Post 1: First Week at American Jewish World Service

This week, I began my summer internship at American Jewish World Service in their development operations division. American Jewish World Service, or AJWS, is an American nonprofit organization with their headquarters located in Manhattan. Their mission is to end poverty and promote human rights in the developing world. They have five main focus areas: civil and political rights, sexual health and rights, ending child marriage, disaster response, and land, water and climate justice. The organization is structured as both a grant giver to its partners in nineteen countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, and Nicaragua), as well as an advocate in the United States for certain laws and policies that support its mission. To me, one of the most interesting things that I’ve learned about the structure of the organization is that it is both a grant recipient and a grant giver, unlike other nonprofits that I am familiar with. As a development operations intern, I will hopefully have an inside look into some of the grant processes.

I began my first day feeling quite nervous, not really knowing what to expect as I walked into the office building in midtown for the first time. It didn’t help that I had some trouble finding the entrance to the building, nearly making me late for my first day. When I came in and was directed to a conference room down the stairs, I was delighted to see that there were already about seven other interns who looked about my age, waiting with looks of excited and nervous anticipation that matched my own feelings. It made me feel better knowing that there were several others at the same stage that I was. After a brief orientation and tour of the office, we were placed at our desks in our departments. As I got settled into my desk and began reading the organizational materials that had been given to me, other employees from the office began approaching my desk to introduce themselves. The multitude of smiling faces helped make me feel so comfortable on my first day.

After receiving preliminary training in Raisers Edge, the database that AJWS uses, I could begin some of my assigned projects. This week, I helped clean up some constituent profiles on the database, in preparation for AJWS switching to a new database. Later, I did a little research on prospective donors. On Friday, I began updating the board’s profiles. However, mostly this week was filled with slowly getting to know the office and the people in it and becoming more comfortable in my new routine. I’m looking forward to being able to get involved in more and more projects throughout the summer. Since this a field that I am considering pursuing after college, I am excited to learn more about the different facets of the not-for-profit sector through this internship.

– Mayan Kleiman

Post 1: First Weeks at the Legal Aid Society

There are many benefits of living in New York City: breathtaking sights, delicious $1 pizza, and…free legal assistance to citizens in need.

My friends and I enjoying NYC’s iconic $1 pizza!

This summer, I am interning at the Legal Aid Society in their Immigration Law Unit (ILU). The Legal Aid Society provides pro-bono legal representation to impoverished citizens of all five boroughs of New York City. In my opinion, the Legal Aid Society and its positive relationship with NYC is an exemplary model of legal practice that other states and cities should adopt. Not only is it fundamentally just to provide an avenue for individuals of all walks of life to access adequate legal support, but it contributes to a more socially just world. For one, it helps disrupt the criminalization of poverty that often leads to the incarceration of individuals of lower incomes who are, consequently, disproportionately of certain races. In this way and many more, the Legal Aid Society stands at the intersection of social justice and law. 

I chose to intern with the Legal Aid Society because of how the organization applies the social justice lens to its everyday legal practices. Furthermore, I chose to intern specifically with the Immigration Law Unit because of my prior experience in and passion for working with immigrants through The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII) in Waltham, MA. I have loved interning in the ILU. The Unit works with a wide range of immigrants under a wide range of circumstances, including asylum seekers, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) recipients, and individuals facing deportation and inadmissibility charges. The vastness of circumstances this unit specializes in conveys the magnitude and complexity of immigration law. That’s one thing I love about this line of work–everyday I am learning something interesting and new.

I have completed many trainings at my internship, including webinars on DACA (pictured here), immigration court proceedings, trauma-informed immigration practices, and more!

The Legal Aid Society traditionally only offers internships to law students, so my experience as the only undergraduate makes my internship, in many ways, unconventional. For one, I am working alongside a paralegal rather than an attorney. As a result, I am understandably more distanced from casework and have yet to be in a courtroom. So far, I mostly meet with DACA recipients to renew their status. I have around two or three of these meetings every day. Despite my frustration with the current state of DACA and the responsibility that comes with conducting renewals, this is my favorite aspect of my work here. I love directly helping and interacting with immigrants. When I am not doing renewal meetings, I am often inputting client data into a system called Law Manager or completing projects that attorneys or paralegals need help with. For example, I completed a criminal history chart for the attorney-in-charge of the Unit. That was a new experience for me and was a great way to ask questions of someone very knowledgeable in the field. 

My internship is right near a pier where you can see the Brooklyn Bridge!

I have already learned so many important things at my internship, some pragmatic and some personal. Even though my internship is only eight weeks long, I believe that the knowledge and lessons acquired here are broadly applicable to every aspect of my life. Sure, knowledge about immigration law is more useful in some contexts than in others, but my deepened empathy for immigrants and any American who is stigmatized, underrepresented, and neglected solidifies my own personal desire to continually fight for civil rights and equal treatment. This has implications in every facet of my life and can manifest in many forms, including combating everyday micro-aggressions, improving the political sphere and public policy, and promoting empathy in my interpersonal relationships and in educational discourse. By practicing empathy in my day-to-day life, I know that even after the conclusion of my summer internship, I will be exercising the Legal Aid Society’s greater mission and carrying on their legacy.

-Alison Hagani ’22

Post 1: Revitalizing the Main South Neighborhood

Main South is a vibrant, diverse inner-city neighborhood located in Worcester, Massachusetts. However, it deals with its fair share of challenges, such as a plague of gang activity, drugs, and prostitution, which has taken a toll on its social-economic status and physical condition, from abandoned lots to fire-damaged buildings. On a mission to revitalize the neighborhood, the Main South Community Development Corporation (CDC) is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that provides quality affordable housing and economic opportunities for low and moderate-income families. 

The Main South CDC has developed over three hundred units of housing, has sold sixty-eight houses to first-time home buyers, and currently manages two hundred affordable rental units. The Kilby-Gardner-Hammond Neighborhood Revitalization Project, one of the many projects of the Main South CDC, has helped to create Clark University’s athletic complex and a new Boys & Girls Club facility. With each improvement, the Main South CDC hopes to change community members’ perceptions and the overall quality of life in the neighborhood. Throughout the process, the Main South CDC has involved many members of the community, and, as a member myself, I desire to be a part of such an important mission. 

This summer I will be assisting Casey Starr, Director of Community Initiatives at the Main South CDC, with place-making and the activation of public spaces. Our goal is to plan and coordinate free family-friendly activities in public spaces in the neighborhood. Main South CDC aims to “take back” spaces deemed unsafe by community members, such as parks and vacant lots. To “take back” a space means to create functionality and comfort in a public area that is struggling with a spoiled reputation because of illegal activity.  Often in inner-city neighborhoods, these spaces are vital because not everyone has a backyard. Not to mention, the Main South CDC hosts monthly neighborhood meetings to address community members’ feedback and concerns with a city elected official and police officer always in attendance. I plan on attending a few neighborhood meetings during my time with the Main South CDC.

The Main South CDC programs are what we like to call Summer Saturdays, which are multiple activities and programs held on Saturdays. The various activities target an extensive age range starting at age zero with the Worcester Family Partnership Early Childhood Playgroup to the predominantly elderly presence at the Farmer’s Market. The Summer Concert Series held on Wednesday nights at University Park  is a community favorite event with cultural music that speaks to the diversity of the community. Additionally, the newly renovated Castle Park programs fitness circuits run by the YWCA, Recreation Worcester Summer Camp, and capoeira on Saturdays as well. All programming works to create a safe and lively atmosphere.  

To ensure community members are aware of the many different activities, Julia Dowling, my co-intern, and I will promote programming through social media, emails, flyers, direct calls to residents, and signage on bulletin boards. It is essential to get the word out because these programs are implemented to accommodate the needs of children, adults, and low-income families.  In this day and age it is safe to say social media is an important tool for promotion, which is why I will also be responsible for managing the Main South CDC’s Facebook and Instagram. As I attend programs and events, I will make sure to capture the fun and share it on both platforms.

Post 1: Learning our Courts with Alliance for Justice

How much do you know about our courts? I’m not talking about just the Supreme Court, but our district courts and circuit courts, too. Almost every week, new judges are confirmed to the federal courts for lifetime terms, able to exercise their judgment on workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ discrimination, and more. And very few people are paying close attention.

Alliance for Justice, my internship site for this summer, is focused on ensuring our courts are fighting for people’s protection, and does so in two important ways. First, our team researches the records of every federal judicial nominee so people understand who they are and can oppose them if necessary. Then, more generally, we work to increase the visibility of the courts and their importance at every stage of our political process.

Working with the outreach team this summer, I have been responsible for making our mission better known to our partner organizations and those that want to work with us. Alliance for Justice represents over 130 organizations on issues of justice in the courts, but not all of them are engaged in this issue. This summer, I will be bringing them further into the fray of the work we do. Through webinars, lunches and other events, I’m hoping to bring our organizations closer to our work and empower them to speak up with us when harmful judicial nominees are presented to the Senate. We’re also going to other organizations to encourage them to talk about how the courts affect their work.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) speaking at the Center for Popular Democracy’s Stronger Together DC Benefit.

We also want to engage everyday citizens in this work. Most people don’t understand the power of nominating federal judges–but the current administration certainly does. To bring some power back to the people, we hold events in the community like book talks, lunches, and, most recently, trivia!

In June, we’ve held events on and offline to raise awareness about the intersection of LGBTQ+ rights and the federal courts. So many landmark decisions about LGBTQ+ discrimination started in the courts, and so many of the nominees to the federal bench today have atrocious records on LGBTQ+ rights. Our trivia night highlighted judicial powerhouses in protection of LGBTQ+ individuals, some horrendous nominees, and other activism in the spirit of Pride month.

Because the judiciary is the least well-known of the branches of government, half the battle is getting people to know, and the other half is getting them to care. Fighting against the tide of horrible judicial appointments is certainly an uphill battle, but Alliance for Justice has been influential in opposing, and in some cases halting, the appointment of conservative judges. The small steps of holding trivia nights and courting member organizations leads to a broader coalition of people paying attention, which leads to strong opposition to nominees like Matthew Kacsmaryk, a recently confirmed nominee who has implied that transgender people are “delusional” and that Obergefell v. Hodges, which established marriage equality, was poorly decided.

One of our employees posing at our well-attended Justice Trivia night!

In the past two weeks since starting here, I have learned so much about how we can fight to protect our courts. On my first day, someone said, “Even if we can’t prevent these nominees from being confirmed, every day they aren’t on the court is a day someone’s case is decided more fairly.” Everything we do to stall a confirmation protects an individual who would not have otherwise received fair judgment. Those wins are just as important as getting a nominee to withdraw entirely. That is how we make the change we want to see.

Post 1: Lines for Life, Preventing Suicide and Substance Abuse

My name is Kaya Bothe and I am a rising junior studying Health, Science, Society & Policy and International & Global Studies. This summer I am interning with Lines for Life, a nonprofit in Portland, Oregon that focuses on preventing substance abuse and suicide. Lines for Life has many different crisis lines (youth line, military helpline, suicide lifeline, alcohol and drug helpline, and senior loneliness helpline), as well as a prevention team. I am interning with the prevention team, which works to combat many social injustices that the residents of Oregon experience. Suicide and drug addiction affect different groups of people disproportionately, and Lines for Life works to support all groups of people, as well as to work with the broader community to change policies and educate the public and health professionals.

Throughout my internship thus far, I have not stopped learning and I am responsible for many different tasks and projects. In the first two weeks of my internship I was given lots of tasks right from the get-go helping to finalize and plan the Oregon Opioids + Other Drugs, Pain + Addiction Treatment (OPAT) conference. I was invited to attend the conference and listen to the speakers as well as help to put it on during the third week of my internship. The week before the conference I read the book Beautiful Boy by David Sheff, who was the keynote speaker of the conference. I got to meet him as well as help sell his books at the book signing. Along with attending a large amount of presentations over the three-day conference, I also was able to learn about what it takes to put on a conference of this scale and was able to help with registration and other day-of needs.

This is a photo of my coworkers from Lines for Life and I with David Sheff, the author of Beautiful Boy and keynote speaker from the OPAT conference

Now that I am back from the OPAT conference, I am focusing on research to create a website for the state to provide statistics and resources to Oregon residents on suicide. We are going to separate the website into different pages. We will have information for health care professionals and teachers, as well as different high-risk groups such as Native Americans, elders, youth, people of color, veterans, the LGBTQ+ community and more. I have a huge role in this project as I have been asked to research these different groups of people and find Oregon-specific statistics. I will then eventually create a fact sheet composed of all my research. I am also in charge of gathering resources that will be added to the different pages. After I have finished the research, I will compile everything and write it up into something that eventually be put on the website.

Along with research and helping my coworkers with their projects, I have been invited to many different events and outings. For instance, just today, I went to a press conference where Congresswoman Bonamici spoke about the new legislation, The Safe Disposal of Opioids Act, just passed by Washington County, the first county in Oregon to require pharmaceutical companies to provide a safe and accessible way for people to dispose of unused and/or expired prescription opioid pills. This was really interesting to me and I got to see many important people, along with the CEO of Lines for Life, speak in front of people and news crews. This legislation is a huge step for Oregon, as hopefully other counties will follow and the whole state can in the future provide safe drop boxes. I have learned that there are so many different steps that need to be taken to end the opioid epidemic, and this is just the starting point with so much more work to be done.

Throughout all of this, I am learning more than I imagined I ever could at this internship, and my interest in the field is continuously growing as I see the inspiring work Lines for Life is doing to combat suicide and the opioid addiction epidemic.

Post 1: Legal Life Against Crimes in the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office-SIU-AFU

The Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office (MDAO) serves the largest county in New England. It prosecutes more than 39,000 cases a year divided among 12 district courts, 4 juvenile courts, and 2 superior courts across 54 diverse cities and towns. Its core mission is to protect and serve the people who work, live and raise their families in Middlesex County. Interns work directly with Assistant District Attorneys, Victim Witness Advocates, Paralegals and others to pursue this mission through exhaustive investigations, unassailable prosecutions and compassionate victim advocacy.

MDAO can be generally divided into five units: Appeals & Training Bureau, Child Protection Unit, Elder & Disabled Unit, Homicide & Unsolved, and Special Investigations Unit. I was assigned to the Special Investigation Unit (SIU)-Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU). This unit deals with asset forfeiture, which is a powerful tool used by the Commonwealth against criminals and criminal organizations to seize their ill-gotten gains or their assets connected to criminal activities. AFU is a part of SIU, which investigates and prosecutes organized crime such as public integrity, corruption, cybercrimes, and drug trafficking.

My major tasks for the summer are to: (1) Draft legal writings such as complaints, motions to dismiss, motions for default judgment, oppositions to motion to vacate, and draft and respond to discovery requests; (2) Reconcile/audit data through DA’s office files, MDAO’s data management system, and Mass Trial Court Website; (3) Conduct research, draft and update 50-state-survey on asset forfeiture; (4) Assist trial attorneys with casefile storage, trial preparation, and general administrative support; (5) Request, track and update receipt of case-related documents; and (6) Review reports and evidence, i.e. 911 calls, turret tapes, video recordings, and jail calls.

Sometimes, other units in the DA’s office would “borrow” me for other projects, such as jail call monitoring and translation. In addition, as a non-legal intern, I have also done two mock trials for legal interns, one time as a witness and the other as a juror. What’s more is that all the interns in the office, no matter legal interns or non-legal interns, will receive training on a regular base. So far, I have received training in Asset Forfeiture, Victim-Witness Advocacy, Children’s Protection, Juvenile Prosecution, Reflections on Policing, and Appeals Court Training in selecting cases, drafting and finalizing opinions, and selecting judicial clerks.

Among all of what I do, my favorite part so far is to do forfeiture intakes. Each intake includes a police report, and each report contains the narrative of the story. It is interesting to read those stories (a large portion of them are of drug dealers), some exciting and some terrifying. I am shocked by what people have done and what people could do when I see the list of the crimes they committed based on the defendants’ criminal history. I feel sad and heartbroken when I see stories such as child abuse. However, I know my sad feelings will not stop or prevent these things from happening. All I can do is keep doing what I am doing, including but not limited to what’s listed above.  I believe that every single step matters in serving better justice.

-Carrie Sheng ’20

Post 1: Supporting the Survival of Indigenous Peoples

Cultural Survival is an organization that advocates for indigenous people’s rights to their cultures and self-determination. It works to support indigenous communities internationally by supporting community radio programs, hosting bazaars where artists can sell their work, and publishing articles about the work indigenous people are doing in a quarterly magazine and online.

This organization addresses the systematic oppression that indigenous peoples have continuously experienced worldwide by helping to support avenues for indigenous people to express their voices and protect their right to live, and doing so in the ways that indigenous peoples choose.

One project I’ve done so far is to write a short article about the International Labor Organization’s Convention 169, which, once a country ratifies, is a legally-binding law that protects the rights of indigenous peoples. In addition to this, I have been transcribing interviews with indigenous people talking about the work they do, so that articles can be written about them. I’ve also been doing some data entry for applications for the small Keeper of the Earth Fund [KOEF] grant.

The KOEF is a fund Cultural Survival uses to support indigenous-led advocacy and community development projects. The projects are submitted by indigenous-led organizations all over the world, and address a range of topics such as land rights, food sovereignty, and language revitalization. The KOEF provides grants between $500 and $5,000, and there have been over 150 applications. Reading through and doing data entry for all these applications, although a small step, is a necessary step to provide funding for these projects. I am learning a lot about the kinds of projects that indigenous communities are working on around the world.

Since I am working in the research and publications department, a lot of what I will be working on this summer will revolve around helping to amplify the voices and stories of different indigenous people and the work they are doing, mostly through doing interviews and publishing articles. Indigenous voices have been systematically silenced over centuries, so writing articles and using Cultural Survival’s platform works to amplify those stories. This helps spread information about the work indigenous people are doing to advocate for themselves and resist oppression, both to non-indigenous people and to different indigenous communities internationally.

These projects and articles are all relatively small steps that are working toward larger change. Ideally, in the future, an indigenous community that is looking for funding to develop a food sovereignty program for their community will eventually not need to look externally for support, because they will have the resources they need already. Hopefully, one day, indigenous voices will not be silenced by governments and corporations. But for now, it is possible to organize, to provide financial support to marginalized communities in a way that works for them, and to amplify the voices of indigenous people.

-Christy Swartz

Post 1: My first week at Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice

For the past month, I have been working for Massachusetts Interfaith Worker Justice (MIWJ), an organization based in Jamaica Plain dedicated to building bridges between faith communities and the labor movement. We work in solidarity with a number of important campaigns in the state, including, but not limited to, the elimination of sub-minimum wages for tipped workers, the reinstatement of a progressive income tax in Massachusetts, the prevention of exploitative practices such as wage theft and unfair scheduling, and the protection of immigrants working under Temporary Protected Status. In working with MIWJ, I’ve learned a lot about the special role that faith communities can play in supporting workers rights, by sending faith delegations to company management and utilizing the already existing community networks established by churches and other religious groups. 

Last week I attended a State House hearing to support the end of sub-minimum wages for tipped workers.

So far, my time here has prompted a serious education for me in community organizing, with my responsibilities including attending rallies at the State House, representing the coalition in larger grassroots coalition meetings, and reaching out to congregations to participate in our programs. A couple of weeks ago, MIWJ hosted its annual Faith and Labor Breakfast, where we brought together a number of folks from different congregations, unions, and other social justice-oriented organizations for a celebration of workers and to honor the outgoing director of the New England Jewish Labor Committee. In addition to this, I also had the opportunity to represent Mass Interfaith Worker Justice at a larger grassroots coalition meeting consisting of union organizers, community organizers, and racial justice activists. Attending these meetings and events alongside a wide range of activists and organizers has allowed me to see first hand the intersections of social justice. 

I also feel that I’ve joined the organization at a critical time in which it is seeking a younger, more diverse group of members and partners. For this reason, much of my work here has been centered around connecting the organization with new members and communities. I have also been tasked with helping organize one of our signature programs, Labor in the Pulpits/Bimah/Minbar, where we work to bring workers and community organizers directly to faith communities, often times during services, to speak about their experiences and show people how they can help. With this task, and the broader task of strengthening and diversifying the group’s membership, I feel that the work I’ll be doing for the rest of the summer will be deeply impactful. I’m thankful that I’ve joined the organization at a time where I can make a significant, positive impact on the work they do and the health of their community network. I’m looking forward to what the rest of my time here has in store.

Post 1: From the City/For the City

It’s my first all-staff meeting, and per tradition I have to introduce myself with my name and a fun fact. I rise and say, “Hello everyone, my name is Rolonda and I’m a fourth generation Washingtonian.” That means that my great-grandfather, grandfather, mother and I were all born and raised in Washington DC. In four generations, you would think the city has changed quite a bit, but even in my short twenty years of life I’ve seen the city go through rapid transformation.

