As the Summer comes to an end, I reflect on my past few months through the Fellowship and the JSI program.
The concept of research has changed substantially for me. My experience was a lot less of what I traditionally thought of research, which was lab work, crunching numbers, and mostly math and science. But research is understanding, reading, conceptualizing, and so much more. Research for me was seeking a deep understanding of concepts in education, and creating a cohesive literature review that could be used to further education programs and initiatives. This perception of research changed over time, and for me would influence my ideas of my future. Social change is sought through understanding the systems in which we live, and working to create ways to make these systems more equitable and just for underrepresented groups. In education, research can be used to enact programs, secure funding, and aid communities to lessen students’ obstacles. A specific event that changed my perspective was the discussion of terminology between my faculty mentors Dr. Osai, Dr. Campbell, Victoria, Jackie, and I. This was the first exposure I had been with the term “at-risk” being explained as deficit based and detrimental. This opened the door to a world of knowledge and mindfulness that I was previously blind to. In the use of certain terms, called the “language of poverty,” you are actively separating yourself from a community, and sending a message that you are superior to that community. This was a moment of checking my privilege and role in Pittsburgh. Dr. Kaitlyn Brennan, our community partner and federal lobbyist, held meetings that were very insightful, as she opened the door to federal and state funding and procedures. She discussed her trips to capital hill, as well as honed in on the nitty gritty community components.
The most valuable part of this fellowship was the people. The mentorship that was created through the Community Research fellowship created sustainable value for both myself and the Justice Scholars Institute. By creating bonds with all the people I have met and talked to, I have been influenced and inspired to create more meaningful work. Every person, faculty mentor, community mentor, and others, have been hard-working and committed to these community initiatives. The community created allowed excellent collaboration and learning among each-other. This experience will help fund the rest of my years at the University of Pittsburgh. To help my parents in the cost of tuition, as well as allow more comfort in food/housing purchases. The intangible rewards of this fellowship are plentiful, in my own growth as a student, professional, and individual.
The biggest challenge was my lack of experience in this field of work. However, this made me very hardworking to make sense of my work and bring enough to the table when working with very experienced and knowledgable people. Furthermore, this fellowship was very individualized, which caused a lot of balancing of time. I was able to get into a groove of things after a few weeks, and have learned many skills in time management.
Although the summer fellowship closes, I enter a new chapter as a Justice Scholars Institute intern in the upcoming school year. I hope to continue the meaningful work they do, as well as learn as much as I can about community-engaged activities. Out of college, I hope to pursue financial advising that has a greater purpose. For further experiences, I will use my knowledge learned these past few weeks to achieve the most for future companies, organizations, and communities.