Madeline Dahlin, Community Engagement Internship

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Civic House is My House: Meet Maddie Dahlin!

Civic House: Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Maddie: My name is Maddie, and I'm a junior at Penn majoring in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. I'm originally from Beverly, MA. Through the Civic House Community Engagement Internship program, I interned at Art-Reach this past spring and am currently interning at Aquinas Center! Between my involvement at these two organizations, I have had the opportunity to engage with and become much more aware of the many challenges facing low-income, disability, and immigrant communities. I am also a site leader for Alternate Spring Break and play on Venus, the women's club ultimate team. When I have rare spare time, I enjoy writing letters, long chats with friends, and adventures all over the city. I also think I might possibly be a fairy because I love making flower chains and walking barefoot in long grass.

CH: What work or issues does Aquinas Center focus on? What has your role as an intern been so far?

Maddie: Aquinas Center is a multicultural community space focused on immigrant justice. The center holds an English cafe for adult learners to practice speaking, teen leadership development through Youth Voices, and an educational summer camp. Aquinas Center also hosts groups on week-long service trips and offers space for various outside organizations who provide legal services, counseling in Spanish, etc. My role at Aquinas Center has grown over the course of my time there. I am excited to be working with Youth Voices, a group of high school students from the neighborhood, as we start to envision their Youth Entrepreneurship Project. I have had the privilege of helping to develop materials and plan outings for a week-long camp focused on small business and place making. I am also a teacher for the middle school students at our month-long Green & Growing Summer Camp.

CH: What first sparked your interest in community service and social justice?

Maddie: My freshman year I went on an Alternate Spring Break trip which strongly influenced the direction I have taken in college and my hopes for the future. I was really inspired by the stories shared among my peers and the Habitat volunteers we worked alongside. I became a leader for Alternate Spring Break my sophomore year and it was then forming strong relationships with the community and recognizing their commitment and passion to giving that I realized how important community service was to me and how passionate I was about social justice. My internship this summer has given me many mentors to look up to and a vision of a more just world.

CH: What has been a highlight of your Community Engagement Internship experience thus far?

Maddie: This internship has brought so many opportunities for growth, and I find myself stretching to learn more. I have loved gardening and cooking with fellow staff and community members, developing and teaching a curriculum for the first time, and particularly engaging with young community members in English and Spanish. It has been a lot of fun to interpret lessons into Spanish for different students. They are bright and help me out when I can't think of a word. I love that the learning is going both ways!