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Q&A

EMERGE Interns Reflect on Their Summer at AV

They discuss how current events have impacted their internships, what it means to be an EMERGE intern, and how this time has influenced their future career plans.

Everyone was struck by a wave of uncertainty when the coronavirus pandemic made its way into everyday lives. The ripple effects of the virus could be felt in every facet of life, including how we work. For Arnold Ventures' summer interns, it meant a fully remote internship complete with virtual coffee chats, Zoom meetings, and a better understanding of how COVID-19 impacts all of the work at Arnold Ventures. They saw that firsthand in their time with the Research, Criminal Justice, Advocacy, and Accounting & Finance teams.

Here, our interns reflect on how current events have impacted their internships, what it means to be an EMERGE intern, and how this time has influenced their future career plans — and let us in on what quarantine hobbies they picked up this summer.

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Arnold Ventures

Can you tell me about your experiences at Arnold Ventures this past month?

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Arnold Bahati

My experience at Arnold Ventures has been great, and I am grateful for Karla [Sainz] and Renice [Armelin] for their work in transitioning the internship to a virtual setting. Through virtual coffee chats, I have had the opportunity to meet several different people who have provided me with a more in-depth insight into AV’s work. My summer projects with Ruchi [Agrawal] and Jillian [Green] have also allowed me to understand the fundamentals of philanthropic organizations and AV’s extensive reach.

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Faiza Qazi

I am working with the team to identify our priority states for 2021, and I am putting parts together currently in the form of a memo assigned to me which outlines what AV priorities were in different states in 2020. We are planning to then use that information to conduct a systematic review of our 2020 target states and strategy. It’s very exciting work because right now I am helping in the process of laying the foundation for the advocacy side of it all for AV. I think at one point or another we all want to be an advocate. Personally, at some point, I hope to do health advocacy. But the time we are living in right now and the work I am doing to contribute is teaching me the difference between advocacy and then effective advocacy, which is actually the most productive tool to voice the needs of communities most vulnerable, teaching me a skill that will play a major role in my career after college.

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Cesar Lara

From diving deep into my project about ranked-choice voting to getting to meet various staff members through our weekly Wednesday coffee chats, I have been able to learn so much in just the past month. This past month, I have given several pitches about ranked choice voting to various friends and family members, and explaining this to others has only strengthened my communication skills as well as my knowledge about this topic. Thanks to Sam, I have begun working closely with the ranked-choice voting for Texas group on a new project aimed to get this message to as many people as we can.

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Madison Flood

Everyone that I have encountered at Arnold has been very inviting and shown interest in me and who I am as a person. I’ve enjoyed every bit of the work that I’ve done even during those times where I was scared to do something wrong. The skills that I am acquiring and the knowledge I’m gaining excite me and make me look forward what I will do in the future. Nikki [Smith-Kea] has been the best project manager I could ask for, and I’m grateful for how she helps me better both myself and my work.

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Derrick Ngo

This past month, I have learned so much about the criminal justice pretrial system and Arnold Ventures. So far, I have attended an extensive number of meetings, worked on a few projects, and learned more about the incredible depth of knowledge, wisdom, and ambition carried by the people at Arnold Ventures.

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Arnold Ventures

Other than the move to remote work, how have current events impacted your internship experience?

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Arnold Bahati

In general, the pandemic has exacerbated many of the injustices that Arnold Ventures seeks to minimize. From Criminal Justice to Education, It's hard to find initiatives and issues that have not worsened because of COVID. Personally, current events have put things into perspective and shown why AV’s work is so monumental. The pandemic has been a wakeup call for many Americans, but many of these issues have plagued Americans for decades. I am grateful to take part in AV’s mission.

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Faiza Qazi

I think as I was starting this internship, too many things around me seemed like they were coming crashing down. Since middle school, I have always gone to school where the minority always was the majority, and then I got accepted to Colby, where though not the background I was coming from, I was still able to find an amazing group of friends who had a very similar background to me. Bbut with everything that was going on from George Floyd’s death to everything after, it almost was starting to feel like I was failing many around me.

This remote internship opportunity was great, but I felt like I was trying to escape the events around me by occupying myself in work. However, I was soon paired with my project manager and my mentors, and I started working on the project and going to these different talks and meetings, which made me realize this internship is how I was actively being an ally to the ones hurting and suffering in this time. If nothing else, this was the time to have these difficult conversations around you, and through this internship I was given the space to actively engage in those conversations, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

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Cesar Lara

I would have definitely loved to experience the environment in the offices of AV. However, Karla [Sainz] and Renice [Armelin] have been so helpful in scheduling events for us that I have been able to get a sense of the amazing culture at AV.

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Madison Flood

The recent acts of police brutality that sent the country into an uproar have definitely been impactful. Working in a policing space during a time like this feels monumental. Every new research assignment feels like I’m adding another piece to the puzzle that is systemic racism and police forces.

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Derrick Ngo

I feel that current events helped me better understand the disparities that Arnold Ventures seeks to dismantle — I felt an even greater urgency to learn more about the systems that create these disparities.

