Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Harry

This is the fourth post in a series of six posts written by the Summer 2021 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.

Author: Harry Parks, sophomore

Over the span of eight weeks from late May to late July, it was my privilege to intern at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (“GOA”) within the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical, and Interfaith Relations (“the Ecumenical Office”). I was honored to work under the direction of Fr. Nicolas Kazarian and with the much needed and valuable support of Dr. Keller and the Honors Program through the Summer Internship Fellowship. 

Harry Parks, Honors sophomore

Under the archiepiscopal direction of His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, the Ecumenical Office is expressly tasked with preserving Orthodox unity in the United States, sustaining efforts of dialogue and collaboration with Ecumenical partners, engaging in constructive relations with interfaith communities, and advancing “Church and Society” initiatives. 

Before this internship, I wanted to engage in the Ecumenical Office’s creation care and racial reconciliation initiatives, but soon realized that I needed to commit myself fully to the tasks that were asked of me in order to yield the best fruits from this opportunity. 

During my time in the Archdiocese, I was given a variety of assignments, compelling me to adapt to the various areas and concerns of the Office within Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical, and Interfaith relations as the mission of the Church intersects and transcends these arenas. Generally, my work centered around three areas: administrative briefs, ghostwriting and editing, and initiative brainstorming and content creation. 

The Ecumenical Office logo

My work constructing briefs was undertaken either to prepare the Archbishop for meetings with religious or secular leaders, or to advocate for the positions and safety of the Church. I found myself engaged in meaningful work to produce concise, yet instructive documents for the Church. Regarding ghostwriting and editing, I was privileged to write and/or edit multiple texts, giving me an intimate glimpse into the importance of accurate, tempered, and consistent spiritual and social messaging within the GOA. I was fortunate to help preserve the Ecumenical Office’s creation care initiatives by creating social media content for the Office’s Facebook and brainstorming new projects and structures to implement in the future.

Undoubtedly, this internship was the oil needed to fuel the fire of my spiritual journey in the Orthodox faith and my academic aspirations at the intersection of international studies, Orthodox Christianity, and Ecumenical dialogue. I pray that I may find just as potent a fuel in the future to “set [myself and] the world on fire,” as attributed to Ignatius of Loyola, in offering myself to the missions of the Orthodox Church. 

A Budding Bronx Partnership Takes Root

Author: Danielle D’Alonzo, senior

Last year, we could only see our classmates’ faces in little Zoom boxes. All of the events that usually bring people together, like Club Fair and Spring Weekend, were canceled. Many of our friends did not even come to campus. At a moment when human interactions were so restricted, I was grateful for a chance to experience myself and others as social beings.

Danielle D’Alonzo, Honors Class of 2022

The new Youth Engagement Program builds unity and understanding between two communities: Fordham Rose Hill Honors Program, and Jonas Bronck Academy, the middle school across the street from our campus. Each Fordham student is paired with a JBA student in a one-on-one mentoring relationship. As preparation for the program, Fordham students met with JBA staff to complete training sessions on the theory and practice of mentoring. Some of the main lessons were that the mentors should encourage goal-setting, a healthy work/life balance, and personal and civic responsibility. 

Once the weekly meetings began, things became more free-form, with each mentor-mentee pair charting their own path. Whether it was through casual chatting or helping with homework, talking about mental health, or playing video games, the mentors helped the mentees achieve their goals and maintain their social and emotional wellbeing. That is not to say that the mentors did not learn and grow from the meetings, as well. At the end of the semester, when all of the program participants came together, mentors and mentees alike expressed the same sentiments. “It’s so nice to have somebody to talk to, and somebody to listen to.” “It’s really fun to share my interests with my mentor/mentee.” “I am learning so much from the weekly meetings.”

I truly appreciate the trust and rapport that my mentee and I built together, and I hope that she feels the same way. I have high hopes that this program will keep thriving, and expanding our social lives even after we say goodbye to Zoom!

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Megan

This is the third post in a series of six posts written by the Summer 2021 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.

Author: Megan Farr, senior

Megan Farr, Honors Class of 2022

This summer, I interned with the Housing Rights Initiative (HRI), a New York-based non-profit group working to educate the public on source of income discrimination and research the debts that real estate companies owe New York City from violations of city policies. 

