the state’s public schools. By partnering with motivated students, the ACLU strives to diminish the taboo behind sexuality discussions and enforce the Equal Access Act, a federal law that compels funded secondary schools to give equal access to all extracurricular student clubs. GSAs operate just like any other school-based club or activity, from mock trial to Future Business Leaders of America, except that GSAs pursue the unique mission to create a safe space for students to discuss their own sexuality. By learning more about the legal and political restrictions that make it difficult to establish these clubs, I only become more passionate about this issue. Throughout the process, I have been learning how Utah laws govern the creation of student clubs and how differing interpretations of district policies can either inhibit or encourage a space for a GSA. Moreover, I have improved upon my research and organizational skills while trying to understand this complex problem.

 As I look forward to the rest of my time at the ACLU of Utah, I hope to gain further insights into how this small and scrappy organization uses the tools of litigation and social action to hold powerful institutions accountable for their actions. I’m excited to forge connections with the professionals around me who have dedicated their careers to civil rights advocacy.    

Image of ACLU of Utah logo in celebration of its 60th anniversary.

Post 1: Exploring Consumer Interests at National Consumers League

My name is Caleigh Bartash. As the Brandeis fellow at the historic DC-based advocacy group National Consumers League, I help promote the interests of consumers in areas such as safety, health care and personal finances. My organization defends consumers with a broad approach that includes special emphasis on fraud, child labor, medical literacy and development of life skills for teenagers.

My colleague at the League’s fraud center, for example, talks to consumers every day and teaches them how to recognize and avoid scams. I was surprised to learn scam artists have technology so advanced they can disguise their numbers to look like a reputable organization. Innovation improves our lives for the most part, but it also makes scams much harder to detect. I would recommend anyone worried about scams to check out to learn how to stay safe.

NCL’s Child Labor Coalition branch alerts consumers about suspect working conditions and and lobbies for stronger protection. And a program known as Script Your Future teaches people how to navigate the health-care system, properly administer legal medicine and avoid illicit drugs.

The LifeSmarts scholarship program uses a trivia-style competition to teach young people about consumer issues and make it fun for them at the same time. Each week the other interns and I write at least 25 questions for the competition covering topics from personal finance to technology.  The middle and high school students eligible to take part get a chance to win thousands of dollars in scholarships, but anyone can take a shot at their daily quizzes.

My LifeSmarts questions have tackled food labeling, safety, nutrition, and dietary supplements. The MedlinePlus site is a great resource for understanding those topics. The information is fascinating, but I am more impressed with the kids who participate in the competition. I practiced answering some “easy” questions, but it was hard. It was quite the learning experience!

When I am not tabulating data or creating trivia questions, I engage in extensive research. I like to use government sources such as the EPA and USDA websites. I spent the last week drafting a policy memo about food labeling after learning more from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service database. I was surprised that food date labels are not nationally standardized. It turns out dates on packaging are guesses and usually refer to freshness. People who judge safety based on so-called “expiration dates” often discard products early and contribute to  food waste. The canned goods you throw out after the printed date passed likely could last much longer.

Other highlights of my internship include writing a newsletter on how to reduce dairy waste and learning how to shape laws to protect consumers from the dangers of gambling. 

I can help NCL promote consumer rights by providing a fresh perspective on the issues that affect young people. My LifeSmarts questions will help inspire kids to be independent, while the information I gather from my research will contribute to NCL’s legacy of supporting people who need it most.

By the end of my internship I hope to have sharpened my writing skills so I can communicate more effectively. I want to have learned how to best influence the government to make laws fit basic standards of decency. Most of all, I hope to have helped consumers lead a better life. 

Above: I accompanied the executive director of NCL, the public policy manager, and two other interns to a panel discussion about the legalization of sports betting.

– Caleigh Bartash

Post 1: Suits, Bills, and Endless Phone Calls

Hi everyone! My name is Sage and I am spending my summer interning on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. with Waltham’s very own Congresswoman, Katherine Clark. If you don’t know anything about Congresswoman Clark (or KC as we call her around the office), here are a few notable points about her and her time in Congress so far:

  1. She was the member that led the sit in on the House floor back in 2016 in response to gun violence
  2. She led a boycott on President Trump’s inauguration
  3. She continues to be a champion for women, the LGBTQ+ community, veterans, and more

While working on the Hill and being able to commute past the Capitol on a daily has its perks, there is definitely a lot more to a Hill internship than the fancy suites and building access.

People keep telling me how it must be a great or horrible time to be working on the Hill because it is so eventful, and everyone, no matter who you are, has an opinion about it. Despite some of the things happening in our country, I can truly see the work that is being done to combat them in my office. Just in my first week, I was given the opportunity to write a bill memo on legislation that has the potential to increase compliance with colorectal cancer screenings and decrease costs. As someone studying health policy, I felt lucky to have been able to research and argue in support of this legislation, and I am looking forward to seeing what becomes of it. Let me tell you, C-SPAN has never been so interesting.

A very relevant topic has been immigration and family separation at the border. I have been speaking to constituents all week about both what they believe and are asking for, and what Congresswoman Clark has been doing to combat what is happening:

I am proud to work for a woman who understands the cruelty happening at our border, and I am looking forward to seeing the work she plans to do in response.

Besides speaking with constituents and writing bill memos, some of my other work includes writing bill update letters, doing projects for the staffers, delivering things and collecting signatures to/from offices. There are four total interns in the office and we work together to manage our daily tasks logging every message from all mediums from MA district 5 constituents.

We also, as an office, went to the Congressional Softball Game on Wednesday 6/20/18 where we supported KC and other members competing against the media before the rain started!

Overall, I believe it is my work, along with the other interns, that keep the connection strong between KC’s office here in D.C. and her relationship to her constituents. We are the go-tos when people want to make a comment, reach out to a staffer, have a question, want a tour, etc. I am incredibly excited for my upcoming weeks, and while week one was exhausting I know there is more to learn.

I hope to build a relationship with the staffer that focuses on health and continue to pursue relevant projects. I also hope to continue to be more informed about the policy being developed for the nation, literally in my workplace. Most importantly, I hope I am never not in awe of the incredible Capitol building that I have the privilege to walk through every day.

-Sage Rosenthal ‘19

Post 1: CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute

This summer I am interning at the CUNY School of Public Health Urban Food Policy Institute. The Institute, located in upper Manhattan, works to ensure food equity throughout Manhattan’s and other borough’s most disadvantaged districts. Many of these districts we work with, for example Harlem and the Bronx, do not have access to healthy and fresh foods that can literally save their lives. Through the work done at the Institute, individuals all over New York City are gaining access to healthy and sustainable food instead of the fast and cheap food the predominates in this neighborhood.

One source of inequality comes from health. Certain demographics have access to healthy and whole foods while others rely on fast foods and processed foods to complete their diet. This stems from price, proximity to fresh food and time it takes to make healthy meals. The Urban Food Policy Institute aims to eradicate these food desserts and make healthy options not only preferable but easy. This ultimately leads to a decrease in the prevailing diseases plaguing these communities such as diabetes and heart disease. Creating equality in diet ultimately improves the health of everyone and saves lives and money.

