August 16th, 2010

Jacob Arijanto, a rising junior at APP’s Cornerstone Member Birmingham-Southern College, joined our staff as a Hess Fellow for 8 weeks this summer. Through their internships, Hess Fellows discover that paying attention to policies (not necessarily politics), learning about issues, and speaking out for change is as essential to the long-term health of our communities as volunteer service is.

During his summer internship, Jacob was most interested to learn about the kinds of partnerships we maintain with groups like the Birmingham Jewish Federation and our Higher Education Alliance.  As Jacob said:

“My first exposure to the Alabama Poverty Project was when I met Kristina at an advocacy summit held at Birmingham-Southern College. She spoke about how to create coalitions and use them effectively in the non-profit and advocacy arena. The evening’s discussion turned out to be a valuable insight into the kinds of coalition-building opportunities I would get to see in action over my 8 week internship at APP.”

During his first week, Jacob greeted guests at our Blueprints luncheon, where we talked about college access and service-learning.

“June 7th was the start of my Hess Fellowship, and I spent the first few days becoming acclimated to my work.  My assignment was to work on a college access asset map, a resource aimed at helping low-income and first generation students pay for college. I gathered the information by contacting a representative from each of our Higher Education Alliance institutions and then conducting a twenty-three-question interview.  This project and my own research gave me a greater understanding of the value of a higher education.

During my internship, I became aware of the struggles first-generation and low-income students face when seeking an advanced education. I began to think about what it would be like to apply for college without any parental involvement and how difficult it would be.”

At the Highlands United Methodist Church homeless ministry at Five Points, Jacob joined us to serve breakfast and met Reggie Holder, the director of ministries, who talked about how to form and maintain reciprocal relationships with clients.

“I also began to see how non-profits share resources. On June 21st, I attended a series ofBirmingham Jewish Federation forums highlighting different issues that affect Birmingham and the efforts underway to combat these problems. The panels were part of a unique Jewish Council of Public Affairs “mission trip” program, which brought a group of adult Jewish and African American leaders to Birmingham to retrace the city’s turbulent past and see how it is now moving forward.

We heard from Judge Helen Shores Lee, who shared what it was like to grow up in the African American community during the Civil Rights era. We also visited the Woodlawn area and saw all the great work currently underway there.

As I reflected on my experience that afternoon, I realized that value lies in working together and building off of previous successes. I heard this in Judge Lee’s recollection of her experiences. She recounted her struggle as a little girl and remembered how the Black community had worked together toward a common goal. I also saw this in Woodlawn via the various community partnerships underway. They are working together toward a common goal:  a better community.”

Jacob also helped at our Friends Breakfast, which brought together board members and community leaders to raise funds for APP.

“Every day at the Alabama Poverty Project has been a learning experience. I have learned about the hard work it takes to keep day-to-day operations of a non-profit organization going.  I became aware of the hardship a first generation college student will face on his or her journey toward a higher education.  I learned what a food desert is and how it affects the people living in those areas.

I now have a greater understanding of why it is important to help other communities, not just for the short term, but for the long haul.  I have found that sometimes advocacy work is not always just about concrete results such as policy reform or new legislation, as much as it is about raising awareness.”

Thank you for your hard work, Jacob! We’ve seen you grow and learn during your 8 weeks here. We feel privileged to have this partnership with the Hess program, which brings talented and enthusiastic interns into our office each year. Jacob is still working in our office this week, even though his official paid internship has ended. That’s dedication!

Posted by Robyn Hyden