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Arnold Ventures

In what ways do you think your internship at Arnold Ventures has impacted your future career?

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Arnold Bahati

I think the pandemic has and will drastically change the workplace as we know it. More and more companies are rolling out permanent hybrid telework policies, and business travel is expected to decrease even after COVID. My virtual experience at AV has given me a headstart and prepared me for such an environment.

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Faiza Qazi

It took me two weeks into this internship to confirm that I want to advocate for the people and the things I care about as part of my career, but more importantly advocate for them effectively through changes that are going to be sustainable if possible.

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Cesar Lara

From communicating effectively to doing thorough research on a topic, AV has helped me develop so many skills that will certainly help me in my future career beyond college. I hope to enter the tech space in the future as a software engineer, and these are certainly skills I will need!

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Madison Flood

Interning at Arnold and talking to people like Walter [Katz] and Adaeze [Ugwu] has made me slightly adjust my career plans to narrow in on what’s really important to me, the changes that I want to see as a lawyer, and how I expect to contribute. Here I’m realizing who I am as a person, understanding what changes I want to see and how I can be most effective in making them. From conversations, I’ve realized that I want to be on the ground advocating for people in the courtroom: defending those who need my help. This is how I can be most effective. Arnold helped me mentally set my career in stone.

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Derrick Ngo

As someone who has an interest in data and its applications for society, I strongly believe this internship has supported my long-term ambitions. Working with the incredibly talented individuals on the Pretrial Team has helped me better understand the power of statistics and data in assessing problems and understanding solutions. My experience at Arnold Ventures has taught me about the importance of data-driven solutions and the significance of philanthropy in creating sustainable change.

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Arnold Ventures

What does it mean to be an EMERGE intern?

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Arnold Bahati

To be an EMERGE intern is to persevere despite challenge. AV’s philanthropic work extends to K-12, and higher education henceforth affects students such as EMERGE students. However, students like me often can't afford to intern at nonprofits because those internships are generally unpaid. I have always wanted to intern at a nonprofit, and EMERGE & AV made it possible during a time when millions are out of work. I consider it a privilege to intern at an organization whose work affects my community and me.

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Faiza Qazi

The whole point of EMERGE is to empower students from the underserved communities, and for me to be an EMERGE intern means in a sense to pass on that empowerment to the ones around me and to the ones like me.

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Cesar Lara

Being an EMERGE intern at AV has allowed me to learn as much as I can from those around me. Being an EMERGE intern means to be courageous, to never be afraid to ask questions, and most importantly to never stop learning.

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Madison Flood

I feel so blessed to be an EMERGE scholar. EMERGE allows students like me to excel in spaces that we might not have normally had access to. Being an intern makes me feel accomplished: like my work, time and effort do mean something, and I’m going down the right paths to reach success.

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Derrick Ngo

To be an EMERGE intern means everything to me. EMERGE, a college access program based in Houston, has been an incredibly significant part of my journey for the last four years, and I am honored to learn from this experience at Arnold Ventures.

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Arnold Ventures

What is the most important thing you have learned so far?

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Arnold Bahati

One important thing that I have learned is what role emotion has to play in philanthropy. Before starting at AV, one question that came to mind is how do philanthropies like AV decide what cause to help and what not to? There are several different causes with what feels like unlimited needs, but you only have limited resources to help. It seemed to be an incredibly demanding task emotionally speaking on how to best allocate these resources. I have realized that it is a demanding task, but AV’s mission isn't merely change, but rather sustainable change. Emotion has a role, but it can't be the basis in decision-making if the goal is lasting change. I think more philanthropies and charities should follow a more data-driven approach to philanthropy rather than an emotional approach.

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Faiza Qazi

So far having this virtual coffee with different people doing different work, and hearing their stories to how they got here, has taught me that you would never get to where you want to be if you didn’t go through the process you are going through right now. It's about trusting the process and being consistent to get you to a place you’ll be content with.

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Cesar Lara

The most important thing I have learned so far is that it takes a community to accomplish a certain goal. The staff at AV work so well together, and this has only encouraged me to learn as much as I can from every person at AV.

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Madison Flood

The most important thing I’ve learned is that it’s okay to mess up. I won’t always get everything right, but as long as I learn from it, it was a success.

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Derrick Ngo

I have learned that sustainable change is created through the interplay between accurate research, advocacy, the ambitions of individuals, and policy.

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Arnold Ventures

Lastly, just for fun, what quarantine hobbies have you picked up this summer?

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Arnold Bahati

Some quarantine hobbies that I have picked up are baking and woodshopping.

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Faiza Qazi

Journaling, drawing, kind of cooking, and then reading a lot more!

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Cesar Lara

A quarantine hobby that I’ve picked up just this summer would be creating digital art. I’ve been exploring some of the resources my college has given us like the Adobe software (mainly Photoshop, Illustrator). I’ve been developing this hobby mostly to just be creative and explore different ways to convey a message in art.

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Madison Flood

I’ve started reading more, learned to do pedicures, and started painting again.

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Derrick Ngo

I have picked up one hobby this quarantine: cooking!