New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center

One of Tulane’s very own, Madeleine Hudak, interned at New Orleans Children’s Advocacy Center (NOCAC) this fall. NOCAC is a non-profit branch of the Children’s Hospital New Orleans. It is a facility devoted to helping children who are victims of physical and sexual abuse through investigation and individualized treatment. It is also dedicated to ending child abuse within the New Orleans community.

“NOCAC provides forensic medical examinations and forensic interviews for children that have been sexually abused. It’s more of a reactive as opposed to a preventative place,” Madeleine said. “It seemed like the best fit for me, in terms of what I wanted to do and what I could be doing there – in actually doing something useful.”

The NOCAC staff and interns work hard to help abused children and to improve their lives. Due to the size of the institution and the emotional toll of the work, it is important to have harmony and a sense of community between the NOCAC staff members. As Madeleine said, “It’s a lot of coexisting because you want to get everything done with every child at once and so everyone really needs to be interacting with one another and getting along with one another for things to happen.”

The NOCAC staff and interns work hard to help abused children and to improve their lives. Due to the size of the institution and the emotional toll of the work, it is important to have harmony and a sense of community between the NOCAC staff members. As Madeleine said, “It’s a lot of coexisting because you want to get everything done with every child at once and so everyone really needs to be interacting with one another and getting along with one another for things to happen.”

Under the training of the staff of NOCAC, Madeleine has been actively involved in the Center. Her responsibilities range from taking care of the children while their parents were interviewed to working on “Dear Parents,” a social media campaign that aims to inform parents about the link between physical discipline, its negative effect on brain development and behavioral patterns that may be seen later in life. She has also helped facilitate the “Darkness to Light” campaign, which is an interactive video training about sexual abuse. After completing the interactive training, Madeleine noted the impact it made upon her, saying that she “learned a lot” and that “it is really shocking because a lot of personal stories are shared on the video and it really makes it kind of hit you.” She also stated that “sexual abuse is a behavioral change rather than it is a physical change. There are physical signs that go along with it but sometimes it’s just really actively paying attention to children and noticing what slight things are going on, so you have to look at every child on an individual level.”

Strengthening her observational skills is not the only thing that Madeleine learned through her internship. The taxing nature and mental stress of the internship has helped increase her sense of responsibility towards vulnerable groups of people, and she has developed a strong support group made up of her internship supervisor, friends, and family. When asked what advice she would give to anyone thinking of working or interning with NOCAC, she said: “Be prepared for it to be a shock at first, if you’ve never worked in anything like this before. You will really get a lot out of it in the sense of getting a more heightened sense of responsibility. If this is something you’re really passionate about, it is a really good place to go and actually be of use. The first couple of weeks might be a shock so just make sure that you’re open with your friends and supervisors.”

Written by Haneen Islam, a freshman studying Political Science. Haneen is a student associate for the Public Service Internships and International Programs at CPS. 

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Outside the Classroom: New History Internship Seminar for Spring 2016 by Haneen Islam

Dr. Jana Lipman, Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of History at Tulane, will offer a class in the Spring semester that will allow history majors and minors to simultaneously study Public History and complete their 2nd tier service learning requirement. Noteworthy is that non-history majors are also welcome in the class, pending Dr. Lipman’s approval.

“There are a lot of opportunities for students to think about history in different venues,” says Dr. Lipman. “Over the last several years, I have worked with students who are interning at the World War II Museum and I would like to develop a way so that more internship opportunities are available for students in history.”

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Professor Lipman’s class – HIST 4570: Internships in Public History – will allow students to look beyond  scholarly books, learn new skills, and apply their knowledge in the local community. The course itself is structured to be a normal seminar but with a little spice: students will be given the freedom to choose an internship and they will have to complete a final project at the end of the semester. As Professor Lipman says, “we want the students to have more learning opportunities outside the classroom, and there’s lots of ways to do that in history by having internships at museums and archives.” However, the students will not be handed an internship to them on a silver platter. Professor Lipman will assist them, but they will still need to take the necessary steps to find an internship.

