Those at the Washington Community Scholars’ Center (WCSC) this spring are, top row left to right: Meadow Kirkdorffer, WCSC Associate Director Ann Butwell and WCSC Program Director Ryan Good. Middle row: Sophia Sherrill, Lexus Rutledge, Rachael Saeli and Ariel Morales Bonilla. Front row: Greta Schrag, Rebecca Arias, Leah Walker and Bryce Huffman. The group is pictured at the atrium of the National Portrait Gallery. (Photo courtesy of WCSC)

WCSC hosts nine for spring 2024 DC internships

Eight Eastern Mennonite University students and one Bluffton University student are gaining professional experience this fall at the Washington Community Scholars’ Center (WCSC). They represent six different majors, showing the range of placement possibilities available through the program. The diversity includes three students majoring in political science, two majoring in political science and history, one majoring in social work, one student majoring in social work and psychology, one sociology major and one computer science major.

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. 

Rebecca Arias, a political science major from Springfield, Virginia, is with Catholic Charities. She works with the immigration legal services department, assisting with translating documents, helping clients fill their visa applications, and doing administrative tasks.

“My most significant learning experience will be learning the basics of immigration law and being able to use that knowledge for future jobs,” Arias said.

Ariel Bonilla, a political science and history major from Richmond, Virginia, is with Latin America Working Group (LAWG), where he works with grassroots organizers, human rights defenders, and NGOs in policymaking efforts in Latin America. He said he’s following the presidential and legislative election in El Salvador, the Guatemalan democratic transition, and the peace processes in Colombia.

“My tasks vary from interacting with these leaders in hearings to doing media and academic research,” Bonilla said. “The most significant learning experience will be interacting with community leaders and human rights defenders and seeing the personal and on-the-ground side of policymaking.”

Bryce Huffman, a computer science major from Fairfield, Virginia, is with Community IT, where he works with IT organizations, involving computer work (troubleshooting, emails, and network support). He said he is trying to learn programming in the workspace.

Meadow Kirkdorffer, a political science major from Harrisonburg, Virginia, is with the Anacostia Watershed Society, where she works on policywork, research and blog writing.

“At the moment, I’m seeing a strong need for digital marketing and social media marketing,” Kirkdorffer said. “I’m seriously considering doing the homework to add this skill to my resume.”

Lexus Rutledge, a social work and psychology major from Henderson, Kentucky, is with Christ House, where she works with homeless individuals who need respite care for medical needs. During their stay, she aids in connecting them with critical resources to receive things such as insurance, forms of identification and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). At the sister location, Kairos House, she works with previously homeless men who are battling substance abuse disorders and now live onsite.

“I help to keep their Individual Recovery Plans on track and assist them with numerous things, such as setting up their cell phones, making online purchases, and replacing missing identification or insurance cards,” Rutledge said. “At both locations, I aid my supervisors in daily case management tasks in order to increase the residents’ quality of life and help get them back to/keep them on the right path.”

Rachael Saeli, a social work major from Baltimore, Maryland, is with Jubilee Housing, where she works with service coordinators in Resident Services to manage the walk-in center, helps residents with daily needs, assists with applications and plans events. She also co-facilitates Jubilee Housing’s Senior Digital Equity Project, where they will be distributing devices, providing training sessions and creating educational materials to enhance digital literacy.

“I think my most significant learning experience will be in navigating the complexities of community-based social work,” Saeli said. “I look forward to developing relationships with residents and learning more about how to best provide quality services.”

Greta Schrag, a political science major from Harleysville, Pennsylvania, is with ONE DC (Organizing Neighborhood Equity), where she is learning what it’s like to work in community grassroots organizing, as well as the administrative and resource work that goes into managing a nonprofit.

Sophia Sherrill, a political science and history major from Goshen, Indiana, is with the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, where she works on various media and academic research projects to support the staff as they are testifying at city council performance oversight and budget hearings.

“My most significant learning experience will be going to these hearings and learning how the local, state, and federal government intertwine and are distinct,” Sherrill said.

Leah Walker, a sociology major from Richmond, Virginia, is with DC Safe, where she works with victim services to get clients the resources they might need to better their situations.

“My most significant learning experience will probably be learning and seeing how local agencies treat victims and how to create networks for clients,” Walker said.

Ann Butwell, WCSC’s associate director of student life and program administration, collaborated on this article.

Join the Discussion on “WCSC hosts nine for spring 2024 DC internships

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *