Interviews with 2012 RRASC Interns

This summer, CLPP sent 22 students from six western Massachusetts schools to internships across the country. By partnering with organizations that range from community-based, grassroots groups to international policy advocacy institutions, the RRASC program provides students with invaluable, hands-on learning experiences. In September, interns presented on their experiences during a symposium at Hampshire College.

Anna Shaddae Rodriguez
Class Action, Boston, MA
School: Hampshire College
Major: Legal Theory and Ethnography
Hometown: Boston, MA

Why did you apply to RRASC? As a young person of color I’ve often been on the receiving end of non-profit organizations, which caused me to be very jaded about the functions of many non-profits. I felt that the RRASC program would give me a means to explore spaces that made me uncomfortable in the past.

What was the best part of your internship? The literature that I was exposed to. I found quite a few books written by people affiliated with Class Action, which really helped me understand their thought processes.

What did you do in your “free” time? Being an intern by day and a dishwasher by night ended up really informing the way that I looked at my own class. Prior to that experience I took my upwardly mobile trajectory very lightly, but having a position that encouraged me to use my mind, and then having one that only required physical labor, forced me to recognize the differences between the two worlds I am a part of.

Carly Estrela
Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), Denver, CO
School: Westfield State University
Major: Ethnic and Gender Studies
Hometown: Grafton, MA

What was the best part of your internship? Attending policy meetings, workshops, and rallies with my coworkers. I loved representing our organization and our community during rallies like “No Papers, No Fear” and “Let My People Vote.” I felt like I was becoming a bridge in the gap between these shared efforts by our people all over the country, and by having this experience I can always carry that sense of solidarity with me wherever I go.

What did you like about the location of your internship? Denver was an amazing city to live in! There were a lot of inexpensive things to do, like meditation in the park and free aura healings right down the block from my house! The city is rich with many cultures, and I tried new foods for the first time and saw a lot of good music.

If you had it to do again, would you be a RRASC? Absolutely, yes! It was the best experience, not just for work and academic experience, but for life. I met the most amazing, inspiring people, who really impacted me. I will never forget my COLOR family. There is no feeling that can compare to the sense of motivation you get at a non-profit to work hard for what you believe in.

Kate Castle
Provide (formerly Abortion Access Project), Washington, D.C.
School: Mount Holyoke College
Major: Politics and Gender Studies
Hometown: Plymouth, MI

Why did you apply to RRASC? I have always been drawn to feminist and class politics, but never realized how intimately intertwined they are. In the past few years, as abortion has become less accessible, I have become a strong advocate of reproductive justice. This is because I believe that denying women access to abortion is really about denying women agency over their bodies and life decisions. I applied to RRASC because I wanted to join the struggle toward increasing women’s access to health care and other resources and see if working for reproductive justice was something I’d like to do after I graduate in the spring.

What did you do in your “free” time? I visited all of the national monuments and went to a lot of the museums with my roommates. I went to a couple of talks at the Center for American Progress and participated in a session of an intern summer series called “Sex in the Capital City.” I also went to a briefing on a telecommunications bill, a Choice USA Reproductive Rights 101 workshop, and other interesting talks that I heard about.

If you had it to do again, would you be a RRASC? Absolutely! I would recommend this program to any student that is passionate about reproductive justice and is willing to work hard and, in the process, see that it is possible to put ideals into existence through activism.

Morgan Drewniany
Tewa Women United, EspaƱola, NM
School: Hampshire College
Major: Environmental Chemistry
Hometown: Westfield, MA

Why did you apply to RRASC? I wanted hands-on experience in the world of environmental justice. In my academic career in chemistry, I have made it a priority to consider this. Most internships open to science students completely neglect this important field.

What is your advice for future interns? Don’t be afraid to go to an internship away from one of the big cities! I know a lot of people want to go to New York, but northern New Mexico was perfect for me. I had a part time job working at Starbucks on nights and weekends, which allowed me to meet young people in town and I made some great friends! After work we would go to community concerts, to wine tastings or to roller derby. It ended up being slightly hectic but I found time for both myself and my friends.

How do you plan to bring what you learned this summer back to campus? I collected about 80 soil samples [from the community garden] and will be analyzing them for a number of contaminants. The garden is in a unique location, downwind from Los Alamos National Labs, and I will look at how the surroundings are affecting community health through local foods. I have made an agreement with Tewa Women United for guidance throughout my Division III (senior project). I will be in contact with my supervisor at TWU at least twice a month with my findings and the implications of those results. She will have the space to comment on my work and edit it, especially the anthropological pieces, to make sure it is a fair and accurate representation of the community and culture.

Sarah Iverson
First Nations Two Spirit Collective and PFund Foundation, Minneapolis, MN
School: Smith College

Major: Sociology
Hometown: Cerritos, CA

What was the best part of your internship? Getting to compare my experiences at two very differently situated organizations that are both working toward social justice. My work with the First Nations Two Spirit Collective dealt a lot with capacity building and stimulating future growth, as well as learning how to connect to other Indigenous folks. At PFund, I got to work more on existing projects and see how a 25-year-old non-profit operates. There were things I appreciated about both sides of the partnership, but above all, seeing how differently things worked at both places offered a unique experience that allowed me to test myself and figure out where I fit in.

Why did you apply to RRASC? During the school year I found myself approaching my studies as more of an academic than an activist, and I wanted to learn how to bridge that divide.

What is your advice for future interns? My advice is to take advantage of every opportunity you get. Go to every event your co-workers invite you to, find things to do and people to meet wherever you are, and never stay in if you can help it.

Wilberthe Pilate
Safe Passage, Northampton, MA
School: University of Massachusetts Amherst
Major: Nursing
Hometown: Brockton, MA

Why did you apply to RRASC? I had been involved in some organizing around sexual violence the previous year, and I became interested in doing more direct service work. And I wanted to be able to apply my understanding of the reproductive justice framework in a new setting and in more challenging ways.

What was the best part of your internship? Most of my internship was based in the office doing research, but there was one week when I was recruited to help out at the shelter, which was awesome! I had some client interaction through working the front desk and hotline at the office, but getting to meet the shelter residents face-to-face, chat with them, and even do some childcare was really great.

How do you plan to bring what you learned this summer back to campus? Ever since starting nursing school I’ve believed that healthcare providers should be knowledgeable about sexual and domestic violence, and the effects of trauma on survivors. I feel like interning at Safe Passage has deepened my knowledge and perspective, and I’ll be able to take that perspective with me when I start my clinical rotations this semester.

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