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I Spent My Summer Working at Boston City Hall

BU City Scholars Summer Fellows reflect on what they learned

Summer 2018 proved unforgettable for six undergraduates who worked at Boston City Hall as Boston University City Scholars Summer Fellows. The fellowships, which are funded by BU’s Office of Government and Community Affairs, are open to any BU sophomore or junior Menino Scholar or Boston Community Service Scholar enrolled full-time at the University. Applicants also have to show a commitment to public service and an interest in local government.

“We were thrilled to have our students, who are Boston Public School graduates, working in city government this summer,” says Jake Sullivan, BU vice president for government and community affairs. “This program not only showcases these incredibly talented students, but it opens doors for them to have a meaningful experience in support of a wide array of initiatives important to the community where they grew up. We are proud of the contributions this year’s summer fellows have made to the city of Boston.”

The fellowships provide a chance to gain experience in social media, communications, and policy development and to work closely with leaders in city government to help solve some of the challenges facing a 21st-century city. The program began last year with three fellows and expanded this year to six.

BU Today asked this year’s BU City Scholars Summer Fellows to share their reflections about working inside City Hall and what they learned. Read their stories below.

 

Sophia Dorsainvil-Johnson

Sophia Dorsainvil-Johnson (Wheelock’20). Photo by Jake Belcher

Sophia Dorsainvil-Johnson (Wheelock’20)

This summer I interned with the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, working specifically on Boston Saves, the city’s children’s savings account (CSA) program that helps families of public school kindergartners save money for college or career training. I had the opportunity to work with the 11 BPS schools the program is piloted in.

I’ve made so many connections to, and gained exposure with, the BPS network and the city’s leaders. In addition to completing administrative tasks like data entry, editing, and note-taking during interdepartmental meetings, I’ve done project management, like designing the program’s Workplace page, event planning, community and partnership outreach, and research. As a BU City Scholar Summer Fellow, I had a chance to engage with parents at multiple school events, attended a Cities Taking Action conference here in Boston, where representatives from municipalities across the country discussed best practices, and helped to promote Boston Saves at a Leadership Institute for BPS principals earlier this month.

I have learned so much about myself and gained exposure to the administrative side of education. As an aspiring elementary school teacher and someone who grew up in a low-income household, I will forever cherish contributing to such an essential program. This fellowship taught me about the importance of asset building and financial literacy in fostering a future-oriented culture in underresourced communities. Working as a City Scholars Summer Fellow has opened my eyes to other career options, specifically regarding civic engagement and public administration. I always knew I wanted to work with youth and education, but being able to do so at a municipal level allows me to make a positive impact on a larger scale. I’m already looking forward to continuing my work with Boston Saves.

 

Karina Ferzoco

Karina Ferzoco (Questrom’20). Photo by Jake Belcher

Karina Ferzoco (Questrom’20)

This summer I worked in the office of Michelle Wu, a city councilor at large, at Boston City Hall. I was a research and constituent intern, but that doesn’t come close to summing up my experience. I was exposed to all different avenues of public service: I attended City Council meetings, staff gatherings, hearings, and any other meetings that Councilor Wu or a member of her staff took part in. I conducted research on matters that I was interested in and wrote memos and briefs about them, including Boston’s housing crisis, education, and climate change. I also worked a great deal with constituent services and tackled constituent cases, whether by phone, email, or in person. I spent a large amount of time out of the office, visiting different parts of Boston, which I found particularly rewarding, and was able to help coordinate some community events, such as Councilor Wu’s annual block party. To top everything off, the people in her office are simply amazing.

Overall, I loved my experience working in Councilor Wu’s office. My goal while working at City Hall was to expand my knowledge of public service and local government, while also creating an impact on my community. I feel like it exceeded my expectations on both fronts. The fellowship greatly increased my interest in working in government and offered me a chance to turn my local pride into tangible changes for the city I love.

 

Tatyana Fonseca

Tatyana Fonseca (CAS’20). Photo by Cydney Scott

Tatyana Fonseca (CAS’20)

I never imagined myself working at City Hall. I’m an international relations major studying international systems and world order at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, with a minor in Spanish. When I learned of the fellowship, I thought it would be a great way to be exposed to the many career paths in government. I learned much more than I expected.

I worked in communications for the Mayor’s Health and Human Services cabinet. It’s the largest cabinet under the mayor, and I couldn’t have been happier with the people I worked with. My day-to-day tasks were never the same. My various assignments included writing press releases, translating documents, and drafting quotes for the HHS chief, Marty Martinez, and even for the mayor. Although priorities changed every day, my biggest project was executing the media rollout of Boston Summer Eats, a citywide free summer meals program that provides meals to youth 18 and under at sites across the city. Here I learned the importance communications plays in every field, including my own.

The fellowship was an integral part of my professional development. I have worked in the service industry before, but this was the first time I was exposed to a true professional environment beyond work-study jobs at BU. The connections that I’ve gained at City Hall are invaluable, and I plan to remain in contact with the many wonderful people I met and got to know there. Listening to the stories of professionals with years of experience in different fields has helped shape where I envision myself in the future: I now see food access, foreign service, and even communications as possible routes within my study of international relations. I am deeply grateful to the staff at City Hall and Boston University for making this fellowship possible.

