Washington Community Scholars' Center participants in the spring semester program are (back, from left): Kiera Suffel (Bluffton), Lorraine Armstrong, Jason Summers (Bluffton), Jonathan Nisly, Daniel Gregg (Bluffton), Irena Xhari (Bluffton), Elisabeth Wilder, Jeffrey McGraw. Front, from left: Kayla Campbell, Hannah Daley, Jasmine Wilson, Yordanos Tesfa, Amanda Williams, Allie Short. (Courtesy photo)

From NOAA to the USDA: fourteen students make Washington D.C. their home for the spring semester

Fourteen new residents to Washington D.C. moved in along with the new president of the United States in January. The students, from two universities, are in residence this semester at the Washington Community Scholars’ Center. The group includes 10 students from program host Eastern Mennonite University and four students from Bluffton University.

The semester kicked off with the traditional city-wide scavenger hunt that helped students familiarize themselves with their new home in the Brookland neighborhood and beyond. They’ve also visited landmarks: the National Mall, the National Portrait Gallery, the Frederick Douglass House National Historic Site, the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum and Howard University.

Bundled up on the National Mall, the group tours monuments with program director Kimberly Schmidt, professor of  history.

Students work four days a week at their internship site, gaining valuable work experience within their field of study. Additionally, two seminar courses are offered: “The Anacostia, Alleys & the Arts: The Multicultural History of Washington D.C.” and “Monuments to Murals: Exploring Social Issues through Washington D.C.’s Public Art.” Topics of discussion include water use, gentrification, race relations, poverty and social history.

A third course, “Servant Leadership in the Urban Setting,” focuses on vocational discernment and internship processing, said program director Kimberly Schmidt. Guest speakers have included David Myers, former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships; David Deal, former CEO of Community IT Innovators; and Dawn Longenecker ’80 and Joseph Deck of the Servant Leadership School.

The semester has also brought students close to political activism, with opportunities to attend the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the Women’s March and Martin Luther King Jr. Day activities.

The following is a list of students, their majors and placements.

Lorraine Armstrong, a history major from Greencastle, Pennsylvania, is working at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program, where she researches state legal cooperative statutes, writes for the program magazine and attends events. She says she’s beginning to understand “how cooperatives can be used as a business model to establish economic prosperity in rural and underserved communities.”

Kayla Campbell, a nursing major interning at Christ House, is providing health care to homeless men. This has included care for different kinds of wounds and diabetic foot care, as well as taking vitals and “doing lots and lots of laundry.” She has enjoyed “getting to know the patients and watching how other staff interact with patients.” Kayla is from Chester Gap, Virginia.

 Hannah Daley, a chemistry and environmental sustainability major from Lothian, Maryland, is working at Science and Technology Corporation, a private contractor of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA. Hannah has spent her previous two summers in two different sites in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, the most recent of which was in the field of atmospheric science. Hannah is continuing in the field this spring. “I am working on a project to test the effectiveness of a new computer product and its ability to detect methane and other trace gases in the lower troposphere,” she said, adding that “learning to speak the language of computers, specifically coding UNIX” is a current preoccupation.

Daniel Gregg, a business major at Bluffton University from Ontario, Ohio, is a human resources and operations intern at Horton’s Kids, a tutoring and mentoring organization for children in the Anacostia neighborhood.

Jeffery McGraw, a social work major interning at Sitar Arts Center, has been working with families on finances and opportunities for children. He works with students on class activities and assists with administrative tasks and projects. Jeffrey is from Verona, Virginia.

Jonathan Nisly, a peace and development and political studies major from Bluffton, Ohio, is interning at MANNA, a nonprofit developer of quality, affordable housing in the District of Columbia. Working as an advocacy and outreach intern for MANNA’s Housing Advocacy Team, Jonathan has been updating their blog and social media, sitting in on meetings with councilmembers and coalition partners, and helping to plan team events.

Alexandra Short, a communications major from Fredericksburg, Virginia, works at 826DC, a non-profit that provides writing tutoring and special programs related to writing and reading. She works with low-income students as a tutor, workshopping their writing. She’s involved in the book publishing process, as well as providing retail sales in their store.

Kiera Suffel, a communications major from Bluffton University, is working with the fundraising and communications team at L’Arche, an “inter-denominational Christian community that welcomes people with and without intellectual disabilities to share life together.” She is participating in house life and helping with fundraisers, but also creating content for online platforms, and planning and implementing an ongoing series for social media. She is from Edgerton, Ohio.

Jason Summers, an accounting and business administration major at Bluffton University, interns with Washington Area Community Investment Fund. He’s been busy processing payment requests, budget submissions and check deposits, as well as working with year-end audits and operations assistance. He also tracks impact on the community, which has led to the following observation: “I’ve learned about the lack of quality funding available to entrepreneurs and the lasting effect that investing in small business and start-ups can have for communities.” Jason is from Alvada, Ohio.

Yordanos Tesfa is an intern at Faith and Politics Institute. The English and writing studies major from Bowie, Maryland, is working on briefing books for the organization’s upcoming civil rights pilgrimage to Alabama, updating the Twitter account and contributing to a 25th anniversary newsletter.

Elisabeth Wilder, a social work major interning at Latin American Working Group, has been preparing the Colombia News Brief each week. She also blogs, helps with fundraising events and updating social media. She has also attended meetings related to Latin America around Washington D.C. and on Capitol Hill. Elisabeth is from Hesston, Kansas, and spent last summer in a communications-oriented internship in Colombia.

Amanda Williams is a biology and environmental sustainability major interning with the botany collection management department at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. She’s enjoyed “seeing the nation’s vast collection of 5 million specimens and also learning the organizational, management and data entry skills to take care of it!” Amanda helps to manage incoming and outgoing specimen loans by providing data entry and aiding visiting researchers and curators. An experienced scientist who conducted marine biology research in an REU last summer, she is from Millsboro, Delaware.

Jasmine Wilson, of Woodbridge, Virginia, is utilizing her psychology major at Little Friends for Peace as an after-school program assistant coordinator. She works in elementary school classrooms to teach peace and promote nonviolent interaction. She’s also works in large and small peace circles with male and female residents of a local shelter. Jasmine says she’s “learning what peace looks like within myself and the world.”

Irena Xhari, a business administration and human resources major from Bluffton University and Lezhe, Albania, is interning at the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington, supporting the organization’s vice president of leadership development. “I conduct research, handle and organize data, as well as participate in trainings offered by the YMCA,” she said, calling the environment “very professional.” “I have enjoyed observing the way employers interact with each other, what’s effective and what’s not in creating a productive and healthy work environment.”