Learning About Advocacy: My Summer as a Hess Fellow

August 13, 2013

Hope Lloyd is a rising senior at Birmingham-Southern College (BSC). She was selected to participate in BSC's Hess Fellows Program - a program that pairs students with nonprofit organizations dedicated to advocacy. Hope was an adviser at Anytown Alabama 2013 and is serving at the YWCA this summer.

Hess Fellows Advocacy Internships are a part of Birmingham-Southern College’s Hess Center for Leadership and Service. Thirteen Birmingham-Southern College students are serving eight-week placements at leading nonprofit organizations across the country, and I have the privilege of serving here at the YWCA Central Alabama.
 
One of the reasons I applied for a Hess Fellowship is because of the program’s focus on advocacy. While I enjoy participating in direct service activities, I have found advocacy work particularly interesting because it is focused on large-scale change by studying and addressing the causes of social problems. The Hess Fellows program is perfect for me because it connects students with organizations who are already invested in this kind of work.
 
One of the YW’s goals is to teach high school students how they can be advocates. I kicked off my internship at the YW as a staff member for Anytown Alabama, a one-week social justice leadership camp for high school students. At Anytown, we encouraged these students to think about issues they face daily and how to address them. Many of these students had never considered advocacy as a tool for creating change. They learned that advocacy can be simply having conversations with their friends about issues that are important to them or contacting their legislators when legislation about these issues arises.
 
After Anytown, I was able to work with the YW on its current advocacy focus, predatory lending. While the Alabama legislature is not currently in session, there is plenty to be done as the YW and its partners prepare to again push proposed legislation for payday and title lending reform. Creating awareness around an issue and effecting change also requires studying the causes of a problem and gathering information. I joined the YW and its partners to research the effect predatory lending is having in Alabama, the scope of its impact and alternative small loan options.
 
My experience as a Hess Fellow has been wonderful, and though my internship is over, my experience continues. Over the next school year, I will work with the other Hess Fellows to organize advocacy initiatives on campus. I will also continue the relationships I have made at the YWCA and other organizations to continue working for positive change in Alabama, predatory lending reform and beyond.

 
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