2010 Leaders for Social Change Profiles
JAMES CAHALAN ’11
Internship Site: HOPE Center (Faribault, MN)
Position or role: Grant writer
Reflection Essay: Punk vs. Sociology
As an intern at HOPE Center, my primary responsibilities involved researching potential grant opportunities, creating a database of these opportunities, and writing a number of grant applications. I was able to write 5 grant applications. I also reformatted three policy manuals, wrote online newsletters, and attended organizational meetings.
In writing grants, I was able to provide HOPE Center with much needed funds for various programs. Writing grants, as well as working on policy manuals and writing newsletters allowed the Executive Director to focus her energies elsewhere.
My experience at HOPE Center offered me valuable insight into my future career goals. I learned that in order to enjoy what I do, I need to have a job that provides me with multiple roles or tasks to complete. I also learned that I want to work for an organization like HOPE Center, one which goes about social change from multiple angles: direct services, education, policy, etc.
KEVIN CLIFFORD ’12
Majors: Psychology and Political Science
Internship Sites: Summer Ventures Plus and HOPE Center
Position or role: Teaching Assistant and Offender Chronology Researcher
Reflection Essay: Redefining Social Change
I worked four days a week as a teaching assistant at Summer Plus, a Northfield Area Learning Center (ALC) summer school for at-risk, ESL, and low-income students in grades K-8. In the mornings I helped a teacher instruct math, reading, writing, and computer skills to a classroom of roughly 14 rising third-graders. In the afternoons, the teacher would leave and the other site assistants and I would be in charge of providing assigned enrichment activities for the children. On Fridays, I assisted the HOPE Center, a domestic abuse/sexual assault organization in Faribault. In fact, I am still in the process of chronologically documenting the 30-year crime history of a local domestic offender for the HOPE Center's resources.
Going into my internship at Summer Plus my primary goal was to become like a big brother, a positive role model and friend to the students I worked with. Although it took a few weeks, I eventually reached this level of trust and influence with most of the kids in my class. Forming meaningful connections with those smart little minds helped me encourage them to reach their full potential, no matter what the odds are stacked against them.
More than anything this summer I learned the power and importance of communication. One way in which I hope to increase my competency in communication is by becoming fluent in Spanish within the next four years. I hope to work in
Colombia for a year after I graduate from St. Olaf for a conflict resolution agency or law firm. My experiences this summer have solidified my plans for law school, where I hope to find a future career that incorporates and balances profitable law with social change.
JULIA COFFIN ’12
Major(s): Soc/Anthro and Religion
Internship Sites: Summer Ventures PLUS and The SEEDs Farm
Position or role: Teaching Assistant in an 8th grade classroom
Reflection Essay: I Have a Dream
This summer I interned primarily with Summer Ventures PLUS, a summer
enrichment program dedicated to providing additional educational assistance to at-risk,
ESL, and low income youth in the greater Northfield area. Working in an 8th grade
classroom as a teacher’s assistant, I spent my mornings helping students to develop
confidence in reading, writing, math and science, through completing worksheets,
reading short articles and performing experiments. In the afternoons, I helped to lead
activities focused on less tangible skills, such as following directions, critical thinking
and teamwork, through cooking, crafts and games.
I strove to create a positive and supportive learning environment through setting aside time everyday to have one-on-one conversations with students. Through discussing their interests and passions, watching the youtube videos they recommended, and learning about their Latino heritage, I slowly gained their trust and respect, helping to create an environment where they felt more comfortable sharing potentially personal information. I tried to give them a vision of what they could achieve if they worked hard and stayed focused, while they helped me to better understand the barriers they face in
accessing an education and the ways I could help most effectively.
Prior to this experience, my understanding of social change was iconized in the
stirring speeches of Martin Luther King Jr, and Mahatma Ghandi’s acts of civil
disobedience. Such a grandiose perspective was intimidating, removing me from the
realm of activism entirely. My students this summer helped me to realize that social
change can be achieved by anyone, anywhere, especially in a classroom. Looking
towards the future, I hope to work in education reform, as I believe through meaningful
conversations we can better identify how to creatively help those students pushed to the margins, and realize the importance of teaching to learn, not teaching to test.
NATASHA HEGMANN ’11
Internship Site: Carlson SEEDS farm
Position or role: Farm intern
Reflection Essay: Planting Seeds of Social Change
This summer I helped to launch an entrepreneurial project furthering the creation of a healthy, vibrant local food community in Northfield. My responsibilities varied from managerial and organizational tasks like ordering seeds, communicating with buyers, and interacting with consumers at farmer's markets to manual labor like planting, weeding and harvesting. My internship partner, Chelsea, and I successfully produced an abundance of healthy vegetables which we sold and donated within the community.
The most important element of my summer internship centered upon the human relationships I built over the course of LSC. I spent hours networking with established farmers, doling out (and receiving) advice from master gardeners, sharing recipe ideas with Northfielders at the Riverwalk Market Fair, and constantly refining my own values and vision in conversations with curious passersby. This exchange of information, ideas and enthusiasm was by far the most rewarding part of my summer.
I gained a realistic understanding of the complex challenges behind the realization of social change as well as real-world appreciation for the economics and management skills behind a start-up farm. As a result of my LSC experience I feel better equipped to start my own farm (possibly drawing from the Carlson SEEDS farm model), and capable of appreciating the honest exchange of healthy food on a small scale as a form of social change.
