This summer, many students were forced to cancel or shift their summer plans in light of COVID-19. In response, the College of Arts and Sciences launched a pilot program called “Practical Apps” through which students could submit a pitch to work on a self-designed summer project. As part of this program, the Gephardt Institute had a cohort of 9 students who interned with local St. Louis organizations such as Touchy Topics Tuesdays to Cure Violence. The cohort met bi-weekly over Zoom to delve into the history of St. Louis, unpack their internship experiences, and build community. Each student completed 45 internship hours and worked on a range of projects for their host organizations. Two students, Ale Ureostegui and Katie Jackson, shared the impact of their experiences.
Katie Jackson, ’21, Psychology and Educational Studies Major
After my summer plans were derailed, I turned to Gephardt and the Practical Apps Program in order to find an engaging and fulfilling project. There, the staff introduced me to Touchy Topics Tuesday (TTT), an organization in St. Louis which facilitates difficult but necessary conversations about race, privilege, identity, and current events. Over the past few months, I have been working with the founder, Tiffany, and another WashU intern to lead Zoom sessions and develop the organization’s model. As part of the TTT model, community participants are in established groups that meet weekly and engage in a variety of weekly assignments (such as reflecting on news articles and initiating conversations in their workspaces). I participated in the Advocates & Allies group, where Black and white women worked to understand each other’s humanity and discussed allyship. As a Psychology major, I have also been to helping expand and formalize the TTT discussion-model – applying psychological concepts I learned in the classroom to the curriculum.
Reflecting back on my time at TTT, I believe my greatest takeaway is that in order to be a part of the Anti-Racist movement, we have to replace showing up “perfectly” with showing up authentically. Niceness and perfection do not allow us to have necessary conversations; they do not allow us to meaningfully address injustice and oppression. Through the Practical Apps Program, I had the space to reflect on my identity, my values, my world-perspective, and my privilege. This is a vital first step to anti-racist work and allowed me to show up authentically at TTT and in my other relationships.
As I continue to stay engaged in the Movement for Black Lives and all future social-justice work, this is something that I will need to consciously and actively work on. Showing up authentically is not easy, but the lessons I learned from Practical Apps will help me to continue these discussions and inform my future work.
Ale Uriostegui, ’23, Latin American Studies and Spanish Major
My self-design project was creating the framework for a college readiness program for rising seniors in my former high school with my former high school counselor. Our program, College Paths 4 CHANGE, focuses on mentorship for first-generation, low-income, and minority students.
Additionally, I was a curriculum development intern with Dr. Warbelow who is Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Whitfield Academy in St. Louis. Dr. Warbelow will be teaching a course this fall: “Foundations in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”
The project advisors and the community they fostered led me to initiate my own program! Moving forward, I plan to start a non-profit.
Article by Colleen Smyth