New grocery stores, high-end restaurants, and condos are springing up all around the city as a new strategy of “urban development” is being implemented. But with all new structures being created to enhance the new vision for DC, elements of the culture of DC like gogo music, mambo sauce, and even the DC accent are being wiped out completely. Historic residents who are primarily people of color are being rapidly displaced, and DC has become one of the most segregated and gentrified cities in America.

This summer I am interning at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. Legal Aid’s motto is “Making Justice Real.” Legal Aid is an organization that provides a variety of legal services in the areas of housing law, domestic violence/family law, public benefits law, and consumer law to low-income residents of DC. This includes direct representation, legislative advocacy, and education and outreach.

At Legal Aid, I am based in the organization’s intake unit. So far, this has included taking calls from potential clients, having them summarize their legal issue for me, and either referring them to outside organizations or inviting them to intake interviews. I have also been to the district courts in order to file paperwork for attorneys in the clerk’s office, in addition to doing some HTML coding to help the launch of Legal Aid’s new online intake portal. Legal Aid aims to make justice real for those living in poverty in DC. I’m helping contribute to this organization’s mission by being their first point of contact through the intake department. One thing at my internship that gives me joy is seeing one of the people who I spoke with on the intake come in for an interview and have their case accepted by one of our attorneys, and finally get representation.

Quote about justice adorn the walls

To me, progress is little things such as someone having legal representation who otherwise might not have it, and who can now get much-needed repairs on their homes, retain their public benefits, or gain custody of their children from abusive partners. My career goal is to work as a public interest/poverty law lawyer in DC and this internship is the first step on that path.  I have only been at my internship for two weeks, but I’m amazed at what I have been able to accomplish in that time and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer brings. I’m working towards making justice real for the people of the city I call home.

Also, for those of you interested in linguists here is an article about the DC accent!

-Rolonda Donelson

Post 1: My Start at the New York State Attorney General’s Office

The view from my office!

I am currently interning for the New York State Attorney General (NYAG) at the Harlem Regional Office. As a Legal Studies minor on the Pre-Law track, I chose to work at NYAG to learn more about public interest law. The New York State Attorney General’s Office’s mission is to serve as the guardian of the legal rights of the citizens of New York, its organizations, and its natural resources. The attorney general is the “people’s lawyer” and the state’s chief legal officer. The current officeholder is Attorney General Letitia James. The office consists of 650 assistant attorneys general and over 1,700 employees that serve in various locations across New York State. With only two attorneys, the Harlem Regional Office is one of the smallest. However, its size does not stop it from handling hundreds of complaints a year and litigating high profile class action lawsuits. Another plus of the office is the great view!

Attorney General Letitia James

At the Harlem Regional Office, my job is to help some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers in two distinct ways. The first role I help with is mediation. Mediation occurs when a consumer comes in with a complaint about a business or a landlord and my role is to try to resolve the case. Each case is different and provides me with new experiences. One example of a complaint the office deals with frequently is landlords not returning security deposits. I get to interact with New Yorkers and learn about different areas of discrimination and the many ways that fraud can occur. The second part of my work at the NYAG is to help conduct research for the two staff attorneys. The research I do is confidential, but what I can say is that the work I do helps the lawyers investigate and prosecute alleged patterns of unlawful discrimination and fraud in a variety of areas, including employment, housing, credit, education, and places of public accommodation. Any research I do, no matter how inconsequential I think it is, helps the lawyers with their lawsuits and ultimately leads to the people of New York feeling safer.

Judge Alison Nathan

Another exciting part of my internships is the speaker series the NYAG puts on. So far, I have had the opportunity to hear from Orelia Merchant, Chief Deputy Attorney General for the Division of State Counsel; Judge Alison Nathan, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York; and former New York Attorney General Robert Abrams. I was also able to hear the inspiring remarks from the New York Attorney General Letitia James when she introduced Judge Alison Nathan! (see photos). Each of these speakers has provided new insights and perspectives about public interest law. Overall, I am excited to continue learning and experiencing new and exciting things at the NYAGs office. I am looking forward to the upcoming speaker series and going to court with one of the lawyers!

Post 1: My First Five Weeks at the MCAD

The goal of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is to eradicate discrimination based on race, color, creed, national origin, age, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, and many more categories you might not know you are protected under. Across the commission’s four offices, over 3,000 complaints are investigated each year regarding alleged discrimination in the workplace, housing, public accommodations, lending, and credit. Around 20% of those complaints are for housing discrimination, which is the particular field I work in. Eradicating discrimination in the Commonwealth is a goal as ambitious and necessary as anything a state does, so I am excited to be a part of this mission in as small a way as I am. The other reason I wanted to work in this field was just to observe how people interact with this part of the legal process. Many people, especially in housing, come to the commission without a lawyer and with no intention of getting one. In truth, you do not need one to go through the process and I am proud that the commission does everything to remove barriers of access.

The doors to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination on the 6th Floor of 1 Ashburton Place, Boston. Just beyond the doors you can see two intake rooms where complainants explain their complaint to a staff member that helps them write it up.

The complaint is what kicks off the entire MCAD process. The commission then serves the party that has allegedly done the discriminating and the investigator can do their own fact-finding with both parties. At the end of the investigation, they will write a disposition stating if it is more likely than not that discrimination occurred (probable cause), and I will be helping to write those this summer. If there is probable cause, there are various actions the MCAD takes depending on how the parties respond. The MCAD always brings parties in for conciliation so they can try and settle the case to avoid the more time-intensive and expensive public hearings. If successful, the complainant can be awarded emotional distress payment, lost wages, a reasonable accommodation, alternate housing, or whatever is the most appropriate for the case. I have seen this process a few times and the negotiations are endlessly fascinating to me. The MCAD also often requires respondents to attend training on the law they violated. These trainings are open to the public and do so much to prevent discrimination before it even occurs, helping thousands upon thousands to know the law in Massachusetts.

My work in the housing unit is primarily to help the investigators. I communicate with parties and try to get information that an investigator needs. I help keep the ship running by sending out notices, writing summaries of cases, and updating the case management system so future people can make sense of all the work we do.

The best example of small steps leading to bigger steps is the policy review I do. Disability is the most common protected category which complaints are based on at the MCAD. In certain settlements when the claim revolves around disability, and specifically denial of a reasonable accommodation, the Housing Authority or private owners need to come up with a reasonable accommodation policy, which they send to us for approval. I am the one to first read it and give feedback. I hope this helps to eradicate discrimination by ensuring people get better treatment in the future. Change is providing justice, discovering the truth, and then making sure we do everything to make sure discrimination ends. One case, one training, one policy review at a time.

Post 1: The Constantly Shifting World of Immigration & Gender-Based Law

Having worked for the past year at the Brandeis student-run immigration legal clinic, The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII), this summer I was excited for the opportunity to further develop my knowledge of the immigration legal system at a well-established, multi-city nonprofit: the Tahirih Justice Center.

From my first two weeks of training, I quickly began to realize just how different Tahirih is from TRII despite providing many of the same services, and what strategies I can take back to my work at TRII during the school year. The most obvious difference is that Tahirih only serves immigrant survivors of gender-based violence, and for the most part, only takes a handful of the more serious cases.

This means that any given client must be an immigrant who qualifies for a serious type of relief (i.e. asylum) and has also experienced violence because of their gender or sexuality. This results in a client base of mostly women who have experienced some very serious trauma, and some of them are currently undergoing trauma in abusive domestic relationships that our center helps them get out of.

Entrance of the immigration court building in Baltimore, just down the street from Tahirih’s office, where I will get to observe our clients’ hearings this summer.

Tahirih fills the wide gap of immigrant women who are often unable to get help because many immigration legal organizations are scarce in resources and therefore are not properly trauma-informed and don’t know specifically how to cater to women and individuals who have experienced traumatic gender-based violence. One way that Tahirih is trauma-informed and creates a safe space for survivors is its secrecy and selectivity. The small office is discreet and only accessible to employees and clients, and any potential clients are put through three rounds of phone screenings.

The training period of the first two weeks was extremely in-depth, conducted by the lawyers themselves and through webinars. I learned techniques necessary to help a client feel comfortable in our office and reclaim their narrative by giving them space to tell their story their way– something that is often disregarded in the highly invasive and re-traumatizing immigration process.

As one can imagine in this political climate, the world of immigration law is constantly shifting, which makes for extremely uneasy situations for our clients. Just last year, the attorney general released an unprecedented memo that advised judges not to grant asylum on the basis of domestic or gang violence, and revoked a grant of asylum in a domestic violence case. Last week, Trump tweeted that mass raids and deportations in major cities (including Baltimore, where my office is) would begin Sunday. These changes constantly arise, which keeps interns like me busy.

In response to the deportation threat, one of my projects this summer is to compile a trauma-informed resource guide/toolkit for our clients with families, to prepare in case of deportation. This will include instructions on how to designate another guardian for one’s child, emergency numbers to call, and know your rights guides. There are many family preparedness guides already out there, but most are not trauma-informed or gender-specific. Some of our clients in abusive domestic relationships or with abusive family members may need to create alternative safety plans for their children or prepare in different ways.

I know that my other responsibilities at the office–helping file immigration forms, conducting new client screenings, and meeting with clients, to name a few–help the office run smoothly for this summer. However, I am most excited about this deportation guide project because it will be a sustainable resource that clients can use for weeks and months to come. Nonprofits like Tahirih are so important as the government continues to make it increasingly difficult to navigate the immigration system and increasingly difficult for individuals like our clients to obtain status, especially without legal representation. Tahirih’s lawyers are extraordinarily committed and thorough in their work, and I am excited for a summer of being able to support their work and make their (very difficult) jobs a little bit easier in any way I can.

Eliana Kleiman ’21

Post 1: A Summer Working On Fun Curricula

The PEAR Institute is a nonprofit organization founded as a collaboration between McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School. PEAR partners with school districts, out-of-school-time programs, and youth-serving organizations to promote social-emotional development in the service of student engagement, academic achievement, and life success. PEAR is developing a set of social-emotional curricula for middle-school-age children building upon the Clover model of youth development for educational institutes such as public schools, after-school programs, and other education nonprofit organizations all over the United States.

As a psychology major, I am highly interested in the social-emotional development of children. My academic and career goal is to directly make a positive impact on the social-emotional development of children. As an intern at PEAR Institute, I am getting training regarding the Clover model of youth development and social-emotional development curricula developed by PEAR to understand how to improve the resiliency of high-risk children in order to help them develop effective strategies to overcome challenges in their social and academic life.

The Clover Model of Youth Development

Children in families of low social-economic status are more susceptible to mental health burdens and social-emotional challenges due to family instability, financial stress, and undermined collective efficacy of neighborhoods, while they have limited affordable resources available to overcome these social-emotional challenges throughout the course of development. Furthermore, due to the prejudice, social stigma, and impairment caused by social-emotional difficulties, children with mental health burdens are more likely to stay in low social-economic statuses when they become adults. To ameliorate this social injustice, the PEAR institute contributes to offering professional help to children in need, especially children who cannot afford individual therapy and support.

As a PEAR intern, I am responsible for further developing and refining activities of the social-emotional development curriculum program, which includes setting and adjusting goals according to the Clover model, conducting literature reviews on social-emotional development, and applying research findings and feedback from instructors. In the beginning, I received training on the social-emotional development curriculum and the Clover model of development to better understand how the whole set of curricula works. I will also refine evaluation tools for the curricula and maintain consistent structures of curriculum materials across the Clover groups.

Our goal this summer is to improve the flexibility and attractiveness of the activities in the curricula so that educational institutions with smaller budgets can still run the curricula while allowing more students to benefit from the curricula. With more institutions implementing these curricula, we will be able to observe changes and acquire holistic student assessment data for children who have taken our curricula. This feedback will allow us to refine the curriculum and to improve its credibility with evidenced-based research, both of which will enhance PEAR’s efforts to further promote the curriculum to additional communities and partners.

My internship just started this week and I had so much fun trying out the games and activities of the Clover curricula. I am definitely excited to continue exploring this field!

Post 1: Refugees in Georgia

I work at New American Pathways, which is an organization dedicated to serving refugees settling into the metro Atlanta area, specifically in Dekalb County. New American Pathways provides more than 5,000 refugees per year with the necessary tools to rebuild their lives and achieve long-term success. I chose this particular field for an internship because of my own personal and professional experiences. I come from a family of immigrants and also intern at Brandeis University’s The Right to Immigration Institute (TRII) where I work on policy and assist clients with the application process behind gaining asylum or refugee status.

At New American Pathways, I am less involved with the policy, but still hold an important position in the area of refugee and asylum work. I wanted this experience because it gives me a more diverse portfolio of skills and knowledge at nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as well as within the field of refugee and asylum work. I believe that refugee and asylum seekers’ safety and well-being is critical and should be prioritized in the United States, especially since our military and policies are often responsible for refugee crises.

New American Pathways helps people who have gained asylum or refugee status find affordable housing, jobs, and offers literacy training, job training, and resources for women and children in dire situations. New American Pathways offers distinct programs that all aim to help Georgia thrive while helping refugees merge into the general Georgian populace without assimilating away from their roots. There is a large emphasis on community pride at New American Pathways and the organization employs many people who are refugees and/or who come from similar backgrounds.

I largely work within the finance and administrative aspects of the organization. I am currently planning a gala and helping to find people to fund the important work the organization is doing. The gala is called the Red, White, and NEW Gala. It will take place at the Georgia Aquarium on August 17th.  This essentially entails pouring over spreadsheets, running errands, and contacting people who might donate an item or service for the silent auction, or who might sponsor a specific need for the organization directly.

My work helps fund the organization, as they need resources for many different branches to ensure they provide the best services possible to Georgia’s refugee population – including legal services, family care, therapy, and women’s outreach for their clients. Unfortunately, in a state like Georgia, refugees are a particularly vulnerable population, due to both a lack of financial security and xenophobia. 

I hope to continue my work with this organization for this summer and to develop professional connections I can maintain throughout my entire career.

Post 1: Advocacy and History – Starting My Summer With NCL

This summer I have the honor of working as an intern with the historic National Consumers League, or NCL. NCL is a DC-based consumer advocacy organization with a long and impressive history reaching back to 1899. The League was chartered by Jane Addams and Josephine Lowell, two of the most admirable social reformers and trailblazers in American history. Additionally, Eleanor Roosevelt was a lifelong supporter of the League, even testifying in Congress on behalf of the NCL and serving as the group’s vice president for a period of time. This is an interesting parallel to her role in the founding of Brandeis University in 1948. Justice Louis Brandeis himself had ties to the organization and its founding staffers. Working with the NCL has been a humbling glimpse into the long, interwoven timeline of social justice and reform that I have the privilege of participating in, as both a Brandeis student and this year’s Brandeis fellow with the National Consumers League.

The National Consumers League has been at the forefront of America’s ongoing struggle for worker and consumer rights, dating back to the establishment of eight-hour work days and minimum wage. The goal of NCL is to represent consumers regarding workplace and marketplace issues. The group focuses most heavily on matters of privacy, child labor, medication and food safety. While these topics are of deep importance to the health and success of all Americans, what I appreciate most about NCL is that they advocate on behalf of the unheard. I grew up in a diverse, working class city with a substantial immigrant population. Because of this, I witnessed firsthand how those who are most frequently taken advantage of also face significant barriers to speaking up. Such people often do not have the time, energy, education or opportunity necessary to fight the injustices they face everyday. The National Consumers League works tirelessly to represent all consumers, and I see their work as a vital aspect of remedying social and economic inequality.

I was drawn to NCL because it hones my passion for social justice in a tangible way. Their work creates social change through a variety of methods, both within and without the political system. During my first two weeks at the organization, I witnessed advocacy in action as staff supported the introduction of two major pieces of legislation and continued to work towards their passage. The NCL also has several long-standing programs that educate and protect consumers. One of these is LifeSmarts, a nationwide consumer education competition for high schoolers. Much of my work at NCL will be centered around creating resources for LifeSmarts, in addition to exploring ways to expand the program. I have been able to experience how NCL empowers consumers through my work on LifeSmarts. In addition to my work on LifeSmarts, I have the opportunity to do research projects on vital consumer issues and attend some of the fantastic events in DC on behalf of the organization.

As a Public Policy major interested in a broad spectrum of political and social issues, it is often difficult to pinpoint a professional outlet for my interests. NCL grants me an exciting glimpse into how I can translate my social justice foundation and Brandeis education into a meaningful career. I am excited to learn more about what advocacy, lobbying and policymaking looks like from the perspective of a non-profit while soaking up the excitement of living in Washington.

– Elaina Pevide

Post 1: A System of Injustice

Partners for Justice is a nonprofit organization that operates within the Delaware Public Defender’s Office. The organization’s mission is to prevent or limit the harm of collateral consequences of justice system involvement. We serve clients of the Public Defender’s Office, who are indigent individuals with current or past criminal justice system involvement. Partners for Justice staff serve as advocates to help clients navigate bureaucracies to improve their access to housing, public benefits, employment, medical care and other civil legal needs.

I chose this particular internship because I have always been passionate about the intersection between civil and criminal law and how the access and quality of legal representation can alter someone’s life completely. This internship serves as the perfect opportunity to learn the benefits of pairing civil and criminal legal representation and advocacy in order to best serve our clients.

In the United States, 80% of the civil legal needs of poor people are going unmet— creating what experts refer to as the justice gap. Without legal representation and advocacy, people in poverty face a greater risk of unjustly losing their homes, their children, and their public benefits. Often, the most vulnerable individuals among those in poverty are those who have been involved in the criminal legal system. With a single arrest, charge, or conviction, people who are disenfranchised face further challenges with complicated bureaucracies that can drastically alter their lives. Partners for Justice places advocates to work directly with clients and community organizers to help them obtain quality legal representation and prevent collateral injustices with the criminal legal system.

As an intern for the Public Defender’s Office and the Partners for Justice organization, I conduct client interviews to meet directly with clients facing criminal prosecution in order to obtain their case information and scan for possible civil legal issues that could arise because of their arrest. I also work directly with clients who are in prison, on probation, or facing possible incarceration to help them navigate court-ordered programs, find housing, employment, or obtain public benefits. Most of my responsibilities involve working with the advocates to meet clients in prison or in court to assist them with civil legal issues or bureaucratic challenges.

In addition to this client-centered work, I conduct research on affordable housing, employment opportunities, expungement processes, property retrieval and other services that can help our clients who are at risk of facing repeated injustices.

My work this summer helps the Partners for Justice organization better serve their clients and help them obtain the correct legal documents and qualify for life-changing services such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Medicaid, or public housing. My work at the Public Defender’s Office helps assist low-income clients who are seeking legal representation for criminal cases.

Organizations like Partners for Justice are crucial in the fight for justice because they are taking smaller steps to advocate individually for underserved populations by providing direct representation. However, they are also taking bigger steps to fight for systemic changes that will help create a more just society moving forward. Partners for Justice directly advocates for criminal justice reform in the legislature, as well as increased affordable housing and other public policy issues that would benefit our clients.

Smaller change or progress comes in the form of a client obtaining a job, keeping their children, staying in their apartment or receiving necessary medical care. However, larger change comes in the way of policy changes that limit the number of arrests made in low-income communities or the ways we choose to rehabilitate instead of punish.

Post 1: Envisioning Progress

This summer I am interning with Divest Ed, a program of the Better Future Project, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit aimed at addressing the climate crisis and the rapid and responsible transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Divest Ed specifically focuses on training student organizers in order to resource, vitalize, and broaden the fossil fuel divestment movement. This past year I have been a participant of the 2019 Divest Ed Organizing Fellowship, and will continue to deepen my work on fossil fuel divestment-related projects throughout the summer with other organizing fellows in my internship.

The 2019 Divest Ed Organizing Fellows at the June retreat (photo by Jordan Mudd)

My experience in the 2019 Divest Ed Organizing Fellowship puts me in a particularly interesting position in terms of my summer internship. Unlike most internships, when I started my first day of work, I had already met all of my coworkers and had actually already spent a large amount of time learning, creating, and making decisions together as a team. The summer internship kicked off with a fellowship retreat, in which myself and other organizing fellows from around the country met for five days to get trained and participate in discussions centering our various fossil fuel divestment campaigns. During this time we practiced consensus-based decision making, learned about principled struggle (informed by the works of Adrienne Marie Brown and Charlene Carruthers) and other important topics, and also made life-long friendships along the way. Oh, and we kayaked too!

Camp Wilmot lake (photo by Shelby Dennis)

This retreat made it easy to transition into a workplace dedicated to imagining an eight-week summer project relating to fossil fuel divestment. Myself and the other fellows decided to split our efforts into two important summer projects: national escalation and reinvestment. Each project has a team of interns that are responsible for creating and facilitating a summer project centered around each topic. I chose to participate in the reinvestment team, and will be working to research reinvestment options and creating accessible resources for student organizers who wish to incorporate it within their divestment campaigns. So far it’s only been a week into our project planning, but we are already generating a running list of ideas to learn more about: financial arguments to engage in, local Boston organizations to start learning from, and a ton of resources created from community organizers who have extensive expertise in this area. It’s both overwhelming and thrilling to think of all the information we are going to be engaging with over the next few weeks, and I for one am grateful to have a supportive team by my side to do it with.

