In our “Where Are They Now?” series, we introduce you to previous CAIR Oklahoma interns. You will get a better sense of what they did, where they are now, and what they gained from interning with CAIR Oklahoma.
Date of Internship: I started my internship January 2017. My dear friend, and mentor, Anna Facci, posted about the internship on her page. I saw it and I took a look at the CAIR website for a description of what the intern would be doing. I knew I wanted to be the governmental affairs intern, but it would be a wonderful opportunity to be able to work in the CAIR office under any title.
Graduation Date and Major/Minor: My graduation will be in the summer of 2018 from Oklahoma State University. I will have a completed my bachelors in Sociology and Political Science. When I first went into university it was solely for animal science, pre-veterinary medicine, and throughout my time at OSU my passions started to manifest themselves in other areas and I started to see passions I never understood I had. I realized public policy, advocacy, human rights and aiding communities in become self-sufficient in their activism and organizing. That’s when I made the change from animal science to sociology and political science.
Current Employer: I was recently hired as a regional field organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. I get to put all my passions, new and old, to good use, and I get to do it with a great group of people around me, masha’Allah. I’ve learned so much in my short time at the ACLU and made so many connections. It’s just the beginning and it feels like it’s going to be very promising.
Tell us about your internship at CAIR Oklahoma. How long did you intern with us? What were some of the projects you worked on? I interned with CAIR for 7 months under the governmental affairs director. I was able to meet with board members, help plan large scale events, track and read legislation and meet with members of the Oklahoma legislature. Tracking legislation was the real challenge for me. I had never done it before and I’m not sure they knew that before I started – but I’m positive they knew after!
What was your favorite part about your internship? Even though it was hard for me to get at first, I would have to say that the legislative tracking was my favorite part (minus getting to be around great people all the time). In that time I learned a lot from Anna, Adam and Veronica. Things that I never learned in political science classes or sociology classes. About legislative coded wording, shell bills, filling bills, how bills are assigned to committees and so much more. I learned effective community organizing and coalition building. Meeting communities where they are and helping with providing skills to self-maintain, I think that is the mission of activism – at least, my activism. There is a difference in helping and hurting, it might be a fine line in these instances, but we are here to distinguish the difference and aid in others doing the same.
What was the most challenging part of your internship? Becoming a people person. I want to help and be effective, but I also am most comfortable in my own silo of complacency, even when I do know the people around me. In the beginning I would come in get my assignment, get to work and then leave when my time was up, but that’s not how to build productive relationships and it’s certainly not how to make effective change. This is where CAIR taught me about myself and helped me grow as a young woman trying to make ripples in the nonprofit sector of Oklahoma.
What are you doing now? Now I work for the ACLU of Oklahoma as a regional field organizer, I’m a teaching assistant at Oklahoma State University for a seminar called Cultural Diversity in Professional Life, I host a social activism and awareness inclined radio show and podcast called ‘Sounds about White.’ I spend my free time sleeping, reading student reflections and eating breakfast foods, masha’Allah. People used to ask me what I wanted to do in life, and I would tell them I wanted to be a community organizer and event planner. Someone asked again the other day and I got to tell them I was doing it, but now I guess I need to set more long term goals, haha!
How did your internship with CAIR Oklahoma help you grow professionally? My internship with CAIR gave me a great base all the way around. Social readiness when in networking situations, the understanding that just about every situation is a networking situation, key understanding of the Oklahoma Legislature, improved writing skills and public speaking and a deeper connection to my Oklahoma city Muslim brothers and sisters and faith. All of these things combined were great stepping stones to get me where I am today. Not only did my time at CAIR teach me valuable lessons, but when I left I left with a powerful network of colleagues, friends and family in Oklahoma that are constantly fighting for the betterment of Oklahoma.
What would you say to other students that are considering an internship with CAIR Oklahoma? I would say to apply. Like anything in life, you only get out what you put in, but it’s worth it. People from all walks of life can, and should apply. It’s not only a great way to learn about Oklahoma, but you’ll learn about the Muslim community in Oklahoma and around the world. CAIR-OK is a nonprofit dedicated to the civil rights of all Oklahomans while actively teaching a better understanding of Islam. It’s truly an amazing , one of a kind, experience – take a chance.