Gephardt News

Class of 2021 Civic Scholars: Summer Spotlights

Over the past few months, Civic Scholars pivoted and exercised creativity to reimagine their Civic Summers. The Civic Summer is an integral extension of their coursework – a time for Civic Scholars to apply what they have learned over the course of two semesters, in partnership with community organizations or self-directed under the guidance of mentors. Each scholar is awarded $5,000 to support a substantial civic project or internship during their Civic Summer.

While virtually nothing went according to the plans they had worked hard to develop over the course of the spring semester, our Class of 2021 Civic Scholars remained true to their goals and honored commitments to community partners across the country. All 16 of our Civic Scholars continued on to have both meaningful and impactful summers, including the development of social enterprises & websites, creating art, facilitating design-thinking processes, and interning with front-line organizations as essential workers. Read on for highlights from a few of our Civic Scholars’ Civic Summer reflections.

Carrie Phillips, Stern Family Civic Scholar

My summer in St. Louis has revolved around food justice and youth empowerment! During the month of June, I interned with Urban Harvest STL – an organization that fights regional food inequities through urban farming. I had the pleasure of working on their farms, attending Zoom seminars, and creating mixed media educational resources. This incredible opportunity set me on a new path of food justice work, which I hope to follow well into the future!

While COVID-19 altered my plans to spend the summer in Seattle with Rain City Rock Camp, this fantastic organization moved their ENTIRE camp operation online. (Which meant I could still be involved!) RCRC empowers girls and gender expansive youth through music instruction, activism workshops, and an overarching culture of radical inclusivity. I served as a band coach for two groups of campers, facilitating the songwriting process on a digital platform called Soundtrap (via Zoom band practices). As the summer winds down, I continue to be engaged in media and design work for both organizations!

Now, more than ever, raising young people with independent minds who dare to imagine radically different futures seems paramount. My work with Rain City Rock Camp has illuminated how music and social justice work can be fused to equip campers with invaluable, change-making tool kits. Both in and out of band practice, these youth are learning how to define values, embrace difference, and work towards common goals. As I interviewed campers about why they love Rain City Rock Camp, many proudly professed that they can be themselves, completely free of judgement, through the support of their fellow campers and counselors. This environment sets imaginations free – one of the first steps towards action. If I can continue to support youth on this journey, I now know that I will be engaged in impactful, civic work.

Jane Gormley, Seiden Family Civic Scholar

I’m at home just outside of Seattle, WA for my Civic Summer where I’m working on a variety of virtual projects under the very large umbrella of community-engaged design. For one of these projects, I’m mentoring students from my high school as they design approaches for addressing stress and wellbeing among their peers.

I spent a lot of time trying to plan my Civic Summer by looking outward towards new partnerships and opportunities. Covid forced me to look internally and recognize the power of investing in existing relationships. At first, it felt like a step backwards for one of my main partners to be my younger sister (sorry Kate!). I’ve since realized that by trying to create change in communities I’m already part of, I’m better able to leverage my power and make a real impact.

Since all my projects are remote, I’ve been using a digital whiteboard app for a lot of my work! This photo is a pretty typical view (minus the sun, Seattle is usually much grayer) of my workspace.

Jazmin Garcia, Fox-Clark Civic Scholar

This summer, I was in St. Louis working remotely with Casa de Salud as a mental health intake specialist with their Mental Health Collaborative and also was interning with WUSTL’s Workforce Financial Stability Initiative (WFSI). In June, I was also involved with the planning of ALMA (Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action) Chicago’s Zoom pride month event called “Latinx Pride: Integrating Past & Present Lessons to Move Forward.

A week in the life of my Civic Summer consisted of attending webinars for my internship, many about frontline workers, as well as reading sources/news that would get sent to me from other members on the team. When I worked with ALMA I would attend meetings to discuss potential panelists, questions to ask during the event, and figuring out logistics. Lastly, for Casa de Salud I would volunteer about once or twice a week and would screen new clients on the waitlist for services and follow-up with existing clients. I found it quite enjoyable to be involved with organizations that have some similarities yet have different focuses and goals.