My role as intern at this organization encompasses many projects. As the only undergraduate intern, I am among many public health graduate students. My first week, I used excel to analyze hundreds of surveys assessing the efficacy and results of urban farms in housing developments in upper Manhattan. After analyzing the data, I made graphs and charts to be used in a journal publication on this project. This data and the graphs I made are going to be used in an article for a public health journal. It is nice to see work of mine get sued in a meaningful way. In the weeks since then, I have assisted in research projects on the needs of food retailers in the Harlem area of Manhattan and how a training program by the Institute can best train teenagers to work in the health food industry. I am also working on a database outlining food policies throughout New York City in order to streamline the process of enacting change in the food industry.

The work I am doing this summer is helping to bring healthy and wholesome foods to areas that do not have access to the nutrition they need. Many communities only have unhealthy and packaged foods that harm their longevity. America spends more money on healthcare than other countries but it sees poorer results. This is because we do not feed our communities in a sustainable way. Additionally, by use processed foods, we harm the environment through shipping and processing energy expenditures. Often all that someone needs to begin eating a balanced diet is help knowing what that means. At the institute we engage citizens in a dialogue to ensure that their health does not decline as a result of their unhealthy habits. Ultimately, this relieves neighborhoods of epidemics of non-communicable diet-related diseases that cost money to treat and end lives too early.

The institute:

Post 1: First Week at Gardens For Health International


My internship this summer is in Kigali, Rwanda with the local NGO Gardens for Health International (GHI). The organization is known throughout the region for its work in health centers, teaching families about nutrition, sanitation, and best agricultural practices. I have been eagerly waiting to start this internship since I received the job offer in March.

Kigali skyline

The mission of the organization is to eliminate chronic malnutrition in Rwanda. Even though more than 80 percent of Rwandans are involved in subsistence agriculture, 38 percent are chronically malnourished. This speaks to the lack of education in rural communities surrounding balanced meals, untreated water, and exclusive breastfeeding. Gardens for Health International has multiple programs to aid in this fight against chronic malnutrition. Their health center program is in 19 different districts throughout Rwanda and centers around teaching families what a nutritious meal is and how to grow it at home. At the end of the program, each family that graduates is given a kitchen garden kit that includes seeds, livestock, and a variety of other tools to get them started. Additionally, GHI runs an Antenatal Care Program (ANC) in which they teach pregnant women in their first and second trimester about what to eat and how to care for a child in their first two years of life.

During my time here, I will be assisting in a number of projects. As a part of the monitoring and evaluations team, I will be gathering health statistics from past GHI surveys and compiling them into a data repository. Additionally, I have multiple projects with the communications team including weekly digest emails, case study interviews with families, and a presentation on how to increase social media traction. Lastly, I will be doing graphic design for a variety of projects and documents. By aiding in the creation of a data repository, I am helping GHI move towards their goal of having a data dashboard in which all their most important information can be accessed with ease. Through my work with communications, I am helping GHI remain active with their supporters and donors–a very important task for any NGO.

My hope for this summer is to gain valuable field experience in both public health and in what it is like to work in an office space with a variety of cultural barriers. GHI’s staff is 90 percent Rwandan, which bodes well for them as a localized and trustworthy NGO. However, it makes it hard for me to talk to a lot of the people I am interacting with on a daily basis as my Kinyarwanda is…minimal. I find that most of my interactions happen during our farm lunches, as the organization provides an hour each day to enjoy a delicious home-cooked lunch made by the “kitchen mamas.” I am also able to bond with other staff during the 45-minute drive to the office from Kigali in the back of a pickup truck.

Farm Lunch: Matoke (Green Banana), Beans, Salad, and Cassava leave sauce

Ultimately, the experience of being in Rwanda itself has been incredible so far and I can’t wait for the rest of my time here to be just as exciting and transformative.

– Eli Wasserman ’20

Post 1: WELCOME! خوش آمدی

IRC Logo

Hello everyone! My name is Maya London and I’m a rising senior studying HSSP and Biology with interests in public health, healthcare access in vulnerable populations, shared family health behaviors, and the patient-provider relationship. To learn more about the needs of medically complex and vulnerable populations, I chose to intern with IRC Sacramento in the Intensive Case Management program.

IRC is an international humanitarian organization that responds to humanitarian crises worldwide and serves as a refugee resettlement organization within the United States. Their motto is “From harm to home.” The domestic branch provides holistic resettlement services to assist refugees in their transition to American life by picking them up from the airport and then helping them register for healthcare and English language classes, find a home and become oriented to American culture.

While the initial resettlement period required by the government is only 90 days, IRC has recognized that there are some clients with disabilities, complex medical issues, or other vulnerabilities who need more assistance navigating social systems to become self-sufficient. My program in the Sacramento office exists in addition to the initial resettlement program and enrolls clients for up to 12 additional months. Our services include coordinating medical and mental health appointments and social services, accompanying clients to appointments and, most importantly, assisting our clients in achieving their goals and becoming self-sufficient.

So far, I have learned to schedule client’s medical appointments, interpreters, and transportation services, as well as advocate for clients during medical encounters. Additionally, I have helped clients read through social services paperwork, as well as coaching them in their communications with doctors and other medical staff.

Some takeaways from my first few weeks have been the need for change in U.S. medical, insurance, and social services systems to make them more accessible for non-English speaking clients. Most of the refugees in Sacramento are SIV (Special Immigration Visa) holders from Afghanistan and speak limited if any English, in addition to some combination of Dari (the language in this blog post’s title), Pashto, Farsi or Urdu, so navigating mechanized phone menus with the only additional language option being Spanish is next to impossible. Yesterday, it took me three tries to get through to an operator using the automated menu, and when I told them my client was non-English speaking and that going through the menu system would be difficult for them, they told me to simply write down the series of numbers the client would need to click to enter into the system.

My clients are also clients of socials services, insurance companies, and schools in this area and their needs must be met in the same way as any other client. This summer, I am excited to learn more about the barriers faced by my clients and advocate for change in these systems. I hope to be able to bring the experiences and knowledge from the “patient” side to my career as a family physician and have a better understanding of the barriers faced by my patients, and how I can best support them in their health journey.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are my personal views and not those of IRC or the Sacramento office.

Post 1: Be the change, The Center Houston

Howdy! My name is Lesbia Espinal and my summer internship is at The Center Foundation (Houston, TX).

The Center is a not-for-profit United Way agency that promotes the pursuit of choice, growth, and personal independence for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Since 1950, The Center has served its community through innovative programs such as day rehabilitation, residential services, and vocational training.

The state of Texas is one of the worst places for people with disabilities to live. Some adults that are disabled do not qualify for Medicaid. The Center provides these Texas residents with the help they are lacking. The Center’s hopes to teach and address the lack of funding the disable community in Houston and state of Texas are nor receiving. Also, when it comes to the work force The Center provides their clients with skills that can help them earn their own pay.

” Donzell is gentleman who has been a client at The Center for two decades! Since 1998, Donzell R. has participated in several of the Center’s programs. He currently participates in the Employment Service program, where he learns work skills while helping to complete orders like assembling kits and packing boxes. Outside of The Center, Donzell loves to spend quality time with family and help with chores around the house.”

Clients at The Center are given a choice and ability to learn a skill. The Center holds annual fundraisers and multiple volunteering events during the year to raise awareness. All funding go to programs they offer such as: spin cycle class for their clients, residential living, trips and much more.

As a marketing intern I am responsible for writing press releases that are been read by clients, employees and donors. I am also in charge of writing an internal news letters that allows employees from different departments to be aware of what events are going on. This helps to have information in one place thus making it easier to reach a larger audience (more employees).

