For most people, the purpose of an internship is to gain experience in your field. Hands of Wonder, a restorative justice-themed gardening program for teenagers on probation, definitely provided me with this. Each day was full—I started with an hour of administrative and prep work, then ate breakfast and chatted with the teens as they arrived before heading to the garden for a few hours of work. At 1:00 we ate lunch together and then had a few hours of indoor activities and discussion. When the teens left, staff debriefed and then I worked on projects and administrative tasks until it was time to go.
I enjoyed being able to work directly with the teens. Leading the group could be challenging though, as I discovered when I took the helm to discuss the nature of community. Six teenagers doesn’t seem like many, but it can mean six different people talking about six unrelated topics at once. Not many 16-year-olds want to sit around a table and talk about community, especially right after lunch. It takes practice to facilitate valuable discussion.
Before my internship ended, I asked my boss to meet with me and go over the structure of the county’s justice department. As she described the different roles, I realized how many avenues there are to work for criminal justice system reform, whether directly or behind the scenes. In the future I hope to gain more experience working directly with other people and maybe move into policy-level reform from there.