As my time here at Genesis comes to a close, I am reflecting on the vast opportunities and fruitful lessons I have learned as a youth intern at this organization. When people inquire about what I learned, some of the highlights are...
Being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Usually, when people are faced with discomfort or placed in situations they have no experience with, a common instinct is flight rather than fight. For me, public speaking used to be terrifying and automatically emit feelings of discomfort within me. The first step to conquering fears is to have the mindset of sitting with your discomfort. The more times I gave presentations and spoke in public, the more I realized and acknowledged the feelings of discomfort that resulted from public speaking. However, I became comfortable with those feelings. Eventually I accepted the feelings of nervousness, in combination with adrenaline telling me to fight or flight. Having people encourage you helps shift your response away from avoiding problems and towards facing problems. As an advocate for social justice, I have learned the power of using my words to "fight" public policy and the system. I had the opportunities to speak in front of various commissions, boards, and organizations.
My voice is a tool.
Everyone's voice is a tool. I am thankful for having the ability to use my voice. One of my public speaking endeavors was in front of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. The topic of my talk was about demanding an audit on the sheriff, who's budget has doubled in the past ten years although the jail population decreased by half. I learned how powerful my words can be because out of all the public comments that were given, the president of the Board of Supervisors only responded directly when I was in front of the podium. I was nervous during the car ride to the meeting and my subconscious attempted to persuade me not to speak in public. I am grateful that I was able to overcome this irrational fear and create a memorable experience. Reflecting on another endeavor, I was also a part of a presentation about restorative justice given in front of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission. If you are not familiar with restorative justice, it basically allows people to acknowledge their wrongdoings, engage in conversation with the victims, and remain a part of the community rather than be incarcerated. This method of justice has proven more effective and allows people to retain their humanity. Policy change, such as shifting from incarceration towards restorative justice, requires conversation with elected officials in order to make any type of impact.
Navigating the pyramid of political power structure.
Getting into contact with elected officials is like trying to get to the front row of a mainstream concert... when you're not even at the concert in the first place. It requires excessive amount of work. Countless phone calls. Writing letters to assembly members and senators. The closest I have gotten was into the actual office of an assembly member... to speak with the staff. I saw the name plate of the assembly member on the desk, but the person associated with the name was nowhere in sight. It was still a unique experience just to be in their office and have the staff listen to me while I shared information with them about AB2304. If you are not familiar with AB2304, it creates a study on transit pass programs. However, there is a bigger goal in mind. Often a barrier to education for youth from low income areas is transportation.The goal with AB2304 is that in the future a program can be offered to allow youth from low income areas to receive free transportation so that they have an opportunity to receive an education. It is necessary that everyone is given the chance to learn and realize their potential.
Realizing different talents and abilities.
Through Genesis, I have also had the opportunity to spend time at the Arc of Alameda County, which hosts disability centers throughout Alameda County. I was able to visit three different disability centers. It was great spending time with people who were so loving and cheerful. The people at the disability centers are affected by either intellectual or developmental disabilities. I lead a training that focused on emphasizing their talents and things they are good at rather than their disabilities. All the participants brought positivity to the table and I appreciated their participation. An example of realizing a different talent rather than a disability would be, for example, someone who can not speak might know sign language which is something that not everyone can do. This opportunity taught me to focus on the positive and be grateful for the talents and abilities that each one of us has.
Overall, my experience with this internship has allowed me to develop myself into a better leader.