I’m an Intern at Triple Point Walla Walla, a subgroup within the Children’s Home Society of Washington that focuses on LGBTQ+ youth. The bulk of my job consists of mentoring youth that attend a support group once a week. I buy food, prepare it for them, and make sure that the space is safe and open for them to explore their identity and process some of the experiences that go along with growing up queer. Many of the youths come from “high trauma” backgrounds, and often Triple Point is one of the safest places for them.
A lot of my job is active listening and making sure my presence is comforting to the youth. My supervisor has told me that it is especially common among high trauma youth to try and shock newcomers to the group. My first meeting mostly consisted of the youth letting out all the troubling experiences that had happened to them, a jarring start to my internship to say the least. They want to be heard and, if they have not been pointed to the correct professional help, we provide them with that opportunity.
In addition to creating a safe space, we also try to educate the youth about the spectrum of queer identities along with a little bit of LGBTQ+ history. As the Intern, I have assembled a list of recommended books that are broken into several categories based on the topic covered, the age range, and whether it is written for the parents of the youth or the youth themselves. Part of my own journey to self-acceptance and pride was through learning about LGBTQ+ history, and I hope that I can get some of the youth excited about it too. I try to bring up issues of inclusion and inequality within the community. We stress the importance of intersectionality and how women, gender-nonconforming people, people of color, and people of low economic status have been left out of some LGBTQ+ movements and activism. A lot of my job is knowing how to insert teachable moments into the flow of conversation which usually revolves around social media, music, and movies. Many youths have had bad experiences in schools, and so we don’t want to make the environment seem like school.
Outside of my work with the kids, I have done a lot of data organization for the program. I was quite the novelty as the Triple point intern because I’m the first economics-mathematics major they’ve had in that position, or so I’m told. Community Pride Walla Walla is another LGBTQ+ organization in town. A few years ago, they conducted a community survey, and the data was stored on a word document in a less than readable and organized manner. I put together an excel sheet that organized the data and created graphs from which conclusions could be drawn more easily.
Finally, I organized 5 years of volunteer records into a spreadsheet so that when volunteers ask for their hours it can be more easily accessed. I liked being able to apply my hard skills I learned from my econ-math major and create something I know will be useful to the program. Ultimately, I am there for the youth. Often, people think that LGBTQ+ rights arc in history has ended with the passage of gay marriage nationally. This is of little importance to a child’s daily struggle of being queer in a poor conservative area with a proven pattern of discrimination in housing, jobs, education, and healthcare. I’m glad I could help in any way to make Triple Point function more smoothly, and hopefully I have given the youth there some tools that help them in their journey through life as a queer person.
Experiences like Bryn’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff