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SoC rising junior Xiomara is interning this summer at Chicago nonprofit La Casa Norte.

SoC rising junior Xiomara is interning this summer at Chicago nonprofit La Casa Norte.

My name is Xiomara Contreras and I am a Communication Studies major and Latina/o Studies minor in the School of Communication ‘17. This summer I am interning at La Casa Norte, a nonprofit that serves youth and families confronting homelessness. I am interested in pursuing a career in nonprofits, education, or social services.

I had the opportunity to attend the MacArthur Briefing for Government and Non-Profit Summer Interns and chose to attend because the topics they were addressing were on public policy issues I cared about and because of my interest in philanthropy. I wanted to learn more about the research on those issues, and what was being done to address them. At the briefing I learned about U.S. Criminal Justice Reform, How Housing Matters, Nuclear Security, and the MacArthur Fellows Program.

Three important things I learned at the event that all Northwestern students should know are on criminal justice reform, housing, and nuclear security. There are many people struggling to find housing and some are only a paycheck away from losing shelter. We need to make more initiatives to support affordable housing, especially since 1 in 3 people spend more than 30% of their income on rent. I also learned that the United States spends $60 billion per year on incarceration policies, a four fold increase despite crime decrease. We need to question why we are a punitive country and why we spend 12 million a year on jails alone- essentially punishing “poverty” and people with mental health issues, despite presuming innocence. Finally, U.S. security of nuclear weapons is not as secure as we think it is. As Northwestern students we can use our education to address these problems by supporting researching, lobbying in government, or collaborating with experts.

I was impressed by the funding the foundation provides for housing and community development in Chicago, especially since it is directly related to La Casa Norte’s mission. This event helped me gain a better understanding of housing and possible solutions beyond the individual level and more of a policy approach. The event also allowed me to meet other interns working for nonprofits and government who shared similar interests. I was able to speak to Ianna Kachons, who has done a lot of work with housing and said I could contact her if I wanted to learn more about her career path. I will meet with my supervisor, the development and fundraising manager to further discuss the briefing.

A note from NCA: If you’re interested in learning more about the MacArthur Foundation visit http://www.macfound.org/tags/chicago. Additionally, there is a Fall 2015 Public Affairs Intern position open with the MacArthur Foundation. Visit CareerCat posting #114882 and apply by August 20th.