2019 Parents Fund Internship Grant Reflections: Jennifer Flores

Jennifer Flores

Internship Location: Habitat for Humanity

Journal Entry #1:

My name is Jennifer Flores and I am a rising 3rd year studying Global Development Studies and minoring in Urban Planning. I am currently interning at the Southwood Community, a local trailer park neighborhood that is run by Habitat for Humanity. Currently, the neighborhood is undergoing the first stages of an extensive redevelopment process which will provide the residents with affordable living units (houses, condos, townhomes, ect.) without displacing them from their currently homes.

One thing that I admire the most about this project is the relationship between the Habitat for Humanity, and the residents of the neighborhood. The residents here trust the staff with many personal information and there is a great sense of friendship and mutual respect. Habitat also does a lot of work for the community besides proving affordable housing. For instance, they partner with outside organizations to provide the residents for opportunities such as higher education, jobs, trainings, legal aid, small business startups, taxes, and much more.  I often help out with translations, and participate in partner meetings. I also help with child care so that the parents can participate in the planning meeting with the developers.

The residents are very much involved in the redevelopment process, and have a complete understanding of what they can and cannot do in regards to the limited about of land, and zoning laws that pertain to that land. I had the chance to sit in on a Planning Commissioners work meeting and learned just how much urban planning goes into any type of community development work. It solidified my interest in getting a minor in that field.

Journal Entry #2:

So far, I have learned a lot in this past week. I cannot wait to see what else I learn and to help out more with this community.

I am half way through my internship now here at Southwood. I really feel as if this community has adopted me. The staff here has made sure to introduce me to everyone that we meet and give me opportunities to get to know the residents. The more I am here, the more I love it.

One great thing about this internship is that my opinions and ideas are validated. I am not just some glorified office assistant, but I can actually share my thoughts and have them heard. I have been able to create valuable connections between the UVA and Southwood community such as getting volunteers for child care and other community events, reaching out to students and professors for donations for the Back to School Festival that will be held in August, and connecting different resources that UVA provides to the community members. I am hoping that the connections that I am facilitating will result in long-lasting partnerships.

I have also been able to make new personal partnerships with different organizations such as Creciendo Juntos, Sin Barreras, Legal Aid Justice Center, the Boys and Girls Club, and ect. One project that I was very excited to work on was the Si Se Puede Initiative through Creciendo Juntos that focuses on higher education for high school students. Higher education for lower represented students is a big passion of mine and I am glad that I was able to get involved in the process of structuring the initiative for this upcoming year. I also get the opportunity to be somewhat of a mentor to the youth here in Southwood as many of them see the office as a place of support.

I also enjoy learning the administrative side to all the events and planning that goes on here. As I sit in on meetings, I am learning just how many people it takes to run a project like this. There are so many components and partnerships involved and it is truly fascinating. Without all these groups and people working together, nothing could get done. It makes me value networking skills so much more and I appreciate the fact that I am able to put mine into practice.

Journal Entry #3: 

As the summer comes to an end, I have now become aware of my new passion – Urban Planning. I have decided to officially make it my minor to go along with my Global Development Studies Major.

Throughout the entire re-zoning process, I began to realize just how important zoning was to marginalized communities and how they function/ are discriminated against. So many policies that are in the zoning cause for people of color, and low-income people to be marginalized. It is such an important topic that I have begun looking for different master’s programs so that I can specialize in that field.

The community, and community partners are working together in order to combat these discriminatory zoning laws. It is honestly beautiful to see because these people care so much about each other and will always offer a helping hand. In all honesty, I feel as if the Southwood community has adopted me as one of their own. They trust me with their children, invite me to family and community events, and trust me with translating for them when it comes to important documents. They have grown dear in my heart, and I want to say that I have gown dear to their hearts as well.

As for community work here, I am still able to participate in the create of the Si Se Puede Initiate and other initiatives for youth development. One thing that I have gained from my time here is networking. I am able to connect many of these different resources and facilitate meaningful partnerships that can work together in order to create different programs and resources that benefit everyone. One thing that I noticed that was very different than UVA organizations is that off- grounds organizations do not compete with one another and do not actively participate in organizational branding as much as UVA organizations do. For example, on grounds, it is common for a person to “claim” that “their idea had been stolen” and to bash other on ground organizations. Off grounds organizations however, or at least with the community partners, do not participate in this practice which I admire. I honestly makes me hopeful that I can be part of a workplace in the future that shares these types of partnerships.