I also conduct interviews of clients and employees which help populate the Center’s social media. Being a young college student in such a large organization is a plus, because it helps me think on my feet and contribute with new technological solutions on how to fundraise.

My work at the Center will help reach a younger audience to raise awareness amounts other communities not only Texas. The Center believes in freedom of choice for their clients and new ways of improvident and becoming a better person and as an intern I am able to communicate these ideas.

Through the summer, I hope to learn more about not-for-profit organizations and also work closely with the marketing team as the Center will experience a location change. The relocation will bring potential changes such as logo and new strategies to keep the same mission. I am more than excited to be part of this change and even after my internship is over see the Center blossom. Based on the work and experiences I had in a not-for-profit organization I can strongly say that I see myself working for an organization that advocates change such as the Center.

-Lesbia Espinal ’20

Post 1: Interning at Interlock Media

interlock mediaInterlock Media is an organization that creates documentaries about environmental and social justice issues. Currently, we have 4 projects that are works in progress. These projects include an animation for a doctor that works to eventually prescribe medicine via phone call or text. This was also described as being called tele-medicine. Another project known as Expass, is guided towards making documentaries of early environmental expeditions around Asia, Africa, and other places around the globe. The source material of these documentaries come from diaries and photos made by those whom took part in the expeditions. Another project is known as the Fuller film. This film views the lives of the children who undertook the Metco program. The Metco program was catered towards providing education to children of minorities. The last is about a pod cast made to address the possible corruption in certain nursing practices.

As a production Assistant, I am tasked with completing any tasks that are ask of me. More specifically, what I have done so far is this: move desks, chairs, AC units, audio speakers, locate wires for basic computer tech, clean coolers, computers, dishes, chairs, resupply a water fountain, decorate rooms for meetings, record voice overs, review scripts, search for images that relate to the documentary at hand, take photos of my colleges, edit photos, assist video editors, pick up donations from nearby businesses, call businesses to request donations, drive board members to meetings, and so on.

I will continue by trying my best to further complete any task that comes my way. I feel that these general tasks are actually helping a lot. By the end of this summer, as my interests are photography and film, I hope to gain more experience with photography and film.

Post 1: Building Paths with BridgeYear


Hello everyone! Considering this is my first post, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Allan Zelaya Mata, and I am a rising senior at Brandeis University studying Chemistry and Environmental Studies. For this summer, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the intern team at the non-profit organization by the name of BridgeYear. Now, I should mention that BridgeYear is a fairly new, yet tremendously impactful, organization located at the heart of Houston, Texas. Yes, Houston does have the Space Center and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, but it also has an overwhelming amount of opportunity youth.

This group of youth are usually people between 16 and 24 years old who are out of school and currently not working. BridgeYear’s mission is to engage this group with career exploration opportunities though hands-on experiences with high-paying, high-growth careers. BridgeYear sets itself apart from different career readiness programs in that it doesn’t promote the typical 4-year college/university route. BridgeYear provides high school students and recent high school graduates with clear pathways to local community colleges and vocational training programs. In order to start this organization, the founders had to reflect back on their years as college counselors; in doing so, they realized how the 2-year college education pathway was perceived as less prestigious than the 4-year college route. In response, BridgeYear truly seeks to encourage students to confidently pursue their goals, no matter what they might be.

By now you might be wondering, what does a Chemistry and Environmental Studies double major do at such an organization? Well first things first, BridgeYear consist of three main programs, Career Test Drives (CTDs), pathway mapping, and ongoing advising. My role at BridgeYear is closely related to the CTD’s, as well as, ongoing advising. However, my job as an intern is unlike anything I had expected it would be like.

Team building activity at Crazy Cat

Since BridgeYear is a start-up organization, there are a lot of moving parts, and I mean a lot. This translates to very different and unique work days. There’s been times during this past three weeks when I’ve spent most of the day outside of the office going to meetings with my bosses. It’s worth it to mention that getting to see how the founders of an organization present themselves and run their meetings is quite a unique experience.

Besides going to meetings and participating in team bonding activities, I am responsible for creating pre/post curriculum for the Career Test Drives. I have been tasked with finding ways of preparing students for the hands-on career-testing experience of the CTDs and ensure they learn something about themselves in the process. I am also responsible for creating user friendly college enrollment guides for the BridgeYear advisors to use when talking to their students.

In looking at what the rest of the summer will be like, I can’t say I know exactly what I will experience. A start-up is heavily reliant on adaptability and progress, so all I know is that I have to be ready for big things. After all, it’s not every day I get to hold a check for $26,000!

BridgeYear board members and interns receiving an extremely generous donation.

Allan Zelaya Mata ’19

Post 1: The American Jewish World Service

My name is Melissa Frank and I am a rising sophomore at Brandeis University. I am an Economics major and a Legal Studies minor and this summer I am lucky to work for the human rights non-profit,the AJWS.  AJWS is an organization that works in 19 different countries, helping grassroots organizations fight for the rights they need. Depending on the region, my organization works with a multitude of different social injustices.

Through my time as a finance intern, I have seen funding and action for sexual rights, children’s rights, environmental action, LGBT+ rights, and women rights movements around the world.  The majority of what I do is within accounts payable and grant management. I review money that people have spent on projects and ensure that all of it was spent on project-related activities and that everything is coded correctly. If the coding was incorrect the books as the organization would be imbalanced and money would be used from the wrong funds. Many of the funds at the organization are restricted, meaning that they can only be used for certain things and if the funds were not used for those specific things, and the donors knew, they would cease funding the projects. Therefore, it is imperative to the organization that the accounts are correct. Without the finance department, projects and action cannot happen. Organizations need money to function and that money must be correctly accounted for or else the organization gets into trouble and, therefore, cannot perform its duties as a human rights supporter.

By summer’s end I hope to gain a larger understanding of the ins and outs of an NGO and how it supports each of the department’s actions through the nonprofit and how those actions spread to the world. These first few weeks at AJWS have been great and I have already learned so much. I have met many of the different department heads and they have taught me a lot about their departments and all the interns had a lunch with the president of  AJWS where we were lucky enough to ask him questions and learn about his life and what led him to his position at the AJWS. Through these experiences I have been able to see how much each department feeds off of the others and how they are all interconnected. I have also been able to learn how many different people chose to enter the non-profit sector, which I find most interesting because some of the paths have been direct while other circuitous.

If anyone would like to learn more about the company’s growth over the last 30 years and the work we do around the world, visit the website!

– Melissa Frank

Post 1: My first week at Community Psychiatry PRIDE

PsychiatryPRIDE logo

Hi! My name is Bingyu Xu and I am a rising senior at Brandeis double majoring in Psychology and Economics. This summer, I am completing an internship at Community Psychiatry PRIDE as a research assistant. Based out of Massachusetts General Hospital under the Division of Public and Community Psychiatry, Community Psychiatry Program for Research in Implementation and Dissemination of Evidence-based Treatments (PRIDE) aims to reduce the disproportionate mental health burden in resource-constricted communities. Community Psychiatry PRIDE has built strong partnership with community-based providers across Massachusetts to close up the gap between science and practice in the field of clinical psychology. Research projects of Community Psychiatry PRIDE focus on effective delivery of evidence-based treatment for mental health disorder that are culturally relevant and responsive to the unique challenges of the community.

