This summer, I planned to intern at an Oregon nonprofit that promotes LGBTQ+ rights. My role would center around working with rural LGBTQ+ voters to help defeat an anti-immigrant bill. I was figuring out the details, such as how to get a car to drive to these rural locations, when the volunteer coordinator informed me that I would not be able to do the internship after all. The reason? The organization had decided not to have unpaid internships anymore. Even though unpaid internships are certainly problematic, I was astounded that the organization would not accept my offer of free labor, and especially upset that they were dropping me so last minute. I’m moving 2,000 miles for you! I wanted to say. You’re going to leave me hanging NOW?
In the end, I decided to still go to Oregon and find something once I was there. It was really tough at first. I applied to about 15 mostly minimum wage jobs and maybe five internships, and heard mostly silence with a few “no”s mixed in. Eventually, I saw a post on a volunteer database for an anti-sex trafficking volunteer position at the county government. As I looked into the position more on the county website, I came across information about an urban gardening program for teenagers on probation. This sounded incredible and I applied immediately. Because I received the scholarship, I was able to intern with this program—which was probably an even better fit than my original internship!