By Sophie Weinberg, CHEJ Science Intern, Summer 2020.
This summer was unusual to say the least. Despite living through a pandemic, people around the world innovated their lives to create a new normal. One of these changes included working remotely. This posed a unique challenge to the entire workforce, but particularly to interns. This summer, interns were put into the difficult position of entering a new job while fully remote. Interns did not have the ability to get to know their employers as easily, so it was ultimately up to the organization to welcome interns. CHEJ excelled at this.
This summer, I worked as a science and technical intern at CHEJ. Despite the obvious disadvantages that COVID-19 posed, I felt very connected to both the organization and the work that I was doing. Due to the small staff size, I was able to get to know each staff member through multiple weekly meetings and various projects. We were not only expected to discuss our work, but also encouraged to catch up on a more personal level in order to foster a positive work environment. Instead of water cooler talk, we would Zoom as interns to get to know one another. More often than not, we all found similarities in our passions, goals, and personalities.
Beyond the work environment at CHEJ, my projects were all very meaningful. As a science intern I did not work directly with many communities, but I did have an opportunity to learn a lot about the issues impacting so many people across the US. I did not have expansive knowledge of environmental justice before joining this organization, but I have learned so much this summer and become very passionate about these issues. The work I did as an intern was applicable to helping communities fight environmental threats. Specifically, a large majority of my work was taking scientific concepts and converting them to a more understandable format for the use of community leaders. My supervisor always made sure to connect my work back to the relevant issues to make me aware of the impact of my internship. I completed this internship with a sense of appreciation for what I was able to contribute and what I learned.
Working for CHEJ this summer was an extremely valuable experience, and I would recommend it to other students who are looking for an internship in environmental justice. I was able to apply a large range of skills, and learned many more in the process.