One of the projects that I mainly work on is Implementing evidence-based life skills programming for reducing recidivism among high-risk youth. My tasks include data collection, entry, and tracking, and formatting codebook. Together with a local community organization, Community Psychiatry PRIDE works to disrupt the cycle of incarceration and poverty in urban communities across commonwealth. Because of the reverberations of perpetual imprisonment, sustained violence, and family instability, tens of thousands of inmates each year have difficulties keeping themselves away from re-offending and returning to jail. The 17- to 24-year young men that this project targets on are disconnected, under-educated, and unable to success in traditional programming. Therefore, Community Psychiatry PRIDE aims to develop evidence-based treatment of cognitive behavioral therapy that are good cultural fit for participants. Community Psychiatry PRIDE holds the belief that these incarcerated young people, when re-engaged through positive and intensive relationships, can change their behaviors and develop life, education, and employment skills to disrupt the cycles of poverty and incarceration.

Community Psychiatry PRIDE’s determination to improve the mental health in resource-limited community is what attracted me to this position in the first place. People who in live neighborhood full of crime and violence are more vulnerable to mental disorders. Their incarceration and disadvantages in term of education and socio-economic status exist not due to what kind of people they are, but because of the way our society is structured and the way the resources are allocated in our society. I share the belief with Community Psychiatry PRIDE that when provided with appropriate resources, these high-risk youth can break the vicious circle and thrive. Community Psychiatry PRIDE has been dedicating to understanding the challenges of implementation and dissemination these recourses, and developing culturally suitable treatments for these communities.

My goal for this summer is to become familiar with all kinds of psychiatry research laboratory activities. Since I plan to enter a doctoral program in clinical psychology, I consider this internship as opportunity to train myself as a future researcher.       

-Bingyu Xu ’19

Post 1: Finding Dreams

Hello! My name is Liat Shapiro and I received a Summer 2018 Social Justice WOW Scholarship. A little about me: I am a rising junior at Brandeis University majoring in linguistics and minoring in journalism. This summer, I have the opportunity to serve as the summer intern for Korean Kids and Orphanage Outreach Mission.

In a way similar to how the Korean War is the Forgotten War, Korean orphans are also often forgotten. Generally speaking, the word “orphan” is associated with a mental image of a starving child from a third-world country. Although these children should also be given love and support, the voiceless children in industrialized countries whose families are absent, missing, or otherwise unable to care for them ought not be ignored.

Although the number of children staying in South Korean welfare institutions dropped 26.8% from 17,517 orphans in 2006 to 12,821 in 2017, the vast majority of Korean orphans will grow up without a traditional family.

Emotional and financial insecurity are just a few of the hurdles faced by children who grow up in and age out of Korea’s welfare system. Ill-equipped to compete in the hyper-competitive job market, orphanage boys often end up accepting low-paying “3D” jobs — dangerous, demeaning, and dirty– while girls may find themselves sucked into South Korea’s $13 billion sex trade industry. Yet, I’m also told that there are bright spots: examples of KKOOM students who have gone to college, have excellent jobs, and are raising families.

KKOOM’s acronym spells the English transliteration of the Korean word for “dream.” By providing scholarships and implementing events, KKOOM gives orphans a chance at survival in a society that systematically tears them down. We help bring balance to the unequal playing field Korean orphans find themselves fighting on.

This summer, I will help fight the inequality by planning and implementing KKOOM’s Dream Camp, creating a college ambassador program, and building fundraising strategies. The month of June I am finalizing administrative and logistical details for the two-week trip to Korea, while July and August will be focused on the college ambassador and fundraising programs.

Each week, I have a 1 to 2 hour phone call with the Chief Administrator, to whom I directly report. The past two weeks have been spent researching things from AirBNB options for 13 people to gently annoying friends currently in Korea about food and transportation prices.

My fundraiser for KKOOM’s 2018 Dream Camp.

I’m also grateful to report that my personal fundraiser for Dream Camp has reached $1,972. Thanks to the love and generosity of family and friends, within one short weekend, my $500 goal was reached, unlocking a personal donation of $500.

The last days of June will include connecting with the ten participating students, putting together activities such as scavenger hunts, museum visits, and tourist activities. I will also be in charge of reaching out to donors, thanking them for their generosity and analyzing the effectiveness of KKOOM’s fundraising efforts.

I also look forward to KKOOM’s annual Board of Directors retreat which will be held the last weekend of June in Los Angeles. While attending the retreat, I have the opportunity to learn more about the internal workings of the organization which, in turn, will help me more effectively contribute to fulfilling our mission.

The KKOOM Board of Directors and I during the 2017 Boston Annual Board of Directors Retreat.

In addition to running the Dream Camp, I will also go on a camping trip with the 52 children from Samsungwon Orphanage, attend a day of a soccer camp held at Yongsan Army Base with a KKOOM partner organization, and hopefully visit three other KKOOM partner orphanages and programs. 

At the end of August, I want to look back on my experience at KKOOM knowing I gleaned as much knowledge as I could from conversations and interactions with the Board of Directors. I anticipate fostering relationships with the Korean orphans and teaching them about my world while learning about theirs. I cannot wait to help these precious children find their dreams.

I’m grateful for this summer and cannot wait to share more with you! Thank you for reading.

– Liat Shapiro

Post 1: My First Weeks at JVS

Hello! I’m Rebecca Orbach and this summer I am interning at Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) in Refugee Services. JVS’s mission is “to empower individuals from diverse communities to find employment and build careers, while partnering with employers to hire, develop, and retain productive workforces.” In order to do so, they offer 35 different employment-focused programs. These include English classes, career coaching, vocational training programs, and support in completing high school and college degrees. JVS serves refugees, asylees, Haitian and Cuban entrants, and others.

My work has mainly been assisting the career coaches at JVS. I work in a floor full of cubicles along with a few other college interns. Mainly, I assist with job and childcare searches and applications. In addition, I get to work one-on-one with clients to create resumes and cover letters, work on job applications, and conduct mock interviews. I also assist with my department’s weekly intake process during which we enroll new clients, assess their English level, and introduce them to our services.

My work assists our clients step by step in sending out job applications, being invited to interviews, and eventually being offered a job. We help recent immigrants navigate the difficulties that come along with searching for a new job in a new country that speaks a different language from you in an attempt to make the transition into life in the United States as seamless as possible.

By the end of summer, I am hoping to have built real relationships with both the clients I work with and my coworkers. I hope to learn to build strong professional relationships that I am able to rely on for advice and guidance in the future. Similarly, I hope to learn how to build real relationships with the clients I work with. I hope to be able to work with the same clients over and over again in order to learn how to better assist them and to establish a higher level of understanding of one another.

Additionally, I came in to my internship at JVS hoping to gain a better sense of the inner workings of non-profit organizations. I hope to learn about how these important programs were created in the first place and how JVS has been able to grow and expand its services in order to best prepare those it aims to serve. I also aim to better understand the daily functions of non-profit organizations including the challenges they face in terms of funding, staffing, and ever-changing laws that affect who makes up their clientele.

Overall, I have had an incredible experience at JVS so far. Meeting with clients and hearing their experiences and goals have been amazing opportunities to learn from them even while they are supposed to be there to learn from us. I am excited to continue to help our clients in any way that I can in order to help them make new homes in Boston.

