Welcome to the ACLU…

My internship for this summer is taking place with the Austin chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas. I will be the education policy intern, where I will mainly be exploring issues related to what’s known as the “school-to-prison pipeline” – that is the trends and policies of our education system that steer youth away from successful academic careers and ultimately into the criminal justice system. Looking at issues such as truancy, bullying, police use of force, and zero tolerance policies, I’ll be helping to develop reports and policy recommendations for the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature, which is gearing up to start in January 2011. I’ll also be helping work with Youth Lege – the ACLU’s program that educates high school students about the basics of the legislative processes of Texas and how they can become more engaged citizens.

In kicking off these blogs, we were asked what we hope to accomplish this summer – and for me this is truly about the learning process of moving beyond quant & economics classes to see policymaking in the works. I expect to leave in August with a far greater understanding of all that goes into creating, passing, and enforcing the laws that govern our land, and hope to acquire more of the tangible skills needed to influence good policymaking. I’m looking forward to contributing valuable research and advocacy to issues I’m passionate about, and would like to be a part of creating some substantial support for better legislation of Texas education issues. I also think the Youth Lege is a wonderful program with tons of potential, so I’d like to do what I can to further grow and support the relationship between the ACLU and local high schoolers.

We were also asked how our internship fits into our career goals. To be honest, my career goals are vague at best, so I can’t say that taking this internship was a strategic step towards achieving some long-term career plan. Juvenile justice is an issue that is very important to me, but I’m unsure whether it will end up being the line of work I go into professionally. Further, we need people fighting the good fight at the macro, mezzo, and micro levels of so many fields, and I’m unsure how broad of a scope is best for me to focus my efforts. Thus I’m hoping to better discover through this internship which level may be the best one for me, and how to use my understanding of public policy to foster the positive change and reform that is so needed in many of our nation’s institutional systems.

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About emilyling

A little background about myself and how I ended up interning at the ACLU this summer:  I grew up in Lorena, Texas – a really small town south of Waco.  I attended Baylor University for my undergrad degree, earning a Bachelors in Sociology in 2004, with somewhat of a concentration on poverty issues. Figuring that the best way to learn about poverty was to experience it first-hand, I joined an urban ministry called Mission Year and moved with some friends into the inner-city of Atlanta. That year I  volunteered with Communities in Schools and coached basketball in a struggling urban high school, and also did some criminal defense investigation for death penalty cases. Those experiences forever changed my perspective on the education and criminal justice systems in our country, and spurred a desire to somehow fight to make those systems more effective, more just, and more beneficial to society. After a year in Atlanta, I spent the next few years testing the waters of other interests I had as well. This included time spent tutoring at-risk youth, doing disaster relief work in post-Katrina New Orleans, serving as a case manager with AmeriCorps, and taking a few short-term trips to Haiti, Mexico, and Sudan. Though I loved all of my experience on the “front-lines” of different fields of non-profit work, in every situation I found myself frustrated with poor policy and the detrimental effects it had on the people I was trying to serve. So in the fall of 2009, I began seeking my Masters in Public Affairs degree at the University of Texas in Austin – hoping that perhaps in learning more about the field of public policy that I may be able to influence it for the good. Harkening back to my experiences in Atlanta, I’ve thus far focused my main concentration on the policy areas of education and criminal justice. In looking for my summer internship, I was hoping to find an placement that somehow combined both, and was fortunate to find just such an opportunity with the ACLU -- which I’m looking forward to sharing about through this blog. In addition to school & policy work, I also moonlight as a barista in a downtown Austin bar. Enjoying great live music with friends (especially jazz), hitting the running trails around Town Lake, soaking up the beauty of nature, & discovering good cheap wines are all top ways for how I’m likely to spend what little down-time grad school affords :)

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