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Interns at their trip to D.C. From left to right: Adam Shamsi, Sofi Abadali, Emily Ramirez, Endia Scales, Cynthia Guerrero, Maria Paredes

Summer 2022 Interns Reflect on Their Work at Arnold Ventures

AV’s interns are unapologetically leaving their mark on the world.

If I’ve learned anything over the past summer, it’s that this generation will not be silent, and we all stand to benefit because of it. 

I, like many of my Desi-American peers, have spent my life navigating between log kya kahenge” (a Hindi phrase translating to what will others think”; often used to quash the dreams of overly enthused children) and a passion for changing the long-standing systems that have made life difficult for my family and friends. The resulting effect is a fervor for social justice manifesting in a soft-footed approach. However, my colleagues at Arnold Ventures have pushed me to reconsider my methods. 

As I reflect on my summer at AV, I consider how I was encouraged to take charge. When senior-level colleagues asked, Well, what do you think, Adam?” or when my project manager gave me complete creative control over the work I produced, the message that my opinions were valued shined through. With their encouragement, I got to write articles for internal and external websites, create social media posts, develop the script for a soon-to-be choose-your-own-adventure game, and so much more. 

What I find even more valuable than the projects I’ve gotten to work on are the relationships I’ve built. The people I’ve met here have storied careers in various fields but are united in their sincerity and generosity — each one ready to carve time out of their busy schedules to have a conversation. 

Among the most inspiring and impressing of my colleagues are, without a doubt, the other interns. They are uniquely charming and uplifting. Without fail, each time I talk to them, I have a revitalized optimism for the future, and anyone who has the fortune of meeting them knows exactly what I am talking about. I’m beyond grateful to have worked with the following group. Here is just a little bit about them and what they were up to this summer:

Sofi Abadali

There is never a dull moment when you are around Sofi. Whether you are in awe of her perspicacious mind or enthralled by her storytelling capabilities, being around Sofi is like watching a movie unfold. 

Originally hailing from Queens, New York, Sofi is currently attending school at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, where she is majoring in medicine, health, and society with a concentration in health justice. This summer, Sofi worked with the health care team to advance their goals, specifically relating to medical debt.

She researched the financial motivations of hospitals in America and how they may contribute to large amounts of medical debt. She then looked into ways this problem could be solved by comparing our system to medical debt in other countries. 

What Sofi appreciates most about this internship is the people she has gotten to meet. I think that it was so fun to just be a part of a group of people my age that is equally passionate about the work they’re doing… because of that sense of community, I’ve never felt alone.” 

Endia Scales

Endia is quick-witted and level-headed, making for a confident and thoughtful working style. Her ability to think strategically and long-term is what makes her an influential leader. 

Endia joined the Criminal Justice team from Bucknell University, majoring in education with a concentration in policy and social change. Ultimately she seeks to use her skills to pursue teaching in higher education or nonprofit work with a focus on Black communities. 

During her time at AV, Endia looked into fair housing policy in various states and cities across the U.S. This involved researching what kinds of convictions bar someone from different housing types and synthesizing the information into a memo outlining ways AV can expand its philanthropic efforts to make housing more accessible for formerly incarcerated individuals. 

Endia also evaluated the Criminal Justice team’s grantmaking strategy, specifically when it comes to their racial equity approach. I can look at a mission statement of an organization and it says something about racial justice, but how do we know that they’re actually doing the work? Instead, I looked at the researchers on the project, if they had a past in racial justice work, as well as the projects the organization works on and the specific projects we are funding. Looking at these characteristics needs to be a part of our grantmaking making process.” 

Cynthia Guerrero 

To call Cynthia compassionate would be an understatement. She is constantly looking at ways she can be of service to others. She is intelligent, helpful, and has a knack for bringing out the best in people. Adding Cynthia to any team can transform a functional team into a highly effective one.

Cynthia joined Arnold Ventures as a recent graduate from Denison University, where she majored in anthropology and sociology with a concentration in Latin American and Caribbean studies. During her time at AV, she worked with the Advocacy team on a range of issue areas: She completed a literature review on higher education loan programs, performed a landscape assessment of police accountability programs, and tracked bills on policing and reintegration.

Getting to work with various types of research has solidified my desire to want to work towards a research career. Reading what we’ve done and talking with grantees gave me a sense that this is the type of work I want to continue doing — especially when it comes to advancing social justice causes.”

After Cynthia leaves AV, she looks forward to pursuing her Fulbright. She will teach English in Peru in addition to a long-term research project.

Maria Paredes

Maria’s careful and considerate approach to everything she does makes for thoughtful outcomes. No matter the size of the project, Maria is the type of person to work meticulously to ensure the details are just right. 

Maria joined the Legal and Grants team at Arnold Ventures from Georgetown, where she is majoring in international politics with a focus on foreign policy and policy processing and minoring in environmental studies. After graduating, Maria plans to go to law school and become an attorney while keeping her focus on what matters most to her — creating equitable conditions for low-income communities of color. 

Her work at AV centered on making the grantmaking process more efficient and useful for both AV and the grantees. She analyzed several grants and nearly 1,000 amendments to understand where AV can improve its grantmaking process to help develop grant agreements and maximize both the grantor and grantees’ ability to work through a project from start to finish. She also compared AV’s grantmaking process to other institutions to develop a grantmaking framework that prioritizes racial equity. 

Racial equity needs to constantly be a priority at every level of the private, public and nonprofit sectors in order for meaningful change to happen. People must lead with their words and actions for change to be initiated.”

Emily Ramirez

Emily’s effortlessly charismatic and genial nature lends itself to comforting conversations. Her deep sense of altruism drives her to optimistically yet pragmatically seek ways to improve the lives of others. 

Emily joined Arnold Ventures after finishing her second year at Harvard University, where she is pursuing a degree in sociology with a minor in ethnicity, migration, and rights. As an unapologetically proud Houstonian, Emily has always been fascinated by the diversity of the people of Houston. 

This summer, Emily worked with the New Programs team, where she helped refine the framework they use to explore new areas. One area she investigated was the use of Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) lending as a way for undocumented immigrants to access home, business, or auto loans. 

From what we know about undocumented immigrants in the United States, they stay for a long time. They often have children and establish roots here. Making sure they have ways to finance mortgages and business loans is really important,” said Emily.

Grants

Arnold Ventures funds projects to understand problems and identify policy solutions.

Map of the U.S. made of Arnold Ventures icons