Post 1: First Week at The Quad Manhattan

Hi everyone! My name is Remony Perlman and this summer I am a Psycho-Social Intern at The Quad Manhattan, a summer camp and after school program for kids who are Twice Exceptional (2E). 2E kids are gifted intellectually or creatively, but also have some sort of learning differences such as lagging executive functioning skills, ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and many others. Due to their unique levels of ability, 2E kids often do not have the proper educational or social settings that focuses on elevating their giftedness while also giving necessary supports to the skills in which they are lagging. The Quad Manhattan fights this social injustice by offering the unique type of environment that lets 2E children grow to their full potential. 2E is only recently being recognized in the psychology community, and the field is just learning how to create proper environments to help these kids become the best they can be. The Quad Manhattan is at the forefront of this movement and has been providing the best possible care for these kids for nine summers.

As a Psycho-Social Intern, I am furthering The Quad’s mission because I am on the front lines, ensuring that each child is receiving the best care possible. All of the Psycho-Social Interns completed a pre-work reading list, and are currently going through a two-week intensive orientation that is teaching us the various techniques (such as collaborative problem solving) employed by The Quad Manhattan. Even just four days of this training has already proven invaluable. I have learned so much and I am so excited to be able to employ all the strategies they have given us.

Some of our assigned reading

By the end of the summer I hope to feel completely confident using all of the skills I am being taught while in the middle of an escalated situation in the field. We have done role playing sessions and talked through many scenarios, but I know that it will be completely different when using the technique with the kids, since each kid is unique and has different sets of abilities and challenges.

I also hope to learn from being a part of the theatre courses taken by the kids at The Quad Manhattan. I am a Psychology and Theatre major and a Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation (CAST) minor, and am very interested in combining all of my studies by pursuing a career in Drama Therapy. This is my first opportunity to use theatre in a therapeutic setting and I am so excited to be able to learn and grow from the experience.

Post 1: The Struggle Against Past Tense

This summer I have embarked on my internship experience at the North American Indian Center of Boston. As the oldest urban Native American center in Massachusetts, NAICOB exists to empower the diverse indigenous community here through social services and community events. So far, I have been assigned three major responsibilities: receptionist, office assistant, and researcher. My station as office intern and receptionist has gifted me the greatest insight into the inner workings of a non-profit organization and just how much effort it takes to run. It also enabled me to add my own creative contribution to many of the initiatives NAICOB strives to accomplish. The first order of business is building up the local Native Americans Veterans community.  On September 11 we are inviting all Native American Veterans and first responders to the center to join in a “talking circle” in order to foster connections to community, services, and networking opportunities. This week, I finished designing a flyer for the event and will assist in reaching out to as many Native veterans we can find.

Many other projects come across my desk, namely an ongoing research project for the Boston Public Schools.  Every day I uncover videos, articles, books, movies, and other materials that can be utilized to build a well-rounded Native American history curriculum for the students of the Greater Boston Area.  This will allow future generations to learn about indigenous history as it truly is: a vibrant culture with a sorrowful past, yet resilient and very much alive.

Through only a few weeks working here, I have come to realize just how important the existence of a center such as this is to the local indigenous community. Invisibility and marginality within the United States is one of the defining obstacles NAICOB and the tribes it represents face.  This struggle is even more palpable in Boston, a city that prides itself as the birthplace of its nation. Yet, it rarely recognizes what it took away to become the thriving country it is today.

For the rest of my time here, I am determined to be a part of the efforts to educate the public about history through the indigenous lens, to reconcile my part in the marginalization of indigenous folk, and to earn the privilege of becoming an informed ally in the quest to remind the world that Native Americans do not exist in the past tense.

– Paige Hildebrand

Post 1: On the Second Day at the U.S. Department of State

This summer, I am interning at the U.S. Department of State in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). The Bureau’s mission is to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations.” One way in which peaceful relations are created is through student exchanges: allowing students from around the world, regardless of background, the ability to come to the U.S. in hopes of furthering their academic pursuits.

In efforts to assist foreign students in learning about the breadth of programs available to them in the U.S., a network of advising centers has been established under the brand “EducationUSA.”

Headquartered in Washington, DC at the Department of State, this summer I will have the opportunity to work alongside a group of staff members who oversee the 400+ advising centers around the world. So far I have had the chance to join calls with advisers from a plethora of various countries and regions. I have also had the unique opportunity to experience one of the EducationUSA projects in action. Recently, the Bureau of International Information Programs’ video production team live-streamed a student visa chat using Facebook Live, part of a regular series of what are called “Interactives.”  The “interactive” part comes from students asking questions and receiving answers in real time.  Visa expert Laura Stein joined the EducationUSA branch chief Alfred Boll as a speaker on the Interactive and shared her expertise with students who wish to acquire student visas to study in the U.S. Watch the full Interactive on Facebook here.

The Interactives are a key example of social justice in action because their purpose is to make information about life in the U.S. available to those who might not otherwise have access to that information. The professionals who conduct the Interactives devote time and expertise to educating individuals through innovative use of the far-reaching capabilities of the Internet. The student visa Interactive was highly successful, and we are already planning future Interactives which will be on topics such as admissions to U.S. universities. Past topics have included a program in Spanish about the U.S. campus experience, and navigating college in the U.S. as a student with a disability.

When not busy with Interactive planning, I have also been helping the EducationUSA team gear up for their annual conference — the EducationUSA Forum — which will take place July 30-August 1 in Washington, DC.  Nearly six hundred professionals from accredited U.S. colleges and universities come together with approximately fifty EducationUSA advisers and 14 Regional Education Advising Coordinators who fly in from all over the world for several days of sharing best practice strategies and networking.  The goal of the event is to increase the effectiveness in recruiting, enrolling, and supporting international students who come to the U.S.

It is going to be a busy summer here in D.C. and I am incredibly excited to see the impact of our work as we prepare to welcome the incoming international students this fall!

-Hannah Cook, ‘20

Post 1: Learning the Ropes at 826 National

“I open doors
and live out my parents’ dreams
I am what education is supposed to be.”
–Marlin, age 11, 826 Valencia

Hi! I’m Katie Reinhold, and this summer I’m a Programs Intern at 826 National.

826 National is a nonprofit that supports and provides resources to a network of 8 (soon to be 10!) regional chapters. These chapters provide young students in under-resourced communities with opportunities to explore their creativity and improve their writing skills. Our mission is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with individualized attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. As an Education Studies major, I was drawn to this internship because I admire 826 National’s commitment to closing the achievement gap.

While 826 is certainly not the only organization working to solve this social injustice, the aspect I love most about 826’s work is their unique approach to education equity. Among other programs, each chapter provides free After-School Tutoring for young students, and every tutoring center is disguised behind an imaginative store front. In San Francisco, students traverse the Pirate Supply Store. In Chicago, they visit the Secret Agent Supply Co. In Boston, the Bigfoot Research Institute. These are operating storefronts, and all proceeds help support the organization’s work. But the real benefit of these storefronts is that they help eliminate the stigma of tutoring. Instead, students enter a world of limitless creativity, where students and volunteers spend afternoons tackling homework and exploring creative writing projects.

So how does 826 National support these chapters? Well, my department in particular helps promote staff development across the network and supports developing chapters. This summer, many of my responsibilities revolve around the annual Staff Development Conference (SDC). In late June, more than 100 staff members from all over the country will come together to explore how they can continue to improve practices. Currently, I am helping prepare materials before the big event in a few weeks. Once the SDC is over, I will help compile a toolkit that reflects what the network has discussed, created, or asked for additional support on. This will be distributed to chapters as a valuable resource for the coming year.

