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Northwestern School of Professional Studies student Megan Troy recounts her NEXT experience with WE ACT for Environmental Justice. Megan is part of the Master’s in Public Administration program.

When I first got in touch with my host, I was unsure of what to expect. She and I had pretty different backgrounds, tied together by Northwestern roots, but in somewhat different fields. Upon talking to Jalonne, I quickly realized that having different career focuses doesn’t mean that you can’t work towards the same goal—in this case, that was social justice and equality.

Dr. Jalonne White-Newsome, my host from WE ACT for Environmental Justice, has an impressive background working in the EJ field and advocating for low-income communities to have the same rights and health benefits as others. My own background, in social work and now public policy, also addresses disparities in social policy with a focus on low socioeconomic status groups. When I arrived for my externship, we discussed how our backgrounds intersected and found common ground in our advocacy roles. During my day with her, Dr. White-Newsome included me in a meeting between environmental justice coalition members and representatives from the EPA to discuss the Clean Power Plan. This was such a rewarding experience for me because I got to see how “on the ground” issues, like I had dealt with in my own work, and higher-level policy issues merged.

I feel that having this opportunity is so important for students because they may see something in action that they never would have thought of on their own and then develop a passion for this. I had never specifically focused on environment justice issues, but after meeting with Dr. White-Newsome, I felt a true connection to these advocates who are working so hard to bring a sense of equality to low-income communities. The very things that I have always worked for and strived for were embedded in this organization that I would have never known more about without the NEXT program.