Last fall, I switched my major from mechatronics engineering to anthropology and political science because I wanted to pursue a passion for equitable rights and transformative justice. I believe community grassroots systems are the key to changing the injustices we see in our society. However, because I lacked applicable experience in social justice work, feelings of panic and inadequacy tricked me into believing that switching my major would render me an undesirable candidate for internships. I remember getting the call that I had been selected to be a Karel Fellow. It was more than excitement; it was validation. I can do this! But these fears of inadequacy crept back in as I realized I didn’t know the first thing about communications work. I mean what exactly is public interest communications?
Luckily, these feelings of imposter syndrome faded after the Fellowship began with a three-day CommunicationsBootcamp designed to prepare us for the field of public interest communications. I feel so incredibly grateful to be a part of this fellowship. I am honored to learn from such a community that provides a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight and to connect with those who share similar priorities.
Since mid-June, I have been interning with the National League of Cities (NLC), an inclusive, nonpartisan organization that works to support local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions for more than 2,500 member cities, towns and villages. Despite the pandemic-induced virtual work environment, my experience so far with NLC has been a whirlwind of opportunities. Working on NLC’s Reimagining Public Safety task force allows me to advocate for equitable justice and learn the importance of public interest communications in movement building.
One of my main projects at NLC has been working with the Reimagining Public Safety task force to help cities tackle the issues with our criminal justice system, a personal passion of mine because my mom is incarcerated. We have a system that fails to understand drug addiction as an issue of mental health, poverty, and access to resources. My mom’s incarceration is uniquely tied to another issue close to my heart—drowning prevention. During the summer of 2018, my two-year-old daughter, Ellie, tragically died while away for summer vacation at her father’s house, a custody agreement that I have since changed for my son. After my daughter’s death, my mom, who had been sober for 5 years, relapsed. I have since become an advocate for pool fencing legislation and raising awareness of child drowning. It is because of this that I consider successfully adding drowning prevention as an important addition to the task force’s initiatives to be my proudest accomplishment.