When your internship is just the beginning

This post was featured on Northwestern’s EPICS Blog.

As part of my internship at the Human Rights Campaign, I planned our quarterly “Networking with GenEQ” event that was held on July 31st. This included advertising the event to various progressive organizations across the DC area. After many phone calls, emails, social media plugs and conversations with friends, 60 people showed up for light refreshments, an open bar and a networking activity. I know that networking activities can sound lame, but everyone ended up having a good time and leaving with valuable skills in crafting elevator pitches. There was also ample time to meet other smart, progressive young people and enjoy a few free drinks. It was one of the highlights of my summer to host such a fun, successful event with such a great turnout.

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Me with my co-intern, Rachel, and supervisor, Candace Gingrich-Jones.

There was something about the networking event that felt like the culmination of my internship, but my busiest weeks interning have actually happened since then. I was responsible for most of the internship recruiting and advertising, which wrapped up around the priority deadline of July 21st. Since then, I’ve been working on matching the right interns with the right departments. Often times an applicant won’t be the right fit for some of the departments he or she selected, so I have to reroute those applications to other departments. It can get very complicated as some departments end up with a lot of applications in their hands while others are left with none.

I have to keep track of the hundreds of applications through a system called Wufoo so that we know which departments have what applications, which departments have hired, which departments still need an intern and which interns have turned down offers. It can get especially tough when many applicants can only work part-time in the fall, as many departments need full-time interns. I get emails from departments every day asking for more applications, telling me which ones they are interested in and which ones can be rerouted. It has ended up being a really good way to interact and work with staff from all across the HRC. It has also been helpful to see hundreds of resumes and cover letters so that I can continue to perfect those essential skills for myself.

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Me and some of the other HRC interns from my floor.

In addition to helping with the intern recruiting process, I have been working on two other projects over the last few weeks. One is creating a guide on young LGBT people entering the workforce for the first time. I have done extensive research on coming out in the workplace, company nondiscrimination policies, domestic partner health insurance benefits and transgender-inclusive insurance coverage. It has been eye opening to see concrete examples of the rights and benefits LGBT people and their families are denied and the complex processes they and their employers must go through to create more equal work environments. There is strong, competitive incentive for companies to have domestic partner inclusive benefits, and a majority of Fortune 500 companies offer equal domestic partner benefits. It is very important for young LGBT people to have a grasp on their employers’ often confusing domestic partner policies and the rights and responsibilities that they have in spite of these policies. HRC’s Corporate Equality Index does incredible work rating companies for their LGBT-friendliness and inclusive policies.

My other project involves researching the LGBT campus climate for 10 states to help determine what opportunities and roadblocks we face there. This involves researching nondiscrimination policies, employee domestic partner benefits, LGBT student organizations and resource centers, current news stories involving LGBT issues (such as firing teachers, votes on various policies, etc.) and any other relevant information. Luckily, some of these schools have been rated by the Campus Pride Index on these qualities and more, making my job much easier.

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Me and Karin Quimby, HRC’s Regional Field Director for the South.

I will be continuing to work with the HRC in the fall, campaigning for marriage in Illinois and Senate votes for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in Arkansas. In addition, I am volunteering with HRC’s Chicago Steering Committee, working on the media and communications team for their Chicago Gala, which I will be volunteering at. Finally, I will be volunteering at the HRC National Dinner on October 5, which President Obama, Lady Gaga, the cast of Glee, Mo’Nique, Sally Fields and more have all attended.

As my internship enters its last few days, I look back at my summer at the HRC and the incredible opportunities it has given me. I have befriended passionate people from all over the country and met and worked with some of the foremost LGBT and civil rights leaders of my time. I will forever miss my time as an HRC intern, but I hope to return to DC after I graduate in December to continue my work in progressive politics and LGBT equality. I can’t help but remember nervously sending in my application for my dream internship last February and the excitement I felt when I was accepted. Now, faster than I could have imagined, my time here is almost gone – but my work is just beginning.

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Full of Pride

This past weekend was my first in DC – and lucky for me, it was also the week of Capital Pride!

ImageNew friends and me at Pride!

I arrived in DC at 3:00 am on Friday night (or Saturday morning) and already started making friends. My friend Katie from Little Rock was hosting me for the first two nights before I could move into my dorm, and her roommate ended up being friends with my friend Jacob from NU!

ImageKatie and me at The Sign of the Whale.

Saturday’s main agenda was the Pride parade, but first I got to reunite with one of my best friends from abroad, Abby, over lunch. We’re really excited about the summer together – how lucky that we get to pick things right back up! After our lunch, I left with Katie and some new friends to meet up with the HRC interns at the parade.

ImageThe HRC interns at Pride!

The Pride parade was a lot more moving than I thought it would be (in addition to being colorful and fun). There were families, children and elementary school groups marching, which really inspired me. I certainly wasn’t thinking about these things when I was that young. My first experiences with the word “gay” came from kids making fun of anyone wearing a GAP shirt (to 8 year olds, it meant “gay and proud”). It was the ultimate insult to be “GAP” back then, which is pretty crazy to me now. It means a lot to me that these kids are growing up thinking that being LBGT is normal. It reminded me of one of my new favorite quotes: “heterosexuality isn’t normal; it’s just common.”

It was also very heartwarming to see the number of Christian groups walking. A lot of times, Christianity is unfairly associated with homophobia, but these groups brought out the fact that it is a religion based on love. There was even a Mormons for Marriage Equality group that gave out “I hugged a Mormon today” stickers!

The parade lasted for three hours, and although my feet started to hurt, my heart was constantly full of joy. It was an incredibly supportive, diverse and loving celebration. Anyone could be who he wanted to be and feel loved for it.

Later that night, we all went out to this fun club called Black Cat that has a monthly party called Mixtape. It was really, really fun – I hadn’t gone out dancing since London!

On Sunday, I met up with some of the HRC interns (whom I love!) at the Capital Pride festival, where we saw Icona Pop. I’d only heard a couple of their songs, but I got home and downloaded their CD afterwards. They’re really fun!

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A little slice of home in DC!

I ended my night on a monument tour with Abby. I can’t believe my midnight strolls can include the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and a bunch of other historic monuments! I can tell that will be the first of many walks to the National Mall. Gazing over the reflecting pool, Abby and I reminisced on our time in London, caught up on each other’s semesters and most importantly, got excited for the endless possibilities of a summer in DC.

It’s going to be a great summer.

ImageMe at the Lincoln Memorial on my National Mall stroll with Abby!