A number of institutions have collaborated with Professor Lipman and the Center for Public Service to provide opportunities for students to learn about history in a new light while fulfilling their 2nd tier service-learning requirement. These institutions include: the Historical New Orleans Collection, the Ogden Museum of Art, the World War II Museum, the Louisiana State Museum, and New Orleans Historical, among others. Each institution will work with students on projects related to the institution’s specialty. For example, New Orleans Historical, a partnership between Tulane students and the University of New Orleans, has proposed a project where students will work to create online walking tours of the city. Other institutions may enlist the help of students in giving walking tours, being guides for museum collections, or helping to digitize collections.

“Students should not think that this is all that historians ‘do’ or that these are the only career paths available for History majors – not at all. History majors can find successful careers in all fields from finance to non-profits to tech start-ups to entertainment to the law and government. However, Public History is another way of ‘doing’ history and it will allow students to gain new skills in a professional setting. If they’re interested in History, this is another way of getting a new perspective on it,” said Professor Lipman. This class will allow students to observe history with a completely new spin on it. The study of history encompasses a variety of opportunities – these internships are just the start to discovering them.

Written by Haneen Islam, a freshman studying Political Science. Haneen is a student associate for the Public Service Internships and International Programs at CPS. 

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Harvesting for Change by Haneen Islam

The seeds for Our School at Blair Grocery (OSBG) were sown in Spring Break of 2006 when Nat Turner, a history teacher in New York, took 30 high school students to volunteer in post-Katrina New Orleans as part of an organization that would later be known as NY2NO. In 2008, Turner moved to the Lower 9th Ward when he realized that he wanted to do even more for the city and its people. And so he started up OSBG, an engaging project that harmoniously blends farming with education and also gives Tulane and other college students the opportunity to step outside the perfect academic bubble and come face to face with the harsh realities and struggles of less privileged lives.

“I started the project with four strawberry plants, three neighborhood kids and me,” Turner explains. “They would come to check on the strawberry plants every day after school. Then we found some tomatoes plants from the dumpsters.”

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Turner and a number of local children began growing the tomatoes and the community elderly would often stop by the lot and ask about or comment on the tomatoes. When they were ripe, Turner began to give them away for free to the neighborhood youth who would give them to their grandparents to cook.

“At some point,” Turner continues. “This old lady came by and said: ‘Are you the tomato man?’ And I said, “Yes, I guess I am the tomato man.” She asked for tomatoes so he had two neighborhood children hand them to her, and she gave them two dollars.

OSBG sprouted from Turner’s passion to both change the food system and increase the literacy rate. He explains how 30% of fresh foods and vegetables are wasted every year in the United States. Despite such high rates, children in areas such as the Lower 9th Ward are still unable to get nutritious meals, surviving instead on “pizza rolls, Ramen noodles and Kool Aids.” Turner brings up the “Fifth Grade Failure Syndrome”—a phrase that refers to the way black children, especially boys, when they hit the fifth grade, start failing and experience marginalization due to teachers’ inability to understand the socio-economic and cultural background they are from. As a result, students’ academics suffer and literacy rates drop.

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Almost every year, Turner takes interns from universities all over New Orleans, including Tulane and Loyola, who support OSBG in giving neighborhood youth something productive to do and a safe environment in which to do it. With the help of a multitude of volunteers and interns, some of whom, like Michael Pinover, are from Tulane, local youth gain an informal education, learn self-empowerment, and become productive members of society. They run the farm by themselves by growing vegetables and selling their products at farmers’ markets, among other things. The school has no set curriculum but students learn basic things, such as math and English, which they can directly apply to farming tasks and responsibilities.

Turner, a truly inspiring man, intends to further develop and expand OSBG: “We are planning on tripling our growing area over the next few years and hopefully, one day, starting a large farm somewhere not too far from New Orleans to fight food insecurity.”

Good luck to you, Nat Turner! Tulane fully supports you!

Written by Haneen Islam, a freshman studying Political Science. Haneen is a student assistant for the Public Service Internships and International Programs at CPS. 

