March 21, 2018 Climate

Ignited by Injustice

Written by: Tatum Novitzky


January 16 started just like every other Tuesday. I woke up, threw on a pair of leggings and trudged out of the house in a hurry to get to class. However, when I arrived to my California Water Law and Policy lecture, something was different. The shutters were pulled tight, denying the room of light, and my attention was drawn to the glowing projector screen. For the next ten minutes, a look of horror spread across my face as I watched a Democracy Now! clip of dogs attacking a group of individuals protesting the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock. I couldn’t believe that this was the first time I was watching that video. I couldn’t believe that none of my friends were talking about Standing Rock. I couldn’t believe that this human cruelty was not prevalent in everyone’s mind at all times.

At that moment, I knew I wanted to do something. I wanted to be involved in solving this harrowing injustice.

A presentation followed the video, encouraging students to apply for an internship at the Romero Institute, a nonprofit committed to preserving the environment and protecting the human family. In recent years, Romero has partnered with the Lakota people to fight the oil industry and protect their sacred land from destruction from a fracked oil pipeline. As soon as I returned home from class, inspired to ignite change, I applied for the position. By the following week, I was officially an intern!

This being my first internship experience, I had so many questions and expectations. How would I be contributing? Who would I be working with? What good would I be doing for society? I imagined myself protesting with my coworkers, staying up all hours of the night crafting blogs, and planning covert missions to expose the oil industry for their crimes against humanity. It is safe to say, I was fired up. However, I soon came to realize that the expectations I had differed drastically from the reality of my actual internship experience.

On my first day, I was pegged as a social outreach and fundraising intern. In short, I spent half of my time at Romero on social media reaching out to other nonprofits, finding articles and videos to post, and editing Instagram pictures and tweets. The other half of my time was spent working with the development department, primarily on fundraising. Although this work did not align with the expectations that I had for this internship, looking back, it is clear that the contributions I made were crucial for the success of the Romero Institute.

Early on in this experience, I learned to value the importance of the seemingly mundane. Yes, it is true that I spent the majority of my time sitting at desk probing the internet for information relevant to Romero’s mission; however, the time that I spent collecting articles and finding donors allowed Romero to expand the scope of the organization’s influence.

In our digitized society, it is almost impossible to educate human beings without a prominent social media presence. Therefore, I am extremely proud of the hours that I spent uncovering relevant media, because without these finding Romero’s ability to impact individuals would not be as prominent.

I imagined myself protesting with my coworkers, staying up all hours of the night crafting blogs, and planning covert missions to expose the oil industry for their crimes against humanity.

Additionally, I discovered the importance of donor relations. In the beginning, it was hard for me to imagine that this undertaking would be crucial for the success of the organization. I could not have been more misguided. Donor contributions are at the core of this nonprofit organization because, without donors, there is no money to fund the exciting things. As I continued to work with the fundraising department, I was overwhelmed and humbled by the amount of work that went into maintaining relationships with donors.

Probably most important, I realized that intersectionality of different departments plays a significant role in a nonprofit organization. Without fundraising and donor relations, there would be no backing to hire a social media director. Without a social media director, the public would be unaware of the importance of contributing to the Romero Institute. I quickly came to realize that every aspect of this organization was intertwined in a complicated, impressive, and remarkable way. Even though the work that I was doing did not adhere to the expectations that I had for this internship, I now understand that my participation as a intern allowed for the entire organization to function with fluidity.

With this academic quarter coming to a close, so is my internship at the Romero Institute. In the spring, I will be attending the University of California Washington Center, in Washington DC. In Washington, I am interning at another nonprofit organization focused on childhood development for toddlers and infants. In fact, because I have had such a positive experience at Romero, my work will focus specifically on fundraising and development. Although my new organization’s mission statement differs significantly from Romero’s, I believe that the lessons that I have learned from Romero will translate beautifully to the work that I will be undertaking in Washington. I am anxious, I am excited, but, most of all, I am grateful for my involvement with the Romero Institute and all the lessons that I have learned along the way.

To apply for an internship at the Romero Institute, send an email to kelsey@lakotalaw.org.