For the summer 2010, I received an internship with the Southern Education Foundation (SEF), which is a foundation that works to create equity in Southern education because, in many cases, schools in the South are still segregated by class and/or race. The Southern Education Leadership Initiative is a summer internship program that takes undergrad, graduate, and professional students and places them somewhere in the South with a non-profit or foundation that works in education. I am placed with the Public Education Foundation (PEF) in Chattanooga, TN.
The first week of my experience is now over, but the work is just beginning. This past week all the interns and SEF staff gathered in Atlanta, where the foundation is based, for a conference and orientation session. The group consists of 25 interns placed all over the South from Virginia to Florida, in varying degree fields and higher education levels. It was pretty cool to see how everyone has their own specific work within the over-arching field of non-profit work in education. Some students are working on improving rural education, some on urban, some working with black males, others with students with disabilities. The conference consisted of panel sessions and documentaries about the current state of education in both the nation and the South. We read a lot of recent studies and research as well; I’ve really learned a lot. An interesting study completed in 2010 shows that almost every state in the South now has a majority minority/low-income students! Other topics we examined were the school-to-prison pipeline for black males, police in public schools, and the sad state of rural education in America.
One night we went to a dinner at the Ritz-Carlton, during which Dr. Peyton, the President of Tuskegee spoke. It was really awesome and inspiring, and then I found out that a lot of Presidents from other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were there. I felt honored to be in such company.
The other interns were a blast. Our ages ranged from 19 to 30, and all of us are interested in social justice. Frankie Mastrangelo, OMA Grad Assistant, shared a room with me. It was definitely nice to have known my roomie ahead of time. The conversation was so enlightening, and I once again felt awed to be in the company of young people who are intelligent and driven. During the day we swapped ideas and opinions and created a network of friends and colleagues; my Rollins business cards came in handy! At night, we went out around Atlanta and saw some of the sights. The first night we wandered around looking for karaoke… we never found it, but we had a great time anyway!
I’m so grateful for this opportunity to learn and get engaged, and I can’t wait to bring back all I learned to Rollins and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.