Reinvestment team at work (photo by Jessie Kinsley)

When I first dove into activism, I held the idea that progress looks concrete: laws being passed, resolutions being made, cities being re-envisioned and demands being met. I still do hold that vision, but my time with Divest Ed has taught me to look at progress in a new way. Not only does the work we do have concrete implications, but the way we do them continually encourages myself and others to enact the future we are trying to create. The team that I am working with on reinvestment practices horizontal leadership: recognizing the different skills that we all bring to the table and implementing each one to the best of our ability. My “boss” is very much not my superior, and instead a facilitator who is helping support our vision for our project. And my favorite part of our work culture is the genuine love we hold for ourselves and the work that we do. Envisioning a new, regenerative economy is difficult and stressful work, but my coworkers and I continue to approach each other with compassion and honesty, and the vision follows.

Group hug (photo by Anais Peterson)

I’ve spent the majority of my college career imagining my school’s fossil fuel divestment campaign winning, but I’ve spent very little time imagining what comes after. Through Divest Ed, I’m learning that we must not only envision a sustainable planet, but a sustainable culture that allows for people to form non-extractive relationships with each other and the earth. I’m excited to continue fostering that culture and seeing what it can achieve in the next seven weeks.

Post 1: First week with BWH

I finally start working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as a research assistant! I am particularly working under the instruction of Dr. Cindy Liu and my mentor Emily with Women’s Emotional Life and Livelihood Study (WELLS):  Psychosocial Health and Well-Being in Chinese Immigrant Women. I was really attracted to this research because there were such few studies targeting the mental status of pregnant women, especially Chinese immigrant women. I was so excited to learn that there are a group of scientists trying to support this voluntary group and I can be a part of it. SoI am here and ready to go!

The purpose of WELLS is to characterize the psychosocial experiences of Chinese immigrant women from Boston’s Chinatown and South Cove in Quincy; to test the moderating effects of social support and resilience on the association between social status and acculturation, and depressed mood and stress. to examine the associations between social status, acculturation, and maternal specific outcomes, including maternal self-efficacy and fetal attachment among women during pregnancy. We already collected data from 60 participants by interviewing them through phone and by asking them to fill out the questionnaires.

Emily said this is MY office :DDDD

For the first week, we were basically focusing on the on-boarding process of the hospital. Emily walked me through the protocol of WELLS and showed me the place to lock all the information that needs to be kept confidential. Through CITI (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative) training, I got a thorough understanding of the history and the importance of the IRB (Institutional Review Board) approving process, which made me respect more about how precise psychology research can be. I attended the first lab meeting, and learned more about my coworkers and more projects we were working on in the lab. It was really fun to learn about all the interesting findings in the process.

For the second week, I started working on transcribing and translating the interviews of the participants. The work was more difficult than I thought because it required 100% accuracy from the audio, so I needed to go back to the audio again and again. It was really interesting to listen to the experiences shared by the moms who are expecting because you find yourself starting to be compassionate with them when you are doing the work. This experience made me more excited to go to the site and start the real enrollment. Before the enrollment, Emily and another RA Ge helped me go through the script of screening the participants at the site and shared their own experiences about how to address sensitive questions.

The next step for me is to be more familiar with the scripts and going to the site to enroll the participants. The first two weeks went really well and I think I like working as a research staff in a hospital setting.

Post 1: Summer at RepresentWomen

The organization I am working at this summer is a nonprofit called RepresentWomen. A branch of FairVote, this group does advocacy and research focused on systemic reforms that will help more women get elected to public office. I chose this field because I believe that for the United States to be a representative democracy, its government must reflect the experiences, demographics, and values of all of its people.

RepresentWomen is addressing the fact that women, and especially women of color, are underrepresented at all levels of U.S. government. Their strategy is to focus on rules and systems reforms, such as the implementation of ranked choice voting, gender quotas, and multi-member districts. RepresentWomen also does research, like the Gender Parity Index (GPI) and International Report, to track the progress of women’s representation and to figure out which reforms are most effective.

So far, I have taken on the tasks of updating and redesigning the “Women’s Representation by the Numbers” graphic and scaling it for different social media:

I also make other graphics occasionally, such as for the RepresentWomen Twitter page and for a summary/handout I compiled on the International Report.

I also post from the RepresentWomen Twitter account when I am in the office.

I also helped Cynthia, my boss, write and edit a chapter she will be contributing to a book. I wrote about the disadvantages women face when running for office that stem from sexism in the media and in campaign finance.

In celebration of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, RepresentWomen is helping run this year’s Seneca Falls Revisited, which will feature a number of fascinating speakers and guests. I was assigned to write blog posts about a number of these individuals and will be interviewing as many of them as possible. They will be released online leading up to the convention. I have also been helping to update some of the research, including in the International Report, a report of multi-member districts, and soon the GPI.

I will be working on creating audio content in the form of a podcast, largely by interviewing members of RepresentWomen’s board, but also others. For example, I am in the process of setting up an interview with the hosts of Pantsuit Politics. I also will hopefully have the opportunity to use my editing skills to create video content.

I think my work will help further RepresentWomen’s mission by turning their messages into content that people can understand. Everyone takes in information differently, and the more ways I can show people that these reforms to our electoral systems are crucial to the United States being a representative democracy, the more people will support RepresentWomen’s cause. Progress very broadly looks like more women in government, but before we can get there we have to see districts adopting ranked choice voting, political parties and PACs changing their recruitment and funding strategies, and the introduction of gender quotas into U.S. politics. There is a lot that needs to be done, but that also means there are a lot of possible solutions at hand.

Post 1: Bellevue Beginnings – A Tale in Humanity

As I walk the seven blocks to the hospital each morning, I pass the same faces time and time again: the Vietnam veteran sitting under an awning of subway station asking for money and prayers, the man sleeping on a box across from the hospital, and the double amputee bumming cigarettes while holding all of his belongings in a single black duffle bag. Consistency is a foreign topic when it comes to emergency medicine, and these faces have become the only thing I can expect to see on my way to work. Although this is hard to admit, my interactions with these people involve nothing more than averted eye contact and a quick side-step, followed by my own anger for this instinctive reaction. I have been conditioned by society to ignore and even fear these people. But the moment they step into the hospital, everything changes.

Bellevue Hospital is the oldest public hospital in the United States, steeped in history and medicine. It was the first hospital to treat tuberculosis, open a psych ward, and in recent news, take care of an Ebola patient. With over 100,000 ER visits and 460,000 outpatient visits each year, this hospital sees all sides of New York–the good, the bad, and the ugly. But arguably one of the most impressive things about this hospital are the patients: 80% of the patients in Bellevue are from medically underserved communities, and 25% of the patients are either currently experiencing homelessness or have experienced homelessness in the past twelve months. This hospital treats everyone who walks in their door with the same quality of care from the woman sleeping in a shelter to a visiting diplomat.

Homelessness is truly an invisible epidemic, one that Bellevue works so hard to treat with every IV placed or meal provided. Patients have come to rely on this hospital for primary care, a roof to get out of the rain, or just a familiar face. Bellevue has garnered the reputation around the city as the hospital with all of the crazy people, but what people forget are the hordes of healthcare professionals, social workers, and administrators who are dedicated to providing a level of care no other hospital does. Despite this mission, the emergency department is not immune to societal stigmas and assumptions about the “frequent flyer” experiencing homelessness who comes to the ED (Emergency Department) three times a week for a hot meal. Regardless, these are the patients who I will never forget.

One of the oldest gates in front of Bellevue Hospital, dating back to 1890!

As a volunteer and patient advocate in the Emergency Department, I won’t bore you with the details of the grunt work I perform, but my main role is to speak with patients, listen to their stories, and ensure that they receive the care they deserve. What this means is that I blindly approach patients with a smile and hope that they are not in too much pain to speak with me. I have been used as a punching bag (figuratively), a shoulder to cry on, and a confidant. In fact, as I am writing this blog post, a patient whom I have seen in the ED three times over the past two weeks just walked by the window of the café I am in! But it is these interactions that have changed how I view homelessness.

First day in the hospital while getting a tour of the OR! This is by far the most comfortable outfit I ever get to wear!

Remember the Vietnam veteran outside the subway? Well, the moment that he steps into the hospital, he is no longer just a face, he is a story. He is the man I spent three hours with trying to navigate our healthcare system, find the only pharmacy in all of NYC that can fill his prescriptions, and help him obtain a metro card. He is the man who tells me about his travels when he was my age and his first love. He is the man who tells me he would rather be sleeping in a park right now than in this hospital any longer. He is the man who I know I will see again both in and out of the hospital. But in the moment, he is the man to whom I can provide a smile, a conversation, and small moment of clarity in this crazy, complex system.

The intersection between homelessness and emergency medicine is a never-ending cycle that bounces people between the street, the hospital, the shelter and back again. It is well understood that one’s health is dictated by more than just access to healthcare. Ideally, providing someone with stable housing will improve overall quality of life, decrease health costs, and break this cycle. Although this is well understood within the healthcare industry, it is much harder to carry out than providing basic healthcare. Bellevue is working alongside different hospitals and organizations to address this epidemic through housing-first initiatives, which work to find stable housing for patients alongside treating their major health concerns. Working within Bellevue has shown me the impacts of homelessness far beyond the street. I am slowly beginning to understand the system, and hopefully my small contribution to this organization will be just enough to bring joy to one person’s day.

Post 1: The Strive Towards Innovation

This summer, I am an intern at the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC), a social service organization that ensures the accessibility of resources and opportunities for over 60,000 Asian Americans. Its mission is to promote economic and social empowerment among Asians, immigrants, and underprivileged communities. CPC has over 30 locations and over 50 (and counting!) programs that continue to serve the community, including education to provide adults with opportunities to learn English, family support such as health services, and community empowerment programs used to help individuals plan their career paths.

As a disadvantaged Asian American, I chose this particular field of internship due to its support of Asian Americans. As an active leader in the Brandeis Asian American Student Association, I have a strong determination to improve the injustices that Asian Americans face. There are many Asian families who do not have access to government-funded programs due to the misconception that Asians are the “model minority,” and therefore do not need help. However, companies like CPC support Asian Americans with the understanding that Asians, too, need resources, and I want to be one of the collaborators in reducing the inequalities Asian Americans encounter daily and to better improve CPC’s Education and Career Services Program.

At CPC, my responsibilities are proposing fundraising initiatives and organizing events to increase its sponsorship so that this nonprofit organization has the financial means to continue executing its mission: to assist other Asian Americans in need. The additional donations will help fund CPC’s underfunded programs and contribute toward the new programs. For instance, due to CPC’s lack of inclusion of technology, I determined the need to design a program to further strengthen the education curriculum and expand CPC’s Business Exploration Student Track (BEST) to include a greater focus on technology. In addition, other projects I will take charge of include marketing CPC’s mission to other companies and developing strategies to create lasting mentors for the students.

The small changes in hiring interns and workers with different perspectives lead to greater changes to improve CPC’s assistance to other Asian Americans. As an intern, my small steps of discovering new challenges and problems that this nonprofit does not address will lead me to propose nuanced ideas on how to further develop this company. In terms of CPC, progress occurs when there is an initiative taking place to improve the current programs and develop new projects, extend the audience CPC reaches, and increase sponsorship from different companies. In general, progress occurs when there are assessments made by the company to determine where the improvements should be made and the implementation of these evaluations. Progress even begins when there is a nuanced version of completing an activity or the incorporation of a new rule. The simple act of changing the way someone accomplishes a task or goal will slowly lead to larger changes being made in the upcoming years and, hopefully, the advancement of a company.

For more information on CPC, please visit https://www.cpc-nyc.org.

Post 1: A Good Work Environment Makes a Difference

If an organization is able to live up to its core values even in the busiest of times, you know they are doing something right. United for a Fair Economy (UFE) is doing something right. I couldn’t think of a softer landing into a 9-5 office job than my last two weeks. I flew into the organization at a busy time: it is the end of the fiscal year and the team had just held a training and retreat in the weeks before Zach, a fellow intern, and I began. Despite the hubbub, the office feels like a community. People care that others take time for themselves, they check in on each other, share stories about life outside the office, and the work that we do is done in collaboration.

This atmosphere is important because United for a Fair Economy is an organization built on a long-term vision of challenging the inequitable concentration of wealth in the US, with an eye to the race, gender, and power dynamics at the core of this inequality. UFE understands that this long-term vision can only be accomplished if the people at the forefront of these issues and movements care for themselves and each other. The organization does this by training community organizers in healing and transformative justice techniques, but it also does this by integrating these practices into the ethos of the organization. For me, this was a breath of fresh air.

Zach and I after a skills and goals art project.

Healing justice is a newer addition to the work of UFE, but in September, United for a Fair Economy will be celebrating 25 years of movement-building for economic justice. They do this work through popular economic education, training of movement leaders, creative communications such as infographics and accessible publications on the racial wealth divide, a Responsible Wealth program that mobilizes the wealthy to advocate for economic mobility, and more. I am excited to spend my summer with such a driven, value-based organization that has been successful in turning that vision into tangible skills and action to move efforts forward in a broad, long-listing way.

Our to-do list and inspiration board getting updated by Sara.

I was drawn to UFE because of my studies and movement work in the area of economic justice, not only because it aligned with my personal and academic interests, but because the economic analysis and the broader picture have been missing from much of the individual campaign work that I have been involved in. The work that I will be doing this summer will largely be development work: helping to process donations, preparing for the anniversary celebration, and doing grant research, among other things. I am learning a lot about how an organization like UFE functions, which comes with valuable skills that I will take with me into other work environments. By interning at United for a Fair Economy I am able to support the work of an organization that is invaluable in a national effort for economic justice, an organization that I believe in.

Post 1: Hope Happens Here – Beginning My Journey with Vibrant

Hope Happens Here. I didn’t truly understand the meaning of this slogan until I first stepped into the Bronx Adolescent Skills Center (ASC) of Vibrant Emotional Health. Vibrant provides services to support all people who experience mental and emotional stress in every aspect of life. In addition to Vibrant’s various programs to emotionally support the community, this organization runs the largest national suicide lifeline promoted through the song “1-800-273-8255” by Logic, a famous and talented rapper.

Underneath the umbrella of Vibrant, the Adolescent Skills Center is a home base for students ages 16-21 with emotional or behavioral issues that prevent their educational or vocational success. The clinically-trained staff at the ASC provides numerous resources to support students emotionally, mentally, and academically.

In the few weeks that I have spent as an intern at the ASC so far, my entire perception of mental health has changed. I began my journey by reading through the charts of all the current students either pursuing their high school equivalency diploma or utilizing the vocational services at the ASC in order to get a job. I learned about what seem to be the infinite diagnoses of the DSM-5, as well as the emotional distress and disadvantages of so many people my age.

Within my first week at Vibrant, I shadowed an intake interview with a young girl–almost two years younger than me–who is battling PTSD from being stabbed in what she described as a “gang retaliation” incident. There is no experience more harrowing than learning about the trauma of someone that is so similar to you, and yet, so different.

Though mental health is a concept that is difficult for anyone to master, you can imagine how difficult it must be for a young student from a low-income, high-crime neighborhood to manage their emotional trauma, academics, and career paths simultaneously. On the most basic level, students in low-income areas of New York City are not provided the same educational or vocational opportunities as students in other areas. Vibrant’s ASC battles this social injustice head-on every day.

Pictured: A mural painted in the hallway leading to the ASC office

With each morning that I step into the ASC office, I am stepping outside of my comfort zone just the right amount to encourage and inspire the ASC students as a role model, a friendly face, and a support system as a peer. My personal contribution to the fight for the prosperity of our students is advising three specific students as a peer advocate. I look forward to spending my summer learning the stories of my students and understanding how I can best encourage them to continue on their paths to success.

Mental health, as I understood previously, is a complicated concept. However, since I started my journey at the ASC, I am learning that mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes and that it can completely control–and in some instances damage–a person’s entire life. In tackling the overwhelming concept of mental health, I expect to have many uncomfortable yet inspiring experiences, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

-Lauren Lindman ’22

Post 1: What is Environmental Justice?

Since coming to Brandeis, the need for environmental justice has become increasingly apparent to me not only through my studies, but through conversations with friends, and in passing thoughts. Yet, the reality remains that I do not have a solid definition for what environmental justice means, nor do I know my role in how to best support those suffering most from environmental injustices.

When I embarked on my search for summer internships, I was confident that I wanted to find an organization where I could develop my understanding of what environmental injustices look like, and how to become an ally rather than a bystander. When I came across the Sierra Club’s mission statement, I was immediately drawn to the last line in particular: “to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment.”

A key aspect of the Sierra Club’s objective is to take a stance on both conservation and preservation, and on human rights. While Sierra Club continues to hold outdoor activities, emphasizing the physical and mental health benefits of getting outside, the organization is equally as eager to involve itself in campaigns regarding zero waste and green transportation.

My supervisor, Aileen Kelly, made clear that in recent years, the Sierra Club has received criticism for attending events such as the Women’s March and for participating in rallies for immigrant rights and abortion rights. “They tell us to pick a lane,” she recounts, and follows by announcing to the group that in order to be an ally for people facing environmental injustices, you have to recognize the plethora of other injustices these very same communities face. You have to educate yourself on who will be most impacted by the effects of climate change in the imminent future, and you have to create lasting relationships with people outside of your immediate circles to do so.

One thing that has struck me thus far about nonprofit work is that a lot of it is in constant flow. The Sierra Club’s Massachusetts chapter includes only five full time staff members, and therefore they rely on volunteers and interns to help out. In these past three weeks, I have been assigned an array of projects ranging from researching the amount of solar on rooftops in various communities, helping to launch a letter to the editor campaign on the topic of protected land, and event planning.

Moreover, the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club allows the interns to attend hearings at the statehouse and the staff has been extraordinarily kind in allowing each of us time to sit down and speak with people throughout the office who work on specific areas of individual interest.

I am grateful and excited to learn more about how to be an ally for those facing environmental injustices in my time to come at the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club. And, just as importantly, I will now go forth in my pursuits knowing that no good can come from staying in your lane.

Post 1: How Bellevue Project Healthcare is Breaking Down Barriers

Bellevue Hospital, famously known for its psychiatric ward and colloquially termed as the “loony-bin” by many New York city residents, has an interesting and complicated story. Commonly used in popular culture to derive eerie and gothic backdrops such as in The Godfather, Bellevue has a number of misconceptions surrounding it. Inextricably linked with New York’s history, Bellevue has been a pioneer in the medical field and has served the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich. It has been home to a number of medical firsts and has trained physicians from Columbia Medical School to NYU Langone. Bellevue has impacted countless lives from immigrant families to patients who were turned away by other hospitals. Guided by its “no one be turned away” philosophy, Bellevue has been a haven to some of the most critical patients in New York. For me, Bellevue is home to Project Healthcare.

Project Healthcare provides a comprehensive look at emergency medicine to expose non-medical students to an immersive clinical setting. The program’s biggest goal is to empower students to make well-informed decisions regarding their career. Furthermore, the program aims to curate future healthcare professionals who are well versed in the social determinants of health in order to effectively treat and prevent large-scale health issues. The Bellevue Emergency Department serves a unique and underserved population in Manhattan to reduce healthcare disparities in the state. The hospital treats the highest percentage of  incarcerated, impoverished, homeless, and minority individuals each year, nearly 80% of the state’s underserved population.

Taken after a FDNY ambulance ride along with EMTs Bruno and Danny. We celebrated a busy, yet relatively easy night with quesadillas near midtown.

Project Healthcare interns adhere to a strict schedule of clinical rotations throughout various departments in the hospital. Our primary responsibilities lie in the Emergency Room where we assist doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers with tasks such as EKGs, listening to patients needs and concerns, and monitoring the quality of their stay in the hospital. One shift in the ER, a patient came in with his thumb partially amputated as a result of an on-site construction accident. I spent the majority of this shift speaking to him about his children, tattoos and favorite netflix TV shows to distract him from the hand surgeon suturing his thumb back together. Though the patient was in a great deal of pain, gentle reminders to breathe and the distraction of our conversation improved his experience, as well as aided the physician in his primary goal. Experiences like these have helped me further my personal goal of refining my interpersonal skills in highly stressful situations.  

Project Healthcare interns learning how to run EKGs during our Stop the Bleed! seminar.

In July, Project Healthcare interns will host a community health fair. My health fair topic is aimed at increasing awareness of Breast and Cervical cancer in order to educate the community on the importance of self-examination, early screenings and yearly physicals. My group has adopted a holistic approach to our topic and will provide resources for nutritious food and clinics that can be utilized by the unique patient population at Bellevue. The hope for the annual health fair is to empower underserved patients to make their health a priority and to bridge barriers in accessing health care services.  

Every Tuesday,  I survey a variety of Public Health topics as part of a social medicine course. The lecture series analyzes a variety of real-life situations seen in EDs all over the country to determine the sociological reasons for why they could have arisen. Weekly meetings and discussing case-studies is inherent to the healthcare field. The Social Emergency Medicine course is led by a variety of guest speakers from NYU and Bellevue faculty, staff, administrators, residents and medical students. These meetings are one of my favorite parts of this program and I strongly believe more healthcare providers should become versed in Public Health topics in order to improve the United States’ healthcare system as a whole. For example, the healthcare system has one of the largest  impacts on our environment. By simply educating providers and administrators on the impact of their practices, cognizant steps can be taken to reduce waste and emissions in order to improve the quality of life for millions of people.

Dr. Kelly Duran during her seminar: Homelessness in the ED. This figure is representative of the number of homeless people in the US on a single night in January 2018.

I frequently think about the kind of healthcare provider I want to be. Developing cultural competency is of the utmost importance to me. I want to be able to provide unbiased and accurate care to patients of all backgrounds and identities. Knowing where a patient comes from is incredibly important for addressing their health concerns and bettering their quality of life on a larger scale. Through my experiences in Bellevue’s ED, it is clear to my peers and me how health is socially constructed beyond simple biological factors.

My participation in this program has exposed me to populations that have been systematically neglected and fallen through the cracks of the healthcare system. My hope is to learn how to build bridges with this population and learn how to proactively create an inclusive and accessible environment for patients of all identities. This optimism is shared with my Project Healthcare peers, who are just a subset of the future healthcare providers. Developing cultural competency and learning how to sensitively interact with patients who come from different backgrounds early on is essential for breaking the cycle of systemically neglectful care that has been impervious to our system from the get-go.

Similar to the breaking down the misconceptions surrounding Bellevue Hospital, it is important to realize when stereotypes and misnomers are at play during patient care. Often times, there is more to the story than the first glance. Simple courtesies and an effort to get to know a patient’s personal history does wonders for their care and experience as a whole. Recognizing when unjustified biases are at play will bring the medical community closer to addressing health inequity and strengthening ties with their patients—something I encounter nearly everyday in my position at Bellevue.

 

Post 1: Pushing the Agenda Forward For Wage-Earning Women

The Women’s Bureau was Mandated by Congress in 1920!

The Women’s Bureau is a voice for working women. The Bureau was created by Congress in 1920 to promote the welfare of wage-earning women. The Women’s Bureau has been meeting its mandate by identifying, researching and analyzing the topics working women care about most; pioneering innovative policies and programs to address them; and enhancing education and outreach efforts to raise awareness on key issues affecting women in the workforce. Their two main goals are to reduce barriers that inhibit or prevent women’s access to – and retention in – better jobs, and to ensure women’s fair treatment in the workplace.

My coursework as a legal studies student has exposed me to a wide range of controversies regarding the discriminatory treatment of distinct interest and minority groups. As I dived deeper into my studies and independently read books about systematic workplace discrimination, I developed a profound interest in employment law. Soon thereafter, I realized my passions not only consist of advocating for improved conditions and equal opportunity, but also some day sharing my knowledge and advocacy skills with minority and low-income workers so they can acknowledge a situation of discrimination and subsequently self-advocate. Education and advocacy are entangled, and crucial to banish discrimination in the workplace and achieve economic stability and security. Hence, my goals coincide with the mission of the Women’s Bureau because they publish educational materials that are both concise and comprehensible to the average worker and employer.

Moreover, they empower women by aiding them with the proper tools to self-advocate in the face of discrimination or inequality. Additionally, the Bureau hosts multiple community outreach events and focus groups to understand the impact of modern cultural dynamics on issues concerning women.

I am responsible for assisting on specific project initiatives by drafting policy memorandums to underscore issues concerning women in the labor force, including maternity, childbirth, and postpartum policies and rights. I help compile research and data on current sociocultural and economic issues to support policy initiatives, refine methodology, and expand upon the outlined agenda. Additionally, I attend legislative hearings, interagency workgroups, and community events to understand regional constituent concerns and provide information on upcoming initiatives. I am also expected to collaborate with other regional offices to formulate solutions for community-specific issues.

I have recently been asked to look into issues concerning lactation spaces in the workplace by observing federal buildings, hospitals, and private businesses. By conducting this research and analysis, I am able to discern best practices in lactation spaces that should be implemented to help new moms feel supported during their breastfeeding experience. After addressing these best practices and my research with other regional office coordinators, we were able to refine the objective and ultimate goal of my project. My work will hopefully help the Bureau encourage management and other personnel to create effective and comfortable lactation spaces for nursing moms. Additionally, by devising a best practices/educational fact-sheet for supervisors, I hope that this will encourage dialogue and more training surrounding lactation rights provided under the law.

I look forward to continuing my work on this project and also helping the Bureau in some other areas of focus, such as occupational licensure reciprocity in various states. I hope the preliminary research and analysis I conduct this summer will help the Bureau continue to advocate for change and push the agenda forward long after my internship is over!

Post 1: The Start of My Summer at United For a Fair Economy

 

A view of 184 High Street (the building on the right), the location of UFE’s office

This summer, I’m interning with United for a Fair Economy (UFE). My discovery of UFE was pretty serendipitous; I was browsing the list of WOW Social Justice internships and came across the posting for this internship. Even though I have relatively little prior experience working for economic justice, as a student from a working-class background, UFE’s mission is incredibly important to me. My grandparents worked on dairy farms, in paper mills, and in shoe factories. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any organizations like UFE aiding them in the fight for fair pay, progressive taxation, and a more equitable economy. I hope that by interning at UFE I’m able to advance the cause of economic justice and help workers like my parents and grandparents.

According to their website, UFE “challenges the concentration of wealth and power that corrupts democracy, deepens the racial divide and tears communities apart.” UFE takes a multi-pronged approach to the fight for economic justice; their three main programs are Economics for Everyone, the Responsible Wealth Project (RWP), and the Inclusive Economies Network. Economics for Everyone uses popular education to equip people with tools they can use to identify and fight economic injustices. One of UFE’s most important popular education initiatives is the Training of Trainers Institute, which is held biannually and is targeted at organizers working against economic injustices. I haven’t yet gone to a Training of Trainers, but I hope to attend one at the Highlander Center in Tennessee this fall.

In addition to holding trainings, UFE also publishes infographics, reports, and books. One of their most important reports is the State of the Dream Report, an annual report that deals with a topical issue and its relationship to economic justice. The 2019 State of the Dream Report details how the US disaster response system fails economically disadvantaged people and worsens economic inequality.

The Responsible Wealth Project connects high-income earners to fight for economic justice. In the past, members of the Responsible Wealth Project have lobbied for more progressive individual income tax rates, fought for the preservation of the federal estate tax, and filed more than 100 shareholder resolutions to hold corporations accountable.

Unlike Economics for Everyone and the RWP–both of which are based in Boston–the Inclusive Economies Network is based in Durham, North Carolina, and is fighting to increase the state minimum wage to $15/hour. 

The cover of UFE’s 2019 State of the Dream Report

As a development intern at UFE, a large part of my job so far has been processing donations, entering donor information into the UFE database, and brainstorming ideas for UFE’s 25th anniversary celebration (on Friday, September 13th from 6-9 pm at Old South Church in Boston!). I’m especially grateful for the opportunities to learn more about nonprofit finances, as I’m interested in working at a nonprofit in the future. UFE is unique among nonprofits in that it receives a very large share of its money from individual donors, and not from grants.

Learning more about UFE’s finances has really underscored the importance of cultivating and maintaining donor relationships, especially for an organization that relies mainly on individual donations. My role in cultivating and maintaining donor relationships is the primary way in which I have furthered UFE’s mission so far. A donor who feels valued is far more likely to contribute to again, and a healthy, growing donor base is needed to run a successful nonprofit. 

Overall, my first week at UFE was pretty great. I’ve been really impressed with how accessible and thoughtful the UFE staff have been. Madeline (the other UFE WOW intern) and I had meetings with most of the team members during the first week, and they were all incredibly welcoming and willing to answer any questions we had about their work. They take their mission to fight economic injustice incredibly seriously, but they’re also able to have fun and not overwork themselves. If my future workplace looks like UFE, I’ll be more than satisfied. 

My Last Month at Columbia

Towards the end of my time at Columbia, a lot of my boss’ and my energy was put into a paper that she was working on for an academic journal that is based in Cuba. It was focused on International Relations and Cuban Studies in the United States. In order to best depict the essence of the work, the abstract is as follows: “This essay examines the development of the field of International Relations and the major analytical frameworks and paradigms employed, together with their influence in Latin America including Cuba.   The paradigms most commonly employed are realism, liberalism, constructivism, Marxism, feminism, The English School, and non-paradigmatic constructs.  The most influential universities and scholars in the US and Latin America are noted, as are major debates, including the role of International Relations in analyzing foreign policy related to Cuba.”

 

My last couple of weeks at Columbia were absolutely bitter sweet. I worked a lot of extra hours at my boss’ home, sorting through her personal library. The first photo below was taken one evening at my “desk”, (her dining room table), where I spent a lot of my time.

The second image is a screenshot of a page of data that I put together that was ultimately put in the final publication that was mentioned above. I was so happy and excited to see my name at the bottom in the fine print!

 

I will miss my boss terribly and am forever grateful for this experience and for the wealth of knowledge she has given me. Thanks to Hiatt and the WOW/EL fellowship, this experience has truly solidified my desire to pursue a career in academia and specifically, a PhD in Latin American History or Politics with a focus in Cuba. Although I have done several internships in different cities and across different fields in the past, this summer has most definitely been the most instrumental to my personal and professional growth. It was incredible to work solely on projects that I am passionate about and can see myself pursuing in the future.  I would recommend applying for this fellowship to anyone and everyone who has a passion! Many thanks to Hiatt!

4: Law as an Instrument for Change

During my time at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, I have learned a tremendous amount. I have expanded on my knowledge of the legal system, and have learned a great deal about myself and others. In working at the Bureau, I have interacted with many individuals, of varying backgrounds and in diverse situations. I have gained perspective on the realities faced by many of those who are in need of legal aid, and have realized just how significant the need for legal aid truly is. My firsthand experiences with our clients’ difficulties and frustrations has taught me how to be persistent, yet patient and kind while helping others.
Through conversing with and assisting student attorneys, I have gained valuable insight into the legal field and what law school entails. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always dreamed of attending law school and becoming a practicing attorney one day. Up until this summer, I had never really understood the significance of my childhood dream. My limited exposure to law and the legal profession created a vague and unclear understanding of what it meant to be a lawyer, and as a young undergraduate student, I had yet to figure out what it meant for myself. While I have always viewed law as an instrument, a catalyst for change, and a means to protect and improve the lives of others, my perspective was still limited. Through my work at HLAB, I have finally come to understand what it genuinely means to be a lawyer.
In many forms of media today, whether it be a movie or a classic television show, it can be observed that lawyers are commonly portrayed to be bossy, pushy, aggressive and elitist. Some of the most infamous stereotypes of lawyers suggest that they are power hungry emotionless beings who thrive on pointing fingers and arguing for argument’s sake. Despite these negative portrayals, I was fortunate enough to see the rare and scarcely highlighted attributes of a lawyer, the honest ones that media is not clever enough to feature. The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau displayed a very different image of a lawyer. At HLAB, our practicing student attorneys and attorneys engaged in law from a client-centered stand point. Quality legal representation is frequently a privilege, only accessible to those who are fortunate enough to afford it. At the bureau, individuals of all socioeconomic backgrounds were given access to quality legal representation. The organization presented legal services in a different light, one which assured that quality legal representation was accessible to all, and given in a manner which supported and empowered our clients.
I have assisted student attorneys with various tasks on numerous cases. I have seen clients go through the process at HLAB from start to finish; from seeking legal aid, to eventually going to trial and receiving a judgement or reaching a final agreement. Whether it is a mother regaining custody of her child, or a family who was about to be homeless regain tenancy, I have seen for myself how law can be used to change lives for the better.
My time at HLAB has highlighted my passion for pursuing a career in the legal field. It has confirmed my desire to go to law school and eventually pursue a profession in public interest law. Until I had first-hand experience with cases and clients, and had witnessed how lawyers can use law to change the lives of their clients, I had not understood the true potential or depth of law as a means for change. One day, I aspire to take an integral role in using law for such positive change.

Post 5: What I Have Learned

What have I learned about social justice work?

Activism is the keystone of social justice work, but there are so many layers to being a good activist. You have to be patient. You have to be open-minded, motivated, hard-working, sociable, emphatic, and organized. You have to be good at communicating. These are the characteristics I knew I had to have to be a good activist before I started working at Interfaith Worker Justice. I did not, however, have the chance to see if I had them and if not, work on them before.

Sarah, my supervisor, thinks that there are a few skills and qualifications that are important for this job: ability to motivate and persuade people, particularly people of faith to join the fight for worker justice and motivational speaking skills.

I saw my capacity to be a good activist at Interfaith Worker Justice. I acknowledged my weaknesses and strengths.

I acknowledged the power of religion in mobilizing people. I saw the option of having religion and religious people in the action space and the conversations. I saw how significant religion and its message could be.

What kind of impact did I have on IWJ in the time I have been there?

At IWJ, I constantly engaged in conversations about activism with my colleagues and my supervisor. What I believe I added to the conversation is the experience I had in Turkey. Pointing out the differences between the two practices and explaining how and why activism is the way it is now in Turkey was what I brought to the table at IWJ.

This I believe was also important to show and highlight the peculiarity of  practices in the action space in the United States–almost like a reminder to the people with whom I engaged in conversation.

What do I know now that I wished I had known when I started? 

I wish I had known how difficult it would be to travel in Boston using public transportation. I wish I planned better and payed less to UberJ

Boston’s public transportation is neither fast nor easy to manage but planning ahead of time would definitely help.

What advice would I give to someone else who wants to pursue an internship or career in my organization or field?

It will sound cliché but learning and getting the most out of IWJ is up to the person who is working. IWJ provides you with opportunities and it is up to you to get something out of it. My suggestion for the next intern would be solely “do and learn as much as you can!” Educate yourself, go to talk to people, ask questions, read and think about the power dynamics!

On top of preparing intellectually, I would recommend preparing mentally and physically. Be ready not to have a fixed schedule. Be aware that you will not be able to make spontaneous plans. Keep in mind that you will travel a lot to go to meetings and congregations. Thus, organize and schedule your time wisely. Prioritize your health. Know that IWJ prioritizes its workers health.

– Ece Esikara

Post 5: Reflection

This summer internship was extremely eye-opening and rewarding. From meeting with TriMet leadership to grassroots organizing to arranging and managing events to raise public awareness, I’ve learned where resistance in social justice issues can arise and I have learned the dependency of these issues have on big decision-makers. Many social justice issues involve educating the public, as many people may not be aware that these issues exist in the first place, and education is the first step in almost any issue. People must be aware or admit that it is a problem before anyone can start the first steps to move forward to make change.

I have seen the power that education can have on a community, as my internship revolved around discussing the problems of diesel in Portland to individuals, writing Letters to the Editor to educate news-readers, testifying in front of the committees of TriMet to discuss their role in leading Portland to reach ambitious climate goals, and in return, others educated me in many ways.

My internship was essentially a cycle of spreading awareness — educating individuals, gaining support, and then educating TriMet leadership of this support for electric buses and decreasing diesel emissions in Portland.

While no final decisions about committing to battery electric buses will be made until this coming year, I know that more people are aware of the diesel pollution issue in Portland. It is rewarding for me to know that there is a movement in the minds of Portlanders, and individuals are able to make a difference in their day-to-day lives as well.

The only advice that I would give to someone who is pursuing an internship in this field is to learn. Do your own research until you understand front-and-back whatever it is that you are campaigning about. When teaching business owners with businesses located along bus routes about diesel emissions, I received a multitude of varying responses and questions. I realized, sometimes the hard way, how essential it is to be prepared. Sometimes I didn’t know how to answer questions. Having straightforward and clear answers to each question or concern shows that you really care and in turn leads to more confidence, which is essential in grassroots campaigning and any discussion with people who are working with you. It is essential to speak up when leaders may attempt to work around answering the question instead of being straightforward, and that takes knowing what you’re talking about front-and-back to be able to speak up in front of others and have the confidence to know what you’re talking about.

People can see through you if you don’t care about your campaign, and no social justice issue can be ameliorated unless you really throw yourself into it and are passionate about it.

– Mahala Lahvis

Post 5: Final Reflection

What have you learned about social justice work?

With one of the younger Samsungwon children

It’s sometimes hard to completely explain what one’s gotten out of an experience; however, with this internship, it’s different. The students call me 선생님 (sungsaengnim, teacher), but I’m the one who’s learning. My time with the children at Samsungwon will end after breakfast, but I’ll always remember their faces, their kindness, their humility, and their love for one another. Explaining all I learned about social justice work would take me well over the five hundred word limit, so for now, I’ll say that social justice work is HARD, but one hundred percent worth any troubles. Our work helps others – what more could we ever ask for?

With YeJin

Impact on internship organization?

My direct supervisor has repeatedly emphasized that without my presence, running Dream Camp would be impossible. The three board members (our president, chief administrator, and a general member) visiting Korea had other business matters to attend to besides the Dream Camp. That left me to create the foundation for the budget, camp schedule and details. Of course, everything went through my supervisors, but I was tasked with all the research. It was a lot of work, but so rewarding. As I write this, the camp starts tomorrow (August 6 in Korea) and I’m so excited to see everything we’ve planned for the past two months come to fruition.

With a partner organisation’s college scholars & KKOOM college scholars
With college scholars from Samsungwon Orphanage, one of the two orphanages KKOOM most closely work with

What do you wish you’d have known?

Thanks to having experience running other events, there weren’t too many things that shocked me. Planning multiple-day events takes a lot of kindness, patience, and flexibility. To anyone who is planning a camp for the first time, the suggestion I’d stress the most is to go into it with an open mind and an open heart. You’ll meet people who have very different ways of thinking and planning and sometimes, their way is better than yours; other times, the reverse is true.

Advice to others?

Little things make big connections. I’ve learned a lot from interacting with our different board members. Our president, Aimee, has most of our connections in Korea, and she made them by choosing to explore the world beyond the one created by her Fulbright program. Our chief ambassador, Grace, has the gift of being able to strike up conversation with anyone around her. In America, every taxi ride we took, she handed out a business card. in Korea, she always managed to bring up the work and why she does it while riding from place to place.

Aimee (president), me (intern), Grace (chief administrator), Bill (board member)

I’ve had the opportunity of meeting several representatives from our partner organizations. I’ve also met a few former KKOOM volunteers. Listening to their stories and learning from what they share provides invaluable new perspectives.

With any organization or field, especially if one enters without prior experience (or even with experience), it’s crucial to listen more than talk.

Working abroad is no easy task

Volunteering or working abroad is not an easy task. You find yourself stepping out of your comfort zone, traveling miles before reaching your workplace, communicating with people who do not understand your language and all of that might seem very hard.

The two months I spent in the Ivory Coast have been the best two months I have spent working at an internship. My two months were full of experiences and a dream come true. I found myself being challenged emotionally and physically everyday.  Due to certain conditions, I was forced to think fast because mistakes cost too much. I found myself challenging some of the people in the hospital to treat people/patients in more humane ways no matter what their social status was.

There were many times when everything seemed difficult to manage; like waking up early enough to reach work before 8:30am when commuting is about an hour and thirty minutes.  Or the many times when I left the hospital feeling like I had not done enough for a patient. However, this journey was the most rewarding experience. One of the many important things I have learned this summer is that “an act of kindness does not need to be big , the smallest acts count a lot.”

Four of the medical students I had the honor to work with

During my stay, I met a woman at the hospital who needed care for her newborn son . Her little daughter was there, too. I greeted them and told her daughter I liked her braids.  A couple weeks later, I was heading home when I saw the same lady with her kids on my street. It turned out that we live in the same area. Her daughter, Atta, approached me days later and said she wanted to wear my white coat when she grew up. At that moment, my goal here in the Ivory Coast was met. That’s all that mattered to me, “inspire and be inspired.” I was inspired by many doctors, but mostly inspired by female doctors. These woman fight stereotypes and sexism everyday in the workplace and outside of work. As a woman, I have also experienced many sexist comments. The popular belief is that women do not belong in a hospital, or if they do, they should be seeking positions like nurses and other  administrative jobs. There are not many female doctors in hospitals and during my two-month stay, I met only 3 in both hospitals I worked in. So seeing a little girl look up to me reminded me the many reasons why I decided to take part in this internship, and I could not be more grateful.