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It’s No Debate: Tulane Debate Education Society Makes a Big Impact by Haneen Islam

Want to volunteer as a debate judge? Contact Professor Ryan McBride at: rmcbride@tulane.edu. The tournament is October 24th and there will be a training session (with pizza!) the week before. Prior debate experience is a plus, but not required. Read more about the Tulane Debate Education Society below!

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Among Tulane’s many opportunities for community service is the Tulane Debate Education Society headed by Ryan McBride, a professor who focuses on classical rhetoric. The Tulane Debate Education Society is devoted to coaching New Orleans middle school students in the art of debate and helping to host tournaments. It is a great opportunity for Tulane students and middle school debaters to develop their skills as speakers and thinkers.

The Tulane Debate Education Society formed six years ago after Professor McBride’s piloted a new service-learning class called “Aristotle in New Orleans,” which involved coaching middle school students. After taking the class, a number of students decided that they wanted to continue coaching, so with McBride, they started the Tulane Debate Education Society. “We offer middle school students the opportunity to develop public speaking skills, to develop their critical thinking skills and to find their voices,” McBride said.

The Tulane Debate Education Society seeks to stimulate young minds and encourage them to think about things that they are normally detached from in their daily lives. One might expect that topics chosen for middle school debate tournaments would be “easy,” but that is definitely not the case here. “I remember going to one middle school and the coaches were like, ‘Okay, you want to debate about soft cookies versus hard cookies?’ And this seventh grade kid said, ‘I want to debate about Syria,” McBride said.

The two topics that have been selected for the October 2015 tournament are by no means easy sailing: the first one asks if students believe that “Computer Science should be a required class for high school graduation,” while the second addresses an even more controversial issue, that is, whether “the American nuclear deal with Iran will do more harm than good.” This tournament is not the first time that these students have debated such difficult topics. McBride explained how students have frequently debated central issues such as the Common Core, immigration laws, and the Electoral College, among other similarly engaging topics.

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The Tulane Debate Education Society has come a long way in 6 years, from holding one tournament per semester for only three schools to now hosting two middle school tournaments each semester with 16 schools. Large numbers of Tulane students are coaching, organizing and judging.

The Society also makes a meaningful impact on Tulane students. They are given the opportunity to employ their skills as college students simultaneously earn academic credits and fulfill their 2nd tier service graduation requirement for their internship, while building a strong bond with the local community. It is a challenging, meaningful, and thrilling prospect that gives Tulane students the chance to “grow and have a deeper understanding of not only the debate format but of the kids of New Orleans,” said McBride.

Interested? Be a judge for the upcoming tournament on October 24th! Judges are not required to have any specific qualifications. Having former debate experience will help, but is not required. There will be a “pizza-fueled” training session for interested volunteers! For more information, contact Professor McBride at rmcbride@tulane.edu.

Written by Haneen Islam, a freshman studying Political Science. Haneen is a student assistant for the Public Service Internships and International Programs at CPS. 

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Summer Internship with Top Box Foods by Kelsey Scurlock

Top Box Foods New Orleans is a non-profit organization based in New Orleans that aims to alleviate the problem of food inequality in the city. New Orleans is known as the United States’ largest food desert. The American Nutrition Association defined food deserts as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas”.[1] This is largely due to the fact that some places are scarce on grocery stores and food markets. The Lower Ninth Ward is known as the city’s most affected area because it takes three bus stops to get to the nearest grocery store and many residents do not own cars. Areas like the Lower Ninth Ward are what categorize New Orleans as the largest food desert in the country. Top Box Foods aims to alleviate these problems by providing affordable, healthy, and high-quality foods to New Orleans residents. The organization also encourages community growth through giving 5% of all proceeds back to the partner sites.

top box logoThough the branch of Top Box Foods I work for is located in New Orleans, the organization actually was founded in Chicago by Chris Kennedy, son of Robert F. Kennedy. The organization launched in May of 2012 after he resigned from the Merchandise Mart located in Chicago. Chris worked in agriculture his whole career. He eventually became president of Merchandise Mart and ran it for 25 years. Many people assumed Kennedy would run for governor after he retired from his job. However, when he made a special announcement after his retirement, he introduced the organization Top Box Foods. Top Box Foods Chicago has been active for three years now. The organization decided to start a branch in New Orleans when Connor Casas, a friend of Chris Kennedy’s son, decided to go to Tulane University. Casas discussed with Chris about how New Orleans would really benefit from an organization like Top Box Foods. Therefore, Top Box Foods New Orleans started in July of 2013. This July, we are celebrating our 2nd anniversary. Since Top Box Foods New Orleans was founded by college students, donors very much so helped to start the organization. The Kennedy family contributed funds and many other wealthy New Orleans residents contributed funds to the starting of Top Box Foods in New Orleans.