Last year, 826 National also launched a 826 Digital, a pay-what-you-wish online platform that provides adaptable writing curriculums and resources for educators. The goal is that 826 Digital will have a broader student reach than current chapters can, so that we can captivate young writers everywhere, not just in places where a chapter currently exists. This summer, I will be working to expand the resources available on that platform so that educators of all ages have a dearth of high-quality, low-cost resources at their fingertips.

Throughout the summer, I look forward to gaining knowledge about how a national nonprofit supports its network. To date, my experience in the nonprofit world has always involved direct engagement with the target community, so I am excited to explore the more behind-the-scenes end of this work, and hopefully figure out if I can see myself working in this capacity in the future!

-Katie Reinhold, ‘19

Week One at ImprovBoston

I just started my internship at ImprovBoston and it has been a wonderful experience thus far. ImprovBoston is a nonprofit located in Cambridge, MA whose mission is to serve the community through laughter. With a regular performance selection of New England’s premiere improv, sketch, and standup and an acclaimed comedy training program, the theater dedicates itself to inspiring, developing and sharing comedy in all its forms. Through exploring the many important applications of the creative process, ImprovBoston seeks to improve the lives of diverse audiences both onstage and off. To accomplish this goal, ImprovBoston offers classes in sketch, standup, and improv as well as workshops addressing workplace success and anti-bullying. 

My title is “Comedy School Intern,” and, as the Comedy School intern, I will communicate with current and incoming students; assist with the registration of classes and Comedy Clinics; build and maintain logistical paperwork; schedule make-up classes; and manage the distribution of performance records of the student showcases. In addition, I will assist my supervisor in new Comedy School initiatives such as assistant teaching, taking classes in the curriculum, and a new project called “S.H.E” (Sisterhood.  Humor.  Empowerment.) to support women in comedy. In fulfilling these responsibilities, I will learn about the importance of arts education, and the connection between social justice work and comedy.  

 My academic goal for the summer is to connect my learning from WGS to comedy and arts education. My supervisor started S.H.E. at Second City in Chicago, and is now hoping to launch the program at ImprovBoston. I will be conducting outreach to introduce people to improv comedy as a way of promoting mindfulness and confidence building.  In this way, I will be achieving my goal of connecting feminist theory to real-world applications.

 My career goal is to figure out if I would like to teach comedy after graduating. I currently perform at ImprovBoston and love that, so I want to see if I also enjoy teaching people how to perform. By shadowing teachers at the Comedy School and doing administrative work for the Comedy School I will learn about comedic education, working with aspiring comedians, and the Comedy School’s initiatives to support all students especially women and persons of color. The Comedy School internship is a perfect fit for me because it focuses on teaching students to find their voices and gain confidence.

I want to make connections with comics in the Boston community. I am a current cast member at ImprovBoston and despite this I still do not always feel confident or like an important member of the community. Success in comedy is all about confidence and networking. By taking on a bigger role in the comedy community I will be connected to comics who are working on projects which I may have the opportunity to join.  Ideally, I will become much more confident and consequently a more respected member of the Boston comedy community.

– Mina Bond ’19


The Parsnip Ship and busy, busy New York!

Hey everyone! My name is Gilberto and I am a rising senior at Brandeis studying African and Afro-American Studies. Additionally, I am one of the recipients of the WOW Experiential Learning Grant. With the grant, I am completing an internship at the Parsnip Ship in Brooklyn, NY. The Parsnip Ship is a theater collective that brings diverse voices to their theater stage. Moreover, as the specific live show is happening it is also being recorded into their podcast.

I am just beginning my second week at the Parsnip Ship. As a New Yorker, I am accustomed to the busy nature of the city. However, being in the work force and actually being busy is a whole other thing. I feel like I’ve reached the highest form of New Yorker! Anyway, my internship is unique in that the organization was started by a Brandeis alum and most of the people on the staff team are from Brandeis. This level of familiarity has been the grounding part of my internship amidst all of the busy things that have been happening!

My day-to-day schedule looks like: meeting with the staff to discuss updates on our current projects, talking with playwrights and actors about logistical necessities for the shows and completing other basic administrative duties essential to the theater collective.

For the next season that will start up later on in the summer, all shows are exclusively written by playwrights of color. As a unique opportunity and a good way to bring in my passion and skills in reading performative texts, I get to be part of the committee that reads the submissions and chooses the plays that will make it to the final stage.

Here is an image of the first page of the program I worked on:

I have been incredibly blessed to find an internship that allows me not only to witness creative work but enables me to put on creative work. I am so excited to continue learning in this amazing environment. Stay tuned for more!

Gilberto Rosa ’19

First Week At The United States Mission to the UN: USUN

This summer, I have the incredible opportunity to intern at the United States Mission to the United Nations in New York, NY. The United States Mission to the UN (USUN), headed by Ambassador Nikki Haley, serves as the United States Delegation to the United Nations, under the U.S. Department of State. USUN works to advance U.S. foreign policy, especially in the realm of political, economic and social, legal, military, public diplomacy and management interests at the United Nations.

As an intern, I have the opportunity to work both in the Research Unit and the Host Country Affairs Office. The purpose of the Research Unit is to provide assistance to policy-making officials at USUN by the research and analysis of existing U.S. foreign policy decisions, UN resolutions, historical facts, and UN related subject matters in relation with the United States. The Research Unit also maintains the Mission’s records. As an intern for the Research Unit, I help with any research requests the office may receive, with special projects specific to the needs of the office, as well as attend training courses at the UN in order to better comprehend the United Nations system. Separately, the Host Country Affairs Office assures that the obligations of the United States to the United Nations and the UN Community are upheld, serving as a liaison between the UN diplomatic community and federal and local government agencies. As an intern for the office, I work on projects specific to the department’s need during the current time, as well as have the opportunity to attend meetings related to managing the UN diplomatic community.

Delegates Lounge, United Nations

USUN does an incredible job of making the internship a holistic experience, rather than just a 9-5 job. As an intern, I have the opportunity to attend meetings and events at the UN, and get to know government officials and other interns through lunches and networking events. Therefore, I have already met experienced government officials, undergraduate students who are interested in a similar career path as mine, as well as graduate students and law students. I am  gaining a better understanding of the diverse career paths I can choose.

Sitting in on a General Assembly meeting

This summer, I hope to take in as much information as I can,  and learn about the intricacies of one of the most powerful international institutions in the world. I hope to apply my studies within the International and Global Studies major and the Health: Science, Society, and Policy major to the work that I am doing at the USUN. I hope to gain understanding about how political reform occurs in such a large and diverse international body, and  to better understand the career path I would like to take and options that I have to pursue. I am excited to learn abou the inner workings of the international community that I am so grateful to be a part of for these ten weeks. This internship, already, does not feel as if I am simply an intern with no real place at the Mission, but rather that the Mission is almost as excited to have me, as I am excited to be at the Mission.

Maria Kulchyckyj  ’20’

My First Week Researching at Gervay-Hague Lab!

My internship this summer is at Gervay-Hague Lab at the University of California, Davis. It is led by Dr. Jacquelyn Gervay-Hague. Gervay-Hague Lab, also known as JGH Lab, is a Chemical Biology lab that strives to learn more about the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, the medical benefits it offers, and the underlying reasons for these benefits. The lab website gives a lot of interesting context and information regarding the research taking place.

