Our Children Oregon’s paid Equity in Policy and Advocacy Internship program meaningfully contributes to advancing our mission while developing essential skills and providing unique opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. Meet our Spring & Some of our Summer 2022 interns: Carmela, River, Kathryn, Shauna and Jasmine! 

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Carmela Davis (she/her), Community Engagement Intern

Located in Salem, Carmela is graduating from Willamette University in the spring of 2022 with an undergraduate degree in Politics, Policy, Law, and Ethics (PPLE) and a minor in Sociology. Throughout her college education, she has become passionate about advocating for communities and issues that are facing unjust legislative and societal challenges.  She is excited to be working with OCO to ensure that Oregon children are uplifted through policy and advocacy work so that they can have safe, educated, and fulfilling lives.

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

I value to be continually educating myself (and others) about the detrimental impacts unjust legislation/society can have on different groups of people. This is what brought me to OCO, because my drive to always want to be bettering myself and supporting marginalized communities is something that I value. I do not want to become complicit in systems that harm others, and OCO helps to open the door to listening to and advocating for children in Oregon who want to have safe and fulfilling lives.

What’s a passion of yours you’ve acted on? 

I have a passion for improving public health and medical institutions in the United States. As someone with a disability, I have seen and experienced firsthand the shortcomings our society has in this regard, and I would like to become more tangibly involved in working to advocate for better healthcare systems and practices

Standout books or podcasts that speak to you?

The 1619 Project is a book I have been reading recently, and I think it does a great job of tying in historical events to current day issues of systemic racism in the US.

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

As a child, and still, to this day, the superpower I want is the ability to teleport wherever I want.

Macy Bretz (they/them), Foster Youth Engagement Intern

Macy is a former foster youth and joined Oregon Foster Connection to advocate for foster youth in the system.  They are now supporting OCO’s foster youth engagement across the state.   

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

I am a former foster youth and worked with OFYC prior. I was offered the opportunity to join OCO as a foster youth engagement intern and I accepted. The values that drive me are my longing to do anything and everything to help change the foster care system for the better in whatever way I can. I feel getting experience and insight wherever I can will not only give me a better look into how to do that but also how best to do so and give me a leg up while doing so.

What’s a passion of yours you’ve acted on?

Passing more laws [to support foster youth across the state], setting youth up for success, changing the statistics, and making housing, high school, college, etc., all easier to achieve.  While ultimately making foster homes safer and more accepting. Foster youth should be prepared for their futures when exiting the system. 

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

I volunteer with Project Never Again and help wherever and whenever I can to get duffle bags ready and encouragement cards written. I’ve done interviews to bring awareness around kids going home to home with their belongings in a trash bag.

Kathryn Liu (she/her), Data & Research Intern

Kathryn is working on her graduate degree at OHSU-PSU School of Public Health with a focus on Biostatistics. She hopes to continue developing her data visualization skills and looks forward to working with a very positive and talented team!

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

I was drawn to OCO because I want to contribute to meaningful analyses that drive positive political and social change.

What’s a passion of yours you’ve acted on? 

I enjoy making crafts and have a very long list of project ideas I have not gotten to yet.

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

As a child, I wanted the ability to fly. As an adult, I want the ability to stop time.

Shauna Rakshe (she/her), Data & Research Intern

Shauna is working on her Master of Science at OHSU. She hopes to learn how the OCO team conducts advocacy work, learn new skills for analyzing, integrating, and presenting data, and make valuable contributions to the work done at OCO.

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

I believe that everyone should use what skills they have to help make the world a better place. I like research, and I like finding the stories hidden in data. This is a wonderful opportunity to apply those skills to a great cause!

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

As a child I really wanted to be able to speak with animals. I was fascinated by David Attenborough’s books, especially by their combination of science and the sheer wonder of the natural world. They made me want to travel the world and listen to the stories of every animal I met (and the stories of every human, too!). I still think speaking with animals would be a cool superpower!

Jasmine Contile (she/her), Legislative & Policy Intern

Jasmine is a first year law student at Willamette University and hopes to assist OCO in collecting data on legislative efforts,  learn more about child advocacy and juvenile policy for her own personal and professional interest while contributing meaningful work and information to an organization that aligns with her values. 

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

I was driven to apply because I’m considering a career in juvenile or family law, and this summer is the first time I’m able to focus on that subject more. I care about children having a healthy and happy home and upbringing, and believe that it’s something we’re all entitled to, so I’m ultimately driven to do whatever I can to bring that to however many kids and families I can.

What’s a passion of yours you’ve acted on? 

Writing (and eventually publishing) novels.
Do you have any standout books or podcasts that speak to you?
A nonfiction book I recently read that I loved was called the Eldest Daughter Effect, it’s about how women across the world who are the oldest child in their family all report similar experiences with mental health, insecurities, but also strong work ethics, accomplishment/over achievement. 

Jeniffer White (she/her), Legislative & Policy Intern

Jeniffer is in her last year of undergrad at Southern Oregon University, majoring in Economics and minoring in business administration. Over the past three years, she worked as a program associate, supporting relationship-building between parent and child, encouraging pre-kindergarten readiness, and supporting literacy. Jeniffer is passionate about fostering environments that positively influence children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. With that, she is excited about being a part of Our Children Oregon’s legislative advocacy intern team and looking forward to contributing knowledge and expanding her knowledge. Jeniffer enjoys hiking, flower pressing, and writing handwritten letters to her family. 

What brought you to this internship? What values drive you?

What brought me to this internship was many reasons, but one that has been with me since the start of my studies is the need to dismantle the oppressive systems that negatively affect the whole child. This passion was fueled by stories and shared experiences from BIPOC, refugees, and immigrant families. With that in mind, I wanted to find and be a part of an organization whose values and vision align with mine; this is another reason why I chose to intern at Our Children Oregon organization. The value that drives me are, kindness, respect, compassion, empathy, equality, dependability, hope and enthusiasm.

Do you have any standout books or podcasts that speak to you?

Books: Sustainability Revolution, and the whole-brain child. Podcast: Hiden brain

Riley Phoenix (she/her), Youth Engagement Intern

Riley Phoenix is an incoming junior at American University in Washington, D.C, and a member of the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars Program, the university’s most prestigious scholarship dedicated to students of color who are committed to fostering socially responsible leaders. As a child of an incarcerated parent, she has been involved with activism since childhood. But, a class on War Crimes and Genocide at Harvard finally piqued her interest in IR after she became aware that issues like racism, reproductive rights, and food insecurity– issues she cared about– were equally foreign policy issues as well as domestic ones. Now at AU, she studies International Law and International Organizations and their roles as answers to global atrocities, and she intends to practice international and human rights law in the future. Riley is looking forward to her time with OCO to advocate for the human rights of children, so that they not only have what they need to thrive, but are able to play determining roles in their own futures.

What brought you to this internship? What values drive you?

As a child of an incarcerated parent, I’ve seen first-hand how current systems in place fail families like mine, which inspired my lifelong dream to become a lawyer to advocate for the rights of those who would be otherwise unheard, specifically children and immigrants. As I continue through my professional and educational journey, interning at OCO allows me the opportunity to collaborate with Oregon’s communities and lawmakers to find real solutions to the problems of today so that no more children go hungry, unhoused, and unheard– a first true gateway into the work I dream of doing.

What’s a passion of yours you’ve yet to act on?
I love and consume music, art, and poetry, but I’ve yet to actually create something myself. I’m hoping to unlock my creative side this summer and build the confidence to share my voice and interests

Curious to know more about our internship program?

Learn more or share with someone that might be interested in a summer/fall internship placement, or support our ability to continue to grow this program!