SIGNE KNUTSON ’11
Major(s): Political Science and Asian Studies
Internship Site: Community Action Center
Position or Role: Intern
Reflection Essay: Faces of Social Change
My primary responsibility at the CAC was in direct service. Everyday I would meet with clients, listen to their stories, and decide what kind of assistance we can offer. The CAC seeks to build community support while meeting basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. My mentor would often say to me, you can never predict who will come through the door of the CAC; every day is different.
I saw my greatest contribution to be in communication. As the summer progressed and as I became more comfortable at the CAC, the quality of my client meetings improved. I saw a direct correlation between confidence in the work I was doing and how much a client would open up to me and share their story. I went from being terrified to meeting with someone one-on-one to looking forward to each meeting and to each chance to listen, understand and help.
Prior to this summer I took a very wholistic and global view of social change; I was always thinking in the big picture. As a result of LSC my current career aspirations have evolved from the State Department to the nonprofit sector. In the same way that this whole summer experience was really a synthesis of client meetings and housemate interactions, behind the broad concept of social change are local nonprofits and community groups. While social change does occur at all levels of society, I now believe my outlet is to start small and build a movement from the ground up.
COLIN MARTIN ’12
Internship Site: So How are the Children?
Position or role: Program organizer, grant writer, English teacher, volunteer
Reflection Essay: Partners for Social Change
So How are the Children (SHAC) is a small non-profit dedicated to caring for the needs of the immigrant and refugee youth population in Faribault, MN. I was involved in running a no-cost summer program that provided math and science enrichment and physical activity for Latino and Somali kids. In addition, I participated in a weekly community partnership program called Mondays in the Park, which offered ESL classes for Somali women as well as fun games for their children. I also had the chance to assist SHAC with its funding by writing a number of grants for the organization.
Through this internship I was able to forge relationships with children drawn from two diverse cultures, help supplement their education, and provide them with a safe and nurturing environment within their community. I also helped a number of Somali women further their English language skills and become more acclimated to American life and culture, as well as play with their exceedingly fun and energetic children. It was great to be a part of an effort to bridge the wider Faribault population with its minority groups and foster better understanding and cultural competency among them.
This experience opened me up to the issue of community health and the local efforts in Northfield and Faribault to create healthy lives for both children and adults. It has inspired me to become involved in grass roots organizing and partnership to bring a better quality of life to communities and lessen the disparity between majority and minority populations. Moreover, I want to continue teaching English to people both here and also abroad, as English fluency is of the most valuable skills in our current globalized world.
DAN MURPHY ’11
Internship Site: The Community Action Center of Northfield
Position or role: Client Services Team and Policy Implementation
Reflection Essay: Get Up, Stand Up, Stand Up For Your Right
I was a member of the CAC Client Services Team and did client intake interviews to address direct needs of individuals. I was also involved with creating and shaping the CAC's recruitment/retention strategy of low-income adults to get back into school to become certified nursing assistants and back into the workforce.
Through client interviews and interactions with partnering non-profits I helped create an effective recruiting campaign that would suit the needs of clients as they try to go back to school and hopefully working again. I served as a direct contact in those interested in attending higher education and to obtain the necessary job skills required to turn their lives around through better employment.
While I have enjoyed working one-on-one with clients addressing their direct needs I thoroughly enjoyed creating opportunities to help those at risk at the macro-level and long term agenda. It has made me consider community organizing, community education, lobbying, activism and non-profit work in the quest for social justice and community responsibility.
CHELSEA WAGNER ’11
Major(s): Women's Studies and American Studies
Internship Site: Carlson SEEDS Farm
Position or role: Farm intern
Reflection Essay: The Prospect of Possibility
I worked on the Carlson farm for eight weeks--farming as well as
coordinating with the community.
Natasha and I basically started the farm, laying the foundation for
years to come.
This summer provoked a lot of introspection ans self inquiry. I have a
new direction and plan to go into holistic medicine in the future.
ANDREW WILSON ’11
Internship Site: The Northfield Union of Youth: The Key
Position or role: I was a part-time adult staffer, and a full-time facilitator of the Hip-Hop Anonymous program run in collaboration with the Phillips Scholarship.
Reflection Essay: Personal Essay
I was in charge of implementing a community service program revolving around aspects of hip-hop culture. I facilitated events such as rap concerts and breakdancing lessons for a variety of Northfield's youth population. Through this experience I was able to harness the importance of community outreach and the networking of different non-profits within a successful community.
I was a mentor to the youth I worked with. Through the events this summer, everyone involved in Hip-Hop Anonymous strove to build bridges between the different youth groups in Northfield. By creating these outlets, we were able to connect many of the youth in Northfield to a positive activity for at least a portion of the summer, if not the rest of their lives. This made the program, and this experience, a huge success.
This experience gave me an in depth, hands-on view of the non-profit world; its' benefits and detriments. I have decided that a direct career in non-profit work is unlikely for me because of the lack of power to change negative aspects of the non-profit realm one who works in this position assumes. The direct engagement part of my job this summer was extremely satisfying to say the least, however I'm now more strongly considering a career in law where I can work to change the system instead of having to work in it.