For my project at JGH Lab, I am teaming up with a visiting Ph.D. student to continue to expand JGH Lab’s library of steryl glycosides. Steryl glycosides are compounds made up of two groups: sterols and glycosides. A sterol is a category of compounds that includes cholesterol among others; similarly, a glycoside is a category of compounds that includes common sugars like glucose and lactose. The process of expanding this library of steryl glycosides consists of fine-tuning the specifications of the reactions used to make the various steryl glycosides. Once this process is complete, we will run each reaction on a larger scale to create large amounts of product for future use. These products will later be used as probes to track the different processes that take place in the tea plant. Different types of tags will be used to further observe how the probes participate in the processes. Tracking these processes will help determine what factors contribute to the medical benefits of tea.

When compiling the library of steryl glycosides and performing these reactions, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) is crucial for identifying compounds. Pictured below is an apparatus used to clean the tubes used for NMR; this ensures that the NMR spectra contains information relating only to the desired compound.

After performing a reaction, we are left with a vial or flask containing the desired product (hopefully) as well as a collection of unwanted side-products. A machine called GRACE pictured below can be used to isolate the desired product from the unwanted side-products. GRACE is a Medium-Performance Liquid Chromatography (MPLC) apparatus that works by using different solvents to elute different compounds at different times in order to separate products from each other, ultimately leaving the desired product.

There are several goals that I made for myself before I began my research internship at JGH Lab. I am excited to see how far I can get in accomplishing these goals, and where this will lead me!

My academic goal is to use what I learn from performing research in Gervay-Hague Lab to become more adept in my Chemistry and Biology courses. Just in this first week at JGH Lab, I have learned so much about different techniques used in Synthetic Chemistry as well as important things to take note of during reactions. Additionally, the biological context of this component of Chemical Biology.

My career goal is to obtain a job and work there for 1-2 years after graduation. Then, I hope to enter a Ph.D. program in Chemical Biology or Chemistry. I am excited for this internship to better shape my career goals for the future as well as potentially relate in some way to a future job and/or Ph.D.

My personal goal is to learn how to communicate my research to others through posters, papers, as well as in person. Additionally, I hope to learn how to listen to others and learn about their research through these same methods. During my summer at JGH Lab, I will be able to communicate my research to the other members of the lab during group meetings, discuss it with them, and get their feedback on it.

I am very excited to see what happens in the next couple of weeks!

-Daniel Farb ‘19

Week One at the Domus Foundation

This summer, I will be working with the Domus Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works with adolescents in low income, at risk situations in Stamford, Connecticut.

The Domus Foundation works on behavior modification and attendance retention at their charter schools through multiple models, including the Family Advocate model. The Family Advocate model looks at the emotional well being of the children, in and outside of school. This requires at home visits, in school visits, student success plans, and more.

Over the next two and a half months, I will be shadowing these Family Advocates, as well as helping gather behavioral and attendance based data for the future success of the Domus Foundation. Since the students are in school for the first few weeks of my time here, I am helping the middle school, Trailblazers Academy, with preparation for data analysis of attendance and the eighth graders’ graduation.

Trailblazer Academy student volunteers with some of the Family Advocate staff

By the second day I already knew a handful of the seventh and eighth grade students and was helping them with their science fair projects due at the end of the week.

In order to get to know the students better, I joined the Director of Family Advocates, as well as a couple of the Family Advocates on a community service project.  A sense of community is important to the schools that partner with Domus . Many children lack this feeling at home and the goal for the schools is to make each and every student feel comfortable and safe with every staff member.

Cleaning up Trailblazers Academy with a student

During the two hour community service project, the students and Family Advocate staff cleaned up the outside of the school by picking up trash. We then debriefed with the students about their volunteering experience and what they would like to do in the future. This community service experience showed the students how important it is to help others and how good it can feel to do so. By the end of the activity, I had students coming up to me asking  which volunteer project they could participate in over the summer and if I could be their Family Advocate for the next school year!

At this moment, it made me realize how important this internship is to me and to the students. The majority of these students have been sent to Trailblazers Academy because they were deemed the “trouble kids”and have been expelled from their other schools. Most students have experienced trauma and struggle to be successful individuals while trying to figure out how to cope with their personal situations.

The fact that some of these students started to open up to me with their stories and want me be a continuing part of their lives shows how these children are craving attention and love that will help them succeed in life. As my first week of my internship is coming to an end, I cannot wait to continue my relationships with the staff and students at Domus and Trailblazers Academy!

First Week at APG

This week I started working at Artist Partner Group in Los Angeles. APG is a company that does many things. They are a music publishing company, recording studio complex and most importantly a record label. They define themselves as being a “modern label for forward thinking and entrepreneurial artists. The invisible army that help build the artist brand and relentlessly execute their vision.” The label is an imprint of Warner Music Group and was founded by Warner’s President of A&R (Artist and Repertoire), Mike Caren. I’ve always admired APG for being an under-the-radar, small firm that does big things. Big things such as pioneering the careers of Charlie Puth, Kehlani and Bazzi to name a few. I am more than thrilled to be joining the APG team for the summer and figuring out what the secret sauce is for their amazing success so far.

I spent most of my first week settling in and completing onboarding procedures but I’m already starting to get a feel for the place and the culture around here. First and foremost, the APG building is an modern architectural masterpiece, casting an overwhelming shadow on the streets of LA. When I first arrived, I was electrified by the space and was eager to go inside. I also quickly started to notice and still realize that APG has a very entrepreneurial, start-up ambience.

For my first week, I began helping out with the Instagram accounts; coming up with new initiatives and branding ideas to help improve the account. I also was given weekly tasks like making sure the label’s music releases have been distributed to different streaming services and have promotional placement on playlists. Another weekly task I was given was to accumulate the streaming sales for the week. Other than that I haven’t really been given any big projects or tasks to complete as I continue to get settled in. I acknowledge that a lot of the times, I’m going to have to take initiative and create opportunities and tasks for myself if my supervisors are busy or have nothing to give me.

Another exciting thing that happened on my first week was that I was introduced to a guy who works in A&R who needed an intern for the summer as well. After a great conversation we agreed that I would split time with him and my other supervisor. Now I have a great unprecedented chance to gain experience in two different fields of the business this summer. Another great chance to not only contribute and help out my superiors, but hopefully make a difference and impact whenever I can.


Rabbits and Owls and Ducks, Oh My!

Hello! My name is Zoe Tai, and I am an extremely grateful Summer 2018 WOW Fellowship recipient. Let me start off with a quick introduction of myself. I am currently a rising junior at Brandeis University and am majoring in Biology and Neuroscience with a minor in HSSP; this summer I decided to go ahead and connect my interests in biology and field science with my passion for animals and nature. Through this search, I am now a proud Wildlife Care Intern with Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farms Wildlife Sanctuary located in Lincoln, MA.

Drumlin Farms is an environmental educational center, a working farm and a wildlife sanctuary for native non-releasable species. Their mission is to protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife alike. Drumlin Farm’s Wildlife Care Department (WLC), where I work, is a long-term care facility for injured or orphaned wildlife that cannot be released back into the wild.  All of the animals at the sanctuary are residents that are often showcased during education programs or on exhibit for visitors of the farm. While they are not out on programs or out on exhibit they live in the Wildlife Care Center.

A map of Drumlin Farms and the WLC building circled in red. Illustration courtesy of The Lincoln Squirrel.
Our resident fisher here at Drumlin Farms. She loves to sleep in her hammock!

