Social justice internships vary between fulfilling and mundane

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Junior Ian Roberson participates in his Social Justice internship.

Susanna Kemp, Staff Writer

Students in Social Justice face a difficult choice when they state their internship preferences out of a list of 20 possibilities. Although it’s impossible to tell before starting which will be the most rewarding, picking the right one could be the difference between a meaningful experience and an unfulfilling one.

A season-long internship is a requirement for Social Justice, a full-year class that meets twice a week. Heading into the internship, students often don’t know exactly what tasks they will be doing, and experiences differ widely.

According to junior Sadie Statman, who has not yet started her internship at Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, students get a list of all the internship options before the school year starts. Statman said she researched the internships first to figure out which ones she was interested in.

“I looked at their websites, and there were little blurbs about what each internship did,” Statman said.

Senior Ivy Yu has not yet started her internship at Haley House in Roxbury, which has soup kitchens and community dinners. Yu said that people in previous years have talked about how their internships didn’t meet expectations and they didn’t get to do a lot of the things they were hoping to do.

According to Social Justice teacher Roger Grande, not every internship site is a great experience for a student every year, but in general the internship program has been successful. He also said that students with more time will have a better experience.

“The limitation of the internship is that for students who can only do the minimum requirement, which is a few hours a week for about eleven weeks, they’re going to get limited tasks assigned to them,” Grande said.

Senior Talia Putnoi, who participated in Social Justice last year, said that she expected to have an amazing experience with her internship at the Women’s Center in Cambridge. She ended up answering phone calls on a help line that rarely rang.

“I expected it to be really fulfilling, and I expected to automatically have my voice heard within that organization,” Putnoi said. “I didn’t really have a specific task. My adviser didn’t really give me things to do. It was more like, ‘If anything happens, help out.’”

Senior Henry Finkle, who was also in Social Justice last year, interned at Bikes Not Bombs in Jamaica Plain. He said a lot of the work he did was tedious, with tasks including stamping, addressing and packing envelopes.

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Junior Ian Roberson is doing his internship at Freedom Massachusetts this fall, an organization that is currently campaigning for the protection of transgender people. He said his favorite part of the internship was working with the Massachusetts State Legislature.

“We went to hearings, so that was cool. You feel like you’re really involved,” he said.

But Roberson also said that not everything was fun, for example, he said canvassing was really annoying.

Putnoi said that despite the fact that she might have had a better experience somewhere else, she was happy she did the internship. She said that seeing the big picture of social justice takes a long time. Both Putnoi and Finkle said that their experiences did not deter them from wanting to do something similar in the future.

Yu said she was looking forward to,

“Meeting the people that I’m helping, actually knowing that I’ll have an impact on their lives and getting to know their stories,” Yu said.