[Note: We want to thank Lauren for her countless hours of help and her dedication! She was a great intern and we wish her the best! What you’ll read below is her personal summary and thoughts about her time here.]
By Lauren Gorfine, Guest Author
Interning for Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota has been a great experience! I’ve met new faces and had the opportunity to advocate for community issues I’m passionate about.
The legislative process is important not only for those directly involved, but also for those of us who depend on legislators to create laws and provide funding for programs so vital to our community. Advocacy can at times be challenging. After all is said and done, it’s a rewarding feeling for you and those you advocate for.
This session I assisted with three days on the hill advocating for second chances, mental health, and people with disabilities. They all hold a special place in my heart.
Second Chance Day on the Hill focused on two main topics this year. Drug sentencing reform and restoring voting rights to felons.
I am currently a Criminal Justice major at Metro State here in the Twin Cities and will graduate this fall. My focuses in the Criminal Justice system tie into recidivism and criminal justice reform. It was a great experience seeing everyone come together to advocate for people who need rehabilitation over punishment or who just want to be a part of society again.
I heard great stories from others who have overcome obstacles in their lives. Some of these people now work in the field, helping others, and some are just happy to have an opportunity to become self-sufficient. Second Chance Day reminded me why I’m so passionate about the field of work I’d like to get into.
Mental Health Day was a great experience as well. Mental health is something that sometimes flies under the radar because it may not necessarily stare you in the face. It’s not something you may immediately notice about someone (if at all). Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health which many times can lead to people avoiding treatment. I was able to meet with my representative, Frank Hornstein, and my senator, Scott Dibble, to talk about these issues with some fellow advocates. It was actually a pretty good time and taught me that our representatives and senators are pretty much just like us. We’re all passionate about things. I was even able to get Representative Hornstein to sign on to a bill being advocated for that day!
Disability Tuesday was pretty cool too. Before meeting with legislators we were able to make calls to some of them and left messages pushing for legislation. I’m sure they were bombarded with messages, but that’s the point, right? There was also a rally outside the State Office building that we attended. One of the issues brought to the table was better pay for staff. I can totally attest to this as I worked in group homes myself for several years. While I enjoyed the work I did, it was hard to maintain simply because of my cost of living expenses.
This internship provided me with a new skillset and knowledge of the legislative process that I didn’t possess before. I really liked being here and will be able to implement the things that I’ve learned both in my career and in my personal life. Everyone here was so welcoming and helpful. I will leave feeling grateful. Doesn’t get much better than that.