As my journey continues, working in an environment where social justice work is needed, I have learned important things about social justice work:

  1. Everyone can help someone: No matter what you do in life, there is enough room for your contribution .
  2. It is important to practice self care because we can’t help or make change if we do not take the proper time to care for ourselves.
  3. Treat people how you would like to be treated. It’s important to learn how to respect boundaries and communicate in building effective and long lasting relationships
  4. Practice self-reflection and understand the complexities of relationships.
  5. Allow yourself to be vulnerable: it is important to be vulnerable in order to understand, promote and accept change. Putting yourself outside of your comfort zone and in situations that are not very comfortable expand your experience. But most importantly speaking up when we see injustice is the most effective way to educate people on social justice and raise awareness.
  6. Active listening is key to building trust.

To anyone who wants to volunteer abroad, go for it. Be yourself and dive into it.  Walk with confidence, however, be very humble. Be ready to learn from anyone, even the little children. Be as curious as a kid, ask questions, and always be prepared to run in case of an emergency. Be open minded and no matter what your background is, you are learning from these people so be humble and you will have the best time of your life. I hope to reflect and use my skills at Brandeis University and the outside world. I am looking forward to the fall semester, where I will have the opportunity to share my skills with my friends. I am confident that I have grown and I hope to offer my strength  as I continue in my journey of learning, inspiring and being inspired.

Neurosurgeon at Abidjan hospital

– Awa Soumahoro

 

Take Aways from My Time at the Hartford Public Defender’s Office

This past Friday, I completed my final day as an intern at the Hartford Public Defender’s office. While I am excited to enjoy the rest of my summer and prepare for my semester abroad to Peru over the next month, I am a little sad to be leaving behind an office that I have grown to love.

Logo from the Connecticut Public Defender’s website

Through my time here, I have learned a great amount about the criminal justice/legal system in our country and the great inequities that continue to exist within it. As far as social justice work goes, I have learned that it takes a lot of patience and willingness to make sacrifices. It can be hard at times when I consider the future career paths I would like to take, but also the reality that those paths typically involve being paid a great amount less. While there are many lawyers that work in the private sector making at least 3x the amount as the public defenders in my office, the lawyers I work with choose to do the work they do because of their passion for the job. Additionally, I have learned that it requires you to learn and work with people who often come from different backgrounds from your own.

View of Hartford from inside the courthouse

Something that I wish I had known when I started working at this internship last year, now having worked there for two consecutive summers, is the amount of emotional labor that goes into the job. Everyday I would hear stories from our clients and the people I met in lockup, telling me about their circumstances and how they ended up in their situation. I can be a very emotional person so it was hard at times to hear these very painful stories, or hear about the very little means many of the families in Hartford live off of. It was also hard at times as I learned some of the people I would talk to would often lie to myself and other interns if they thought it would help them have a better outcome in court. This was hard because while I have a great desire to help others, not knowing whether some people were being truthful or not made the job incredibly difficult at times.

If I were to give advice to someone else who wanted to start interning at the Hartford Public Defender’s office or at another public service law firm, I would tell them to come in with an open mind and ears. Most of our clients struggle just want to be heard as they often feel they have little voice when it comes to their case. By giving our clients an opportunity to talk to myself and the other interns at court, I hope it allowed some to feel they were listened to and valued.

Picture of the outside of Hartford Police Department during a visit I took while delivering a subpoena with one of the investigators from our office.

For people accused of criminal charges, it may feel like they have no one to support them and that they are looked upon as less than because of something they may have allegedly done. For many of the reasons I have discussed over the course of this summer, I believe the work done at the public defender’s office is some of the most important work done in the legal field. While I am sad to be leaving this office and its amazing staff behind, I look forward to visiting everyone in the future and continuing to do social justice work throughout my career.

Thanks for a great summer!

– Olivia Kalsner Kershen ‘19

Post 4: Communication is a Skill

Naming every skill I’ve gained in the past eight weeks would not fit in this blog post, and the skills I’m aware of make up probably only half of the total skills I’ve attained.

That being said, my skill that I can confidently say has improved the most throughout the summer is communication/public speaking, both in-person and in writing. This is a skill that fascinates me; it is a skill that is extremely important to have, especially in today’s world with technology and social media when you must stand out from everyone hiding behind a keyboard. You can read for hours, but you can’t master this skill by reading. You can practice time and time again. You can know everything about a problem, and you can know a solution, but if you lack conversational skills, you lack the skills to succeed in many ways.

I’ve met hundreds of strangers in the past two or three months, and the impression that I make on these strangers will either lead to success or to resistance. I’ve learned how to converse with all different kinds of people about the same thing, and in so many ways. In just the category of business owners, I’ve communicated with people from all education levels in regards to electric buses. I’ve also been reaching out to students, chairs of neighborhood associations, TriMet professionals, and other environmental groups. I’ve spoken in a number of meetings and in front of small and large crowds.

Here’s me speaking at the “electric bus happy hour” event that I organized at a local brewery

I’ve learned a crucial point to effectively converse with others is to listen to them. I’ve been in many meetings where I just listen. I’ve attended TriMet meetings, Oregon legislative committee meetings, and I’ve listened to people who have questions or concerns. I’ve learned that each interaction is unique, and the way for someone to understand you is for you to make an effort to listen and understand them.

As a result of this internship, I now feel confident speaking in front of people and approaching strangers and starting conversations. Having strong conversational skills is important for just about everything. For any path, creating and maintaining good relationships is a fundamental skill for success. Developing listening skills is important for school, for jobs, and it is a skill that many people lack (especially in today’s world). Today, it seems like everyone argues but no one listens.

I’m eager to have more life experiences to enhance my communication skills, and I strongly believe that this skill will only grow if you are thrown into uncomfortable situations, like I have been this summer. Staying in one place or engaging with a just a select group of people will limit your ability to grow socially, and I’m inspired to go out of my comfort zone to talk with people who have varying sorts of stories and perspectives.

Last post: Overall internship experience

Interning at The Center Houston during this summer has helped me achieve academic and career goals. Marketing has always been something I had an interest in, along with not-for-profit work. The Center gave me the opportunity to combine two of my passions and become more knowledgeable.

The Center is constantly fighting for social justice. I have come to learn that social justice is something that should be present in every field. However, the reality is that sometimes things are not as we imagine. The Center brings equality and opportunity to grow for adults with disabilities. Coming to work has never been so fulfilling as it has this summer, because I understood the true meaning of social justice and how it plays out in our society. I have learned that The Center fosters social justice by bringing people together! Social justice can be done in multiple steps and the most valuable one is helping someone gain a skill to break away from the injustice.

During my internship, I was assigned multiple projects. However, my favorite project was contributing the idea of hiring a job coach. I believe that teaching skills to clients to obtain jobs is as important as teaching a client the process of a job interview. This idea was something that I contributed to by making a presentation and being part of hiring someone, which was exciting.

The whole idea behind obtaining a job coach is to teach clients how to dress and answer questions during a job interview. We also keep in touch with clients because we want to make sure that they not only get a job, but also maintain it. It’s very fulfilling when a client obtains a job because of all the hard work he or she put into it.

This was my supervisor Breanne Subias

Before starting my internship, I never worked on writing a press release that was going to be read by 11,000+ people. I wish I had known how to write one; however, at the same time it was a good learning experience to grow and learn from the professionals around me. Organizing volunteer events is something I wish I had known before, because of the details and time each one takes. During my internship, I had the opportunity to meet several volunteers whose stories were amazing and who were passionate in giving back to The Center.

Interning at The Center was a very rewarding experience for me. The level of professionalism you are exposed to makes you adapt to a fast pace of work, while recognizing the things you need to work more on. The support system from the departments was something I loved, as well as how my supervisor was always teaching me something new. The staff is welcoming and you are free to work on any project that will help you achieve your academic or career goals.

A career in marketing can be very competitive, but working for a not-for-profit organization with experienced professionals in that field can be rewarding when starting. The network that you are exposed to is large, which means you can reach out to potential mentors who are eager to help you succeed.

This opportunity would not have been possible without the WOW Social Justice fellowship and for that I am very thankful!

Lesbia ‘20

Post 4: Social Justice, But Not for Everyone

For the past week, I have been working at a public hospital in Abidjan called the CHU. It’s a bigger public hospital that has all services. This time I am working in the neurosurgery department, a career I want to specialize in after medical school.

The CHU has its problems and is not perfect. The CHU is bigger and has more space for its patients, but it lacks resources. People with financial burdens usually go there because they can’t afford hospitals like the military hospital, which is a semi-private hospital. Being exposed to and having to adjust to many of the issues that different hospitals face, I have learned important skills. One that I think was very important is interacting with patients, especially in an area where the population is not very well-educated. At first, I saw that doctors tried explaining things to patients but being so overworked and busy, they explained little. Patients were sometimes left confused about their conditions. Before I went home after work, I would go back to the patients to explain medical information that was given to them in clear ways that they were able to understand. Some patients were not very fluent in French. I used my language skills and translated in Madigo for those patients (thanks to my parents for teaching me their language).

hospital
The hospital where I began working.

As a person who is committed to social justice, I also found myself advocating for some patients who needed immediate attention. I loved listening to the patients and empathizing both intellectually and emotionally with them. It made it easier for me to understand their problems and propose solutions while staying professional. Sometimes, I would received text messages from my colleagues on my days off telling me that some patients asked after me and were looking forward to our “end of the day” conversations.

I hope to take the skills I have learned to Brandeis University and advocate for the lives of the underserved and the marginalized. My goals are to receive an education, become a doctor and use my professional platform, or even as an undergraduate student, to be a catalyst in the fight for human rights. I can start this by first going around the world to provide quality healthcare to the underserved.

I am definitely for the idea of making the world a better place. I have access to quality health care any time I want, so I believe these people deserve to have the same opportunity I have. This is very important to me, especially because I lost my aunt at a very young age for the same financial reasons that some of the people on the Ivory Coast are facing. She could have been saved if someone helped her or at least advocated for her life.

I hope to become a person who is grateful enough to give back to the community. I will take my public advocacy skills to Brandeis University which will allow me to fight for human rights, especially for the marginalized groups around the world.  I refuse to feel guilty every time I see someone in need of treatment. I want to sustain a responsible and fair society, and the most powerful way to do so is to study the wonders and miracles of science in my pursuit of a medical career.

– Awa Soumahoro

Some medical students I have met there. Here we were shadowing a doctor in his consultations.

Post 4: Progress from the Desk Space

At the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club I have been gaining much insight as to how non-profit activist groups organize themselves and create real change.  I came in expecting lots of protest organizing and direct, politically charged outreach. While this is a large portion of what members of the Sierra Club take part in, it does not cover what happens behind the scenes in the office. At my work site there are lots of educated, driven, determined, compassionate people all striving towards a common goal: protect the earth and protect the people.  First and foremost each of them has taught me how to take my frustration on a social justice issue and use that to fuel each step we take in reaching towards a better future.

On a more technical note, I gained much valuable knowledge on what needs to happen in the office in order for it to function smoothly and efficiently. These include, but aren’t limited to, skills in Excel Spreadsheets, data analysis, professional communication, organization, and time management.  Sometimes it felt like I would be working on the same spreadsheet for days at a time, and to what end? I admittedly got frustrated because at times it felt like all the hours spent in the office didn’t amount to any actual progress on the important issues. I eventually realized my place in it all, however, would not be solving every hard case of bureaucratic gridlock that plagues this country.

My personal desk work space in the office

Climate change is not going to be reversed any time soon or by any one individual. This took some grappling with in order to come to terms with, but when I finally did I understood that I had so much to gain by simply doing the seemingly mundane paper pushing tasks. All of them make my bosses’ jobs easier, and on top of that the skills I gained will be relevant in almost any future job setting. Some of the more important takeaways included learning about equity and inclusivity challenges as well as being conscious that no organization is perfect, even social justice oriented non-profits.

Ever since I arrived at Brandeis I have been wanting to get more involved with all the social justice activism present on campus, and I think now that I am more familiar with a wider range of what that justice means I can do so with more confidence and capability. Specifically, when I get back on campus this Fall I plan on getting involved with S.E.A. (Students for Environmental Action). As far as personal revelations, this summer I’ve learned that a desk job isn’t my strong suit, though someone has to do it. Furthermore, I’ve learned that I’m passionate about protecting the environment, and I never want to forget to take the time out of my schedule and fight to protect our planet.  While this doesn’t align perfectly with my neuroscience major, I’ve realized that it doesn’t have to. These issues at hand are more important than ever and need everyone’s attention.

Post 5: Looking Back at a Summer with the Sierra Club

In my last post I expressed some of my angst regarding the nature of social justice work in an office setting, but this made me realize the necessity of every small cog and gear in a system. Similarly, with social justice one must advocate not just for their own liberation and welfare but for everyone around them who may not even have the privilege or opportunity to make their voice heard. Every voice matters, so use yours and use it effectively.  With each story of a marginalized experience that you can bring to light, your cause becomes stronger in solidarity and authenticity. There is power in numbers, and the trick is to make sure those numbers, even if large, are representative of the relevant and diverse struggles that require constant awareness and action to address.

At the Sierra Club I have learned much about grassroots efforts specificaly.  They are so powerful because of the amount of voices (the Lone Star Chapter alone has 22,000 members). Similarly, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has increased awareness of systemic racism in the United States as it gained momentum with more and more stories being shared, especially through social media.  #BlackLivesMatter is very distinct from the Sierra Club, however, in that it has no hierarchal structure for organization, purely the voices that choose to use the hashtag.  Such a decentralized movement thus loses the weight of beurocracy and becomes much more focused in its goals. As an intern at my site, I felt like a very small gear in the system, but by now I have learned that the small gears don’t just help the system function, they are necessary for it to function whether there is a central organization scheme or not. My desk work, while semi-mundane depending on the day, made my superiors’ jobs easier as they had less of the number crunching and media reading on their plates. Furthermore, I believe it was a valuable opportunity for my coworkers, because through teaching me the basic ins and outs of the organization and the daily work they do, they got to practice communicating these issues in layman’s terms.  In the office, I provided an increase in demographic diversity as the youngest person (and especially one not thoroughly educated in environmental issues). This lead to many insightful discussions relating the Sierra Club’s work to social justice as a whole, and I genuinely believe was a learning experience for all parties involved.

Sierra Club Clean Energy Coordinator speaking in San Antonio (from @TexasSierraClub Twitter)

If I could go back in time, I wish I had come into the internship with more knowledge of the business and legislation side of environmental justice.  All of the policy and lawsuit side of things blindsided me, and when I first got on site I had a lot of research to do on the current political climate in Texas surrounding environmental issues. To anyone considering an internship with the Sierra Club or other environmental justice organizations I would advise to be aware going into it that you are going to take many losses.  It can be a discouraging field at times, but you’ve got to keep your head up, continue to fight the good fight, and believe in every part of what you are doing.

Post 4: Reflecting on my experience in Berlin

During my time here I have been asked many times about the purpose of my stay. Explaining that I am an intern often invites questions like “Why here?” and “Is this a requirement for your studies?” So I had to ask myself the same questions. Over the past few weeks I have spent a lot of time working independently and have had a lot of time to reflect on my experience and the decisions I have made. Naturally, I experienced many moments of doubt and frustration where I felt the work I was doing was minor and fruitless. In these moments, I had to remind myself that nothing is achieved overnight and small steps can lead to major change. If I am asked now, towards the end of my internship, if I made the right choice, I would undoubtedly say yes!

I came here with certain expectations that were not met professionally, but I feel I have grown in other ways. I learned to become much more mobile, adaptable and patient. I learned that not everything can be accomplished quickly, especially when working with others. I also learned how to work on my own with a lot of freedom.

To be frank, I have yet to discover the magic of time management and what it would be like to actually work within a timeline or stick to a deadline (hence I am submitting this post late!). But navigating that has also been part of the adventure. I was certain that I am not the type of person that would ever work a conventional nine to five, but I have found that there are disadvantages to working remotely in a freelancing type of way as well.  I realized the freedom I was allowed at my work space required me to become a lot more self-disciplined and that freedom was at times restricting because I was unable to use my time wisely and productively.

My view working in Monbijou Park last week

On a personal level, when I decided that I would move to Berlin and work with my internship remotely, I had no idea what to expect and I was thinking that my work life and my social/personal life would be very different. However, the type of work I am doing with refugees has opened my eyes to so many different ways of viewing and experiencing German society as a whole. Whether in a big city or a small town, it has been fascinating to observe the different groups of people who live here and the ways that their lives collide.

The city has also offered me great opportunities to network and meet people from all over the world who are involved in similar work. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to hear from refugees in Berlin and to listen to their stories and think about the different integration methods in a big city versus smaller communities.

Working remotely has proven challenging yet rewarding. I look forward to the adventures yet to come and the experiences not yet lived.

PS: if you ever find yourself in Berlin and want to find co-working spaces here are a few of my favorite places  where hipsterism is at its best:

Betahaus

St. Oberholz

Post 3: What Progress Looks Like

The last couple of weeks have been milestone weeks! Eighty-four businesses have signed on stating they are in support of a fully-electric bus fleet, thirteen neighborhood associations in Portland have signed on, and we had our first happy hour event about electric buses last night at a local brewery! Momentum is picking up, and at a meeting that we had with TriMet yesterday morning, I discovered we might really be getting somewhere. A twenty-two-year, detailed plan for TriMet to transition to a fully-electric fleet may still need revisions, but it will be proposed to the TriMet committee and board in upcoming weeks.

While there are a few complications and logistics that need maneuvering, it’s really encouraging to see a plan, and to see people who work with TriMet and people who don’t–mostly environmentalists–responding to public support around electric buses and creating an in-depth proposal. Now, more than ever, it’s important for me to reach out to the community and communicate between Portlanders (individuals, business owners, neighborhood associations, and other leaders who care about clean air in Portland) and TriMet that this plan is something we must agree to and then follow through with.

Here is a picture from the happy hour event last night. This is the Multnomah County Commissioner, Jessica Vega Pederson, talking about the urgency  of electric buses in Portland

For me, there’s a large spectrum of what progress looks like. Getting a single bus-line business to sign on is progress, but adding up all of the small grassroots work and events and sharing it with TriMet is what might lead to the bigger successes that I’m looking to achieve down the road. And, frequently, change doesn’t come right away and it definitely won’t stop once this campaign is achieved. Getting TriMet to ditch diesel and go electric will hopefully just be a small stepping stone leading to other big things that, when combined altogether, will have the biggest outcome. Since it takes legal action to get private organizations that are major contributors to our diesel pollution to reduce their emissions, it is best to push for a public organization that really cares about how the city views them. These organizations will see TriMet following what the public is pushing for, and hopefully that will result in changing practices for them as well. The local change we are hoping to create could thus factor into  national change and possibly global change. But everything starts small.

It’s important to have big goals and big dreams and hope to achieve things that some might think are impossible, but it’s also important to recognize that some big changes need to start small. You cannot expect that you will make progress and change right away, and sometimes you have to be patient.

Post 2: The Fire in the Belly

“Get tough. Have the fire in the belly.” That was an ADA’s response when I asked him what makes a good lawyer. It’s about being a fierce advocate for what you believe in and having a commitment to getting to the truth of things in an effort to be as fair as possible.

In criminal proceedings, a heavy burden falls upon the prosecutor. They must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This principle of law is enshrined in the Constitution, helping to form the foundations of our judicial system in which a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Every day at the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office, I get to both observe and assist Assistant District Attorneys as they seek to satisfy their burden. It’s a difficult job because not all parts of the incident will be introduced in court, and preparing for a case requires extensive preparation and communication with the defense. Being a prosecutor is, at its best, about uncovering the truth, which reminds me of Brandeis University’s motto, “Truth, even unto its innermost parts.”

Some court rooms are used for arraignments, while others are reserved for trials or dangerousness hearings.

Over the course of my internship, I have realized how much the law shapes the society that we live in. It can be frustrating to see the same defendants appear in the courthouse again and again, or to go through a defendant’s discovery folder for a case and see that their record is several pages long and usually is motivated by addiction or gang affiliation. This further proves that early prevention and diversion programs, such as the community outreach that I help with, can change the trajectory of a person’s life. While free will (and the personal responsibility that accompanies it) is of course the single most important factor that determines whether or not someone commits a crime, there are many systemic issues and injustices that contribute to such a heavy caseload for ADAs, the most pressing of which is the opioid epidemic in this country.

The ADAs that I have had the privilege of interning for face the uphill battle of uncovering the truth and seeking justice with hard work, determination, and steadfast support of one another. This internship is extremely hands-on, so I have pushed myself to take the initiative to reach out to ADAs and seek out projects that give me exposure to court proceedings. The courthouse is a new world that I have had to learn to navigate and understand. The legal profession is like its own language, so asking for clarification is now something that I am extremely comfortable doing because that is the key to understanding my surroundings. Everyone involved in a trial is in the courthouse at the same time, meaning that being able to read the room and navigate the nuances of a particular situation is essential. Law is an obsession with accuracy of language. Lawyers use the power of expression as a means of advocacy. In order to be a good lawyer, you have to be committed and prepared. You have to have the fire in the belly.

