STEP Reflection

Name: Jordan Whealdon

Type of Project: Internship

My STEP Signature Project was the completion of an internship at the Juvenile Justice Coalition. Working with youth who have become involved with the criminal justice system, as an intern with the JJC my activities included creating curriculum for community outreach programs, working on the organizations case management system, and providing support along the way for public policies such as HB 410 which focused on truancy in schools, and ways to improve institutional responses.

My understanding of myself deepened greatly through the completion of this internship. One discovery and transition I made was that I learned that I have a passion for community organization. For the first time in my college career I was presented with the opportunity to do some of the behind the scenes work that goes into implementing community programs and actions. Being able to break out of my typical role as volunteer, I was able to conduct my own research on what our local communities and schools need, and create curriculum that reflects the long-term goals we are working to achieve. I realized that I want to be an advocate for those whose voices are silenced, and that I am able to do that not only through participation in activities like protests, site-ins and community meetings, but by being the person that compiles the resources that make these events possible.

One of my biggest projects that I completed during my internship was creating curriculum for a weekly program for high school students. Called Voices Of the Unheard (VOU), this program works to create a student-led space that is dedicated to eliciting positive change for youth participants and their surrounding communities. I was given the responsibility of creating a 12-week model that included activities centered around leadership. With a goal to help the youth participants become leaders within their school, my curriculum worked to help the participants learn more about themselves and who they are as a leader. This foundation ultimately led into a semester long project where they would identify a need within their communities and plan an action that impacted that effort. This activity was by far one of the most impactful, as it allowed me to learn more about community organizing while also providing me insight into areas where resources are lacking in the Columbus community.

Another project that allowed me to delve into the realm of professionalism was my work on improving the case management system at the JJC. A three-woman organization, the JJC has 3 full-time employees, two of which also run PJP (Peoples Justice Project) which is a community organization centered around activism and empowering people of color. With no full time social worker, I was asked to use what knowledge I had collected thus far in my studies, and create a document of best practices. This opportunity allowed me to learn more about my major and ways in which social workers go beyond the micro-level of service. I was able to conduct research and compile various documents that would be able to streamline the JJC intake process, while also collected the necessary information to connect the youth to additional resources.

My supervisor, Erin Davies, is a superwoman to say the very least. Her passion and dedication to the work she does is immeasurable, as she not only runs the JJC, but pushes through public policy, while simultaneously partaking in community actions throughout Columbus. Her advocacy inspired me, and showed me that there are no limits on the impact you can have if you truly care. This relationship helped me to set goals for my future, as I strive to dedicate my life to meaningful work where I am able to use the privileges I have been afforded for the betterment of our communities and institutions.

I touched on this before, but my time at the JJC has been valuable to my life as it has allowed me to develop not only as a professional but as an individual. Being an active part of this organization has provided me the opportunity to work with communities I may have never otherwise gotten to interact with. I was able to gain experience as a social worker, as I explored the dual roles of social workers as teachers, advocates, and allies. My STEP experience has solidified my dedication to social justice, and has shown me that community organizing is something I could see myself doing long-term. I am thankful to STEP for allowing me to fully submerge myself at the Juvenile Justice Coalition, and learn more about what it means to be the change.