I came into my internship at the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition wanting to gain some insight into the policy landscape surrounding charter schools around the country, and through my work, I was able to get a picture of this environment that I would not have had the chance to be exposed to otherwise. Being an intern at DCSC helped me develop many skills in education policy research, and my contributions were taken seriously by my supervisors and peers in the Coalition. I was given specific tasks to accomplish, such as building profiles documenting the similarities and differences between charter school policies between states, planning and organizing a panel event for a regional convening of DCSC member schools, and creating data visualizations from national reports about diversity in public schools. I was given a great deal of freedom in the way I went about completing these tasks, and I was able to be creative about the way that I conducted research, planned events, or compiled information. I felt like I was part of a team environment, and my supervisors respected and listened intently to my ideas about how a task could be accomplished. Along with this freedom, I also had an open line of communication with several of my supervisors who could answer any questions I had or help me work through a problem whenever I needed help.
Frequently, the DCSC team convenes for team meetings and phone calls in order to discuss different problems facing diversity in charter schools across the country as well. Not only was I able to learn an incredible amount from my colleagues who are all experts in the field of education policy, but I was also able to contribute significantly to these discussions and share my own ideas with them. This was perhaps the most valuable part of my internship experience because the discussions were spaces where I could engage in a dialogue about the impacts of diversity, equity and inclusion have on education policy that I was researching with people who have practical knowledge about how such policies actually affect students. My colleagues listened to my own ideas and perceptions about the way education policy functions, offered respectful critiques, and pointed me in the direction of places I could go to learn more about the topics we were discussing. I was never forced to run frivolous errands or do anything that did not directly aid in the functioning of the Coalition. I was given a great deal of respect, and I learned important research skills that I will undoubtedly use in my future career. Overall, my experience as an intern prepared me well to work in a cooperative environment and to research complex subjects alongside other professionals.
I have really enjoyed my time working with the team since January. I have learned so much from the group conversations, my work one-on-one with Elsa, and all of the events I have been to on behalf of the Coalition. I will be able to take the experience I gained with policy research at the coalition to all of my next job opportunities, which will be centered on education in some way.
When I finish graduate school, I plan on becoming a teacher in K-12 education. I hope that the policy experience I gained from my work at the Coalition mixed with my experience teaching will give me a greater insight as to how students are affected by policies and which approaches to education work best in specific schools.