I sat where you all were this time last year, listening to yet another student at Beaver talk about the community service they did the previous summer in a presentation about the Hiatt summer stipends. Like most of you, I was bored—probably thinking about a test, or my game that afternoon, but most certainly not thinking about what I could be doing in the upcoming summer. I was in the midst of a busy time, not having any idea about my plans for what I was going to do on those hot summer days. I did, however, have one idea in mind, and that idea was making money. At the end of the presentation, I approached Ms. Beaudouin and asked if it would be possible to be paid by Beaver, through a Hiatt summer stipend, to work at a non-profit organization. She said that it was, possible, and in fact, it was highly encouraged.
I eventually started to do some research, and landed myself an internship at The Second Step (TSS), a residential and community program for victims of domestic violence. They told me that if I wanted to have a job that most of time would be consumed filing and shredding papers. So I took it, as menial as it sounded, because the hours were flexible, it was close, and what the heck? Beaver was going to pay me. Needless to say—I had no idea that I was about to have a life-changing experience that would open my eyes to something new and unreal.
For nearly three months, I observed the impact of The Second Step providing financial and legal help, safety planning, transitional housing, and much more to women and children in need. When a woman seeks help from The Second Step, she sits down with a staff member to figure out exactly what kind of assistance she needs. Whatever the task, TSS responds to each family’s situation by providing them with the tools required to move from a dangerous situation to living in a violence-free environment and being self-sufficient.
I completed many different tasks this summer at The Second Step. I was the youngest intern, so I would do anything from getting coffee and paper shredding to small projects, such as reading files and re-organizing them in chronological order.
The women who came into The Second Step, none of whom I ever spoke with for more than 30 seconds, were undoubtedly the bravest women I have ever encountered. I say that adamantly because of their courage to acknowledge their problems and then seek help in order to move on with their lives into a safe, healthy environment. I found great inspiration watching women come in, broken down emotionally and physically, yet have the strength, with help, to pull themselves up and begin to put their lives back together. The stories of these women reinforced my own understanding of the power of seeking help.
As a 17-year-old, I was in awe this summer watching as women whose lives were in tatters, came in and got the help they needed to put their lives back on track. I gained many valuable lessons this summer and I had the opportunity to work with so many powerful people with their own extraordinary stories, one of whom has become my mentor and a close friend. Working at The Second Step this summer sparked my interest in psychology and gender studies—understanding why and how someone chooses to commit acts of domestic violence, and why it is most often women and children who are targeted.
I am so grateful for being given the opportunity to work this summer at The Second Step, and even more thankful for the Hiatt Center’s work. I challenge and encourage you all to not pass up an opportunity like this—the experience I gained as an intern at The Second Step this summer was invaluable, and I know that I will continue to carry the lessons I learned with me in all of my future endeavors. Thank you.