As an intern, I was able to participate in this mission through my work on HRI’s project to uncover discrimination against Section 8 voucher holders. Section 8 is a federally-funded program providing housing opportunities to low-income tenants. Tenants can use vouchers on any apartment below a rent limit set by their caseworker. Discrimination against the use of Section 8 vouchers is illegal, but landlords and brokers continue to deny prospective tenants based on their sources of income. In order to meet the need for greater public awareness of tenants’ rights surrounding source of income discrimination, HRI trains testers, including myself, posed as Section 8 tenants and called real estate companies to determine if they are in compliance with laws surrounding Section 8 vouchers. HRI also works to educate these companies about source of income discrimination laws, so they can ensure their practices are in line with local and federal laws. As a tester, I was able to hone my ability to think on my feet when speaking to landlords and brokers, as well as  experience the investigative side of the public interest legal work I hope to pursue after graduation.

I also researched the debt owed to the City by real estate companies. This portion of my work involved interpreting legal documents, collecting data, and utilizing public records to conduct research. I found this work invaluable for developing skills I will need later in my legal career, including how to read legal documents and collect data in an efficient manner. 

My internship would not have been possible without an Honors Summer Internship Fellowship, and I am grateful to the Honors Program for giving me the opportunity to pursue work for a cause I am passionate about. Not only have I deepened my understanding of housing rights issues and further developed my own skills, I have also had the opportunity to participate in the Honors Program’s mission to be a “community of scholars for justice.” HRI values community engagement in their work for housing justice, and working with HRI this summer has allowed me to engage with the New York community and further the work for justice the Honors Program encourages. 

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Patrick

This is the second post in a series of six posts written by the Summer 2021 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.

Author: Patrick, junior

Patrick Vivoda, Honors Class of 2023

This summer, I had the opportunity to work in Disaster Services at the American Red Cross of Illinois. During my time there, the ARC team responded to hundreds of disasters, opened shelters throughout the state, and offered 24-hour services to people in need. As a Volunteer Lead, I administered the response schedule for Response Area 2, helped transition our team to a new online platform, and implemented a monthly forum for our volunteers. As a Disaster Service Associate, I conducted virtual responses to house fires and tornados, in addition to attending weekly regional leadership meetings to discuss the state of disasters in the Midwest and the nation at large. This experience has been amazing! It introduced me to the unique responsibilities of a nonprofit, opened my eyes to the realities of disaster relief, and has solidified my desire to do similar work in the future.

From my time at the Red Cross, I have most appreciated getting to work with incredibly talented professionals who prioritize character and humanity in their work. During the last week of my remote internship, I finally got to meet my supervisor, Isamar, in person at the Rauner Center in Chicago. She gave me a tour and introduced me to everybody in the building. After telling them it was my last week and I would be moving to New York for school, every single person I met – including both our Regional CEO and Executive Director – gave me their contact information and told me to reach out to them if I needed anything. This speaks to the quality of people working at the Red Cross and is a testament to the atmosphere they have created: character and meaningful relationships are prioritized at all levels, at all times. 

If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a million times: I love my job. It’s stressful at times, heartbreaking at others, and almost always tiring. But I love it. I am so grateful for Dr. Keller, Ava, and the rest of the Honors Program for creating the Summer Internship Fellowship. This program has made it possible to work at a nonprofit, and I believe the Honors Program community not only inspired me to join the Red Cross, but also made me qualified to do so. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and I look forward to applying my Red Cross experience in the classroom and beyond.

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Jack

This is the first post in a series of six posts written by the Summer 2021 Honors Internship Fellows. The students received a stipend that enabled them to work at non-profit organizations for the common good.

Author: Jack Moses, junior

Jack Moses, Honors Class of 2023

Thanks to the Honors Summer Fellowship, I was able to intern at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and their partner organization Reverse the Trend: Save Our People, Save Our Planet. Both of the non-profit organizations that I worked for centered around nuclear disarmament – extending denuclearization into the intersecting social justice issues of civil rights, women’s rights, sexuality, and environmental protection. Thus, justice, a key tenet to the academic work of the Honors Program, was front and center to my work at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Reverse the Trend.

One of the most important aspects of the internship was the close collaboration and work with affected communities: people and groups who had been directly affected by the production, deployment, and testing of nuclear weapons.

I helped organize an event on August 6th 2021 to honor those affected by the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in which hibakusha (survivors of the bomb) ensured that their stories will never be forgotten. We worked directly to amplify the voices of the Pacific Marshallese community – those from the Marshall Islands, where the United States tested nuclear weapons in the 1970s – to hold the US government accountable for their atrocities against the community.

The internship brought me in contact with an incredible amount of people, and for that, I will forever be grateful. My previous activism and social justice work had focused only on domestic issues but witnessing the consequences of nuclear proliferation on the international community was a significant step in my professional and intellectual growth.

Seth Shelden of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and Jack holding the Nobel Peace Prize ICAN won in 2017.