Post 5: The Personal is Political

Hello everyone!

I cannot believe that five weeks have gone by already. How time has flown! Working at Ancient Song Doula Services for the past two months has been one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences in my life.

Going into this summer, I was fearful that I would not gain as much from working here compared to all that I learned last year. Quickly I realized, however, that with such important work, the responsibilities are constantly growing and evolving and so is the learning.

My work this year has been centered around tackling current events and political reform as we have gotten closer to the reimbursement of doula services through Medicaid insurance, which has been a long awaited goal. , If done correctly, this reform can assure accessibility to undeserved communities. With progress and change around the corner, it is important to keep the momentum going. This does placed added pressure on community-based services who have been at the forefront of the birth justice movement since the begining.

Here is a flyer I created on our upcoming Decolonize Birth Conference!

Because Ancient Song is such a lean organization, every role is vital. Returning to the organization or a second summer appeared to make everyone else’s job a lot easier as responsibilities were better distributed. In my second year, I continued to learn and grow as a professional. In particular, I strengthened my organization and prioritization skills. I am able increase my productivity when I organize my tasks according to what is most urgent. I continue to work at how to confidently I communicate with my coworkers/supervisors letting them know when I feel something needs to change in the work space.

Before starting this work, I wish I would have understood how personal this work is for me. I thought I could separate the personal from the political, but the two are very much intertwined and layered within each other. This is what makes social justice work sometimes taxing on your body and mental health. You have a constant urge and feeling as though you are not doing enough or you could be doing more, especially with such a small team. Reminding myself that I am doing the best that I can while giving myself constructive feedback is something I find myself constantly doing.

Last year at Ancient Song, I found that it was difficult for me to say no whenever I was asked to take on additional responsibilities or stay additional hours, and I found that this became very taxing on my physical and mental health. This is why I would recommend to anyone who pursues this work to prioritize themselves and their well being over anything. This is an important lesson for professional development in general.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should always be prepared to pitch yourself to folks who may come into the work space, as you may not know the connections they have or the network of people and organizations with which they are linked. I’ve found that this year at Ancient Song, I have met so many amazing people within the birth justice world. I am always introducing myself and what I do and this often leads to sharing contact information.

Overall, I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to work at Ancient Song Doula Services, and I am looking forward to what future summers may offer!

Post 3: The Ripple Effect

Outside the courthouse

Change: “to make or become different.” When we contemplate the meaning of change within a context of social justice, it broadens not only to making something different, but ideally improving or enhancing. However, change–the results of compounded efforts over time–does not imply universal progress; just as it can build, it can equally oppress and recede. Nevertheless, with an intention of betterment, change can be a sequence of positive events that occur as the result of structured and defined goals. Embodying this at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, our ultimate goal is to provide free representation to low income and marginalized communities in the greater Boston area, responding in a way that addresses the poverty-inducing sins of systemic racial, social and economic inequalities.

I can recall a conversation I had the other day with a clinical instructor and director at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. We discussed her experiences working at HLAB, and some of the most significant injustices she’s witnessed at the courts during her time. One issue that stood out over others was the disparity of representation among tenants and landlords in the housing courts. While ninety-three percent of tenants are unrepresented during trials at the housing court, seventy percent of landlords are represented.

The Edward W. Brooke Courthouse

The other week, I was able to witness this great discrepancy firsthand. Assisting counsel members at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse for an event known as “Attorney for the Day,” I helped direct and prepare unrepresented tenants for their court cases. In supplement to the assistance I was able to provide, I had the opportunity to sit in and observe ongoing cases in the courtrooms. The number of tenants who were unrepresented in court was overwhelming. As I sat on the bench in courtroom 12, alongside individuals who faced the very real possibility of being evicted or losing their homes, I could only imagine how daunting it would be to partake in a court case without legal guidance and representation. In observing these cases, the advantages that represented landlords had over their unrepresented tenants was extremely evident. Without proper legal guidance or representation in court, the justice system will always be skewed to favor the party who has the privilege of legal representation. In this, the systemic racial, social, and economic inequalities that poverty is the result of will only be preserved.

The nonprofit legal work that the Bureau and other organizations do is integral to activating and sustaining social change. Targeting our social justice issues at the roots of the problem, from a systemic legal standpoint, is crucial for change to occur. But how can we measure and quantify change? How can we be certain that the work we are doing is making an impact? At the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, a multitude of clients have walked through our doors in search of legal aid. While the outcomes of these cases differ notably from each other, if HLAB is able to provide representation, guidance or even support, I believe we are making progress towards change and a justice system that provides equal opportunities for all. Quality legal representation should not be a luxury afforded by only the privileged, but a service accessible to everyone. By exerting the mission of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, we will influence positive change and create a ripple effect; influencing continued efforts for change and ultimately a justice system that works equally for the justice of all.

Post 4: Adaptability

I have learned a myriad of skills at my position this summer. Most of these skills are technical skills which are useful in the realm of public health policy. One specific subset of skills that I know I will be utilizing elsewhere is the different methods of organizing and displaying vast quantities of qualitative data.
At Brandeis, I learned how to analyze data is a quick, simple and categorical way. If one question had to be answered, perform this function and you will arrive at the answer. If you wish to convey something else, then this other function will do the trick. If other parameters exist, create new models and test them again. However, in the work I am doing at the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, this is not enough. I have to engage with the data in a different way. Often, the data I use needs to not only be analyzed but also presented in a way that is understandable to the general public. It is not enough for me to know that a certain average means something, but the data has to show this in a graph or chart that other people can understand. While at the beginning I thought I understood how to do this, I learned so much more throughout this experience. More specifically, I began to realize that non-numerical data is hard to show. It can not be summarized easily and it must be clear and concise enough for the average person to understand it. This became especially apparent to me through one specific project I was asked to do.
A project I am working on right now aims to organize and categorize food policies in five boroughs by government entities. While the research aspect of this was difficult, I have struggled more with how to organize the over 500 entries we have acquired. Working with my boss, we brainstormed a few ways that this could become an interactive and visually appealing database. We finally settled on using a google software called Mindmup. MindMup makes use of a mapping tool called “mind maps” which organize data as “nodes” or offshoots of other data points. This program has allowed us to begin compiling and creating an NYC database of food policies that will eventually be accessible everywhere.
Before settling on MindMup, I learned about other ways to organize information that I can hopefully put to use in the future. This sort of skill set will be useful in every policy related job as compiling large amounts of information for public consumption is often necessary.
This experience also taught me how adaptable I can be. I started creating our database using a different program that I found to not be conducive to what I wanted to do. I was able to walk back to my boss’s office, explain to him the problems and troubleshoot with him and ultimately choose a new format. I repeated this multiple times and settling on MindMup became both exciting and rewarding. Learning this about myself is useful and I will definitely use my adaptability as a tool in future endeavors.

Post 3: Food as a Social Determinant of Health

Learning about social determinants of health at Brandeis informed the work I am doing at this internship. I am working a lot with poverty and food insecurity and its relation to poor health outcomes. Being able to understand this in the context of determinants of health allows me to understand how to best approach research problems.

For example, on one project I was asked to research policies in New York that affect food in any way. While I was first inclined to merely look at policies with the word ‘food’ in the title, I began to realize that so much more went into this task. I started looking for policies that addressed negative health outcomes associated with poor nutrition, such as diabetes and heart disease. I found that food was an upstream variable that was creating poor outcomes and consequently policies to remedy them.

The topics I learn in class I often thing I will not use again. Especially in my social science classes I am often skeptical or do not fully appreciate the value of the topics I am learning. I am very grateful that I had this knowledge for my internship. It enabled me to understand the policies I was working with.

Another aspect that I appreciated was seeing something I learned in school come to life. I knew that social determinants of health effected the health outcomes of individuals but this showed it to me. I saw briefs on policies about providing language assistance to individuals applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program through the New York City Human Resources Administration. Often, these individuals would either go hungry or buy less nutritious food because they did not know how to get onto the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. However, providing them with translations enabled them to provide for themselves in a way they could not before. This is important because if this one seemingly small factor had not been addressed these individuals and their families could become sick. This results in an undue burden on the American Health Care System. By stopping and mitigating this upstream effect, this Human Resources Administration of the the City of New York was able to save the health and lives of many while saving taxpayers’ dollars. I not only learned about this in school but this summer I was able to see it and to experience its use in public health and public policy.

Incorporating my classwork into my internship was not only interesting but it was necessary. It created a solution to a problem that I did not yet know occurred and enabled me to present my best work. Without the information I remembered from my HSSP class, I would not have thought to approach this task in this way. I understand the work that my organization does in a new light. Rather than treating negative health outcomes, we work to mitigate upstream factors by focusing on social determinants of health. This creates a solution that will have long-term impacts.

A sample policy: https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/omb/downloads/pdf/cbrboro4-17.pdf

Post 3: Big Change from Small Places

When attempting to create real change to better environmental and social equality, the Sierra Club tackles every level of the issue. The biggest priority of the Lonestar Chapter is shutting down fossil fuels in the state, and there has been (perhaps surprisingly) a great deal of progress and success here. The Sierra Club has been enforcing clean energy building codes and consistently shutting down coal plants over the past several years, each one providing a major win for the fight to obtain cleaner air for all. Many of the environmental goals of the organization are motivated by the public’s health and well being, which is harmed by the countless pollutants companies spew into our air and water everyday. These actions hurt wildlife, the ecosystem, our atmosphere, and the climate that future generations to come will have to deal with. Many if not all of the Sierra Club’s actions align with the 17 sustainable development goals that the United Nations released in 2015, with the goal of achieving them by 2030.

Rio Grande River Valley

When examining how progress is achieved, the Sierra Club’s small steps always start at the grassroots level. This mostly includes local outreach, education, and protesting. One current hot topic for our organization is the campaign “Save Rio Grande Valley from Liquified Natural Gas” or Save RGV from LNG for short. There is a prospective pipeline for liquified natural gas (which needless to say is extremely harmful for the environment if there were any leaks or accidents) in Southeast Texas, and the Sierra Club has been pushing to stop it in its tracks.

This issue isn’t solely environmental, however. The pipeline would run through the lands of many indigenous groups who have lived there for generations. They have been some of the most active in voicing their unease about the project. Thanks to the momentum of this grassroots campaign, the issue has been getting more and more public attention in the media. The next step is to go for the “bad players” involved, which in this particular case would be those funding the pipeline. Societe Generale is a French company supplying money for this as well as other pipelines in South Texas, and the Sierra Club has been directly calling them out in an attempt to continue to increase awareness.  

Map of South Texas Counties Affected

Big steps in general to achieve environmental justice are rooted in either corporate players who could be swayed to view the environmental aspects with more care, or more often legislators who can pass bills to enforce real change. These legislative changes are usually difficult to accomplish at the state level here in Texas, but the Sierra Club lobbies nonetheless and has a PAC fund.

On a more broad scale, the Sierra Club has been trying to change the demographic makeup of its organization and members. The organization historically has been primarily white, middle to upper class members and the current staff is trying to diversify the communities involved so that all marginalized communities’ voices can be heard. After all, the earth belongs to all of us, so we all have to protect it.

Post 2: Going Downtown to Protect Local Democracy

In my first semester of sophomore year at Brandeis I took the course Global Pandemics: History, Society, and Policy. This class, while teaching me much about the horrifying diseases and plagues around the world, also gave me a stronger take away: to always think about the different perspectives of any issue. When talking about global health, we often take a global perspective with organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the World Bank. Furthermore, “best practices” lead the way when determining what actions to take on an issue. However, we must learn to also consider cultural, economic, social, spiritual, and geographical factors when looking at issues. I also learned to ask who has the power to enact change versus who should have that power.

Applied to my internship, I realized that environmental issues need a global perspective in order to address the fact that climate change is real. But sadly, there are deniers all around the world, usually with special interests in mind such as selling oil and coal. Environmental justice also needs more fine-tuned, local perspectives. The class Global Pandemics helped me realize that the biggest actions unfortunately ultimately come from the system which holds the power and money, but progressive change starts with the people’s voice. The Sierra Club is advocating for marginalized groups affected by the destructive actions of special interest groups.

These concepts strongly resonated with me when I got the opportunity to attend an American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) meeting in downtown Austin with the Sierra Club communications director. The meeting topic was centered around protecting the power of local democracies, and how the term “preemption” has changed connotations over the years. What once was the state fighting federal government power (such as in states legalizing medical marijuana or raising the minimum wage) has turned into state governments overstepping bounds on municipal governments.

Local elected officials know the needs of their community better than any other level of government representation. Local governments put in place policies that will benefit their people and local businesses such as increasing paid time off, ensuring equal pay for women, or turning their area into a sanctuary city. State governments recently have been trying to strip municipal governments of these powers, which is effectively destroying the power of not just local officials but also the people.

Democracy itself is being threatened by a tiered power structure. This leads to obvious social justice implications and effects on local communities not being protected by the leaders who know them best, because instead state officials will often make policy decisions based with corporate interest groups in mind since that is where the money is located, and unfortunately in America money too often equates to power. We must learn to listen to the people’s voices, or else we will begin to lose sight of the principles on which this country was founded.

World Health Organization Infographic – Environmental Impacts on Health

Post 2: Small Steps to a Big Outcome

The CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute focuses on bringing healthy and affordable food to all areas of New York. One way they do this is by mapping out food deserts in Upper Manhattan. This project consists of many different small steps which all lead to a larger goal. Though each step may feel small, taken together the project will produce a lot of change.

Food deserts are areas that do not have access to healthy or affordable healthy foods. This often means that the predominant form of food that these citizens eat is processed. This could mean packaged food but is also often fast foods and the like which are not nutritious. This ultimately leads to poor health outcomes down the line. To ensure that we do not have to

pay for costly medical procedures in the future, we should pay up front now in the form of ensuring that everyone can eat in a healthy way. Another problem with food deserts is that they are self-sustaining. This means that they create communities that prefer packaged and processed food instead of whole foods and fresh vegetables. Therefore, we must go into communities in an educational way that teaches people what to buy and how to use it. Engaging the community and centering programming on youth is an often used and successful tactic

To begin, a list of food stores in Upper Manhattan had to be created. These thousands of locations were then found on google maps and linked to a spreadsheet. Each location is linked to a 2007 snapshot and a 2017 snapshot. Then, it is coded to reflect the type of food retailer it is, any changes that have occurred and current status. While each step feels small and the coding takes a while, it is all very important. One intern may only be able to accomplish a few hundred entries but after a while this becomes a few thousand and then, as we progress, we are able to use GIS mapping to show our results.

It is sometimes hard to feel motivated when you don’t feel like you are making progress. However, the small steps are always important and it often takes time to see their true impact. At our site, we often are motivated by the ability to use GIS because it is a cool and novel technology to many of us. Knowing that in the end this will become a tool to bring healthier foods to disadvantaged communities also creates incentive to keep building the database. It is also disheartening to think that I may not be here when this project is complete. Since it is so large and the data quantities so vast, the project could take years to complete. However, I still know that the effort I am putting in makes a difference just as the effort of the person who completes the project will. Every step of the way is important and even though each step might feel arduous, the final product will make everything worth it.

Post 5: Slow Work Is Still Meaningful

My time as an intern for the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute has been an amazing experience overall. Not only do I feel that I learned a lot from this opportunity, but I know that I have contributed to the work at the institute in a meaningful way.
The research I did this summer felt tedious and monotonous at times. There were days where I sat at my computer for hours and did not think I got a lot done. I would sympathize with the other interns, discussing how we had never-ending piles of work and what seemed to be small results. One project in particular took up the middle three weeks of my internship. I, along with the other interns and colleagues at the institute, developed a survey to be administered in the Harlem community. The ultimate goal was to create a long-term understanding of the food services offered and opinions on the demographic shifts in the community. This was difficult and tiring to see through from start to finish. However, it was all worth it when last week the director sent out the first draft of the report on our research. Seeing our work in writing made me realize what an impact we are having. More importantly, this report is being sent to other organizations and to funders who will use it as a guide to understanding our progress.
 
Social justice work can be hard and it can be tiring. It can seem like you are not getting anywhere, but this internship has taught me that even if it feels slow, you are still making progress. The impact that I have had on this organization is through my work on this project and so many others. I have enabled them to create further programs with my support of their research. Additionally, they have given me experience in fields I did not even know existed. This internship exposed me to the good and the bad parts of public health and helped me grow in my field.
 
If I could give advice to someone starting this or a similar internship, it would be to use your support system. For me, this was the other interns in my office, as well as my bosses to whom I reported. When I was confused or lost or needed motivation, they were always there for me. Furthermore, by helping them I was able to show myself my own capabilities. Also, I was worried at first that I did not know enough or was not capable of all of the tasks for this internship. If I could, I would go back and tell myself that although that is true, I will learn everything I need and that there isn’t a challenge I could not accomplish, whether it be alone or with the help of a coworker.
 
This internship and this summer have helped me grow in immeasurable ways and I know will put me on the path to a great career and a great future.
A link to the research the institute has done: http://www.cunyurbanfoodpolicy.org/publications/

Post 5: Skills for the Future — What I’ve Learned Working at the Hartford Public Defender’s Office

Through my work with the Hartford Public Defender’s office over the past two summers, I have learned a great deal about my passion for the field of law as well as many of the issues in the criminal justice system. Because my job is very hands-on and involves contact with clients on a daily basis, many of the skills I have learned relates to communication. The clients we serve come from all walks of life and from a variety of different backgrounds. I believe knowing how to properly communicate with every client to make sure they feel comfortable, respected, and supported is a very important part of a public defender’s job.

Me (if you look closely) sitting on the bench in one of our courtrooms

While interning this summer, I got the chance to work alongside many of the lawyers at our office. One lawyer in particular that I had the privilege to shadow on many occasions taught me a lot about how to work with clients who suffer from severe mental health problems. Because she also comes from a background working in a mental health-related profession, she has many skills that help her to more effectively communicate with her clients. For instance, when talking to a client who is very worked up, anxious, and unstable from the process of being arrested and in lockup, she is able to speak with them in a calming manner that allows them the chance to calm themselves and act more rationally. She not only helps the client to feel a bit of relief when in an extremely stressful situation, but it also helps them to avoid presenting to the court in a more erratic state, which can be important when the judge is considering bond or other important decisions. I hope that in my future career as a lawyer or even just in my daily life I can use the skills I have learned from her as well as the many others I work with to be a better advocate and person overall.

View of Hartford from my morning commute

While it can be difficult to articulate exactly what I have learned about myself and my skills in the workplace, I believe that I have learned a lot about my interests in the field of law and criminal justice as well as what it means to be a working, professional adult. When I first began this internship last summer, I had few ideas about what I wanted to do for a future career. I had also never had experience working in a professional setting. During my time here at the public defender’s office, I have been able to find my passion for working with others and the field of law. It has allowed me to combine my interests in people, my background in psychology, and my fascination with crime in one place. I now have a much clearer idea of the potential careers I hope to pursue, such as working in criminal law, family law, and other social service agencies. Additionally, it has opened my eyes to the multitude of backgrounds people come from and the discrepancies of how people live in my city. Furthermore, this internship has made me excited about my future and the many different paths I can take down the road.

Post 5: Something I wish I knew before my internship

Before this internship, I did not know what I should do after graduation. I started this internship with a hope to try out whether I liked research and whether I can do research. As I have spent seven weeks in this internship, there is a clearer path before me, and I am more determined about the path I choose.

Before this summer, I did not have a lot of experience in psychology laboratory or clinical psychology. I had passion for clinical psychology, but I was overwhelmed by everyone telling me how difficult it was to pursue a career in clinical psychology. I was anxious and lost as I did not know what I should do and what I can do. When I applied for this position, I was not sure whether I wanted to be a researcher or not, but the only way of knowing was by doing it.

It turned out that my anxiety and worries were relieved once I started trying. Part of my anxiety came from the fact that I was not doing anything instead of being worried, and an internship is a great way of trying out which path is suitable for you. I have noticed that many people my age, including me before this internship, are stressed about the unclear future and afraid of trying. Many of us are too eager to point out a clear future. The fact we often overlook is that very few people have a linear career path, and that uncertainty is in the nature of life. It is okay to be unsure of what to do in the future, and the key is to try. If you do not know which field is the one that you want to devote the rest of your life to, try all that you are interested in. There are so many possibilities in front of us, and we are so young that we have the privilege to explore them all. In the meantime, it is okay to find this not to be the right path for you, because career paths are frequently not linear but full of trials and failure.

