Amanda Weber is a PhD student in the Counseling Psychology Department at Boston College. She was matched with DSNI as an intern for this school year as coursework (called "First Year Experience" at BC). Today is the last day of her internship. This post reflects her experiences working at DSNI.
This blog post is hard for me to write as I try to accurately sum up the several months of experience in a few paragraphs. I am sad to be leaving DSNI, as this internship has taught me the true value of participatory action research and the immense benefits to community organizing. When I began my doctoral program in the Fall of 2015, a class, Counseling in Context, required all new students to have a nontraditional placement. My placement was/is at the Boston Promise Initiative, which is housed at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. Immediately, I was excited about this opportunity; it was a way for me to connect with the community and remove myself from the Ivory Tower of academia. There was one possible drawback, most of my previous training was as a mental health professional. I was very anxious about not being able to meet the needs of the organization and had limited understanding of what I would be doing.
What I Have Learned
One of the most important pieces I learned at DSNI is the concept of accompaniment. Accompaniment is a social justice principle that informs ways to work with individuals and communities. It helps to critically understand the subjective ways to stand alongside others who desire listening, witnessing, advocacy, space to develop critical inquiry and research, along with joint imagination and action to address desired and needed changes. Among the many ways to accomplish accompaniment are by being flexible with changing needs and priorities of DSNI, working on data with other partner organizations, and attempting to not let my overly academic thoughts trump others'.
Another important piece was the continuing development of my wanting to work with community organizations in the future. I had previously interned at community organizations and fell in love with the atmosphere and the advocacy work being accomplished. DSNI furthered solidified my desire for working with the communities towards their own goals and dreams. It is exactly the type of place where I want to work in my career. There is a level of humility that comes along with this stance as I realize that as an outsider I may not understand or be in the best position to work towards community and individual transformation.
Further, I enjoyed the laid back nature of the organization at DSNI. Though DSNI is constantly working, promoting change, and organizing around several projects, there is a strong sense of camaraderie among all the staff. The first meeting I had at DSNI was to talk about my role as an intern and my potential tasks. I was able to talk about how I want to work with community members to distribute data back to people. I believed I was heard in the organization, and my thoughts and ideas were appreciated. I was able to do and witness some data being returned back to the community, although there is much more work to do.
Finally, I began to understand more fully the principle of transformation, liberation, and participatory action research. DSNI works toward transforming the community through the negotiation of power and the development of community ideas and goals. As a budding researcher and clinician, it was an honor to witness how DSNI/BPI accomplished these goals. It will inform my clinical skills and approach, as well as research as I move forward.
This has been a wonderful placement for me to learn, grow, and expand my thoughts. I feel that I have made true partnerships with my supervisor and a few of the partner organizations. I plan to recommend that a student from my program will have the opportunity to intern here every year.