Nine Eastern Mennonite University students and one Bethel College student are gaining professional experience this fall at the Washington Community Scholars’ Center (WCSC). They represent 12 different majors, showing the range of placement possibilities available through the program. The diversity includes three students majoring in social work, one business administration major, one history education major, one computer science major, one student majoring in psychology and sociology, one majoring in biology and business, one student majoring in accounting and mathematics, and one student majoring in political science and history.
The center, located in the nation’s capital since 1976, is a program of Eastern Mennonite University.
The semester-long experience is also a community-building endeavor, with students living together in the Nelson Good House in the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast Washington, D.C. This semester’s placements include several organizations that are longtime hosts of EMU students, highlighting WCSC’s deep ties within the region. Many alumni can trace their careers back to a pivotal experience at WCSC.
Read on to learn more about the students, their placements and the organizations they are involved with.
Iris Anderson, a psychology and sociology major from Corvallis, Oregon, is with the peace education program Little Friends for Peace. She helps facilitate circles at after-school programs, a mens shelter and other groups to teach “skills for peace” or education on social-emotional health.
“I have been going to a wide variety of schools and have learned a lot about how a child’s environment can impact the way they interact with and learn about the world around them,” she said.
Tatiana Ayala, a social work major from Stafford, Virginia, is with the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC). She is teaching, case managing and providing translation services at the organization, which provides services to youth such as safe housing, food, mental health, and virtual learning opportunities.
“I think the most significant learning experience I have had is helping clients with SNAP and Medicaid benefits as well as helping them navigate the DMV to get an ID and social security number,” she said.
Micaiah Coleman, a business administration major from Farmville, Virginia, is with the Washington Area Community Investment Fund (WACIF). The nonprofit organization’s mission is to promote equity and economic opportunity in underserved neighborhoods in the Washington, D.C., region by getting financial capital and business advice to low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs. Read more about student experiences at WACIF.
Nardos Haile, a social work major from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is with Voices for a Second Chance. She shadows case managers and team members at the nonprofit, which supports incarcerated and newly released individuals in their transition back to the community. Some of her day-to-day work includes assisting clients with resume building and navigating government forms for SNAP and Medicaid, finding housing solutions, and scheduling appointments for intake sessions or workforce development meetings.
“This internship is a constant learning experience for me, from paperwork to setting up TracFones for clients,” Haile said. “It’s a dynamic environment where I pick up new skills every day, including practicing de-escalation techniques to meet clients right where they are.”
Abigail Hickok, a history education major from Hickory, North Carolina, is with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She archives the work of the center’s longtime education specialist to make it accessible for researchers after her retirement.
“It’s been helpful to get a sense of what museum work entails and to be involved in meetings concerning archives and artifacts, as well as getting to meet researchers and learn more about their work,” Hickok said.
Kervens Hyppolite, a computer science major from Richmond, Virginia, is with Tech Impact. He works with the cybersecurity team to set up client devices on Azure, trains clients how to use KnowBe4 and runs vulnerability assessments on client networks and websites.
“Being able to communicate with clients and educate them is a big part of what most analysts do on a day-to-day basis, and having that experience is going to be key for me as I enter the field,” he said.
Zachary Kennell, a Bethel College biology and business major from Newton, Kansas, is with Hanger Prosthetics. He works with certified prosthetists and orthotists to provide care to patients who have lost function in one or more extremities. Observing how clinicians interact and adapt to the needs of different patients has led to many learning experiences, he said.
Natalie Ladd, a social work major from Waldron, Michigan, and Hesston, Kansas, is with Ayuda, an organization that provides legal, social and language services to low-income immigrants in the D.C. area. Some of her tasks include helping clients fill out forms for Medicaid, SNAP or online therapy; researching resources for clients; assessing their needs at intake sessions; and attending events to provide information about resources.
“I really enjoy working as a case manager and am looking for a similar job for after I graduate,” Ladd said. “I also have used this semester to work on my Spanish more as the majority of our clients speak Spanish.”
Anna Tieszen, an accounting and mathematics major from Harrisonburg, Virginia, is with the Capital Area Food Bank, where she assists the finance department in matching invoices and getting them approved to be paid. She said she has also worked on transferring information between systems.
“Getting to dip my toes into the accounting field for a few months has given me the chance to see how accounting works throughout a business and keeps that business running behind the scenes,” Tieszen said.
Aidan Yoder, a political science and history major from Kalona, Iowa, is with the Mennonite Central Committee‘s Washington office. At MCC he’s focused on the issues of climate change and militarism, which involves being active in several interfaith working groups to coordinate their efforts. He’s written articles, made educational TikToks and processed organizational sign-on letters to indicate MCC’s support for certain issues.
“My most significant experience from my internship at MCC has been learning how organizations can work together in a way to multiply the impact that they would have had on their own,” Yoder said.
Summer 2023 placements included:
- Justin Aggrey, a digital media and communication major from Culpeper, Virginia, at video production company Washington Digital Media.
- Laura Benner, an engineering and computer science major from Telford, Pennsylvania, at the Smithsonian National Zoo.
- Ben Childers, a liberal arts major from Chesterfield, Virginia, at the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington.
- Gelila Dibekulu, an economics and political science major from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at nonprofit financial reform organization Jubilee USA Network.
- Clare Henschel, a Viterbo University psychology major from Kiel, Wisconsin, at Little Friends for Peace.
- Ethan Klassen, an engineering major from Mountain Lake, Minnesota, at HVAC and plumbing contractor Shapiro & Duncan Inc.
- Zoey Mongold, a history & social science and secondary education major from Mathias, West Virginia, at Sumner School Museum and Archives.
- Isaac Sawin, a nursing major from Harrisonburg, Virginia, at Bread for the City, which provides food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services to low-income residents.
- Lily Simpson, a social work major from Limerick, Pennsylvania, at affordable housing nonprofit Jubilee Housing.
- Will Stutzman, a music interdisciplinary studies major from Denver, Colorado, at The Keegan Theatre.
Jamie Reich, WCSC’s associate director of communications and recruitment, collaborated on this article.