Summer Internship Series: Social Justice Outership!

Elizabeth Corronel ’18

Racial Justice Intern, Peace & Justice Center, Burlington, Vermont

Hello! My name is Elizabeth Corronel, and I am a current senior at Denison University. My major is Sociology and Anthropology, along with a Women and Gender minor. I am also a proud Chicago native and identify as a Mexican-American, first generation student.

As a result of learning about social relations, issues, conflicts, and theoretical discourses throughout my time at Denison, my passion for social justice only grew. With this in mind, my curiosity for an experience within the social justice non profit world flourished, especially in this political climate, and I yearned for being able to immerse myself into a grassroots environment, where real action was actually happening. After seeking an internship and working hard to perfect my resume and application for a Denison stipend, with the great aid of Dr. Tuominen, a professor in the Sociology and Anthropology department, I was accepted to be the racial justice intern at the Peace & Justice Center, in Burlington Vermont.

Placed along the beautiful Lake Champaign, with what seems to be painted mountains as the backdrop of the town, the Peace & Justice Center consisted of a Fair Trade store and a Center  filled with resources and various programs focused on racial justice, fair trade, and peace efforts. This internship allowed for me to have much agency and responsibility as an intern and at the same time, be a part of the Burlington community through many outlets. This was the most crucial part for me, as I was constantly asking my supervisors for ways to first immerse myself in various groups in the community and secondly, listen to their needs, realities, and hardships. These community groups ranged from attending police committee meetings and a non profit program that concentrated on racial bias within the county, to attending and connecting with the Black Lives Matter group, and supporting programs for youth leaders, both educational and agency driven programs that are in the process of constructing forums for their community about the past election. Throughout this whole process, I truly knew what it was to be an active member of a community and I was able to built relationships with my fellow interns and community members that undeniably amazed and inspired me every step of the way.

While the overall experience of this internship was amazing, of course there were some challenges. One of these was the demands of working in an office and figuring out how to do certain administrative tasks. As I identify as an individual who is not creatively artistic, I was asked to make posters for a specific event, reach out to food suppliers/restaurant, and reserve locations for a collaborative forum to which I had no experience with at all. However, after I got over my doubt and asked for help, I got to work and was able to accomplish all of these tasks. On the more personal side, a challenge I theoretically needed to take on was having productive conversations with people who did not share my experiences, political ideals, and yet find a connection with them, while trying to understand their perspective. This challenge was very difficult, yet rewarding because it allowed me to view why people do believe in what they do and find ways to build bridges, and even alter someone’s perspective,  to which this personal experience  I know will help me in both my own hometown community, but also on Denison’s campus.

Overall, this internship experience away from home and really, really on my own,  truly led me to be independent and self assured that I can succeed and navigate the social justice world one step at a time, and reconfirmed to me that the fight for equality, freedom, and justice must be collective, mobilizing, and accessible for those in deeply marginalized positions. At the end of this wonderful internship, I realized I would like to work in both the non profit, grassroots sector and get my graduate education in the public policy world after graduating from Denison!