I settle down at my computer, at least six tabs open on Chrome, my email popping up with a notification, and Word staring back with one 90-page document open, waiting for me to continue. It is not yet ten-thirty and two of my supervisors are away at a conference. My fellow intern, Jerneice, sits across an aisle from me and Lecia Brooks, the director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center and of SPLC on Campus, sits to my right. The music from my headphones lulls to background noise and I open another Word doc, further crowding my screen, as I begin to type.
Two months ago, I spent more time than I would like to admit adjusting my resume—cutting out irrelevant jobs and cramming in experience—for a job at a nonprofit I had hesitated applying to a year and a half ago. At that time, I was unsure of where I wanted to be after my undergrad. I felt ill prepared for life after college and was taking a full course load to graduate faster and rush into the unknown. My major, anthropology, had nurtured my passion for people and I had been determined to go to law school and help others any way I could. But, seeing as I was rushing through my degree and graduating in the fall semester, I was kind of stuck because I couldn’t apply for spring admission at any law schools I was interested in. After taking a Deaf culture class and finishing all my major requirements, I was determined to fight for the rights of others. I looked into an internship and a couple other jobs at the Southern Poverty Law Center, but dismissed applying because I was almost a year from graduation with no time for a full-time job.
In the fall, a new master’s program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the Anthropology of Peace and Human Rights was announced. I was beyond ecstatic to be accepted and I started a new degree three weeks after walking across the stage at Troy University for my first. A couple months into the program, we were encouraged to attend a presentation at the student center by SPLC. My classmates and I filed in, sitting on the same row, and listened attentively. Shortly thereafter, I was in contact with the coordinator for SPLC on Campus, Daniel Davis, and trying to start a chapter at UAB. In May, he announced an internship opportunity for the summer. Here, I spent too much time adjusting my resume and sent it in along with a lengthy writing sample from a class that semester.
I wasn’t extremely nervous before my interview, but it was via video chat, so that was a new experience for me. A few days after, HR called me to offer me a job and my reply was, “Awesome!” That pretty much sums up my experience here at SPLC on Campus. The atmosphere is so accepting, warm, and encouraging; everyone I have met is genuine and kind. In fact, on my first day, I met Richard Cohen, the President, in the elevator and he introduced himself as the “elevator operator.” Morris Dees, the founder, took all the interns to a lunch on the weekend following orientation and encouraged everyone to eat their fill of Southern comfort foods. My team is my favorite part, though, besides knowing that I’m helping others. Shay DeGolier, Outreach and Organizing Specialist, Daniel, Lecia, Jerneice, and I are the driving force behind SPLC on Campus this summer. I’ve been working on gathering resources and links to post on our website for students and other interested individuals to utilize. Compiling a list of social justice organizations at each of the ten largest universities/colleges in every state is my other major task; this is the 90-page list that is still a work-in-progress.
As founder of the UAB chapter, being on the other end of this process is enlightening. There is so much work that goes into ensuring all chapters run smoothly: providing resources and items for them, travelling to speak at events they participate in or for conferences, constantly monitoring news and media for the site and social media, etc. SPLC on Campus is only two years old—and has accomplished so much in so little time. Lately, I had been wondering how much I could actually help others. How much can one person actually change things? They can significantly; reminders of this are all around me. Morris Dees works upstairs, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s office is a few blocks away at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the Civil Rights Memorial greets me everyday on my way to work, and the Civil Rights Memorial Center, profoundly powerful and emotional, is my view from the building windows. Being around so much inspiration, determination, and productivity has encouraged me to follow my path to human rights law. My time here around so many empowered individuals has strengthened my resolve to help protect the rights of others. The SPLC on Campus team have been extremely helpful, fun to work with, and very involved in current events and with their chapters. They inspired me to be proactive and to help UAB’s chapter to be involved and active on campus.
-Caitlin Beard, SPLC on Campus Intern