Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Elizabeth

This is the third post in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2020 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.

Author: Elizabeth Lurz, junior

I began the summer doing extensive research on the current job market in the U.S. and Fairfield County, with special attention to jobs both impacted and created by the COVID-19 pandemic. My goal was to locate the gaps where B1C clients could enter the particularly tricky and unprecedented job market, while also becoming familiar with the organization’s systems. Simultaneously, my boss encouraged me to seek out other projects within B1C, and I connected with the Legal Team to help build an improved webpage, which nicely connected my interests in law and computers, as I am minoring in Cybersecurity.

By July, I began to work with my boss on the Unpaid Wages team, a clinic set up to assist clients who were unpaid for a completed job, often an unfortunate result of employer exploitation of a worker’s immigrant status. After developing an in-depth project management tool and reworking intake forms to accommodate the new online environment, I became one of the primary contacts for new clients. I met with them over the phone to gather their information, understand their case, and help prepare their supporting documents for our volunteer attorney. Though I had to quickly brush up on my loosely conversational Spanish, and learn to adapt when a language barrier occasionally emerged, this soon became my favorite task of the summer.

My work with B1C has been an extremely rewarding experience. It was challenging to work in a fully remote setting, but I pushed myself to still develop positive relationships with coworkers and clients. Truthfully, without the Honors curriculum, I do not think I would have been able to make meaningful contributions to B1C. Honors pushed me to embrace my community and connect with and learn from others. I used my interdisciplinary knowledge on the movement of people and changes during crises to sympathize with clients. I was empowered to stand up to injustice, even when the results are farsighted, as they always are with slow courts and uncooperative employers. Though the summer has come to an end, I excitedly agreed to continue working remotely for the Unpaid Wages Clinic throughout the fall semester. I am looking forward to our upcoming cases and hopefully obtaining hard-earned money for several amazing people.  

The Inaugural Van Cortlandt Park Scavenger Hunt!

Author: Julian Navarro, sophomore

On September 5th 2020, Honors Program First-Years completed a scavenger hunt as a part of the Honors’ orientation programming, a tradition hundreds of First-Years before them have had the fun of experiencing as well. This year’s scavenger hunt, however, was quite different than years prior. Instead of taking the D Train down to Columbus Circle and running around Central Park to take photos in the Shakespeare Garden or at the Bethesda Fountain, the Class of 2024 logged into a Zoom call for a virtual scavenger hunt “in” Van Cortlandt Park. 

The idea to move the annual Honors scavenger hunt from Manhattan’s Central Park to the Bronx’s Van Cortlandt Park first came about during one of this past summer’s Honors Mission Discussions, a series of meetings between current Honors students and professors that served to assess the Honors Program’s role in newly prevalent public dialogues on racial justice. Honors Sophomores Erik Brown, Amelia Medved, Julian Navarro, and Pilar Valdes designed, organized, and hosted the hunt with the intent of creating a Bronx-affirming program to highlight disparities in care, treatment, and accessibility between Van Cortlandt Park and Central Park. Fordham’s hybrid approach to the Fall 2020 semester complicated the original plans for an in-person event, but the scavenger hunt was quickly adapted to an online format as a Google Form.  

The First-Years were asked to research and answer a series of trivia questions that were scored on correctness and timeliness. The trivia emphasized Van Cortlandt Park and the Bronx’s historical significance as well as their contributions to the beauty of New York City. Examples of such questions are, “Which park is one of the 3 largest parks in New York City?” and, “Which park has over 1000 acres of land considered to be ‘Forever Wild Reserve,’ an NYC Parks program that was established to protect ecologically valuable land?” The correct answer to both of those questions is “Van Cortlandt Park.”

Julian and Honors first-year students overlooking the city from Van Cortlandt Park.

After the virtual scavenger hunt, an in-person, socially distanced trip to Van Cortlandt Park was planned for those who could safely attend. A total of eight First-Years, accompanied by three of the hunt’s organizers, Erik, Amelia, and Julian, as well as sophomore Nick Urbin, walked northward to the park along Mosholu Parkway. Everyone noted the difficulty of reaching the park from anywhere south or southeast of it as Sedgwick Avenue and the Major Deegan Expressway’s on-ramps are formidable opponents to foot traffic. However, trumping the sight of such deficits on the trip was the beauty of Van Cortlandt Park and the Bronx. Friendly hellos were exchanged with people barbecuing along the Parkway on the walk; the historical Van Cortlandt House stood in all the vibrant green of New York City’s third largest park; and from the Vault Hill Overlook everyone caught a glimpse of the Manhattan skyline and the roofs of the wonderfully colorful borough the Honors Program has the privilege to call home.

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Amalia

This is the second post in a series of four posts written by the Summer 2020 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.

Author: Amalia Sordo Palacios, sophomore

The Covid-19 pandemic would have made obtaining an unpaid internship impossible for me this summer, which is why I am incredibly grateful to Dr. Keller for awarding me with the Honors Program Summer Fellowship Grant that made my work possible. I had the opportunity to intern with Autism Community Network, a nonprofit in San Antonio that serves children by providing autism diagnostic services, occupational and speech therapy, and classes for parents and caretakers of kids diagnosed with ASD (autism spectrum disorder). Because I began working with ACN at the same time that they started transitioning to telehealth, I witnessed a historic shift in the way autism diagnoses are performed and, alongside my coworkers, learned how to make remote services successful.

Amalia at the Rose Hill Campus.

Some of my roles included observing diagnostic and therapy appointments, administering the social media platforms, serving as a translator for Spanish-speaking families, and conducting research to assist with the grant-writing process. By working alongside clinical professionals, I learned a lot about careers in healthcare. I was reminded of the Honors Program’s interdisciplinary curriculum while observing how the diagnostic team came to a decision: each clinician specialized in a different field, but their collaboration and input ensured a more accurate autism diagnosis for the child. I also worked on finding research to support several grants; this was really exciting because I learned more about the real-world applications of neuroscience (my intended major). I was even able to give a presentation to parents about my own experiences growing up with a sibling with ASD. 

Throughout my internship, I reflected on the Honors Program’s idea of being scholars for justice and how it connected to my work. Prior to the pandemic, autism diagnoses were difficult to obtain due to long waitlists, shortages of trained professionals, and geographic barriers. I thought the pandemic would exacerbate these issues; however, I found that the transition to telehealth was a step towards ensuring accessibility for all families by helping them overcome geographic or financial barriers. ACN also developed a new program for parents struggling with mental health issues, supporting the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis. Through this internship, I’ve had the chance to explore different career paths and observe concrete examples of the role that the tradition of homines pro aliis (men and women for others) plays in nonprofit organizations. Despite working fully remotely, I was able to do really meaningful work this summer, all made possible with the Honors Program’s support.