Summer of Science with SpectrUM through Americorps

I spent my summer volunteering with Americorps in Missoula, MT working with SpectrUM, an interactive science museum for kids. My Global Leadership Initiative global theme is inequality and human rights, so working with all walks of life at the Missoula Public Library and having the ability to educate any person of any income gave me the chance to offer equal opportunity to all, even those living with unfortunate circumstances.

Working for SpectrUM, I got the. opportunity to assist with Parks and Recreation camps and assist the EmPower place at the food bank, giving out free meals to those in need. Volunteering with Americorps gave me the chance to live with little to no income, as none of my hours were paid but all necessary to receive an education award at the end of service. As an educator with SpectrUM in the library I am able to get more in touch with the community as parents and children filter in and out, interacting with me as I have the chance to educate the kids.

Before this experience, I was cleaning houses with my headphones in all day, rarely getting the chance to have conversations with anyone, so getting the opportunity to work with kids and lead in camps or educate at the discovery bench gave me new skills that I never thought to explore. This experience has taught me to appreciate children more as I recognize just how pure they are to the bad things in the world and how it is so important to educate them as they grow up and become, eventually, the citizens who decide the future of the world.

I enjoyed my summer experience so much with SpectrUM through Americorps that I actually decided to serve another Americorps service term part-time during the school year. I recommend serving with Americorps to anyone who desires to get in direct involvement with their community and inspires to make a difference. The people I have met and the connections I have made throughout this experience have me overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to volunteer within my community.

A Summer on the Hill

I spent the summer living in Washington, D.C. and working as a Senate Intern through the Baucus Leadership Institute. I was assigned to work in the office of Montana Senator, Steve Daines. Senator Daines sits on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee; the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee; the Finance Committee; and the Indian Affairs Committee. My global theme is Global Public Health, so I was extremely fascinated to observe the Covid-19 response from the federal level and explore other topics like rural mental health and telehealth. I was able to attend Senate committee hearings that covered each of these topics, including a hearing that Dr. Anthony Fauci attended to give expert testimony.

Standing on the balcony of the West Terrace of the Capitol building overlooking the National Mall.

Some other interesting healthcare topics I had the opportunity to learn more about included direct primary care economic models, Medicare expansion and reimbursement, and pharmaceutical patent litigation. My favorite part about the fast-paced environment on Capitol Hill was the constant push to learn and stay on top of each issue. I was fascinated to learn more about the Library of Congress and their sole purpose of educating members of Congress and compiling information and reports on every topic imaginable.

In addition to healthcare topics, I spent a majority of my time working with the Natural Resource Policy Advisor in our office covering topics from forest management and wildfire prevention to endangered species protection and management. The Montana drought emergency and cattle market transparency were also critical issues addressed by Senator Daines’ office during my internship.

Senator Rand Paul being interviewed by reporters after exiting the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee hearing to examine the current state of the nation’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci testified at this hearing.

Second to the learning, I immensely enjoyed getting to meet so many new people on a daily basis. It was a privilege to meet and develop close friendships with the other interns in Senator Daines’ office, in addition to interns in Senators Klobuchar, Grassley, Lankford, Cramer, and Tester’s offices, to name a few. To my surprise, I observed more comradery than expected between offices of contrasting political ideologies. It was interesting to witness events on the Hill in real-time and then see how media outlets would report on those same events. For example, I was in the Hart building when Representative Joyce Beatty (OH) and multiple voting rights activists protested for H.R. 1 and were arrested for demonstrating in the building. I had a front-row seat to several other news-worthy events, including a shooting incident at a Washington Nationals baseball game, flash-flooding and a tornado that touched down within proximity of D.C., and Senator Schumer’s call for cloture on the INVEST in America Act.

One of my fellow interns and a Staff Assistant standing in the Marine Corps hallway during our Pentagon tour.

Washington, D.C. is a city of rich history and culture and I feel lucky to have experienced living there. Every neighborhood was unique from the other. It was a bit of a challenge at first to adjust to life without a car, but I quickly got the hang of the metro and enjoyed the convenience and simplicity of getting anywhere I needed on the metro or by my own two feet. Thanks to some generous friends, I was able to visit both the National Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture for the first time.

Senator Daines made it a priority to meet with our intern cohort and know our stories. The Senator also invites each of us to shadow him for a day and accompany him to meetings and hearings.

My summer internship opened my eyes to career paths I had not considered and allowed me to see how I could make an impact in politics, either at the state or federal level. This experience provided some clarity in my career path, gave me the opportunity to establish a network of friends, mentors, and professionals, and gave me memories that I will treasure for years to come.

My summer in California

My name is Trevor Finney and I visited California this summer with the goal of documenting the level of plastic pollution along the coast from Los Angeles to Eureka. My theme is natural resources and I felt this would be a good opportunity to see first-hand how efforts to cleanup the pacific coast are going, and look into micro-plastic pollution in the area as well. I collected water samples from different locations that were notorious for having high concentrations of micro-plastics (e.g. the bay area) and look forward to getting those spectrometry results back from the lab.

One of the main things I learned from this trip was that most plastic pollution is not large items that you can see. Most plastic bits that have been in the ocean for a long period of time have broken down into minuscule pieces that float in the upper levels of sea water. This is just as true in California as it is in the middle of the pacific where the great garbage patch is located. The majority of the pieces of plastic that we can see no longer resemble the original item they came from, rather they are multicolored, pebble sized pieces that cover beaches.

