By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — St. Ambrose University student Corrigan Goldsmith always enjoyed going on mission trips and doing service projects. But after starting her Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) internship in 2014 and taking part in mandatory leadership training, she began to realize that helping people with immediate needs is just the beginning. Fighting for systemic change is also essential.
“I started thinking about who I was benefitting,” she said. “People don’t always think about who is being impacted and what they need. We need to make sure we do both (social) action and charity and make both a systemic and immediate impact. That change in thinking is big.”
Each year, the Diocese of Davenport offers a paid CCHD internship to a Catholic person interested in social justice. The internship lasts from fall to spring. Rachel Dunlap of Keokuk is the 2015-16 intern and Nicholas Riedesel of Grand Mound will be the 2016-17 intern. Goldsmith, of Solon, remains involved as an alumni intern.
The interns first receive CCHD and leadership training to prepare for social justice activism. Then, in the fall, they begin working with Quad Cities Interfaith, Davenport, or the Center for Worker Justice, Iowa City. Tasks vary but can include parish education, training and outreach, letter and article writing, research and developing relationships with community organizations.
Both Dunlap and Goldsmith spent a majority of their internships working with Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI) to build community support for initiatives such as the Scott County Mental Health Court and to advocate for issues such as immigration reform. Coincidentally, Dunlap, Goldsmith and Riedesel are students at St. Ambrose University where they act as liaisons between Ambrosians for Peace and Justice and QCI. They inform students about what is happening in the community and help them find ways to get involved.
Dunlap, a reserved person by nature, has become much more outgoing since beginning the internship. Being a voice for those who sometimes cannot speak for themselves is a huge motivator. As a psychology major at St. Ambrose University, she’s used her knowledge of mental health to garner support from community leaders for the mental health court initiative, among other initiatives aimed at bringing about local systemic change. “These issues affect real people, and I have a responsibility as a citizen whose voice can be heard … we all have a responsibility for each other. We often skirt around the issues and think we can’t do anything but we can contact legislators and others and be active in the community.”
The three interns intend to remain passionate about social justice long after their internship. While they have different career goals — Riedesel wants to be an elementary school teacher, Dunlap envisions working in the psychology field and Goldsmith hopes to become an occupational therapist — they are brainstorming ways to incorporate social justice into their future. Riedesel, for example, hopes to motivate his future students and encourage them to think about social justice.
Diocesan CCHD Director Loxi Hopkins loves the kind of impact the internship can have on those who take on the challenge. “I think you see things a little differently after this internship,” she observed.