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.