One piece of good news is that local organizations have largely cleaned up the most polluted areas of California. Areas like Clam Beach north of Eureka and East Beach in Santa Barbara (pictured below) look a lot better than they used to. However this is only the tip of the iceberg as we cannot see that most the plastic is too small and hundreds of miles out from the shore.

I also now feel that in this situation, people are to blame but not entirely responsible as individuals. We are responsible for the 13.3 quadrillion fibers [1] that are released into the ocean every year from choosing to wear polyester, but it is the large corporations too that are to blame with 20 of them producing over half of all the plastic pollution globally [2]. The mismanagement of waste and our unwillingness to refuse plastic is a complex issue, but it doesn’t get resolved if we don’t talk about it, if we are not aware of its implications.

Boating introduces pollutants, stresses out wildlife, and decreases water quality. I came on this trip to see the effect of humans through waste and plastics but it is hard not to see the diverse ways we are causing environmental detriment in our everyday lives. The natural landscape of California’s coast before people has been mostly lost to development.
My friend told me to keep an eye out for masks littering the landscape and it wasn’t hard to do so. They have also been the culprit in getting wrapped around the necks of wildlife.

Plastic pollution in California often comes from inland sources, carried by rivers and streams. The eastern half of the great garbage patch between California and Hawaii is composed of mostly plastics no longer than 1 centimeter. Similar particles can be found along California’s coast from all across the pacific. This piece comments how the interconnectedness of plastic pollution due to the ocean gyres transporting materials across international waters. The consequences of our environmental neglect and mismanagement of waste having lasting effects as plastics take hundreds of years to degrade and can cause immense detriment to the wildlife in our seas.


My Experience as a Remote Intern

My Name is Elizabeth LaRance and my global theme is human rights and inequality. My beyond the classroom experience was a remote internships through the intern abroad HQ company. The internship focused on human rights in Morocco. My experience gave me the opportunity to explore inequality issues in another country and to compare those issues to current issues in the United States.

My internship worked closely with a non-profit organization that was created in Morocco in 2016 named Cooplus. This organization started a project titled “Empowering Women Through Sustainable Cooperative Entrepreneurship in Morocco.” The project aims to increase women’s decision-making power in their businesses, improve the responsiveness of business development support services to gender equality issues, and engage communities in supporting women’s rights and breaking down gender stereotypes related to women’s entrepreneurship. Throughout my internship I worked alongside my coordinator who is also a main collaborator of the organization’s project. Through this I was able to receive a glance into the lives of women in Morocco and gain an unexpected appreciation for my country.

My experience provided me with a lot of knowledge on the current issues surrounding gender inequality in Morocco. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic I was not able to travel abroad and work more closely with the organization. I was, however, able to assist the organization in implementing digital alternatives in order to the keep the project of empowering women through sustainable cooperative entrepreneurship moving in a positive direction.

This image is from the Cooplus organization. You can find their Facebook for more information @cooplus

My Summer as a Baucus Leader

My global theme is Culture and Politics, and my global challenge is how to ensure a quality standard of living for all people in a local community.

This summer, I was a Baucus Leader and completed an internship at the United States Senate. My internship took place with Senator Crapo, who serves as the ranking member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. The Finance Committee deals with issues such as healthcare, retirement, labor, infrastructure, and more.

Caught on camera in the background of the Banking Committee’s hearing on Examining Bipartisan Bills to Increase Access to Housing

Over the summer, this committee held a number of hearings to search for solutions that address issues that affect local communities. Some of these included Funding and Financing Options to Bolster American Infrastructure, Mental Health Care in America: Addressing Root Causes and Identifying Policy Solutions, and Building on Bipartisan Retirement Legislation: How Can Congress Help. In fact, I was even able to attend the hearing on retirement legislation and watch the senators collaboratively discuss bipartisan solutions for expanding Americans’ retirement savings in order for them to live dignified post-retirement lives. Another pertinent hearing I had the opportunity to sit in on was the Banking Committee’s hearing on Examining Bipartisan Bills to Increase Access to Housing.

My Beyond the Classroom Experience added layers to my global challenge even outside of the internship itself. Living in Washington, D.C. exposed me to a completely different type of local community than any other places that I have spent extended time in. It had its unique strengths, such as clean public transportation systems and extensive green space interspersed throughout the city. It also presented its own set of challenges, such as homeless encampments being shut down and prolific gun violence permeating the city.

One of the challenges that I didn’t foresee was how difficult it was for me to find access to COVID-19 testing. Because I was living in the city without a car, I was unable to utilize most of the testing sites because they require people to remain in their cars through a drive-thru. I was troubled by how significant of a barrier access to a vehicle proved to be, especially during a pandemic.

Emerging from my experience in Washington this summer, I believe I am better equipped to tackle community challenges. Working at the Senate exposed me to the inner processes behind national policy-making and demonstrated the roles of various actors, such as legislators, staff members, lobbyists, and the executive and judicial branches in those processes.

I came into this internship with a perspective particular to growing up in the inland northwest and got to challenge many of many preconceived notions by living and working in a very different place. This summer has sparked the desire in me to spend time in more places around the country and the world to diversify my life experiences.