Photo: Joan Witherspoon-Norris, Director of Social Justice poses with Danielle Rucker, 2011 Hess Fellow.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—After completing a summer internship with the YWCA Central Alabama's Social Justice department, Danielle Rucker, a rising junior [and softball player] at Birmingham-Southern College (BSC), is returning to school with a new perspective on the YWCA and the direct services that it provides to the community.
Danielle was one of 14 students selected to participate in BSC's Hess Fellows Program – a program that pairs students with non-profit organizations dedicated to advocacy. Excited to have been paired with the YWCA because of the influential role it plays in addressing the needs of women and their families, she says that working at the YWCA was definitely an eye-opening experience.
During her eight week internship, Danielle experienced several aspects of the YW. She helped facilitate Anytown Alabama, conducted research on homeless teens, assisted with programming for the Social Justice department, shadowed court advocates and wrote articles for Eleanor's E-Tree.
"As a social justice as well as a social service agency, the YWCA is committed to advocating for institutional change which will better the lives of the women and families we serve," said Joan Witherspoon-Norris, Director of Social Justice. "This was the fifth summer for the YWCA to host a Hess Fellow, and as others did before her, Danielle made significant contributions to our advocacy work."
Although she is also interested in working with legislation, Danielle says that she is grateful to have had the opportunity to work with a direct service organization. "Touring the facilities and understanding the role of each department gave me a larger sense of the YW and the huge impact that they have in the Birminghamcommunity," she said.
When asked if she had been personally changed by any of her experiences at the YW, Danielle stated that shadowing a court advocate had a great impact on her. "It made me realize what a prevalent issue domestic violence really is," she said. "It's one thing to hear statistics, but when you see people who are victims and interact with them daily, that makes it real."
As Danielle returns to Birmingham-Southern College to continue her studies in Chinese and Economics, she will not forget the invaluable lessons that she has learned this summer. She plans to continue a relationship with the YW and raise awareness about its mission. Although she is unsure about her future profession, working at the YWCA has cemented her decision to focus on work in the nonprofit sector.
"This experience was better than anything that I ever expected," she said. "The staff here at the YW really does amazing things."
We wish Danielle much success in all of her endeavors and we are grateful to Danielle and to Birmingham-Southern College for their support and dedication to the YW during her internship.