Undergraduate and graduate students participate in Our Children Oregon’s paid Equity in Policy and Advocacy Internship program to meaningfully contribute to advancing our mission while developing essential skills that support their career paths and personal interests. Meet the newest interns of our 2021-22 class: Brenna, Marris, and Paola! 
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Young woman with long wavy dark hair smiling in black t-shirt

Brenna Blackmun (she/her), Communications Intern

Located in Tualatin, Brenna is finishing up her undergraduate degree in Public Health at Oregon State University. She is passionate about supporting others to thrive and is excited to build upon her expertise as a health coach, personal trainer, and blogger/influencer in support of uplifting the children and families of Oregon. 

What values drive you? Why did this internship stand out for you?

When looking at OCO’s website, a few words stood out to me: a holistic approach, thriving, living up to potential — words that I often use myself. I am extremely passionate about helping children and making sure they have the resources that they need to thrive! What’s a passion of yours you’ve acted on? 

I am super passionate about helping others live up to their potential. That is why I became a health coach and personal trainer! I am likewise passionate about animal rights, having acted on this passion by fostering dogs and rescuing horses. Health, helping others, and animals! I use my voice and stand in my truth. 

Standout books or podcasts that speak to you?

I love this question! I listen to Dave Hollis, Lisa Bilyeu (Women of Impact), and Lewis Howes (School of Greatness) podcasts. I read a lot of self-help books, Christian books, and health-related (mental and physical) books. 

What volunteering or passion projects do you do outside of work? 

I really love animals and fostering animals. So far, I have fostered dogs and horses. I would LOVE to open up an animal rescue someday and help animals that have been abused in the meat and dairy industry.

Young woman with short reddish hair smiling in a red v-neck shirt

Marris Opsahl (she/her), Social Work Intern

Recently relocated to Portland, Marris is pursuing her Masters of Social Work at Columbia University. She is looking forward to developing her legislative knowledge regarding child welfare policy, creating greater access and equity in this space, and contributing her abilities as a direct care social worker to strengthen our collective work.

What values drive you? Why did this internship stand out for you?

In my past work as a home visitor with young children and families, I often saw firsthand how barriers to care and support negatively impacted children and their families. As a result, I am very passionate about creating greater access and equity in child and family welfare services and advocating for and with those who are largely displaced and overlooked in our society. I truly believe in the power of people and relationships to create change and that change must be centered within social justice, inclusion, anti-discrimination, and empowerment.

What’s a passion of yours you’ve yet to act on? 

Writing! More specifically, creative writing. I have a second Bachelor’s degree in English and was very involved in writing and publication in college, but since then I haven’t spent much time writing for the joy of it.

Standout books or podcasts that speak to you?

The writing of Audre Lorde, her essays and poetry, has had a powerful impact on my life and vision of social justice. Other books that come to mind are The Parable of The Sower by Octavia Butler, Ceremony by Indigenous author Leslie Marmon Silko, and The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A favorite podcast of mine is “Doin’ the Work: Frontline Stories of Social Change” hosted by Shimon Cohen. It highlights social justice work being done in unique ways around the country and is often highly thought-provoking.

What superpower did you want as a child? What superpower would you want now?

As a child, I always wanted to be able to read people’s thoughts. As an adult, I realize that that would probably be overwhelming! I think now I would want to be able to teleport or fly so that I could avoid driving.

Young woman with dark hair smiling. Backdrop is pink.

Paola Velazquez (she/her), Community Engagement Intern

Paola is majoring in Child, Youth, and Family Studies at Portland State University, commuting from her childhood hometown of Seaside. She is excited to outreach throughout the coastal region, expanding our direct engagement efforts, strengthening our coalition of partners, and deepening our ability to uplift the diverse communities of Oregon.

What values drive you? Why did this internship stand out for you?

The Seaside community, where I grew up, supported me in every way they were able to and I will always be grateful for the help given to me. I felt that this community engagement internship was a wonderful opportunity to have the chance to give back to the community that gave so much to me. With collaboration and inclusion, I think our work will have a great impact on coastal communities for the better good of children. Children are wise, strong, complex, and diverse, but they are also dependent. They are capable of so much, but it is important to see that they need support for them to obtain the best outcome. Teamwork and interdisciplinary work will open the paths for children to grow in their environment; but most importantly sustaining the engagement of the communities will lead for the citizens of Oregon to hope, visualize, and be the change in our state for our children to thrive.

What’s a passion of yours you’ve yet to act on? 

The opportunity to work with immigrant families in one-on-one case management. I empathize with struggling immigrant families because, at one point, that was my family. I aspire to give them the light they need to know that the system isn’t as scary when you are well informed and have the right resources to guide you.

Standout books or podcasts that speak to you?

I am a huge crime junkie fan! While not a book, a film I do recommend is “The Harvest of Loneliness”.

What superpower did you want as a child? What superpower would you want now?

When I was younger, I always wanted to be able to fly. I thought it would make traveling easier (my family likes to drive to Mexico, which is a 4-5 day trip since we will stop and rest for the night). Now, I think the superpower that I’d want would be to do all my duties in half an hour or less so I’d have the day free to spend it with my two boys.

Curious to know more about our internship program?

Check out the highlights from our 2020-2021 class of interns, share with someone that might be interested in a winter internship placement, or support our ability to continue to grow this program!