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                The structure of Top Box is very important for the organization to be successful. The most important aspect of the organization is the produce. Top Box has a produce supplier that is located in Baton Rouge. The supplier is Capital City Produce. The supplier supplies the produce in all of our boxes. Top Box currently has seven boxes. The boxes are family, small family, vegetable, fruit, steak, chicken, and fish boxes. Sometimes we have seasonal boxes such as the New Year’s Resolution box and the Easter box. Top Box buys the food at wholesale prices and then arranges them into different boxes. The total contents of the boxes are at the most 60% cheaper than if you bought the same foods from a grocery store. The Top Box New Orleans staff consists of about five Tulane students who are in charge of different aspects of the company. Top Box can also expect two or three student interns each semester. Some staff members attend churches during the weekend and give a presentation on how the organization works. They then hand out order forms for anyone who is interested in buying the boxes. Top Box finds delivery locations that are in close range to all churches being served in the communities involved. Most of the time the delivery location is a church. Once Top Box receives all of the order forms for the month, a staff member sends the forms to the supplier so the supplier will know how many boxes to bring to the delivery sites on the second Saturday of each month. Most of our customers come from low-income communities which we assumed would be the case because the food desert mostly affects low-income communities. Many of our customers also attend church since that is our main way of promoting the organization. We do, however, have many Tulane students ordering boxes because Tulane students run the organization and we have a delivery location within walking distance from campus.

Top Box Foods makes money to keep it running through donations and by selling the foods at a very small profit margin. Sam Heyman explained to me in detail how Top Box is able to run due to low costs. “Top Box has no overhead costs. They Receive office space for free from Café Reconcile and none of the directors or volunteers are paid at this point. The only costs Top Box incurs are those of buying the boxes, shipping them, and delivering them”. So far this system has kept the organization running smoothly but some heads of the organization are looking into raising more revenue by putting ads on fliers. The organization would like to make more profits and expand some departments of the organization. The organization also does a great job of letting their finance interns gain some experience. The interns get to communicate with local banks, write checks for the partner sites, and do accounting work for the organization. Also, I get to help collect forms of payment and record them. Top Box accepts cash, checks, credit card, debit cards, and even SNAP food stamps. All organizations mostly run on money so interning with this non-profit is very beneficial to any finance major.

A great aspect of Top Box Foods is that it relies on the help of volunteers. The boxes are delivered on the second Saturday of each month. Since there are about only 7 staff members this summer, we rely on college students to volunteer with us on delivery days. We need volunteers to find the boxes customers ordered and bring them to their car. We have had about twenty volunteers each month this summer. Volunteering is a great way for students to be involved in the community and explore a bit of New Orleans.

[1] http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts

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Summer Internship with Woodlands Conservancy by Carleen Schwarz

The Woodlands Conservancy was established as a nonprofit over a decade ago in 2001 yet began in 1997 as a regional grassroots effort to preserve and plan for smart growth.  Located in the English Turn peninsula of Belle Chasse, they control one of the last stands of bottomland hardwood forests in Louisiana.

woodslands

The organization controls two separate plots of land totaling approximately 800 acres: The Woodlands Trail and Park Bird Sanctuary and The Delacroix Preserve.  The organization was first started via a land trust with Plaquemines Parish, through which they created the 609-acre Woodlands Trail and Park.  Unlike the Woodlands Trail land, which is essentially leased from the parish, The Woodlands Conservancy owns The Delacroix Preserve.  Board member Lee Dupont and his wife gifted the 190 acres to the organization in 2013.

