Jesus Franco '20 interned at Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) during the 2019 winter term. The following is an excerpt from his internship report.
During my winter term I had the great opportunity to intern at Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) as an Adult Community Organizing Intern. CBE follows a triad model of connecting, organizing, research, and legal strategies in order to achieve environmental justice in underserved communities that have historically faced environmental injustices due to poor urban planning that has made residents neighbors to industry, freeways, and other toxic pollutants. As an intern, I mainly worked with the adult organizing program that worked to build community power among adult residents in Southeast Los Angeles, which consisted of about 35 residents.
The most positive parts of my internship were the connections I was able to make, the organizing skills that I learned, and the insight I gained on how community-based organizations function. My internship at CBE plugged me into a network of not only environmental justice advocates, but of organizations and members advocating for the underserved communities I grew up in. For example, during my internship I was able to attend a retreat with a coalition called Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice (CEHAJ), of which CBE is a part of. At this retreat, which brought together environmental justice advocates, policy researchers, lawyers, consultants, and community members, we planned out next steps for the I-710 campaign and came up with communications, mobilization, and legal strategies that could be employed. I learned about organizations near my hometown that I had never heard of before and got a look at different careers within the environmental justice and community advocacy field.
Additionally, I was responsible for organizing and facilitating weekly adult member meetings, which taught me a lot about keeping a membership active and addressing disagreements and debates within the group. After a couple of weeks in my internship, it became clear that many members had disagreements with each other and the inter-personal politics at play made organizing the membership difficult, so my supervisor decided to have a group talk where members could talk openly and truthfully about any issues they had. Witnessing and participating in this talk taught me a lot about communicating in the workplace and conflict resolution, which was very necessary for the group to continue to function. Ultimately, I learned that there are huge differences from environmentalist and environmental justice public policy standpoints that can prevent the two ideological groups from working together since environmental justice work takes a more intersectional approach of viewing race and class as structural factors that affect local environments.
Overall, I had an amazing and informational internship experience that would not have been made possible without the assistance of the Nelson Rockefeller Center. As a low-income student of color, I often do not have access to experience within public interest and community-based work. At the end of my internship I can gratefully say that my passion for public policy and community-based work has been strongly reaffirmed. My internship taught me the invaluable importance of community organizing as an important tool in advocating for better public policy.
The Rockefeller Internships Program has funding for Dartmouth undergraduate students to help defray the cost of living expenses associated with a full-time, unpaid, leave-term internships in the fields of public policy, public affairs, and social entrepreneurship.