I get the privilege of working with these animals through daily tasks such as cleaning, training and prepping diets. Every day, the staff, interns and other volunteers roll into the building at 8 AM and start off the day by cleaning each and every animal enclosure. They have a pretty strict handling clearance process that begins with shadowing a staff member handling and cleaning the enclosure, followed by independently transferring the animals to their carriers and cleaning with supervision, to finally being cleared on the particular animal. Some animals are of course off limits to me, mainly the mammals such as the porcupine, the fisher, and the fox as they are rabies vectors. Even with these precautions and rules in place I still have had so many interactions with different New England species. In my first full week alone, I have been allowed to work with the domesticated rabbits, the ducks, the northern bobwhite, both the turkey vultures and the black vulture, the barred owls, the red-tailed hawks, and the painted-turtles to name a few, and there are still so many more.

The diet counter where we prepare animal diets.

After we’ve cleaned every enclosure and have taken a lunch break, the other interns and I prepare the diets for all of our animals. We make sure that each animal gets the proper diet and try to mimic what they would naturally eat in the wild and follow a strict recipe tailored to each individual animal. With all the chopping and food prepping we do, the other interns and I are ready to become professional vegetable mincers.


When all of the husbandry is taken care of, all of us interns meet with our supervisor and discuss our individual intern projects. During this internship, I will need to complete a project relating to wildlife care. Being the newest intern to the team, I have yet to decide on a project but many of the other interns have amazing projects such as training a timid barn owl to become desensitized and become used to human handling and interacting, building a new animal enclosure, and even a wildlife observation research project using night-vision trail cameras.

Two of our Barred Owls in their enclosure.

This internship is providing me with a chance to directly interact with animals and learn about how to care and train them; something that I have never really experienced. With my interest in possibly pursuing veterinary school or field biology in the future, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to dive into the grit and the wildness that comes with working with animals from an amazing and educated staff. My goal for this summer is to become familiar with all the species here on the farm and to be able to engage in conversations with visitors about animal behavior and habits to promote a responsibility for conservation and sustainability for nature. I have learned so much from this one week at WLC and cannot wait to see what the summer has in store!

-Zoe Tai ’20

Post 1: “Welcome to the realities of the health care system in Africa”

On Thursday the 23rd of May, I walked into the military hospital of Abidjan. I was excited to be in a different environment and excited to start my internship. I was creating scenarios in my head of how my first day would go; the people I would meet and the relationships I would create. I was nervous but ready, or so I thought.

My first day in the emergency room in Abidjan.
My first day in the emergency room in Abidjan.

I first walked to the tailor whose place was in the hospital near the restrooms to get the uniforms I ordered the day before. After I changed into my all white outfits, I walked directly to the emergency room. I was at the hospital the day before to meet with the Chief of Service and speak about my goals for this internship. After our short conversation, because of his busy schedule, he showed me around the hospital and the different departments. Before he left me in the emergency room to meet with the head of the emergency department he said to me, “I hope you are ready because the things you will see here, you will never see anywhere else. Unfortunately, we have very little to no resources and we work around that. I think you should visit as many departments as you can. Work closely with the doctors and see how they are managing with their patients. Also lastly, I will advise that you start in the emergency room. That’s where our most serious cases happen and you will definitely learn a lot.”  He did not lie.

After I dropped off my bag, I headed to the doctor’s office. A patient was being rushed into the hospital. He was in a coma for a couple minutes, was barely breathing and his blood pressure was low. My first day had just started. I saw doctors and nurses run around to re-animate the patient. No machines were used on him, unfortunately.  The main room where patients were being consulted in the emergency room was one bed, a desk for the two doctors on duty, chairs for them to sit, a closet that contains some medical supplies, a sink to wash their hands, two garbage cans, and that was it. These doctors were clinicians and relied more on their hands than machines. The patient, after a couple injections and many other things, woke up and was breathing normally. When things quieted down, I finally had the chance to present myself to everyone. The doctors took me close to them and made sure I understood why and how they were doing the things they did to the patients. Throughout the day, they presented me to the rest of their patients as Doctor Soumahoro which made me carry some type of responsibility and made me feel included, or at least welcomed. The waiting room of the emergency room was also filled with patients with different conditions ready to be seen by the doctors. However because they were only two doctors and two nurses present, the wait time could vary between an hour or two or even more sometimes depending on the urgency. When a patient came in, the nurses took the vitals before the doctors saw them. I learned and found myself helping to do the same.

One thing’s for sure, My beautiful country is still developing and is struggling to give the proper resources to their hospitals.  However, I have never seen doctors as dedicated and hard-working as the ones I met here. We worked from 8am to 2pm without a break.  I finally took a moment to drink some water and eat. But these two doctors took no breaks because they felt like their patients were waiting. I left the hospital to go home around 5pm and these doctors were still working. I finally met people who were as dedicated as I am and ready to save the world, and I felt comfortable around them. Here was a place where there is love for medicine and love for humanity, and that love brought me here. “Awa welcome back home. It was a pleasure working with you today and welcome to the realities of the health care system in Africa,” one of the doctors told me before I left. “Thank you and I am ready for the challenge” I replied.

– Awa Soumahoro


My First Week At Legal Aid


This summer, I am interning at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. At the Legal Aid Society, the attorneys are committed to “Making Justice Real” for their clients. The organization is composed of 4 practice areas which are, Consumer Law, Domestic Violence/Family Law, Housing Law, and Public Benefits Law. This summer, I will be working in the housing unit. The housing unit is the biggest area of practice at Legal Aid. A majority of the housing cases that legal attorneys work on are centered on evictions.

In the District of Columbia, there is a two tier court system. There is the lower level court system, the Superior Court and the Court of Appeals (which is equivalent to a state’s supreme court). This two tier system is  unique to D.C. due to it operation as a city-state.  Fun Fact: Judges in D.C. are not elected but appointed  by the President and confirmed by Congress. Currently, there are vacant Judges seats on both the Superior Court level and the Court of Appeals level. This has resulted in Judges having to hear more cases than they normally would. Housing matters are heard in Landlord Tenant Court, which is apart of the Superior Court system. The Landlord Tenant Court has its own building due to the high volume of cases that occur daily. During my first week, I was able to take a tour of Landlord Tenant Court. On any given day, there are approximately 160 cases on the docket.

The District of Columbia has one of the highest income gaps in the country. This has led to wide gentrification throughout the city. Historically, D.C was a city that had a majority African American population. However, many of the families that have been here for a long time are being pushed out of the city in to areas of Maryland and Virginia. There is a book entitled, Dream City that goes into depth about the racial makeup of the city. It’s a good read for those interested in learning more about D.C.. The majority of clients that Legal Aid serve are apart minority groups.

I am very excited to be working at this amazing organization for the summer. As someone that is very much interested in law and social justice, the Legal Aid Society seems to be the perfect fit for me. I have academic, career, and personal goals for the summer. My academic goal is to be able to apply legal terms and concepts that I have learned in my legal studies courses to real world cases. My career goal is to learn more about Public Interest/Poverty Law. My personal goal is to develop and improve different skills that I have. Rather it be in foreign language, oral and written communication, or analytical skills.

I am apart of a robust internship program. There are many things I have to look forward to this Summer, including being able to go to the Supreme Court. There are a total of 11 interns in my cohort (8 law students and 3 undergraduate students). I’m excited to get to know and learn from them. Week One was a success, and I can’t wait to start “Making Justice Real” throughout my internship.

– La’Dericka Hall