Shay Brunvand, Political Science major
I interned on the Education and Talent team at the Austin Chamber of Commerce in Austin, Texas. My work was focused on the chamber’s efforts to increase the rate of Austin area high schoolers attending some form of post-secondary education. During my time at the Chamber of Commerce, I did policy research for my supervisor about legislation that was being proposed in both the Texas legislature and the U.S. legislature. I also conducted interviews with guidance counselors in the area that were part of the efforts to reduce “summer melt” (the trend of college-bound students not actually enrolling). Then I created a blog post for the chamber based on what I learned.
The most impactful moment from my internship was when I was interviewing a counselor about her experience helping students and she told me how this past year she had helped four students struggling with housing insecurity to attend college. There were a lot of obstacles these students faced, and the counselor was emotional talking about it; in the end, all of the students ended up enrolling, in large part because of the work she did to help them.
I also helped connect Austin area students with what was called a “GenHERation Discovery Day” it allowed girls in high school and college to visit different businesses in Austin and learn about getting started on different career paths. All of the students who were able to attend really enjoyed it, and I was so glad that I could connect them with this opportunity.
This summer experience definitely helped me decide what I want to focus on after graduating from college. I enjoyed being able to look at the policy being passed in Texas regarding education while working for an organization that was a stakeholder in the matter. For example, there was a law proposed in Texas that would require high school students to apply for college financial aid before they were eligible to graduate.
Before interning at the Austin Chamber of Commerce, I probably would have been indifferent to a policy like this, but because of the work, I understood that this would increase the rate of students enrolling in college, specifically low-income students. I had a completely new perspective on matters like this and was able to see the strong positive impact a law like this could have. It made me realize that if I do end up working on policy in my career, I want to be able to see the positive impact, and that what I’m doing is helping the common good.
Oliver Munson: Psychological Science major, History minor
My internship experience at the Roanoke City Public Defender’s Office helped me to uncover a passion for public service and influenced what I want to do after graduation.
During the internship, I experienced every aspect of the work performed in a public defender’s office, from meeting clients to observing their trials while surrounded by a kind and welcoming office of great attorneys.
Amanda Grzywna: Secondary Education major, Education for Cultural and Linguistic Diversity minor
I worked as an academic enrichment intern this summer at CitySquash in the Bronx, New York. CitySquash is a non-profit after-school enrichment program that provides the opportunity and support for kids living in the Bronx and Brooklyn to “develop strong character, improve academic performance, become competitive squash players, attend high-quality high schools, and graduate from college.” During the internship, I worked directly with children in grades 3-12, providing individual tutoring, teaching classes, and planning trips.
Working with children, I was challenged to find new ways to engage them in critical thinking, which has taught me the necessity of flexibility and reflection. My favorite part of the day was when a student would ask me a question that I didn’t know the answer to because then they are the ones encouraging me to learn – a wonderful example of the dynamic relationship that working with kids provides.
Maeve Lyons: Health Science major, Spanish minor
This summer I worked with the Family Health Center Phoenix in Louisville, Kentucky, which is an organization that assists the homeless population in Louisville. I shadowed doctors and nurses in the Phoenix health clinic, but I mainly worked on the common assessment team.
The common assessment is a survey that asks people experiencing homelessness questions about their health and homelessness. The answers sum up to a score that determines their level of vulnerability. If they had a high score, they were considered vulnerable and qualified for the housing program we worked with.
This was an amazing experience working one on one with people and learning about homelessness and poverty first hand. I worked with an incredibly dedicated and compassionate team, and was fully exposed to the problems concerning poverty and homelessness in Louisville.
Ananda Sahihi: Social Work major, Political Science minor
My internship this summer was multifaceted. I spent half of the week with Judge David T. Matia’s Cuyahoga County Drug Court in Ohio, where he conducts two drug court dockets a week. The program aims to reduce mortality, recidivism, and jail population through the collaboration of case managers, public defenders, probation officers, and addiction treatment facilities. The other half of the week I spent with MetroHealth Hospital's Office of Opioid Safety.
Most of my time with MetroHealth was spent in the jail clinic with nurse practitioners and social workers doing intake assessments to identify who might be eligible for MAT (medication-assisted treatment), what medication might work best for their recovery, and what additional counseling and treatment will be necessary to promote full mental and emotional recovery.
Many of our clients had already detoxed from opioids while they were serving time and were eager to start treatment while they were clean and before they were released. I also helped with harm reduction efforts such as distributing Narcan kits, volunteering on a needle exchange van, assisting with HIV and Hepatitis C testing, and working on a public health outreach project about the growing presence of Fentanyl in street drugs and how to test your drugs.
After my experience this summer, I better understand addiction as the non-discriminatory disease that it is and the stigma around opioid addiction that prevents many people from getting the help that they need. I also understand the importance of collaboration between the justice system and healthcare providers to combat the hugely destructive opioid crisis in our country.