Their official mission statement is “to preserve and develop an ecosystem dedicated to creating daily public opportunities for recreation, ecotourism, and education in a natural and historic setting.  The vision of Woodlands Conservancy is to be the regional model for the conservation of hardwood forests, and a leader in the advocacy and preservation of Louisiana’s coastal forest ecosystems.”

Despite its small size, the Woodlands Conservancy provides numerous invaluable services to the New Orleans area and beyond.  The Woodlands Trail and Park provides hiking and equestrian trails that over 32,650 people have visited in the past 5 years.  These natural paths are home to the NOLA Running Series’ annual Wild Pig Trail Run, which had over 300 participants in 2015.  Local high school track and cross-country teams also utilize the trails for weekly runs.  Other groups, ranging from boy scout troops to bird watchers, also take advantage of the vast recreational and educational opportunities available.Woodlands

The Woodlands Conservancy also serves thousands of people who have never stepped foot on its land.  By conserving and restoring these 800 acres of wetlands the organization protects one of the largest forests between open water and the city of New Orleans.  With continual wetland loss, this land will be the most important hurricane buffer in the area, therefore benefiting countless people by minimizing storm surge impacts.

A fourteen-person board, including president Katie Rosenblum, vice president Lee Dupont, treasurer Gail Serauskas, and secretary Etheldreda Culpepper Smith run the Woodlands Conservancy.  Currently, only executive director Katie Brasted staffs the office on a daily basis and performs much of the organization’s core activities.  This year, the organization received a grant to hire a full-time field biologist to conduct work controlling invasive species in the Woodlands Park and Delacroix Preserve.  Additionally, a group of core volunteers assist with bi-monthly bird banding studies.

As a non-profit organization, funding is derived from the donations of individuals, corporations, foundations, and government organizations.  Over 40 corporations, including major businesses such as AT&T, Walmart, Chevron, and Entergy, have been key contributors.  Alternative fundraising methods exemplify the creativity of the staff and community involvement that has been instrumental in the Conservancy’s success.  For example, Mignon Faget designed a line of Palmetto shaped jewelry (a prominent plant in bottomland hardwood forests) that are available for purchase on the website, from which a portion of the proceeds go to the Woodlands Conservancy.  From these sources, they have raised $1.6 million specifically for restoration work/programs, with more funds raised for various other projects.

As an environmental nonprofit, this organization is directly related to my field of study in Environmental Biology, including courses such as Wetlands and Estuarine Ecosystems, Theories and Methods of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Conservation Biology.  This past week, I was given the opportunity to assist Dr. Tom Huggins, director of the UCLA Herbarium, conduct fieldwork in Woodlands Park.  The data derived from the vegetation surveys we performed will be included in the scientific paper he is currently working on.  I gained hands on experience in field research methods, such as creating transects and point identification of various plants.

Executive director Katie Brasted summarized their significance as “The Woodlands Conservancy helps protect one of the most important forests still standing in southeast Louisiana.”  This organization provides a public service by actively restoring and conserving this land, putting countless hours and funds towards defending this land and improving its health.

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Summer Internship with Center for Restorative Approaches by Olivia Simkins

The Center for Restorative Approaches’ mission is to “nurture our humanity; one person, one community, one circle at a time.”

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The CRA was founded in 2008, as a part of Neighborhood Housing Services, a non-profit that believes in empowering the community through making ties to organizations and restoring pride and confidence in the New Orleans Neighborhood. The Neighborhood Housing Services sponsors organizations that they believe will provide positive results effectively, and foster environments that are built with honesty and respect; qualities that the CRA pursues at every level of their work. In 2013, the CRA moved to the fiscal sponsorship of the GoodWork Network, which provides business development services to minority groups throughout Louisiana. From there, the organization has achieved and maintained their goal of helping people to uncover their “natural ability to respond to destructive behavior in constructive ways” through grants and volunteered time and resources.

The Center for Restorative Approaches (CRA) works to provide the New Orleans community, primarily school environments, but also neighborhoods and community centers (wherever they receive referrals) with the tools, training, and resources to build productive and stable relationships. The goal is to decrease the amount of violence, crime, and conflict New Orleans has seen and struggled with for so long. As opposed to destructive communication techniques, the organization fosters the ability within members of the community to develop their own solutions and ways of correcting harm that isn’t detrimental to families, friends, and the community as a whole. In short, the CRA teaches alternatives to undesirable actions, and addresses some of the most concerning issues that surround the youth of this city.

