Students at Washington Community Scholars' Center fall 2021 include, from left, front: Kylie Smith and Olivia Hazelton; middle: Benji Wall, Adam Jacob, Stephanie Kniss, Sarah Grossen, and Rachel Loyer; and back, Rachelle Swe, Andrea Acevedo, and Avery Trinh. This photo was taken at Rolling Ridge Study Retreat in West Virginia, a retreat site enjoyed by students and staff each semester and summer. (Photo by Jamie Reich)

WCSC fall 2021 interns work in DC-area clinics, labs, orgs and more

This fall, students are working in schools, theaters, research labs and medical clinics as part of the Washington Community Scholars’ Center (WCSC). The center, located in D.C. since 1976, is a program of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) and welcomes students from all universities to apply.

The following 10 students, nine from EMU and one from Goshen College, are living together this fall in the Nelson Good House in the Brookland neighborhood. From there, they’ll learn how their academic fields can be applied to the workforce, and explore some of Washington’s cultural and historic attractions.

Andrea Acevedo, a nursing major from Harrisonburg, Va., is with Catholic Charities Medical Clinic. She assists doctors with medical interpretation, accompanies doctors in diagnosing patients and exams. She has enjoyed spending one-on-one time with patients, which will be a continuing part of her work as a nurse, as well as “helping [her] patients engage with their doctors and identifying the best treatment programs for them.”

Sarah Grossen, a biochemistry major with minors in neuroscience and coaching, is in the Evans lab at Georgetown University, where mouse models are being used to study Parkinson’s disease. She is learning lab procedures while collecting and analyzing behavioral data. 

Olivia Hazelton, a peacebuilding and development major from Philomath, Oregon, is with Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services. She has researched available resources for incoming Afghan refugees and country conditions for clients filing for asylum in the U.S. She’s also contacted legal experts to help out with cases. “I have also had the opportunity to attend different seminars and trainings centering around immigration issues and learned a lot about the process of immigrating to the United States, especially how long and difficult it can be,” she reflected.

Adam Jacob, a history major and political science minor, is with America’s Future, an organization which “offers rising generations opportunities for networking, mentoring, leadership and community engagement through our national network and extensive array of programming.”

Stephanie Kniss, of Chambersburg, Pa., assists with the aftercare program at Sitar Arts Center. She is a sociology and writing double major. But she is not just limited to that: “Sitar is an organization where everyone wears many hats,” she says. “So some days I find myself helping to set up an art gallery or decorating the lobby for the holidays. Working at Sitar has already pushed me to be more comfortable in a leadership position. I’m finding it easier to say yes to things I would’ve been afraid of doing in the past. It’s an open and caring environment that allows me to feel safe, to fail, and be supported in any new ideas.”

Rachel Loyer, from York, Pa., is helping with Congregation Action Network’s Pathway to Citizenship campaign. This is a series of public actions and rallies happening in response to the current budget reconciliation bill that is moving through Congress. Loyer, a sociology major with a minor in Spanish, is helping to track the status of the bill, hold response meetings, and organize events that will increase the pressure on the Democratic senators and Vice President Kamala Harris. “Following the latest administration, this is a critical time for immigration reform,” Loyer says. “Engaging in work that I am passionate about, feeling more connected to my culture, and supporting immigrant communities are some of my greatest takeaways thus far.”

Kylie Smith, of Yuma, Arizona, is working in the Office of Student Services at Briya Public Charter School. The school employs a learning model called “two-generation learning,” in which children and parents learn together. “We believe, and research shows, that children’s school achievement is linked to their parents’ literacy and education levels,” according to the website. “At Briya, families ensure lasting outcomes by learning together.” Smith, a psychology major, is assisting a teacher with child development presentations, and providing updates to the school’s website lists for access to resources. She is also planning an event for students “to talk about their experiences as immigrants and how to make a new place feel like home.”

Rachelle Swe, from Harrisonburg, Va., is working in the Church of the Brethren Office of Peacebuilding and Policy. She is a double major in political science and peacebuilding and development. The organization partners with other church-affiliated organizations to work on various issues such the resettlement of Afghan refugees, climate change, and demilitarization. Swe is helping organize a series of webinars on the topic of US-China policy; she’ll be doing webinar promotion, speaking/discussing with the wider ecumenical working group, and reaching out to potential speakers and moderators for the webinars.

Avery Trinh, a psychology major with minors in neuroscience, math, and theater, is teaching peace in schools and at a homeless shelter for men with Little Friends for Peace. The organization equips people with tools that create peace within oneself and various techniques to foster an environment of peace. “We do this by going into communities and facilitating peace circles and teaching essential social/emotional skills to answer conflict and violence,” Trinh said. “I think my most important learning experience will be having to work through and discuss the mental health of many individuals, particularly young children, and find creative ways to mediate conflict.” He is exploring the field of counseling as a future profession. 

Benji Wall, from Goshen, Indiana, is  a general communications major with minors in art and theater from Goshen College. He is set-building and assistant stage managing the show N at Keegan Theater, in its 25th anniversary season. 

Jamie Reich, WCSC associate director of communications and recruitment, contributed to this article.