MLK Jr. Day of Service 2016

115On Saturday, January 23rd, over 100 students, faculty, staff, and community members went out for an early morning of service projects. The day of service was the final installment in our campus’ week-long celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Members of the Whitman community connected with 12 different Walla Walla organizations putting in hundreds of hours of collaborative effort, but they also joined people in spirit from across the country as national days of service were organized throughout these past two weeks.

DSC_0346MLK, Jr. once told us that “life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” The kind of collaborative community service work that happened last Saturday is certainly one among many ways to respond to his question. Students at Whitman resonate on some level with this urgency every time they volunteer, every time they spend an hour working in the community for the mutual benefit of others when they could be studying. We choose to do it now, we choose to put others first because we agree with Dr. King: it simply cannot wait.

“An individual has not started living fully until they can rise above
the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity. Every person must decide, at some point, whether they will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Detour Ahead

Every year Whitman introduces hundreds  of new freshman and does it’s best to make each new person feel welcome. This year the buddy program welcomed a whole new set of faces and I had to figure out how to welcome them and orient them to the program without setting aside a couple of days. My ten hours of training did not impress on me how important or intimidating this task could be. I was nervous that things wouldn’t work out, but of course I was silly to ever be anxious in the first place. On the first day I watched as all the buddies paired up. Some of them were meeting for the first time and others were embracing each other after a long summer apart eager to reconnect. The faces in the crowd lit up with smiles and all of my worries faded. As the semester has come along, I have seen each buddy pair grow comfortable with one another. I forget sometimes how new their friendships are.

Good times with great friends

Good times with great friends

The Whitman volunteers in The Buddy Program continue to amaze me. All of them are in this program by choice and it is their continual enthusiasm that has made this semester a success. After spending a semester with this group I no longer worry about programs being a success.

Early on in the semester, on a sunny Friday afternoon, we hung out on the Reid side lawn to play parachute.  In this game everyone holds on to the edge of a brightly colored parachute and shakes it around until balls that were placed in the center pop off. One of the buddies shyly stuck around the snack table and didn’t join the rest of the group at first. As soon as someone noticed his absence, all of the buddies shouted for him to come join, until finally he gathered the courage to come over, and grab on.  

Parks and Joey ready to bowl!

Parks and Joey ready to bowl!

 

Fall Intern Gladys Gitau ’16 writes about her internship at ArtWalla

For most seniors, their last year of undergrad is stressful. This was true for me as I applied for the Whitman Internship Grant on top of my full-credit course load and a looming thesis. But my internship with ArtWalla, a local arts organization, has proven to be more than just another task for the semester.

Gladys Gitau_Art Walla Website_blog photoOn October 25th, the Gesa Powerhouse Theater hosted its annual Dia De Los Muertos festival. Walla Walla families braved the slowing dropping temperatures that Sunday afternoon to create prints, watch plays, dance and get their faces painted. I arrived and immediately found my supervisor, Tricia Harding, who is president of ArtWalla’s board. I asked if there was anything I could help with, as ArtWalla was a large partner in the event. Tricia surveyed the popular printmaking station that was buzzing with artists and volunteers alike. She said that nothing was needed at the moment, and that I could sit and carve for a while if I wanted. She would call me if anything came up.

Gladys Gitau_Art Walla Facebook_blog photoSo for a while, I sat and carved a wooden block, keen to remember techniques I learned at a volunteer workshop the week before. I chatted with the other members of the community who sat beside me, some of them whom I recognized from the procession from the public library to the theater the day before. It was not long until I got lost in the work, a meticulous carving of Drake I was printing for a friend back home. It felt good to do some art during an otherwise very stressful week.

This is not to say my work with ArtWalla is a walk in the park. Soon after I finished my ode to Champagne Papi, Tricia called me to help move the enormous prints that had been made via steam rollers, a large attraction at the festival. I spent the rest of the afternoon tearing down the festival with the other volunteers which was no easy task. Moreover, I am helping the organization figure out what their vision is for the years to come. I meet with Tricia and other members of the board weekly to discuss what ArtWalla is currently doing and how they can be explicit when they present themselves to others. I am learning the importance of being specific in your mission as an organization and how a governing board controls the functions of said organization.

But on days when I am not presenting to the board or synthesizing feedback into PowerPoint presentations, I get to do art, making my internship with ArtWalla extremely educational but in a way that takes away stress from what could otherwise be a very hectic semester.

 

Fall Intern Jackie Bonilla ’16 writes about her internship at an immigration law firm in Walla Walla

Jackie Bonilla_blog photoIt was a casual Sunday evening just like any other, just me and the never ending assigned readings I wasn’t too thrilled about doing. When it occurred to my procrastinating self, what if I contact the only immigration lawyer in town I know and ask about the possibility of interning in her office. I knew this was a long shot because I’ve tried interning at law firms in San Francisco before and it hasn’t worked out. Law internships are usually reserved for actual law students, not just aspiring ones. I wrote up an email and hoped for the best. Little did I know that I would receive a quick response the very next morning asking for my resume. Before I knew it, two days later, I was sitting with Wendy Hernandez in her office solidifying my intern position and responsibilities.

Jackie Bonilla blog photo

At work with different piles of immigration and case forms.

Honestly, I’ve done quite a few internships in my day, but never have I felt so excited and terrified at the same time (a feeling that hasn’t quite gone away yet). I’m essentially a paralegal, which is something I had never even considered or thought about until I became a part of Hernandez Immigration Law. Most of my time is spent filling out government immigration forms, translating official government documents and statements, or doing research for asylum cases. I know, filling out papers sounds like the most boring and repetitive task ever. I too, initially dreaded spending so much time behind a desk doing the same thing over and over again or so I thought (this was before I actually started interning). Despite filling out similar forms it never gets boring.

No two cases are ever the same, each brings its own wave of challenges and complications that we must figure out as a team. A team referring to the law staff, myself, the client, and any other necessary player, it could be a Consulate, government officials, non-profits, and the list goes on. At times, I get to serve as an interpreter and translate for our clients. Where I get to personally hear their stories, which is always such a humbling experience. As well as a constant reminder as to why I’ve set my heart on being an immigration lawyer since the seventh grade.

This is what makes my job so exciting because you honestly can’t imagine some of the stories you hear. Some are quite heartbreaking, but serving as an advocate for individuals who are looking for a second opportunity is so fulfilling. But it also scares me so much it motivates me to do the best possible job I can do on every single form I fill out. This is not just a form, this is a potential opportunity to change someone’s life, and at times it could change an entire family’s circumstance. I’m so grateful that I’m able to be a part of this while confirming my goals and aspirations.

 

Fall Intern Betsey Olk ’17 writes about her internship at The Health Center

Betsey Olk_blog photoThis semester, I’ve been working for The Health Center, a local organization running school-based clinics at Lincoln High School and Blue Ridge Elementary School. The Health Center, Walla Walla’s 2015 Non-Profit of the Year, works closely with school administrators and teachers to ensure the best health care is accessible to all students. The organization works to combat adverse childhood experiences that cause toxic stress on the brain and can lead to severe behavioral and medical problems as adults. By receiving free, readily available health care students at Lincoln and Blue Ridge are given the opportunity to create a relationship with a caring adult in a stable environment. This is vital to success in later life.

Betsey Olk_people search photoI spent my semester with The Health Center updating their website and social media sites and working with a committee to organize a major fundraiser, and a screening of the film Paper Tigers. The movie, filmed in 2012 at Lincoln High School, follows six students and their experiences with the teachers, administration and staff at The Health Center. I met every Wednesday morning with board members, staff members and community supporters to put on the screening. Thursday, December 3rd, Cordiner Hall was filled with 1400 people and The Health Center raised money, and lots of community support. The event was a success! I have had a great semester working for The Health Center and I can’t wait to see the continued work in our community!