One of the things I find to be the most important aspect of the CRA is that it is truly not an invasive organization and is incredibly respectful and conscious about the way it handles its work. They also network within the community so that those who have been through the CRA’s training can meet with members of their own community to help assist in the resolution, not an outside representative, which I think really encourages the success of the organization and its message, especially within the New Orleans community where most of the outreach is being done with young, low-income, African American youth. When the CRA is called in to help resolve a conflict, every aspect and step they take is in collaboration with those who have been affected, and their goal is to help them come to a solution or a resolution, not to provide it. The restorative methods allow for people to listen, to be heard, and to work out the conflict in the healthiest way possible. Restorative Approaches are a philosophy sprouting from Restorative Justice, and are “processes and strategies used in workplaces, schools, organizations, and the justice system to help repair harm and build or strengthen relationships. These processes focus on helping people to cooperate, to take responsibility for personal actions, and to resolve conflict.” The CRA discourages doing anything “to or for people; instead, we should do things with people”. It also provides a new outlook on conflict, as it is seen as an opportunity for relationship strengthening and repair. The CRA teaches people to recognize that the differences we have can be harnessed and used to build a community into one vibrant and lively and prosperous one, as opposed to being destructive and harmful towards one another for pride, money, attention, or any reason.

The actual services provided by the CRA depends upon the situation, but they range from preventative conflict resolution to intervention. A huge goal of the organization is to reduce suspension rates within schools, because 43% of students who entered high school with 3 suspensions on their record end up dropping out” (School of Education at Johns Hopkins), and 1 in 10 males who drop out of high school end up incarcerated. So the CRA is trying to stop the school to prison pipeline that is way too common in New Orleans. Sometimes, when the CRA is called in, the student’s willingness to comply and resolve the issue that occurred will stand as an alternative to their suspension, which is great because punishment for doing something bad atschool by being kicked out of school will never foster change in the right direction. One exciting and recent development for the CRA is that is has officially partnered with the City of New Orleans, bringing Restorative Approaches into all Orleans Parish Schools, under Mayor Landrieu’s Nola for Life Initiative and has allowed for more Whole School Approaches, where the entire staff and student body is able to benefit from the information put forth by the CRA, which will be a huge public service to the city of New Orleans .

CRA logoThe physical bodies of the CRA is a small number. There are 6 permanent staff members, and then interns and volunteers who donate their time to the cause, and can choose to do more behind the scenes work or to be on call for resolutions. The techniques used by the CRA include Solution Circles, which bring individuals who are feeling tension together so as to prevent a crime, conflict, or act of violence. It allows people to talk about what happened, how they were affected and felt, and what they think they can do to move forward. A Community Conference brings together everyone who has been affected by a crime, conflict, or act of violence that has actually occurred, again being listened to and heard, and then attempting to resolve and repair the harm that has been done in the best way possible. The CRA also provides training for those who are interested in facilitating these circles, and the training is open to anyone interested in learning productive communication techniques.

My work with the CRA has not been in facilitating the conflict resolution circles, but has been rewarding and educational nonetheless. I took on a publishing internship with the CRA, so I have been working on editing and re-orienting the training materials, lessons, and power points that they bring into the schools and actually use during the training for facilitations, the actual facilitations, and the school lessons. Through this, I have gotten very familiar and comfortable with the methods, information, and techniques used by the CRA, and it has connected to both my Linguistics and English majors because the use of language in certain spaces and environments, what is appropriate and what is not, what leads to stigmatizations, what language

causes conflict, etc. is something very stressed by the CRA as they make sure that definitions are clearly understood by all. Furthermore, the actual editing and re-orienting of the materials gives me access to the publishing world, which has always been something I’m potentially interested in pursuing. Additionally, the CRA has a Summer Initiative Training Session coming up, and I have been working on the event planning for that, and will be attending it.

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