Student’s summer internship empowers Madison youth

Isa Hernandez-White UW–Madison

Isa Hernandez-White (she/her) is a rising junior from Madison, Wisc., majoring in psychology with a Certificate in Chican@ & Latin@ Studies. As a summer intern for the City of Madison, she’s designed a Summer Term that supplements her classroom learning and builds professional experience. She’s also continuing her work as a student intern with the Morgridge Center for Public Service and enjoying her first summer in Madison as a downtown resident. Thanks for sharing your summer experience, Isa!

Tell us about your summer internship. How did you learn about this opportunity and what are you working on?

I’m doing a summer internship with the City of Madison’s Community Development Division, which I learned about from an advisor in the Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies Department. A friend’s friend did this same internship during a previous summer and it sounded interesting to me and aligns with my interests.

I am what they call an AASPIRE intern, which stands for Affirmative Action Student Professionals in Residence. I am doing a lot of work around funding youth employment and violence prevention initiatives in Madison.

I’m taking the lead on doing research and supporting a request for proposal (RFP) process, which allows community organizations to apply for funds to support their programs around employment and violence prevention. There is a deep need to fund programs for BIPOC youth, emerging young adults and adults — as Madison’s mayor has identified.

For the violence prevention part of the internship, I’m working with local organizations and initiatives — like Dear Diary — to help determine how programs like these and other youth employment programs can empower youth through career exploration and mentorship.

What are you enjoying most about your internship?

I’m enjoying the direct connections with the Madison community and supporting community organizations. I’m interested in counseling psychology and supporting individuals one-on-one, but I’m also really interested in systems-level work that supports counselors and local organizations — especially as it relates to providing opportunities for employment and preventing violence — so this internship is giving me good insight into that area.

More practically, I’m learning that this type of work doesn’t happen quickly. It takes a long time to research and implement a given strategy or program before you can even start measuring to determine if it is successful or not.

How does your certificate in Chican@ and Latin@ studies relate to your professional goals?

Many of the courses I’ve taken for my certificate are related to mental health, so there’s a direct connection with my major. I’m Latina and bilingual, and I think the courses I’m taking for the certificate build on my language and culture. I think it’s really important in your work as a psychologist or community organization when you can make a connection with an individual or group with whom you share a culture or language. It bridges a connection and just gives you an instant point of entry that might be more difficult to achieve otherwise.

You’re also working at the Morgridge Center for Public Service. What is your role there?

Isa Hernandez-White sits in the grass in front of a sidewalk, dressed in bright colors with pride flag and Puerto Rico flag in her lapI’ve worked at the Morgridge Center for the past year. I work more during the fall and spring semesters, but I am doing a little work there this summer.  I’m a community-based learning intern, which means that I work with instructors who are teaching courses designated CBL (community-based learning). CBL courses incorporate at least 25 hours of community engagement in a given semester, so students can get real-world experience as part of the course. This might be volunteering, working on a project with a community partner or a combination of both.

As a CBL intern, I share information with the class about what CBL is, who our community partners are and how students might develop a relationship with these community partners. Once these relationships are in place, I meet with those community partners as a liaison between the instructor and students and facilitate check-ins. Many of the courses I’ve worked with have been in the social sciences, but any course can be designated CBL if it meets certain criteria. This summer I’m involved in SOAR for Morgridge and redesigning some CBL materials.

Working at Morgridge has been a great opportunity to engage with my academic community as I did in high school.

Sounds like a busy summer! Have you had much time to do anything else?

I’m just enjoying being in Madison in the summer and have been busy learning new recipes and making art. I’m also doing some mini-trips around the Midwest — like to Chicago. I recently attended the Milwaukee Pride Parade with friends, which was a lot of fun. This is my first time living downtown, and I’m just soaking up all that Madison has to offer.

Learn more about UW–Madison Summer Term and how you can design the summer that’s right for you.

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