 

Yasly Landestoy

Yasly Landestoy (Sargent’20). Photo by Jake Belcher

Yasly Landestoy (Sargent’20)

I worked in the Boston Parks and Recreation department as a marketing intern this summer. I applied for one of the BU City Scholars Summer Fellowships knowing they were focused on government and politics, even though I am a Sargent student. Many of my friends asked me why I wanted to work in government rather than in a hospital or scientific setting, and I replied that sometimes you need to step outside the box and see what other opportunities are out there. I applied hoping to work with Parks and Recreation and was thrown into the chaotic but important realm of marketing, where I gained valuable experiences that enhanced my organizational, database, and persuasion skills.

As a nonprofit organization, Parks and Recreation relies on donations from businesses and individuals to keep its programs running throughout the year. Convincing a company to donate a $5,000 grant is no easy feat, yet I saw how my supervisor was able to communicate the pros of a possible partnership, persuasively describing how a sponsorship could benefit the city’s parks and what the company might gain from such exposure. I also did a lot of research on small mom-and-pop businesses to see if they were still running, had been acquired, involuntarily dissolved, or had a new manager. While my summer internship was enlightening, I don’t think I will pursue a career in politics. I can say I stepped outside of the box and worked with something new and challenging, but I think I will stick with my intended pathway in healthcare.

 

John O’Brien

John O’Brien (CAS’19). Photo by Cydney Scott

John O’Brien (CAS’19)

As a Boston native, growing up, I would watch my father take the Orange Line downtown every day to work for the city as part of the Boston Planning and Development Agency. As one of Boston University’s City Scholars Summer Fellows, last summer I too had the chance to work for the city, interning for Michelle Wu, then City Council president. Being an international relations major at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, with minors in political science and French, I was grateful and curious to learn more about municipal government and local politics. I spent the majority of my time alongside a Tufts University graduate fellow, researching environmental equity in the city—an intersection of climate change and social justice. Knowing full well that those most susceptible to the negative impacts of climate change, whether sea-level rise or urban heat island effect, are often those with the least amount of social and economic capital to combat it, our work addressed the inequities in Boston and offered solutions that were gathered in a report that was then submitted to the City Council for recommendation.

This summer, as a BU City Scholars Summer Fellow, I was lucky enough to return to City Hall as part of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, working on development projects both small and large—from heading off gentrification in Roxbury’s Upham’s Corner in partnership with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative to responding to national bids for development from entities such as the US Army and Amazon. My exposure to the inner workings of Boston’s public affairs has only heightened my interest in politics and in ensuring an equitable and just system.

Building off the experience I gained at City Hall, I will be interning this fall semester at the Boston-based LGBT legal advocacy nonprofit GLAD. I plan to explore a career in human rights and international law: the opportunities I’ve had through BU have served as excellent preparation for that.

 

Mandy Yao

Mandy Yao (Sargent’20). Photo by Jake Belcher

Mandy Yao (Sargent’20)

This summer I was fortunate to work for the city of Boston’s Economic Mobility Lab, a cross-department initiative at City Hall that focuses on analyzing key challenges to upward economic mobility for different demographic groups in Boston. The lab’s goal is to identify innovative solutions to promote economic security by working on four key periods when the city plays an important role in people’s lives: early childhood, youth jobs, the transition to college or career, and planning for emergency expenses.

I did research on successful transitions for low-income first generation students from high school to college or careers, specifically looking into mentorship as a solution to some of the unique problems that these students face and how their educational experience might impact their economic mobility later on. To strengthen my research, I interviewed staff at mentoring programs in Boston, including Strong Women, Strong Girls, Bottom Line, Sociedad Latina, and Mission Possible. I also interviewed experienced professionals Marty Martinez, Boston’s Health and Human Services chief and a former CEO of Mass Mentoring Partnership, and Roxanne Longoria, who works with the Mayor’s Mentoring Movement.

After all the interviews, I connected common themes and provided suggestions for the Economic Mobility Lab going forward. The experience gave me a great insight into the workings of the city of Boston and the realm of public service. I knew that I was in an area where real change can happen, where teamwork matters, and where an innovative idea can affect the lives of thousands of Bostonians. I would recommend anyone who has a passion for public service and local government to apply for this fellowship and work for the city of Boston.

For more information about the Boston University City Scholars Summer Fellowship, email gca@bu.edu.

1 Comments

One Comment on I Spent My Summer Working at Boston City Hall

  • Esha Garg on 09.03.2018 at 7:02 am

    Dear BU City Scholars Summer Fellows 2018,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. I enjoyed reading all of them as I myself am very much interested in such internships. Your words reflect deep impression and connections you made at your internships. I was impressed to see breadth of your experience and exposure you gained in these internships. I had two thoughts:
    1. Do you get to choose the area of your internship?
    2. As I reflect on your experiences and related initiatives, I think change is slow in public delivery. I wonder what can be done to deliver outcomes faster.

    Best regards
    Esha Garg

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