Rebecca Lopez, Community Engagement Internship

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Civic House is My House: Meet Rebecca Lopez!

Civic House: Tell us a little bit about yourself!

Rebecca: Hi, my name is Rebecca Lopez. Originally from the Bronx, New York, I now live in New Jersey, and in the fall I will be a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. My major is Communications with a concentration in Public Service, and I'm minoring in Hispanic Studies. This summer I have been participating in Civic House's Community Engagement Internship at Lutheran Settlement House. It's my first involvement with both Civic House and Lutheran Settlement House, and I'm very excited to see how I can continue to engage with both beyond the summer!

CH: What work or issues does Lutheran Settlement House focus on? What has your role as an intern been so far?

Rebecca: Lutheran Settlement House offers a diverse range of services. Their overarching mission is to empower the individuals they serve. Programs include a bilingual domestic violence program, adult education & career development, homeless services, senior services, medical advocacy, and health and nutrition.

As an intern, my main focus thus far has been OST, or their Out of School Time program. Though I entered as the program was winding down, it was great to observe the sense of community the high schoolers had created throughout the year and to hear about the service learning projects they had participated in, centered around advocacy for the homeless and nutrition and wellness.

Through various other tasks such as completing online domestic violence training or helping to update their hotline and referral binder, I have learned a lot about the pervasiveness of domestic and dating violence both in Philadelphia and across all populations. Though the statistics are daunting, I have also had the pleasure of learning about the great work various organizations, including Lutheran Settlement House, have done to develop means of both prevention and intervention.

My main role will be to help facilitate the STAR program, or Students Talking About Relationships, which is run through Philadelphia Youth Network's WorkReady program. During the six week course, students will learn about different types of abuse and how to prevent teen dating violence through workshops and service learning projects. The hope is to present students with the tools they need to successfully end intimate partner violence by giving them access to all the resources that Philadelphia has to offer. Part of my job thus far has been contacting and coordinating with organizations such as Menergy, Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR), and Mazzoni Center to arrange for guest speakers. I look forward to getting to know the students and learning alongside them all.

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

Rebecca: I've always had a general interest in community service, participating in my high school's Key Club and volunteering for various local charities and fundraisers, participating in Relay for Life, or putting together meal packages for the nearby Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. When I arrived at Penn I continued with Circle K, reading to children at Walnut Street West library, packaging books for Books Through Bars, or participating in other events.

I also began taking classes within Penn's Latin American and Latino Studies department. This was an opportunity I hadn't had at my high school, to be exposed to something other than the predominantly Eurocentric history I had learned up to that point. I felt that I finally got to learn about the history, culture, and social justice issues facing populations that I could identify with, and that sparked my interest in Hispanic and Latino advocacy. This is now a passion I will continue to pursue, most likely in the nonprofit sector, and the Community Engagement Internship has been an amazing opportunity to begin to learn how a nonprofit organization functions.

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

Rebecca: A highlight of my Community Engagement Internship has been learning from the OST students in the kitchen. Twice a week the students would come up with a recipe they wanted to try, usually centered around nutrition or wellness or incorporating ingredients grown in the community garden. Many of them were much better cooks than I was, and it was fun to see everyone push their boundaries and try new things.