My intellectual growth was compounded by an exposure to materials on nuclear weapons that I had been previously unfamiliar with. Nuclear weapons and their consequences are rarely covered in traditional academic courses; the connection between the civil rights movement and the nuclear disarmament movement is almost never. Having advisors in our organization who specialize in connecting nuclear disarmament to women’s rights, environmental protection, and civil rights was fascinating and provided new knowledge for me.

To conclude, I would like to thank the Honors Program for such a generous grant to be able to intern with these nuclear disarmament organizations. While I will be branching out into the redistricting field in the fall, I will certainly remain a nuclear disarmament and environmental justice activist throughout the entirety of my academic and professional career.

A New Partnership: The YEP Holistic Mentorship Program

Author: Cristina Scofield, first year

Cristina Scofield, Class of 2024

Earlier this month, Honors students and Jonas Bronck Academy scholars met for the inaugural meeting of the Youth Engagement Program (YEP), a mentorship initiative between the Rose Hill Honors Program and the Jonas Bronck Academy (JBA), a public middle school near Rose Hill. Initially proposed by Brenda Gonzalez, principal of JBA, and Dr. Keller, director of the Rose Hill Honors Program, YEP was turned into reality with the efforts of JBA administrators and five Honors students. YEP is the first of its kind: a holistic mentorship program designed to connect Honors mentors with JBA scholars to help the middle school students plan and achieve their goals, both academic and personal. 

At the inaugural meeting of YEP, many of our Honors mentors described a similar inspiration for their involvement: to engage with the Fordham neighborhood, fully embodying our mission as a Community of Scholars for Justice. The Honors mentors representing Fordham this year are Nick Urbin (‘23), Danielle D’Alonzo (‘22), Jack Amrol (‘24), Maniza Khondker (‘24), and me, Cristina Scofield (‘24).

For many of us, the first meeting with our mentees served as a goal-setting workshop. We encouraged them to identify their goals and then outlined plans to achieve them. In addition to academic goals, our scholars outlined goals in other areas, such as a college or career dream or another area they’re passionate about. In this first session, I was truly inspired by my mentee’s ambition and determination. While we mentors have experience and advice to share, we have just as much to learn from our mentees! I, just like my fellow mentors, cannot wait to see how far they come during the eight weeks of this spring’s YEP program. 

While we are restricted to virtual meetings for the time being, hope is not lost on an eventual in-person reunion of the JBA and Fordham Honors communities. We are looking forward to future sessions of YEP, when we hope to expand the program to welcome more mentor-mentee partnerships!

An Impact Research Partnership to Better Serve East Harlem

An LSA client family attends an outdoor partner event.

Author: Caroline Albacete, senior

The Little Sisters of the Assumption have been serving East Harlem since they arrived from Paris in 1891. Their current operation, the LSA Family Health Service, has been in operation since 1958. I knew very little about LSA until the fall of 2020, but the more I learn about their work, the more I marvel at their impact.

The Honors Program’s own Dr. Brenna Moore has been involved with LSA for a number of years. She brought the organization to Fordham’s attention in 2020, and has been leading a team of Fordham professors and students to research the organization and quantify its impact. The team is working to find out which of the resources and services LSA clients have found most useful over the years. Throughout the fall semester, Fordham professors and students collaborated to conduct interviews with LSA staff and clients, as well as conduct archival research. The project will culminate in a journal article that can help secure more funding for LSA and show concrete evidence of the ways in which the organization has helped the community.

Caroline Albacete, Class of 2021

I first met Dr. Moore during the fall of my junior year for an Honors’ course, Religion in the Modern World.  She invited me to join the team in the fall of 2020. She knew I spoke Spanish and could do translation work, which would prove useful during the interview period because the majority of LSA’s clients are immigrants from Central and South America. The interviews we conducted ended up being almost entirely in Spanish, which we then translated into English for the researchers who did not speak Spanish. It was not always an easy process—mostly due to technological difficulties; we conducted the interviews over Zoom because we could not do them in person during the pandemic—but it was interesting to begin to spot patterns about which of LSA’s services clients appreciated the most.

LSA offers a whole host of services. Many of the women I spoke with or whose interviews I translated particularly appreciated the English courses LSA offered. Some of the mothers enjoyed the socialization groups and after school activities their children could participate in. Even more appreciated the help the LSA staff gave in navigating the NYC school system. LSA, I realized, has done a lot for the East Harlem community.

I’d previously done some volunteer work in the Bronx, but working with Dr. Moore to research LSA has reminded me how vital nonprofit organizations are for creating community. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to help quantify LSA’s impact so that the organization can receive the recognition it deserves and continue its work in the future.

