Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I was born in Watsonville, California and later moved to Gilroy, California; only a 30 minute move, but two very different environments. Fun fact: Gilroy produces the most garlic in the United States. Garlic is very important to the city of Gilroy and the area is largely agriculture based, as are most cities in central California. Coming to Penn was my first time leaving California and living on the East Coast. It was very scary at first, but it has really broken the bubble I had been living in. It has shown me the disparity a large city can hold, as well as the power for creating change.
What work or issues does *organization they are working at* focus on? What has your role as an intern been so far?
Lutheran Settlement House is a non-profit in Fishtown, Philadelphia. It is a giant hub of departments and empowers the community in many ways. Some of the services offered include: a senior center, a food pantry open to the public, adult education, computer classes, youth afterschool and summer time programs, and bilingual domestic violence support (the department I work in). LSH also has a separate building called “Jane Addams place”, which serves as a shelter for women and children.
Considering I spend most of my time in the BDVP department (Bilingual Domestic Violence Program), I will discuss the work there so I don’t short-end any of the other departments and all the work they do that I don’t know of. In BDVP, we focus on domestic violence and how that relates to the community, including all different identities within out community.
BDVP works to create an inclusive environment. We are all required to undergo training on domestic violence and stay informed about the many intersections including immigration, mental health, and trauma. There is a 24/7 bilingual hotline available for counseling and resource referral, as well as in-person client in-takes both by appointment and via walk-in. BDVP employs medical advocates, who work part-time within healthcare facilities and part-time at the office, in order to better connect DV survivors to resources. We also have a program called Men Can, which works to empower men to advocate to stop domestic violence. Men Can holds an annual rally, reaches out to college Fraternities, and holds talks at local barbershops in order to connect through as many avenues as they can. Men Can also helps connect coaches to a curriculum called “Coaching Boys into Men” in order to encourage athletic youth to become student leaders in their communities. Men Can empowers men to be advocates, while raising awareness that abuse affects everyone, regardless of identity. All BDVP staff are trained mandated reporters, who can provide counseling and safety planning, as well as self-care tips for survivors and their families. BDVP also offers a yearly program called STAR (Students Talking About Relationships), which is a six week program that pays teens to learn about domestic violence, communication, resources, and how to support their peers. The program helps to inform teens and encourage them to be leaders at school in promoting healthy relationships.
BDVP has noticed a need for more presence within the LGBTQ community as well, and it is committed to making curriculum and training inclusive, and having more outreach in the community to spread awareness of the resources offered.
As an Intern, I have helped with OST (Out of School Time), the youth after school program, by editing the students’ work and helping to create their final event. I designed the Men Can rally save-the-date card, I researched LGBTQ events for LSH to get involved in, read training manuals to prepare to lead STAR, researched a curriculum called SLAY (Student Leaders and Athletic Youth), which was created as a counter part to “Coaching Boys into Men” for girls. I have read over the STAR curriculum and prepared all the material for the upcoming 6 weeks. Clearly, it has all been mostly intern work for now and just doing little duties until STAR begins. Once OST had ended, I no longer had a set schedule and after I finished my preparation for STAR I had no official work for the past three weeks, so I went around the office offering to help whoever needed it. I’ve helped my supervisor with Men Can tasks, helped create a binder for the new social work interns so they’d have all the resources on hand, I’ve helped the operation department with filing, covered the front desk, and unpacked for the food pantry. BUT all of my intern work is over, because STAR officially starts on Monday and I’m very excited (considering I’ve read over the 6-week curriculum at least 3 times). This is not to put down any of the duties I’ve been doing, but I call them Intern Work just because they are a bit disconnected, but still important to whomever I was helping.
What first sparked your interest in community service and social justice?
This story really has no beginning or epiphany moment and hopefully there is no end, but there is definitely a middle. A middle full of little powerful moments. When I first came to Civic House and meet everyone at PENNCORP (a community service pre-orientation program before freshmen year), I realized that my definition of community service was very different than everyone else’s. That I didn’t know anything about a lot of social issues and that there was a whole new vocabulary that came along with social justice work.
When I started working with the students at OST and heard them talk about issues I didn’t learn about till Penn and how aware they were of their community. I was floored.
When I got rejected from Penn Civic Scholars (I understood why once I met everyone at Penn Corp), even though learning about community service was one of my goals for coming to Penn, I was disappointed.
There were many moments before Penn too, but those were in different places and have been affected by my new knowledge here at Penn.
All of those times and many more have contributed to my learning about community service and continue to spark my interest about what it means to me and what it means to others.
What has been a highlight of your Community Engagement Internship experience thus far?
My favorite time so far was on a Friday, when my boss asked me what my plans were for the afternoon and I told her I had finished all my work. She told me I could head home early. I was so happy and so thankful. Beyond just having the day off, I am so thankful for the kindness and patience my coworkers have shown me. I’m new and temporary and I honestly didn’t expect anything, but they have given me continuous support and appreciation and they always just seem to notice and remember to ask me what I need in that moment. So my highlight is being surrounded by a caring environment and learning how to pass on the kindness they have shown me.