Summer Internship Series: A Summer of Justice

Imaa Nicco-Annan ’18

Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, Washington, D.C.

My name is Imaa Nicco-Annan and I am a senior at Denison University majoring in International Studies with a concentration on human rights and women empowerment, and a minor in French. This summer I had the privilege of working in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Washington, DC.

Human Rights Watch is a renowned, American-founded international non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on human rights. The organization is known for its neutral reporting, accurate fact-finding, effective use of media, and targeted advocacy. This is often in collaboration with local human rights groups. Human Rights Watch also publishes more than 100 reports and briefings on human rights conditions in some 90 countries, generating extensive coverage in local and international media, some of which we, as interns, had the privilege of drafting.

My responsibilities as the Africa Division Intern were to draft reports and documents regarding issues in Africa while interacting with other US and international organizations, and foreign and domestic government officials.  A typical day of work involved monitoring the media for human rights issues occurring in select countries in West Africa; namely Senegal, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Gambia. My colleagues and I were assigned typical intern tasks such as filing and scanning documents, attending external meetings, flagging and sending emails regarding important press releases. However, we were also given a lot of leeway to work on tasks that were more geared towards our personal interests.

Human Rights Watch organized weekly “Speaker Series” where professionals within the organization would speak on varying issues which helped broaden my knowledge about the gravity of some human rights issues that I initially was not aware of. Through this internship, I gained direct exposure to the working on an international human rights organization. I also had the opportunity to network with several professionals in the legal and non-profit fields at leadership conferences hosted by Google, the French Embassy and Human Rights Watch. I was given the opportunity to draft a report on Guinea’s bauxite mining industry that is due for publication sometime this year. I was also assigned a task to identify locations and numbers of Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps in Mali following clashes in 2012.

Through this internship, I greatly improved upon my research, analytical and critical thinking skills. This summer at Human Rights Watch served as a great avenue to learn about the employed strategies and efforts that are placed in investigations on issues of human rights abuses; and in the exposure of facts that generate extensive media coverage and eventually, changes in policy. It also gave me the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in human rights advocacy field which I plan to pursue as a career, and honed my existent skills while simultaneously acquiring new ones. In addition, this internship helped me build my confidence as I attended various conferences and forums and networked with numerous professionals in the legal field.

My summer at Human Rights Watch has helped me guide my professional path and goals. I am certain that I want to work in an organization that focuses more on legislation of policies to protect human rights and eventually go to law school with the hopes of becoming a defense attorney.

I would like to thank Jim Wormington, Corinne Dufka, Lauren Seibert, and my coworkers-MJ, Charline and Gen for an enriching summer experience in DC.

Summer Internship Series: A Prideful Summer

Justine Morelli ’18

Intern, MassEquality, Boston, Massachusetts

This past summer I had the opportunity to intern at MassEquality in Boston, Massachusetts for four months. Thanks to the McMahon Fund, I was able to commute by train for an hour each way into the city, four days a week, all summer long, to work at this organization. MassEquality is the leading statewide grassroots advocacy organization working to ensure that everyone across Massachusetts can thrive from cradle to grave without discrimination and oppression based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The non-profit does this by partnering across issues, identities and communities to build a broad, inclusive and politically powerful movement that changes hearts and minds and achieves policy and electoral victories.

Throughout the summer, I gained experience canvassing, organizing events, recruiting voters and volunteers for the MA 2018 ballot, researching key political issues, writing testimony for bills in the State House, and listening in on pivotal hearings in the legislature. This summer gave me a foundation in the world of lobbying and non- profit advocacy work that will definitely benefit me in my future endeavors after Denison. I became really interested in testimony and legal writing, as well as research for bills in the House and Senate.

The most exciting part of my summer was volunteering at Boston Pride in June. Seeing the city come together at one big festival parade on a beautiful day was an amazing experience. Working with MassEquality allowed me to fall in love again with my home state of Massachusetts. I became passionate about political work and writing testimony for bills; working here allowed me to realize that I really can make a change in my community by starting at the political level and using my own voice. I am so thankful to the Knowlton Center for helping me with my resumé and the McMahon fund for this experience.


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!

Summer Internship Series: My Human Rights Summer

Ivanna Salgado ’18

Immigration Organizer Intern, Chicago Religious Leadership Network, Chicago, Illinois   

My name is Ivanna Salgado and I am currently a senior at Denison University. I am double majoring in Women’s and Gender Studies and English Literature. This past summer, I interned with the Chicago Religious Leadership Network as an immigration organizer.

When I first received the McMahon recognition, I mentioned that I was involved with the Denison community through the activism in campus and outside of campus. I had done a lot of the organizing in campus through Amnesty International. My goal for this summer was to learn grassroots organizing so I could come back and teach it to my team and to organize with outside communities.As an immigration organizer intern, I was able to build stronger relationships with over 20 congregations, which were relationships that could never be replaced. These congregations had interest in creating a more inclusive community by teaching its members about social justice movement through training. I also wrote blogs about them. For example, for the University Church, I wrote an article about their Sanctuary Café, which was very exciting and worthy.

One of my favorite experiences was learning about the sanctuary city in Chicago, which actually inspired my senior thesis. Chicago is known to be a sanctuary city under the Welcoming City Ordinance; however, it still violates the 4th amendment rights of those who are undocumented and documented. For example, the Chicago police have been working with ICE by passing along information to deport immigrants who don’t have any criminal records other than crossing the border without documents. Another example is that the Chicago police has been arresting children that lead them to having bad criminal record. Most of the people that are affected are people of color and low-income communities.

Although in the past I had only focused on undocumented immigrants, this internship taught me about expanding sanctuary. This topic is about expanding sanctuary not only to undocumented immigrants but also offer sanctuary beyond the physical mortar walls to people who are often discriminated and are documented.

For my senior thesis, I will be exploring this topic through theory by redefining citizenship in the United States. I will be writing an essay and turning it into a project throughout my senior year. Half of it is field research, which I am personally excited. I hope with the right guidance, I will able to get my message across and build stronger relationships with those who believe we get handed everything. Working with the campaign, personally, gave a me a broader perspective of what non-profits do and pushed me to accomplish my future dream as a lawyer and as a social entrepreneur

This internship taught me to be flexible from working remotely, to going to protests, to going to speak to alderman, going to congregations, and working in the office. I definitely recommend students who want to learn about human rights and grassroots organizing to apply. Cinthya Rodiguez, my supervisor, was amazing and great young woman who has a lot of passion for the work that she conducts as an organizer. She has built a great reputation amongst many organizations in Chicago. This was an amazing opportunity.

If you have any questions about my experience, please feel free to contact me. I would be more than happy to talk with you!