LSA parents and children take part in LSA’s Parenting and Child Development Program.

Honors Summer Internship Fellows: Caitlyn

This is the first 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.

Caitlyn Humann, Honors ’22

Author: Caitlyn Humann, Junior

Thanks to the Honors Summer Internship Fellowship, I had the opportunity to intern at my regional food bank, Long Island Cares Inc. – The Harry Chapin Food Bank, this past summer. Long Island Cares brings together all available resources for the benefit of the hungry and food insecure on Long Island and aims to provide for the humanitarian needs of the community.

Initially, my goal for this internship could be summed into one statement: to learn, from the perspective of LIC, the relationship between non-profits and all levels of government. I wondered if it is easy for non-profits to get funding and personal acknowledgement from legislative bodies and the extent that food banks rely on federal and state support.

What I didn’t know at the time I applied for this fellowship was that the COVID-19 pandemic would put New York in a state of emergency starting in March and that by May 4th , the demand for Long Island Cares’ services would increase by 64%.

What was initially designed to be a government advocacy internship – during which I would draft letters to representatives, attend in-person legislature meetings and help expand LIC’s Veterans Project by hand delivering food to veteran’s homes – expanded. I worked under LIC’s Chief Government Affairs Officer and drafted letters to advocate for COVID-specific support for food insecure communities, attended virtual local government and advocacy meetings, tracked new legislation on the federal, state and local levels and outlined testimonies on LIC’s new developments, successes and challenges since the start of the pandemic.

As increasing amounts of Long Islanders faced unemployment and food insecurity, I saw first-hand the vital role that food banks play in communities across the nation. I analyzed the impact that COVID had on all demographics of Long Islanders along with representatives’ actions that supported food banks. I was also able to make positive impacts in the moment by packing boxes full of nutritious food for members of my own community.

Just as the Honors Program builds a sense of community by bringing diverse groups of students together to collaborate and support each other in reaching their academic (and personal) goals, Long Island Cares brings together people of all demographics to form a community that stretches across Long Island in which everyone plays their role in fighting against hunger. In our Honors classes and conversations, we often discuss the “missing voice.” Through this internship, I heard
the voice of food insecure families, who rely on non-profits to live a happy life. I am grateful to the Honors Program for giving me this opportunity. As I enter my professional career and strive towards my goal of representing my community as an elected government official who advocates for justice, I will keep this experience with me.

Spring 2020 Bronx Talks & Coronavirus

Author: Amelia Medved, sophomore

Earlier this semester, the Honors Program hosted a series of Bronx Talks, in which Honors students and the wider campus community were invited to engage with expert speakers working in the borough. On February 11th, Dr. Jane Bedell and Ms. Kim Freeman gave a presentation called “The State of Health in the Bronx.” Both work at the Neighborhood Health Action Center, which the City Department of Health placed in Tremont to address location-specific health disparities. In the talk, Dr. Bedell and Ms. Freeman discussed the historic policies creating inequity in the city (redlining, for example) and the systematic inequality that perpetuates problems today. In the Bronx, severe pollution, insufficient access to healthy food, and other deep-rooted issues amount to a 5 to 7 year difference in life expectancy compared to the rest of the city.

All around the country, the coronavirus outbreak has given existing inequalities like these more urgency. As of May 18th, the Bronx accounted for 23% of cases in the city, though Bronx residents only make up 17% of the population. Bronx residents are contracting COVID-19 at a high rate, and are also more likely to have severe cases. Dangerous pre-existing conditions such as asthma, hypertension, and diabetes are more common in the Bronx than in other parts of the city. In the Belmont neighborhood where Fordham’s Rose Hill Campus is located, for example, 22% of adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, compared to 11% for the entire city.

Since being sent home due to the coronavirus, I have been thinking about the Bronx often, not only because I miss my Fordham friends, classes, and Honors community, but also since the borough is being hit hard by this crisis, and may continue to be affected years into the future. However, I am also reminded of the resilience which Carolyn McLaughlin described in her Bronx Talk on February 24th. In a Q&A forum with Honors students and in her book South Bronx Battles, Ms. McLaughlin gave a first-hand account of the community efforts she witnessed over the last fifty years as a social worker in the Bronx. She shared numerous examples of successful advocacy and rebuilding efforts following insufficient city funding and frequent fires in the 1970s, and her testament to the previous endurance of the community is a reminder that the Bronx can do the same following the current coronavirus crisis. From my home, I recognize the privilege I have to be able to leave the city to protect my health and the health of other Fordham students, and I hope that when we return to campus, I have the opportunity to contribute to the Bronx’s recovery.