Upon returning to campus in late August, I was still coming to terms with entering the first semester of my sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After an unusual year of learning online and having limited opportunities to engage in different communities due to the pandemic, I was just beginning to have this grasp on navigating my course as a young adult. In search of more engagement and experience in the community, I was incredibly fortunate to have come across the opportunity to intern for Nehemiah. Never before have I encountered a workplace environment that even so closely resembles the one that Nehemiah staff helps to cultivate. My first semester with Nehemiah has further helped me to find my grounding as a young professional and woman of color. As I continue to share several impactful takeaways throughout the 15 weeks in which I have had the privilege of interning for Nehemiah, I eagerly look forward to continuing my internship position throughout the spring semester as well.
An insignificant amount of time passed before I got past my nerves and felt confident in my role as an intern. This is all thanks to the guidance offered by Rebecca Compton-Allen (RCA), Dr. Karen Reece, my fellow interns, Eli Steenlage, and the rest of the Nehemiah staff.
I began establishing meaningful relationships with the Nehemiah staff, even before officially taking on my intern position. My interview served as a space for RCA to learn more about me versus me selling myself through a reiteration of my resume. Every intern full group meeting held on Friday morning, we would address topics relating to professional development concerning a multicultural environment. These meetings provided insight into developing confidence as a young professional. I have formed a high level of expectations for myself and my colleagues in terms of considerately fulfilling responsibilities individually or collectively.
One valuable lesson discussed being an effective communicator when working with people who communicate differently due to various causes. Adopting helpful techniques such as creating RCAI charts to support passive/aggressive communicators shifted my perception of communication in the workplace as I learned ways to support rather than shut out these individuals. Another lesson specifically involved women’s issues in the workplace. After this discussion, I realized the importance of having and being a part of a supportive team to uplift you throughout your work.
I experienced this sort of support in all of my interactions with each staff member at Nehemiah. As an intern, it is sometimes difficult to gauge the amount of input you can offer in the tasks you are working to complete. This was not at all the case as I quickly realized the insight I potentially had to offer was always welcomed. This encouragement increased my investment in the projects that I was assigned to and or had a role in shaping. As a communications intern, I worked on several projects having to do with the various programs facilitated by Nehemiah and its staff. I created an annual director report for RCA to present information about volunteer engagement through Nehemiah’s website. This project provided a great basis for my understanding of community outreach implemented throughout the rest of my projects. Many of my projects centered on extending Nehemiah’s reach in volunteers and community support as I worked on fundraiser guides, a series of social media posts for the Reentry Housing Program, and blog posts focusing on prevalent issues relating to race and how Nehemiah uplifts the black man and family despite these injustices.
Undoubtedly, the focus on the Justified Anger Initiative was most influential during my time as an intern this first semester. After every lecture and small group discussion throughout the nine-week course, I would sit back and have a profound moment of reflection on the knowledge and insight acquired by my participation. I hold great respect and admiration for Nehemiah as a multicultural, Black-led organization, working to empower the Black community as well as serving to educate allies by building meaningful relationships and developing systems and solutions which create effective change. I greatly appreciated the space for progressive dialogue and going forward, the insight gained from lectures and discussions facilitated by the Justified Anger Initiative will play into the accountability I assume as an ally.
There are no words to express the gratitude I hold for my time at Nehemiah thus far. Everyone I have had the pleasure of working with has contributed to the most progressive, impassioned, functional, and healthy workplace environment I have ever encountered. There are so many critical standards and skills I have adopted that can be implemented across the various settings I encounter as a young woman of color attending university and navigating the professional world. Thank you to the Nehemiah staff and my fellow interns for having a share in this community and experience that have greatly contributed to my grounding as I professionally and personally mature. I look forward to continuing this internship position next semester and acquiring even more insight that I will carry with me throughout my lifetime.