Intern Insights: Donna Vallejo

Working as an intern with Circle de Luz has been one of the most memorable experiences I have had as a university student. Hearing the term intern, there was a lot of anxiety regarding the different ways I would be able to fulfill that role and whether I would be able to satisfy the needs of the members, their families, and staff. Though that anxiety drifted away with the warm welcome from everyone involved in this journey. Truthfully, I did not have prior knowledge of the organization and its mission and vision. I was placed based on my interests collected in a survey, and it has been the best partnership that could have been created. After some research, I valued everything the organization stands for and the work that they have done for students resonated with a need I felt during high school. The work done with the current classes is one of utmost importance and my dream for the organization is to see them be able to reach even more girls.

I have had the privilege of working with amazing women who have set an incredibly high standard of what an appropriate work environment should look like. There has always been support and reassurance in my academic journey and my role as an intern; it has genuinely felt like I have had a separate team who has been rooting for me and my success. I am incredibly thankful that they have been a part of my life and hope to continue to work with them as a future volunteer.

Prior to my position, I had some idea of the gender disparities that exist, but they were shared through news coverage, articles, and shared experiences of professionals. The information I knew was the statistics that are always shared. Women earn approximately eight cents to every dollar a man makes, the existence of the glass ceiling, and stereotypes present within positions of higher authority. Even though these disparities are present and valid, there are more that remain in the shadows that is unknown. There are many disparities that are not discussed at a larger scale unless experiencing them or witnessing them, they are not concepts that typically come to mind. Witnessing those disparities firsthand through the work done with our families has changed my perspective on their meaning entirely. Many cases that I have worked in have demonstrated the many challenges that women face. Some of our students come from single-parent households where the mother serves as the breadwinner, provider, and caregiver. Though these women have fulfilled this role with such grace there is a presence of lack of support, lack of child care, partaking in a role that affects their mental health, and being unable to truly spend time with their children. The role of a mother is rewarding and challenging simultaneously though going through these obstacles can easily be addressed through improvements in our society, yet those changes have not been seen. Additionally, many of these mothers face additional obstacles such as a language barrier, lack of opportunities, and inability to gain access to the care they need through having no insurance.

Futhermore, many of our students take on greater responsibilities due to the lack of easily accessible resources within the community. Within the Latinx community, the expectation for the female daughter resides in taking many of the responsibilities in the home which includes caring for younger siblings and partaking in other domestic obligations. In being faced with these expectations, many Latinx adolescents are unable to engage in after school activities, face the realities of having to grow up and mature faster than usual, and partake in a mother-like role at such a young age.

As an organization, Circle de Luz strives to change some of the disparities our students and families face through the connection of community agencies and partners. We know and understand what our students and their families face, and it is our hope that through their involvement with the organization that we are giving them the opportunity to have an outlook at the different possibilities they have access to and become the person they aspire to be.