Kally Xu, Stern Family Civic Scholar

Hello! I’m back at home just outside of Jackson, Mississippi, where I am working as a summer intern at the Center for Violence Prevention in Pearl, MS. The CVP offers services related to sexual assault and human trafficking, as well as domestic violence. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to shadow my supervisors as they meet with survivors and support them through case management services, healthcare services, advocate services, and so much more. I also worked on creating a sexual and interpersonal violence training for college campuses in the Jackson metropolitan area. Each day was different – some days, I would work in the domestic violence shelter, picking up survivors from the hospitals, shadowing case management intake meetings, and more. Other days, I worked at the Bridge, a community forensic clinic, shadowing meetings there, going to court or the police department with my supervisors, etc.

While I intended to be in Mississippi for my Civic summer, it definitely didn’t turn out the way I envisioned, largely due to COVID-19. However, I’m incredibly grateful that it all worked out, that I was still able to minimally interact with people and learn so much about my community. It has been inspiring to observe and to be a part of the powerful and meaningful work going on in this great state, even despite the pandemic.

Keishi Foecke, Fox-Clark Civic Scholar 

This summer, I’m interning with Compass Family Services, a nonprofit dedicated to ending family homelessness in my hometown of San Francisco. As an intern, I’m splitting my time between working onsite at Compass Family Shelter, a 90-day emergency shelter for families and pregnant people, and virtually supporting the Development team with grant research and writing. This picture shows a (100-piece!) mural that I helped put up at the Family Shelter a few weeks ago which now features photos of clients and words of support.

After many twists and turns in my project in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am very grateful to have ended up working with Compass. I’ve especially appreciated the opportunity to work with two different teams, getting a clearer sense of the behind-the-scenes of a nonprofit from both the direct service and administrative perspectives. I’ve also learned a great deal about the collaboration between various governmental stakeholders and nonprofit organizations to holistically support unhoused families.

Logan Phillips, Mary and Tom Stillman Civic Scholar

I’m in Austin, TX which is my second home (originally from St. Louis). My Civic Summer has encouraged me to do a lot of introspection in a way that also promotes practice, thus praxis. I’ve utilized my creativity and imagination more than I expected and I’ve pieced experiences together to pursue my Civic interests in a holistic way. This summer I’ve been interning with the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), running my advocacy blog site blkgirleduvist, and tutoring with Learning Lodge, which was started by two WashU ‘20 alums to provide free online tutoring for families.

NBCDI’s mission is to improve and advance the quality of life for Black children and families through education and advocacy. Interning with NBCDI has allowed me to engage with responsive community programs and policy advocacy at the national level with issues that impact Black children and families. blkgirleduvist fosters 3 avenues of creativity with my project; Dialogue through interviews and networking with social media partners to amplify community voices, Thinkpieces with reflections and research on education and advocacy issues, & Streams of Consciousness where I read and work to understand the literary works of educators and prominent figures who specialize in education & the experiences of Black people and Global majorities within the traditional/non-traditional educational sphere. I hoped to work with youth this summer, but COVID challenged me there. I believe that if I don’t engage with the communities that I claim I’m advocating for/serving and that of whom I’m also a part of, it’s just word with no action. Though it’s slight, virtual tutoring has given me a chance to directly support the communities that I’m advocating for according to the needs they’ve voiced.

I think the most unexpected, yet the very best part of the summer has been the privilege to sustain and maintain these three avenues of engagement with my Civic project and interests beyond the summer.

Mackenzie Hines-Wilson, Fox-Clark Civic Scholar

For my Civic Summer, I have been at home in St. Louis, Missouri, and I have been an intern at Places for People, a nonprofit that provides high-quality, recovery-based treatment for mental illness and substance use disorders. I am also a member of the Collective Impact team with two other members of my cohort and our focus is highlighting essential workers in the nonprofit sector during COVID. The entirety of the work I have done this summer has been virtual.

Since the work I have done this summer has been virtual, my routine has varied across the summer. My supervisor is the Project Director for Grants, so I have occasionally gone to the development team meetings that she attends, I have read through grants, compiled diversity and inclusion language to use for future grants and made a list of virtual health fairs and health resources. For Collective Impact, I have spent a lot of time interviewing various employees at Places for People to learn more about their roles and how they were impacted during the global coronavirus pandemic. The Collective Impact, we are currently creating a blog to highlight the essential workers we have interviewed this summer and to advocate for the incredible work that nonprofits do in order to serve various communities.

The biggest obstacle I have faced during my Civic Summer has been not going in person. In a perfect world, I could have done in-person work and had the opportunity to engage more with community members and hear their stories. However, pivoting my project to focus more on essential workers has been incredibly enlightening as we have been able to highlight a group of people that are doing such necessary work during the pandemic for various communities.

Article by Theresa Kouo