June 10th, 2008 – by Laura
What a rush of new information, people to meet, projects to start, and loads of street names to remember. Three weeks in DC, and I feel as if I have yet to touch the tip of a growing iceberg of complexities involving the community in which I live, transportation, and my work at American Friends Service Committee, to name a few.
As an intern at AFSC, I have found satisfaction in my work, and a growing interest in human rights issues as well as the advocacy work that the agency does. Situated on Capitol Hill, my office overlooks the Hart building and subsequently, Barack Obama’s office. With some of the most powerful men and women passing underneath my window, I am led to reflect on AFSC’s mission and commitment to social justice, peace, and humanitarian service. As the weeks roll on, I will be interested to see how AFSC interplays with this pool of power.
In contrast, I am also working on a Needs Assessment as part of my internship; this requires traveling to different public high schools in DC to interview and talk with immigrant students in order to gauge significant issues that they face in school. Afterwards, I will assess their needs and available services already in place as well as make a few suggestions. More than finding myself in the middle of a rushed, business-clad, group of people on my way to work, the exposure and interaction at these high schools have been the most shocking!
My first experience was at Cardozo High School, located in a predominately African-American and Latino neighborhood, where I waited for 20 minutes to speak to the secretary who seemingly paid me no mind and had 6 angry students to deal with. While waiting, I witnessed frenzied teachers coming in and out, heard a shouting argument between the principle and a young family through his office door, and heard the fire alarm go off for 5 minutes without any response. The alarm turned off and an announcement was made to disregard the bell. Afterwards, I was able to speak to the secretary, find the students I needed to talk to, and proceed with my interviews.
How different these experiences and atmospheres are when compared to the organized, sophisticated, and powerful ones of Capitol Hill. Interacting within these two completely different realms, I hope to understand or at least recognize the connections between the two and their direct contributions to my field of interest, immigrant youth and various human right issues.