Makayla DePoy, Valparaiso University

In fall 2016 I had the honor of working at the Steinbruck Center for Urban Studies in the historic Logan Circle neighborhood in downtown Washington, D.C. The Steinbruck Center is a non-profit organization that works to immerse groups, such as college alternative break programs, in the heart of D.C. neighborhoods to both educate groups about social injustice and to participate in direct service to those living in need. Although my internship included a broad list of tasks, from researching and reporting the progress of the Center, to statistical data gathering for updating the social justice programming, my favorite tasks always included taking groups to direct service trips to organizations including the DC Central Kitchen, Capital Area Food Bank, and Martha’s Table.

Along with meeting fellow students from all over the country and assisting them in feeding several thousand people in shelters across D.C., working with the Community Craft Collective (CCC) was a particularly touching experience. The CCC is a group of individuals, connected through N Street Village (the largest women’s shelter in the District), who come together to use their artistic abilities to make and market their crafts and gain entrepreneurship skills. The members and their stories became a large part of my D.C. experience, as I worked alongside them, talked to them, and cooked monthly dinners with them. Reflecting on my time there, I realized the impact D.C. had on my way of thinking about societal issues. It forced me to directly deal with the implications of structural failures that cause wide-spread poverty, homelessness, and hunger. Working directly with those fighting these daily battles showed me how interconnected we are and helped redirect my career path to realign with the continued fight for social justice. Although it was memorable listening to high profile politicians such as John Kerry and Paul Ryan speak, commuting past the White House daily, and having unlimited access to both the National Mall and the Monuments, it is the stories of those experiencing homelessness, those facing hunger, and those needing a helping hand and listening ear I will forever carry and recall when I remember my D.C. experience.