In my case, I intended to join the field of economics or business up until the end of my sophomore year. After I realized that I could not fit into this field, I decided to see if psychology worked for me. My internship during this summer has confirmed my passion for clinical psychology. The arduous laboratory work can be boring to many people, but I find it interesting and feel motivated by the high-end purpose behind it. It is important for me to be happy with my job and feel like I am making a difference in the world. Every week, I need to process, scan, and store data collected from patients, but I can overcome this tedious work and stay motivated when I see how the patients are getting better every week. Being around people who share passion for the field is helpful. It is not as difficult as I thought once I started working on it, and once there are peers working hard along with you. The supervisors also gave valuable advice and made the path ahead clearer for me, as they are ahead of us along the way and have been through what we are struggling with now.      

Post 5: Self-Advocacy in Women’s Health

Themes from the women’s health workshop

On Wednesday, after a month and a half of planning, I walked into a room of thirteen women sipping tea and chatting around a large table waiting for a workshop on women’s health to begin. I’m interested in women’s health and health education because I believe it is so essential for women to understand how their bodies work and to be able to express any concerns to their doctor. So many times, women place the wellbeing of their children and families ahead of their own, and, with our clients who are trying to support their families in a life-altering transition, it can be even more apparent.

I’d noticed in the first few weeks at my internship that my clients did not volunteer information readily and that very pointed questions and relationship-building were needed to hear their concerns. Most providers start appointments by saying, “How are you doing today?” Clients reply, “Good,” and providers move on. When this happens, clients aren’t able to share their worries or problems. Since there is little access to women’s healthcare in Afghanistan, and speaking about reproductive health is culturally taboo, many of our clients did not know what was normal or abnormal, nor did they have the tools to self-advocate and ask their providers questions. So, I initiated and planned a women’s health workshop with a local OBGYN to provide some of our clients with the knowledge and tools to self-advocate at their appointments and understand the various tests and cancer screening procedures.

While the workshop was meant to be 30-45 minutes of presentation and 15 minutes of Q&A, it ended up being cut off after 2 hours! At first, the women were nervous, but as the doctor spoke, they began to smile, nod, and those that could write feverishly took notes. The doctor shared information about routine pregnancy care and labs; cervical, breast and colon cancer screenings; menstruation patterns; and controlling or augmenting fertility. She stressed the importance of women’s healthcare for reasons other than pregnancy as well, since so much focus is put on the health of women during pregnancy and for the sake of their children and not necessarily for their own benefit.

The doctor did an amazing job presenting the information in a straightforward way and encouraging the women to share their thoughts and ask questions. She used anatomical diagrams to help explain the female reproductive systems so that everyone could understand what their bodies looked like. The doctor stressed that because providers and patients don’t speak the same language or come from the same culture, doctors aren’t always able to communicate well with them. She shared that she doesn’t always ask the right questions of them and that sometimes she makes mistakes, so it’s crucial for them to tell her how they’re feeling and self-advocate. This openness allowed the women to feel comfortable sharing their worries and questions on everything from missed periods, to colonoscopies, to questioning why American women had such high breast cancer rates. The biggest revelation for the group was when they found out that men’s sperm is truly what causes the sex of babies, so having only girls was not the “fault” of the women. Jaws dropped, and several women yelled, “They lied to us!” through their interpreters.

The most rewarding part of the workshop for me was seeing the women’s faces as they processed the information and seeing their confidence grow as they asked and even answered questions for other women in the group. One workshop participant commented that while it was so important for the women to learn this information, that we should also hold a workshop for the husbands because they needed to know this information too! I know that this information will be handed down to daughters and other women in the community so others will also be able to understand their bodies and advocate for themselves at OBGYN visits. But, I also felt sad because as my internship comes to an end, I will have to say goodbye to the women and families with whom I have built relationships. There are still so many loose threads I wish I could help fix before I have to say goodbye.

I am so thankful to have witnessed the strength and determination of these women and their families adjusting to life in a new country. My advice for someone beginning a position like mine would be to listen and absorb as much information as possible. Being able to go with the flow and be all-hands-on-deck when a crisis arises is extremely important. Most importantly, being thankful for the relationships you build with people from around the world, as there is so much to learn from others.

-Maya

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are mine alone and not indicative of those of IRC.

Post 5: BridgeYear and Beyond

My experience at BridgeYear turned out to be exactly what I wanted when I decided to apply to startups in the education sector. I am very interested in the EdTech industry, and I wanted exposure to the education system, the different organizations in the industry, and to expand my network. In addition, I love learning about startups and have usually only worked at larger firms before. I wanted to witness the type of work, resilience, and mindset it took to start a venture, and be a part of that growth. I was able to experience working in a smaller team in which I had significant projects and responsibilities that extensively and rapidly developed my skills. It also provided immense personal growth, as I received constant, actionable feedback and was given opportunities to take initiative. BridgeYear gave me a memorable internship, and has made me feel more confident and prepared moving forward.

During my time here, I learned about many facets of the organization, a large part of which is the nonprofit and social justice aspect. I am able to work on projects to grow the organization, while also having direct interactions with the students we are targeting. This is highly rewarding, but also taught me different elements of the issue while going through the processes with each student. In addition, I learned about the workings of a nonprofit in terms of the organizational structure, how the board functions, the finances, and how it differs from for-profit companies.

At BridgeYear, I was mainly responsible for communications. Some of my work for the organization is showcased through the redesigned website and the social media strategy. This has helped to strengthen the brand and mission, spread awareness, and attract more donors and supporters. I also had the opportunity to be part of projects that were implemented for the first time at BridgeYear, including coordinating the Volunteer Build Day event and creating the first impact report. This was extremely exciting, as I learned and developed numerous skills, but was also able to offer my perspectives and opinions.

Team bonding at an Escape Room

One of the most important things I learned during this internship is the extent to which someone must be passionate about the work they do. This is crucial for any type of work and industry, as one needs to reflect on what drives them to perform their best. However, it is especially true for nonprofits and entrepreneurs. Working at a nonprofit requires great passion for the mission, as it revolves around helping a community and raising funds, rather than making a profit. Passion and grit were things I often heard about in classes or read in articles as what you needed to create and sustain a startup. I was able to witness this firsthand at BridgeYear by seeing the mission-driven mindsets, diligence, and drive of the cofounders and the team. This internship has been an amazing learning experience, and has made me excited for what is to come in the future.

Post 5: My Fifth Week At The Quad Manhattan

One important lesson I have learned during my time at The Quad Manhattan is that in order to be successful in a social justice field, you have to have perseverance and be willing to be flexible. During the past five weeks, I have been faced with challenges that came completely out of left field. Whether it was working with the kids or sometimes with my fellow staff members, I had to keep a thick skin and always be willing to reach out for help and go the extra mile. I believe that these skills are important in any social justice environment.

It was this flexibility and perseverance that allowed me to have a large impact on The Quad Manhattan this summer. As the summer progressed, I proved myself and was given more responsibility. I have three kids that I am “tracking” and have been given most of the responsibility of taking care of them throughout the day. In addition to overseeing these three kids, I have helped out extra with the camper’s theatre classes. Whenever possible, I have worked with the theatre specialist and used my past theatre experience and psychology education to tailor the theatre lessons to my kids. I truly think that by being at The Quad Manhattan I have increased the experience of all the campers in my group.

Food made by campers during cooking class

One thing I know now that I wish I had known when I started this internship was that it is okay to stand up for yourself when you are placed in an uncomfortable situation. As I began to prove myself this summer, I was placed in harder and harder situations with both the kids and the staff until I reached a point where I just hadn’t received enough training to continue on by myself. At first I tried to just tough it out, but eventually it became apparent that if I didn’t reach out and ask for help I would be doing a disservice to both myself and the kids. I was hired as an intern whose job it was to learn and use what I learned to help the campers, not as a paid teacher who was expected to run the classroom. Once I reached out, I was given more tools to succeed, and I felt much more confident in dealing with these difficult situations.

A piece of advice I would give to someone else doing this internship next summer would be to make sure to make time for yourself. It has been very easy to let work overwhelm my life this summer. I found myself in a terrible cycle of going to work, eating dinner, sleeping, and then going back to work, and I quickly became burnt out. Luckily, I realized this a couple of weeks into the internship and made much-needed changes to my routine. I started organizing going out after work with other interns, seeing as much theatre as possible, and even just making sure I watched an hour of television without doing any work before going to bed. These tiny changes helped keep me from becoming drained and improved both my personal health and my ability to do my job.

I love working with these kids and have been putting everything I have into making sure they have the best experience possible and take away as many skills and strategies as they can. Even though there have been ups and downs, I am very glad that I chose to take this internship at The Quad Manhattan this summer. I have learned so much and have been exposed to so many new theories and ways of thinking and can’t wait to take this experience and work towards what is next.

Post 5: My Advice Navigating the Internship Application Process

For anyone who studies International/Global Studies (IGS), when considering summer internships, the options may seem overwhelming because the world is your oyster. This can be beneficial because all across the globe, there are great organizations with which to intern. However, it also makes the decision of where to intern difficult due to the wide array of choices in programs and locations.

Here I will speak a bit about the process of navigating my past two summer internships. In my opinion, the first thing one should think about when considering a summer internship is their preference regarding a domestic or international internship. Several things to think about include the ease/difficulty of going abroad, where the impact of the work is most relevant, and how the connections made during the internship can play a role after graduation. After weighing these factors, I decided that spending my summers based in the U.S. working towards global issues would be the most beneficial.

I applied for a summer internship at the Millennium Campus Network (MCN) in Boston last summer, which I had heard about when the executive director, Sam Vaghar (’08) gave a presentation about the organization on campus. I was accepted for the internship and spent the duration of last summer there. I had such a positive experience; each and every day was exciting, characterized by creating new partnerships and meeting leaders from organizations all around the world. I saw the impact of my work in planning the ninth annual Millennium Campus Conference and taking the lead on outreach and registration.

Hannah with other MCN interns, Summer 2017

 

When looking ahead towards summer 2018, I was hoping to explore what public diplomacy looks like in the realm of official foreign policy by interning for the federal government. With the idea of joining the Foreign Service in the back of my mind, I thought it would be the best use of my summer to intern in Washington, D.C. at the Department of State and learn as much as possible about a career representing the U.S. abroad. I created an account on usajobs.gov, which is the website used to apply for all U.S. government positions. On several occasions I consulted the site, looking for openings for student internship positions at the State Department, and in September I decided to apply. I then received notice that I qualified for an interview, which went well, and was offered a position in November in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

I arrived in D.C. to start my internship at the end of May. The time has gone by so quickly and I can’t believe I only have two weeks remaining. I have learned so much about working at the Department of State and am so grateful for the experience!

Bye for now!
-Hannah Cook, ’20

Post 5: My Summer at JVS

Although I am only able to intern at JVS for ten short weeks, I have been able to have many invaluable experiences through my work both with clients and career coaches. I have been able to meet with clients and help their job search in concrete ways. Every week, I assisted with the Refugee Services intake, during which we met with new clients and determined their needs in terms of English classes, child care, and job searching efforts. I helped conduct job searches to find the best fit for a specific client. I am able to assist clients in creating their resumes and cover letters and submit job applications, which often lead to job interviews and offers. I work to prepare clients for those job interviews so that they feel more confident about the process.

Additionally, partway through my internship, I was assigned my own child care clients. Since then, I have had the opportunity to understand what it is like to manage your own caseload and clients. I am often assigned my clients as soon as they register for JVS and it is my job to help them locate a child care facility that will allow them to attend classes at JVS and obtain a stable job. I conduct the search, contact the child care providers, and set up appointments for center visits and to obtain vouchers. Also, I meet with my clients to prepare the myriad of forms necessary and inform them of the rules regarding maintaining their voucher.

One of my goals going into my internship at JVS was to learn more about how nonprofits actually work, and their successes and the challenges. I saw firsthand how important the services provided at nonprofits like JVS are to those who we are trying to serve. When approaching social justice issues, in class or out, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the size of a given challenge that may appear insurmountable. It seems that issues such as the immigration crisis, poverty, or hunger are so daunting that you don’t even know where to start.

At JVS, I have learned that often it is the small actions that matter. Instead of focusing on changing laws or popular opinion, which seem like near-impossible tasks, JVS focuses on making positive change in the lives of individuals those laws and popular opinion are affecting. We work with individual clients to give them the skills and support they need to establish themselves in a new place. We offer classes to help our clients better their English skills along with certain subject-related skills. We coach them one-on-one to help them locate, apply for, and secure a job to help them provide for themselves. We assist them with searching for and obtaining child care that will allow them to pursue their career. We help one client at a time to establish meaningful lives in the United States after having to leave their home country. Although progress may seem slow, JVS serves roughly 17,000 people a year. This experience has taught me that no matter how small the action, your social justice work is meaningful. At the time it seems as though you have only made a small difference in one person’s life, but over time you realize that these small actions are what make up a movement.

Post 5: Final Week at the ACLU of Utah

ACLU of Utah legal observers at the March For Our Lives town hall; Courtesy of ACLU of Utah Facebook page

After reading the most recent New York Times article on ACLU litigation, social justice has become more controversial than ever. From working at the ACLU of Utah office over the summer, I have learned that social justice does not always agree with the political agenda of representatives and specialty groups. When I first started, I only understood the logic and reasons behind supporting social justice movements and causes. Now I realize that many people view social justice as a one-party cause. While attending a March for Our Lives town hall—where the ACLU of Utah was represented—I was happily surprised to see members from both sides of the argument participate in civil conversation and yes, dissent, in order to find common ground. Although these moments are tense, I realized that it is possible to create a dialogue with people you never thought imaginable. Social justice is about human advocacy that should permeate throughout political spectrums.

Throughout my internship, I have observed and participated in meetings on topics like criminal justice, LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, immigration, disability rights, media strategy, and so much more. I have worked independently on research about gay straight alliances (GSA), judicial bypass statutes, and social media strategy that will be used in upcoming advocacy and litigation work. Most recently, I accompanied the legislative and policy counsel, Marina Lowe, on an appearance to the Utah capitol to sit in on interim judicial and legislative sessions. I even got to see my representatives! Being able to both observe debates between Utah representatives on various topics and contribute to those debates with the ACLU of Utah makes me feel empowered about my role to change policy in my hometown.

But of course not everything came easily. I wish I had known more about the arduous process behind pushing for positive legislation or initiating events and meetings. Everyone in the office works very hard to accomplish goals that protect and enhance the Bill of Rights. Because I feel passionate about the issues that the ACLU of Utah advocates for, learning to be patient setting up meetings with other organizations and taking the time to complete thorough research was a skill that I was eager to enhance. For anyone who wants to pursue an internship at any ACLU location, one piece of advice I’d give is to show passion for an issue that you believe in. Stay up to date on pertinent legislation and inquire about the legal careers of people around you. Even though I have to say goodbye to the ACLU of Utah office over the school year, I fully plan on contributing as a volunteer when I’m home.

Thank you ACLU of Utah team for having me!   

Post 5: Final Weeks at 826 National

I have spent this summer immersed in 826 National’s innovative approach to supporting young people’s education, and I will leave this internship more motivated than ever to cultivate education practices that ensure all our young people can meet their full potentials.

Despite the fact that the 826 mission revolves around supporting students, I have spent virtually no time working hands-on with students. Instead, my internship has focused on the behind-the-scenes end of nonprofit management. I have learned a staggering amount about the day-to-day processes that are required to support the vast network of 826 chapters. Many of my projects have supported the annual 826 National Staff Development Conference, which hosts more than one hundred staff members from across the country. Other tasks have been focused on expanding the resources available on 826 Digital, a free online resource for educators looking to take their writing curriculum to the next level.

This summer, I have learned that nonprofit work is not always easy, and that it takes a particularly patient, inspired type of person to do this work the way it should be done. Because of that, I have met some truly incredible humans this summer. The people who work at 826 National really believe in the power of this organization, and it’s easy to understand why when you see the writing that our students produce:

Our students are witty:
“Because they’re spicy. They’re rebellious. They don’t play by your rules. If you double-cross a jalapeño, you get the seeds.”
-Calvin, Grade 8, 826michigan

They’re eloquent:
“If writing was a medicine, there would be universal healing.”
-Jennifer, Grade 5, 826LA

They’re wise beyond their years:
“One of the worst things in the world must be when your mother’s ridiculous advice turns out to be right.”
-Cole, Grade 9, 826 Valencia

So while 826 National staff may not be working with students directly, reading through student writing — which I spent a good portion of my internship doing — makes every challenge worth it. That’s my first piece of advice to others looking to intern with a nonprofit like 826 National: the work will be hard, so find what makes the challenge worth it, and surround yourself with that as often as possible.

Get to know your fellow interns, too!

My second piece of advice is to get to know the people you are working with, and to start doing so as early as possible. The wonderful thing about this kind of work is that people don’t end up in these positions unless they have a deep passion for the mission. Every single person in my office had a different journey to their position at 826 National, but all of their paths reflect an incredible drive for social justice work. Building relationships with others in the office can give you some insight into the extensive number of jobs that exist in this world, but it’s also a great reminder that there isn’t one “right” way to build a meaningful career. There are a million potential paths, and college really only shows you a few. You’ll never know what might be out there unless you chat everybody up!

Which brings me to my last piece of advice: ask all the questions! In addition to asking about others in your office, ask what more you can do. Seek out opportunities to make your impact, because the best ones won’t just fall in your lap. Ask how your organization supports itself financially. Ask what your supervisor’s dream is for the organization. Ask to learn about everything that seems interesting, even if it doesn’t directly relate to your intern position. Remember that even though you are there to provide a service, you are also there to learn everything you possibly can about the real working world in the short time you are there.

Well, that’s my last post for the summer! Thank you to World of Work and the Hiatt Career Center for making this internship possible, and to 826 National for making this experience a dream. I am so grateful to have spent this summer learning under the 826 team.

-Katie Reinhold ’19

Post 5: Navigating the Professional World, Not Yet as an Adult

A few months ago when I was shopping for business professional clothing, I vividly remember standing in front of the mirror staring at myself in a suit, blazer and all, thinking, “I look ridiculous.” The mere idea of seeing myself in the professional world seemed silly and unrealistic. Now, with less than a month remaining of my work in Congresswoman Clark’s office, I have begun to feel comfortable imagining myself in the “adult world.” Over the past few weeks I have experienced a job I don’t hate, I learned that I can handle a 9 to 5 job, and even after weeks of sometimes monotonous work there are still things I get excited about every day.

The Capitol at night

The way a government internship works is that there are different “hot topics” that are the buzz of that week or month. For my time on the Hill so far, those topics have included separation of families at the border, Trump’s tariffs, the Russia investigation, the farm bill, and more. Every time there is movement on those relevant issues, you see a small difference being made and you feel a part of it. Something that drew me to D.C is that no matter what your role is, you feel as if you are part of something larger than yourself.

Social justice is something that has been important to me, even before I could put a label on it. When I was little I would tell people when I grew up I wanted to be a superhero because I wanted to make a difference. Now I go to a university where social justice is a literal pillar and runs through everything Brandeis does. Through my government internship this summer, I feel as if I have experienced social justice through a new lens. Something I have learned is that if you agree with whoever you work for, social justice jobs are inevitably rewarding. Every time a constituent calls and thanks us for our hard work, every time a project is completed, an amendment we were rooting for passes, or your member does something that you are excited about, you can’t help but think how proud and honored you are to work in this office.

At the same time, however, this work can go unnoticed, underrated, and under-appreciated. Many times, social justice work is usually a behind-the scenes-movement that is necessary, but also forgotten. Constituents call and question what we are doing about this or that and forget about all that we have done for the issues they called about only a week ago. Because of that, I don’t think jobs driven by social justice are for everyone, but for me, there is still that little kid inside with a towel around her neck flying behind her like a cape, hoping there is an opportunity to make a difference.

The view from outside my office, behind Longworth House Office Building

For anyone considering or planning on doing a Hill internship, it’s important to know that your experience is what you make of it. Working in a congressional office allows you to take on a possibly difficult, possibly intimidating position, and gain confidence in ensuring you are doing work you care about. The more you are willing to take on, the more you are willing to try new things, go to hearings, do things you have never done before, the more you will get out of the opportunity. Being a “Hilltern” is unlike any other job I’ve ever had, but the amount that I have gained and learned so far has been incredible. I would highly recommend this internship for someone who is trying to challenge themselves in the policy/politics world.

While mistakes might be made–you will probably get lost countless times in the tunnels, and there will be moments when you have no idea what you are doing–this job also brings times when you will feel absolute pride in the work you are a part of, and that is why it is worth it.

Post 4: Skills I gained at Interfaith Worker Justice

During the 2 months that I worked at Interfaith Worker Justice, I learnt a lot first-hand about social justice causes.

My supervisor Sarah, my intern colleague Audrey, and I worked as a team to organize. I do not remember learning how to be an activist in any other internship that I have had so for.

I learnt a great deal about networking for the action itself through unions, faith and labor organizations, worker centers, guilds and NGOs. Constantly joining meetings, panels, protests and congregations, I saw the power of networking in activism; strengthening the working people.

