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Perspective: My Experience as a United Way Policy and Advocacy Intern

By Adar Maktal, Policy and Advocacy Intern, Greater Twin Cities United Way

I’m a junior at the University of Minnesota, and I spent my spring semester working as a Policy and Advocacy Intern at Greater Twin Cities United Way. This time period was of course an interesting few months for everyone. As a world, we were all enduring a diverse set of challenges brought on by a pandemic. As a country, we were dealing with the aftermath of an extremely partisan and divisive presidential election and the subsequent insurrection that would follow – and as a state, we were still mourning the loss of George Floyd while simultaneously examining what systems, structures and policies we have in place that allowed such brutality to transpire in the first place.

There were so many social and political ills, all occurring in unison, and the most impactful tool I had that allowed me to navigate the overwhelmingly negative effects that all of these tragedies were collectively having on my emotional and mental well-being was my time at United Way and my experience in the Capitol Pathways program.

Capital Pathways Internship Program

The Capitol Pathways program, implemented by the Citizens League, provides access and opportunities in public service to students who identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC). This program places undergraduate students in paid internships at government offices, nonprofits, corporations and law firms, where students get to interact, connect and build connections with people in and around the Capitol.

Through my internship at United Way, I was able to build relationships with lobbyists, community activists and politicians at almost every level of government. I also was able to connect with the communities I take pride in serving, advocate for the policies we need to enact in order to see change, and even spoke at United Way’s Advocacy for Children Day rally event.

Although all of these accomplishments are ones I value and look back on fondly, the most meaningful aspect of my internship experience was the genuine friendships I was able to foster. These past few months have challenged me both professionally and personally, and the connections I built with several of my coworkers, cohort members, supervisors and colleagues from partner organizations empowered me to meet those challenges head on and use them as opportunities for personal growth. I’ve learned so much over these past few months, not only about the space that I’m in (policy, advocacy, lobbying, etc.), but about myself, who I want to be, and what I plan to contribute to society.

What I Learned at United Way

It has now been five months since I started my internship at United Way, and although my time here is coming to an end, I know the wonderful experiences and opportunities I have taken on and the benefits that have come with each will last a lifetime. I’m very grateful for the introduction to advocacy and the intimate access to policy. Through this internship, I was able to fight for tenants’ rights, further educate myself about our affordable housing crisis, and speak at an event dedicated to providing Minnesota families and child care providers with critical support they need. I was also able to glean a sense of direction of what I want to pursue in the future. Although I’m not exactly sure what position or title I want to hold, I know I want to remain in this interconnected space of both advocacy and policy.

I’m very proud of the work I have accomplished with Greater Twin Cities United Way, and I look forward to taking all of the lessons I’ve learned and the growth I’ve gained from this internship to future professional and personal endeavors.

Learn more about United Way’s work in advocacy and join the advocacy network.

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