I worked in the office. I made phone calls to the activists that were on our list or to the public to inform them about a ballot campaign, a task or a question. I crafted e-mails to invite activists and supporters to our events or to try to find sponsorship for catering and decorating for our annual breakfast. I learnt a great deal about communication.

I worked out of the office collecting signatures for our campaign “Raise Up Massachusetts.” I had a lot of disappointing moments at first, hearing discouraging comments or harsh reactions from people refusing to talk, but I slowly learnt to be more professional and let go of all the negative reactions. I learnt a great deal about canvassing and professionalism in canvassing.

I met with community and religious leaders and union representatives to mobilize and organize for campaigns, events and actions.  I learnt a great deal about community building.

On top learning about the job, I learnt a great deal about myself as well. Once again, I saw that when I love what I am doing, I will give it a lot of attention and do the best I can. Once again, I reminded myself that I hope to be in a politically, fulfilling career to be happy in life.

All these skills Interfaith Worker Justice taught me will be a plus for me for my entire life. If I choose this field as a career option, obviously, I will benefit from these skills. If I do not end up choosing it as a career, however, I will still benefit from these skills in the volunteer jobs I will have.

– Ece Esikara

Post 5 – What I learned at NCL

Members of the NCL team expressing the League's support for one fair wage through posters.
This photo was taken last week at a rally for raising the tipped wage. I attended the rally with NCL colleagues and got a chance to see Jane Fonda.

My experience at National Consumers League has been fantastic. I’ve learned so many tactics  advocates use to create change and I am grateful for the chance I had to take part in pro-consumer movements.

Hard work, patience, and having an open mind are all essential to social justice. In some cases I haven’t worked as hard as I should, but interning at the League inspired me to put full effort into my work, something I hope will continue in the fall at Brandeis.

Everyone I work with knows just as well as I do that you cannot wait for change to happen to you, you have to make change happen yourself. We are constantly looking for ways to help consumers. When we work harder, we cause more change and help more people.

Even if we work as hard as possible, things still might not happen as quickly as we want. That’s why patience is essential. Whether we are waiting for the next election or working on a years-long project, social justice efforts require a big time commitment.

Before you can change anyone’s mind, you have to know what they think in the first place. Good activists patiently listen to people, even those with opposing views. Open-mindedness is an important part of listening to others.

Rather than stubbornly rejecting everyone who disagrees with you, you should understand their perspective first. Often, immediately or totalling changing something about the world is practically impossible, but compromises would be more easy to create.

Last week, as I left a rally for raising the tipped wage in the capital with other interns and NCL’s executive director, we all stopped to listen to protesters, even though we were hurriedly heading to the museum of African-American History and Culture for a visit.

The protesters brought up important points about D.C.’s initiative to raise the tipped wage. While some of their arguments didn’t make sense, many of them had merits. Yet, a few D.C. council members didn’t see it that way. Some of the offices and members of the “One Fair Wage” movement dismissed restaurant workers’ worries without acknowledging that these were the same people they were meant to serve and help.

I’m proud of the impact I made at NCL. I wrote many questions that will teach kids life skills through NCL’s trivia competition, LifeSmarts. I also brightened up my coworkers’ days with lots of baked goods and worked as hard as I could on all the assignments I was given.

If I had known anything before I started, it would be that NCL is an amazing place to work, but also that I needed to advocate for myself, not just consumers.

I was worried about working in a place where I didn’t know anybody, but the League has such a fun environment that not knowing anyone didn’t matter. I also realized after the past weeks that I could take on more work if I just asked around for it.

My two supervisors didn’t always have much to assign me, but plenty of people in the office did. Working with other colleagues brought me out of my comfort zone and gave me more to do. I just had to learn to seek work out.

I would tell anyone who wants to work at NCL to be hardworking, patient, and open-minded, but I would also tell them to be unafraid of where consumer advocacy and social justice take you. Having an impact is nothing to be afraid of. I wish more people knew that.

Spherical fried zucchini donuts made with an Italian great-grandmother's recipe
I’ve made a habit of bringing everyone at NCL baked goods on Mondays. This week I brought zucchini donuts made from the recipe of my aunt’s neighbor, an Italian great-grandmother. I also made sour cherry biscotti using a recipe from King Arthur Flour.

– Caleigh Bartash

What BridgeYear Has Been All About!

BRIDGEYEAR

After working at BridgeYear for more than seven weeks, the biggest lesson I have learned about social justice work has been that everything, no matter how big or small, counts towards progress. Sometimes when people sign up for social justice work, they expect to have a tremendous impact within the first few days or weeks. The truth of the matter is that impact is built on years of dedicated and arduous work. One might not even get to see the true impact of their actions while doing social justice work, but all that matters is that every step is taken with a purpose. For me, social justice work relies on the belief that change will come eventually. It might take years and a lot of work, but it will come.

As an advisor, it always feel great to receive this type of message!

Since we’re on the subject of impact, I believe that through my work at BridgeYear, I have been able to pave the way for future teachers and students to engage in career exploration in a more meaningful way. I’ve created lesson plans and self-assessment activities designed to allow students to think of career exploration in a different way from what they are used to.

Back when I was in high school, all that mattered when it came to choosing a career was salaries. You didn’t have to love the field you were going for, as long as it paid the bills. With the self-assessment activities I created, I have tried to move away from that way of thinking and focus on individual interest and strengths when choosing a career.

I will say this though, I didn’t really think I would have so much influence on the core aspects of BridgeYear. I truly wish I had known how a start-up nonprofit organization works before beginning my internship at BridgeYear. I had no idea just how much my actions and decisions would affect the future of the organization. In reality that’s the beauty of a start-up; it changes and evolves every single day.

The one piece of advice I would give to anyone thinking of joining the BridgeYear team for the summer would be to be ready to organize your life. The fact that the interns at BridgeYear are not bound to a single project and collaboration is encouraged by the supervisors, keeps everyone on their toes at all times.

The BridgeYear team of advisors taking work on the go at a local coffee shop.

For a start-up, deadlines are crucial; there are many constant moving pieces that dictate the success of the organization. Moving from one project to another will also leave a lot of room for learning. This is another tip for any future BridgeYear interns: be ready and willing to learn. While the supervisors work closely with you to improve your professional skills, it is ultimately up to you to take that first step towards learning and applying that knowledge. Just remember to also have fun!

Post 5: Overall Experience

While I still have 3 weeks left at the American Jewish World Service, I have already learned so much in my time there. I have learned a lot about social justice work, especially the work that the AJWS does. The AJWS goes into a region and supports a grassroots organization that is already trying to do the work, and we support them. Therefore, once we leave, the region is not defenseless but has learned how to defend itself and has received support from outside organizations. I have learned that it is better to help people help themselves than do try and do it for them because if we do, once we leave everything would revert back to the way it was. Moreover, I have learned that social justice work is not just going in and helping organizations, it takes a lot of people in different divisions. It takes people who can reach out to donors and people to communicate with the public, etc. Social justice work goes far beyond the ground work, and that can be seen within any social justice organization.

In my time at the AJWS, I believe that I have made an impact because I helped the finance division be more productive. Nothing can get done without the finance division and my help has helped them complete their tasks that the rest of the organization rests upon. Furthermore, myself along with the other interns has helped all the departments. Each week we have met with different department heads and we have had the opportunity to hear about each department and pitch ideas to help reach our generation.

I wish I had known when I started to appreciate the time I had there. Six weeks has already gone by and it still feels as though I just started working there. I still have a lot to learn but the experience has been amazing. I would tell anyone who wants to enter this type of work, to appreciate the work they want to do and really care about it. Social justice work is important and it takes a lot to help people fight for rights or convince others to want to help. Therefore, you yourself must really care because if you don’t it is hard to expect others to do so.

Remember to check out the website to find out more about the American Jewish World Service!

– Melissa Frank

Post 5: What I have learned at the Center Houston!

Hi everyone,

I have now spent almost two months interning at the Center Houston. 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). It partners with other organizations such as ExxonMobil to provide their clients with work and opportunities to improve their day-to-day life. I enjoy seeing the smile the clients have when I ask them for an interview to be featured in weekly newsletters. The work that I do is very fulfilling and rewarding.

I have learned to be more outspoken, manage time, write press releases, conduct presentations and get people together. As a new CA this coming year at Brandeis, the skills that I am currently gaining at my internship will help me manage and work with students in groups. As a CA it’s important to plan monthly events with your hall. The Center gives me the task of bringing in groups of volunteers, which include scheduling a set day for their visit, giving an orientation of what the Center is, and writing volunteer highlights. The skills that the Center is providing me with are rewarding for networking and for public speaking, which is something that also happens in most of my classes at Brandeis. Beyond Brandeis, the skills that I am learning will help me as I would like to pursue a career in marketing–preferably in the field of medical technology.

So far I have learned that I am able to work with large groups of people while maintaining a structure. From previous experiences, large groups were something that always terrified me because that meant public speaking to more people and having multiple opinions, which can be challenging. However, working with experienced adults has helped me with mentorship as they welcomed me with open arms and gave me the opportunity to learn what I always wanted to learn in a professional setting. For this challenge, I was very intrigued to learn more about fundraising for large organizations such as the Center. I have learned that it has multiple moving parts, but the one thing that stood out the most is the passion that the staff have to do their job.

I have learned to fail. Even if my internship has been a great experience so far, writing my first press release was not a huge success. However, I was mentored by my supervisor and I have gained skills that I can apply in classes and my future career.

This picture was from a cookie photoshoot that took place two weeks ago. We had a photographer who volunteered to take pictures for the new Gingersnaps website, which is being updated.  For this project, I helped the photographer with picture ideas that would make the cookies more appealing. It was a great experience, because I was able to apply skills I have learned such as networking, putting project together, and managing them. The best part was eating the cookies after the photoshoot was over!

Lesbia Espinal ’20

Post 4: Personal and Career Development | Lessons From Morrie Schwartz

Interestingly enough, this past week, I was introduced, randomly, to Mitch Alborn’s “Tuesdays With Morrie”. Shortly after beginning to read the book (in an attempt of accomplishing one of my personal goals this summer to read more books), I realized that the book is a memoir of a former student and a professor at Brandeis University, several decades ago. The professor, Morrie Schwartz, who suffered from ALS disease and was, thus, terminally ill, would have weekly coversations with Mitch, his former mentee and student, and reflect on several aspects of life, giving Mitch all the advice he could from the perspective of someone who was at a crossroads between life and death. I mention this book because I feel as though it came unto my life, unexpectedly, at a coincidentally very reflective time.

Over the past few weeks, I have definitely developed my ability to multitask and think quickly. When you are a part of an organization that tackles political and current events while offering a wide-range of services, everyday looks different and your workload can suddenly increase depending on the political and social climate of the week.

As someone who plans to pursue very similar work, I plan to be equally as engaged in activism on current events in addition to the services I will offer,  so I know that multi- tasking will be a crucial aspect of the work and managing time wisely.

I also learned that, in the work place, it’s very difficult for me to sit for long periods of time at an office desk and remain productive. Taking walks definitely helps, and keeping myself hydrated through out the day is key for maintaining my energy. As I remember to take care of myself through it all, I’ve tried to learn how to set my limits, and not take on more than I can handle.

My relationship with my coworkers is pretty great, and I’ve learned that this plays a big role in one’s work experience. Being able to easily communicate what your needs are and offer support to each other within the work place, makes hectic days a lot easier especially given that we are a small team. This work has also taught me the importance in diligence and accountability both on my end and everyone on the team.  

Here is a flyer I made for our third annual Decolonize Birth Conference that I was super proud of!

Additionally, I feel as though I have also gained a much better understanding of the financial aspect of running a small business that offers free/ low- cost services. This understanding has come through my work with processing grant applications and the extensive work I have done on sponsorship/donation requests for our third annual Decolonize Birth Conference. I am grateful for this learning and experience.  I am fully aware of the importance of this skill set especially given my career goal: to begin my own non-profit that offers reproductive health services and family planning resources to primarily LGBTQ+ people of color.  Given my lack of experience in these administrative areas, I was nervous and unclear about how to develop and enhance these skill sets. Having the chance to jump right in through my internship has helped a lot.

This summer, thus far, has  allowed me to gain a clearer vision of what I want my future to look like in several aspects. Morrie Schwartz’s anecdotes have been teaching me how to fully experience my fears and emotions so that I can detach myself from them and to prioritize love in every situation. My internship has brought me clarity, and taught me patience, finding a balance, and persistence. I am grateful for the experiences that have afforded me this knowledge.

Post 3: An overview of what progress/change looks like at The Center Houston

Hi everyone!

As a marketing intern at The Center, change is something I have seen and experienced during the duration of my internship. The Center promotes equality in the community for people with disabilities. As an institution, The Center is constantly looking for programs and activities that will aid their clients’ growth and bring the community together.

Here are some of the events, programs, and staff that contribute to The Center’s mission:

Weekly volunteering events

The volunteer events for the duration of the summer are planned by the intern (that’s me!). My job is to get a group of people who want to serve and learn more about The Center and are driven. Some of the volunteers we had previously are part of the ELCA Youth Gathering , a Christian church group whose commitment to The Center has been greatly appreciated. The volunteers from the ELCA Youth Gathering have been serving The Center for almost four years! During Hurricane Harvey, these volunteers helped with cleaning out the Gingersnaps workshop and also the Adult Activity Center.

Lots of changes have happen since Hurricane Harvey hit the city of Houston, including changes for The Center and its clients. As the main person in charge of the volunteering events, I always try to bring in young adults that can benefit from learning how to help those in need. Below is a picture of my youngest sibling Lia, who visited The Center during our annual Volunteer Day in June. Lia was excited to visit The Center after hearing me talk about how great the staff and clients are and the cause that we try to fight for one day at a time.

Staff

The Center makes sure that all employees are happy and love the work they do for their clients. You could not imagine how important obtaining the right staff is for an organization like The Center because of their commitment and teamwork. I was excited to be part of the hiring of the new Chief Development Officer, Marilu Garza. Obtaining someone with experience and passion for what The Center believes was something critical because of the relocation that will happen later this year. Marilu Garza brings more than twenty years experience in the not-for-profit world and education.

Gingersnaps

The Center provides work for their clients. The Gingersnaps company is partner up with  The Center Houston, providing clients with the job of packaging the cookies that are later sold online or at local farmers markets in the Houston area. A portion of the profits that Gingersnaps raises goes to The Center. The Center aims for the goal of providing clients with skills and lots of opportunities.

Progress at The Center is something that happens through the events and the amazing staff that is constantly helping the clients. The small steps that The Center takes to create a home-like environment are organizing activities and events, and having the right staff to work towards becoming a better organization every day.

Lastly, besides the small steps are the big steps The Center is currently taking, including moving to a new location.

Stay tuned to learn more about my experience!

Post 3: Finding Power in Coalition Building and Communal Growth

Hey everyone!

This week, I have been thinking a lot about how I define change and progress both personally and within the organization where I am working. In thinking about the goals of my organization–which are very much centered around social justice and health equity– it is always crucial to question where there are areas for continued growth and development, while also acknowledging the big and small strides and positive outcomes. This evaluation is key in assessing what could be the most effective steps to reach our goals as an organization.

With the goal of making equitable maternal healthcare accessible to low-income families, as well as black and brown folks, Ancient Song Doula Services wears many hats as a community-based organization. It is important to note that this lack of access to healthcare, resources, food, and housing stems from a much larger root cause: anti-blackness. Because of this, reaching our goal as an organization is not solely about providing resources to our communities, but also involves taking action around the systems and institutions that first put these barriers in place. Given the immense nature of this multi-faceted goal, what one could consider an “immediate success” becomes difficult to measure, making endurance and consistency key in this work.

At Ancient Song Doula Services, we are constantly multi-tasking, taking on different roles, planning for community outreach events and reaching out to other organizations for support and/or partnerships. We are always looking for different opportunities to spread the word and collaborate with other social justice collectives because it is crucial to identify the intersection of different movements, whether it be birth justice, food justice, or environmental justice. It can be very stressful–especially for a small organization–to take on such a wide range of tasks, but this is why we stress the importance of collaboration and solidarity.   

” A Day of Solidarity” held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Click on the image to watch the full panel

So, what does change or progress look like for me? Progress, I’ve learned, is very much rooted in and driven by coalition building and communal growth. Recently, my supervisor was a panelist in an event called “A Day of Solidarity” held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where the panelists engaged in a conversation around the recent policies regarding the separation of immigrant families and discussing ways to take action. One of the main topics discussed was how crucial it is for communities to gather in support of each other, stand in solidarity as allies, engage in dialogue and, most importantly, listen to each other. Listening and trusting one another gives marginalized identities agency over their own narrative and experience. At Ancient Song, we often practice this is, as we not only hold events by and for the community in collaboration with other organizations, but also center our workspace around physical and mental wellness. In this way, I’ve learned that, as an organization, listening and building trust and community allow us to constantly assess and reassess the needs of the communities we serve so that we can continue to evaluate our methods for change and be that much closer to reaching our goals.  

There is power in unification, as it is crucial not only for the healing of marginalized identities, but also, in standing firmly against or for a movement and demanding action. This is progress.

Post 2: It Can Seem Impossible

Brandeis is a place where individuals can openly uncover their eclectic life narrative, unusual odyssys and tangled obstacles and really hold pride in these experiences that define what makes them unique in this immense world that we live in. Students at Brandeis endeavor to change the world and no one shys away from shouting these aspirations from the rooftops. I’ve heard individuals discuss their personal and maybe complicated life goals – most surrounding ending some sort of social justice issue.

Many social justice issues have existed for years and years, but I’ve learned from students at Brandeis that giving up isn’t really an option. Students know Justice Louis Brandeis’ saying “most of the things worth doing in the world were declared impossible before they had been done” and they really run with it. 

Each day working at Environment Oregon I learn more about the impacts of pollution; I learn the impacts of single-use plastics on wildlife, I learn the impacts of diesel pollution locally and globally. One take-away I’ve had is that if environmental catastrophes are not affecting individuals directly, or affecting them right now, many are not even aware that these problems exist.

Here’s the kind of electric bus we’re pushing for

This is why spreading public awareness is incredibly important. My job to gain support from individuals, businesses, and leaders in Portland through teaching people about the effects of diesel pollution and how our city can decrease our footprint and better the health and environment of communities throughout Portland is incredible. The excitement, questions, and encouragement I receive back makes the end goal seem less impossible. There has to be a movement before there can be change, and there has to be education and awareness before there can be a movement.

There are many instances where I think about how hard it is to imagine myself being able to change the entire city of Portland. But what I’ve learned from Brandeis and from all of the students following in Justice Brandeis’ footsteps is that the biggest obstacle can be yourself – if you believe in yourself everyone else will too.

Post 4: Update from DC

NI Logo

This internship has been a really incredible learning experience so far. There are so many different elements of the job that employ a variety of skill sets. As I mentioned in a previous post, one skill that I have worked on significantly is critical thinking. The ability to think critically is one of the main pillars of the Brandeis experience, and I am continuing to realize its importance in the “real world.” Thinking critically does not mean challenging every single idea that you come across. Rather, it means understanding all of the perspectives of a situation and gaining as much background information as possible to support a claim.

The research I have been conducting is not only tedious, but very politically charged, and it is easy to fall into the polarizing loop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In an era of so-called “fake news” and “alternative facts,” it is important to not take articles, news headlines, and other media sources at face value. I am a firm believer in the power of “soft skills.” Of course my internship requires me to utilize hard skills such as data analysis and programming; however, my internship really focuses on the acquisition and implementation of vital soft skills.

One significant skill I am working on is communication. Communication is a fundamental aspect of both the workplace and life. I have had previous experience in other workplace settings, as far as working with management, supervisors, and coworkers. This summer, however, I have learned about forms of mass communication, such as email and social media. Different forms of communication have distinctive strategies that need to be employed, which has been somewhat difficult to navigate at times, but has definitely strengthened my skills overall.

For a firm focused on conflict resolution, we still have our own conflicts that can arise. I have definitely learned the importance of transparent communication as a tool for conflict resolution. From what I’ve witnessed, many of the problems that arise in the workplace setting stem from minor miscommunications. One of the facets of this internship is working closely with both projects and the other interns. Teamwork and team-building skills are extremely valuable to the work world, and I have gotten an incredible amount of experience with this over the summer. I wouldn’t say this is my first time learning about these skills, but I have been able to perfect and practice soft skills that will be relevant to my future at Brandeis and in my career.

This summer has taught me a surprising amount about myself. Since there is a wide variety of tasks in the office that the interns work collaboratively on, I have found that I emerge as a team leader more often than not. While taking initiative is not necessarily a bad thing, I have had to learn to release some control and cooperate in a group setting more efficiently. Overall, I would say that I have learned a few new things, but more importantly have employed and practiced my pre-existing skills and ideas.