Learn more about some of our current Social Justice Interns, their work, and what they're learning from the experience.‌

Rylee Abaya

Misericordia Community Day Services


My name is Rylee Abaya and I am a current senior at Loyola. I have a major in Psychology with minors in the Psychology of Crime and Justice and Social Work. Through the Social Justice Internship, I was paired with Misericordia under their department of Community Day Services. Through my role, I am involved in working with residents with a range of developmental disabilities to grow their relations with the community through volunteering and participation in community-based resources. One example of the community-based learning programs I will be involved in is Misercordia’s Engage Chicago program which emphasizes community connections and employment readiness, allowing participants to both identify their goals and develop a plan to reach them. As I am interested in pursuing a career in clinical psychology, this experience gives me the chance to prepare for my future as it will enhance my classroom education through working in community-based settings and being able to make a direct impact on other people. Through this internship, I am excited to cultivate meaningful relationships with the residents, learn about the broad social influences that impact their lives, and actively work to support this community through allyship. 

 Alexandra Alanis

Catholic Charities Volunteer Engagement

My name is Alexandra Alanis, I am a current senior at Loyola. My major is Biology and I am on the pre-med track aspiring to work in the healthcare field. My internship site is Catholic Charities of Chicago that serves to provide a safe and supportive atmosphere for families and youth who are experiencing social pressures. I am excited to be joining the organization as their volunteer engagement intern. Having grown up in the North side of Chicago I have always wanted to find a way in which I could get more involved in advocating for people's health in my neighborhoods and the ones around me. I hope to enhance my skills from being the Community Service and Action student worker at Loyola through my mentorship and guidance from the Vice President of Community and Government Engagement. This internship gives me the opportunity to aid and inform the underserved populations in Chicago and connect this passion with my faith.

Samantha Geni

Misericordia Community Day Services

My name is Samantha Geni and I am a Junior at Loyola University Chicago studying Psychology and Women's and Gender Studies. In pursuit of making genuine connections outside the Loyola community and assisting populations I gravitate toward, I am interning at Misericordia Heart of Mercy through Loyola's Social Justice Internship Program. Misericordia Heart of Mercy is a non-profit corporation and home for more than 600 children and adults living with developmental disabilities. In my role as Community Services Day Intern, I interact with residents and lead them in workshops or trips in which they acquire knowledge and are exposed to the greater Chicago area. This impact creates connections between Misericordia and outside institutions, giving residents opportunities to gain professional skills or accessible options for employment. I look forward to creating friendships with the residents and leaving an impact on Misercordia's relationships with the Chicago community. 

Anna Hartmann

Misericordia Recreation & Leisure

My name is Anna Hartmann, and I am a current sophomore at Loyola, double majoring in Political Science and English with a minor in Chinese. Through the Social Justice Internship, I have the opportunity to intern at Misericordia (Mis). During my time at Mis, I help facilitate leisure and recreational activities and other special projects, such as family festivals and the Special Olympics. I work directly with residents on campus and behind the scenes through administrative work. I have been able to shadow the staff who are dedicated to their jobs of providing a safe, nurturing, goal-oriented, and fun environment for the residents who live on campus. The residents I have the pleasure of working with help me better understand how to build community, especially when there is not as much awareness and advocacy for adults with developmental disabilities. I am excited to continue working further with Misericordia’s residents and staff to learn how to become more of an advocate for those with disabilities through direct education and engagement.

Elle Laurencelle

Misericordia Developmental Training

I am Elle Laurencelle and I am the Developmental Training intern at Misericordia. This opportunity allows me to support residents with a range of developmental disabilities with various life skills, learning opportunities, and vocational experience. Many residents depend on the safety, care, support, and stability that Misericordia offers. I am honored to be a part of such an amazing programming department that offers residents wellness programs, community events, artistic activities, and therapeutic support in order to ensure high levels of personal growth. Additionally, I hope to utilize this experience to strengthen my passion for health equity and incorporate the skills I gain into my future career as a comprehensive and compassionate public health professional. 

Sophie Lewis

GirlForward Mentoring Program

I am a senior majoring in history and minoring in law and politics on the pre-law track. I feel very lucky to be working with GirlForward on their Mentoring Program. GirlForward serves girls ages 14-21 who identify as refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers. The Mentoring Program pairs girls with women mentors from the community to engage in "4W" activities (Wellness, Wisdom, Wallet, and World). As an intern for this program, I help facilitate the mentoring matches, help support mentors and plan events for the program. On Tuesday's, Wednesday's and Thursday's GirlForward hosts drop-in hours for girls to get help with homework or just hang out. During this time, I have the opportunity to tutor students, where I help the girls with their assignments and develop their academic confidence. I also assist staff with volunteer management by supporting a case load of mentoring matches and/or tutors and create content and curriculum for specific programs.

Viveca Magana

Catholic Charities Community & Government Engagement

My name is Viveca Magana and I am a third-year international student from Honduras pursuing a double major in Political Science and Economics at Loyola University of Chicago.  I was chosen to work for the Community and Government Engagement Social Justice Internship Program with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The mission of Catholic Charities is to partner with mission-driven people and organizations across Cook and Lake counties to strengthen and empower people and create opportunities for younger generations. Catholic Charities also provides assistance to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, going through the immigration process by offering a variety of programs and services. Additionally, Catholic Charities works on providing for the homeless through multiple projects. I have assisted in work meetings and taken notes in order to form part of current projects and possible connections with future partners. Catholic Charities at the Archdiocese of Chicago meets people where they are and that is a goal, I have in order to be able to help society in the best way possible. This internship will grant me multiple transferable skills for my future career path and will also help me acquire leadership skills to contribute to the community by engaging in real-world experiences.

Mira Riley

GirlForward Communications
My name is Mira Riley and I’m a current Junior majoring in Public Relations with an English minor. This year, through the SJI program, I have the wonderful opportunity to work with GirlForward as a Communications Intern. GirlFoward is an organization committed to supporting refugee girls in Chicago, IL, and Austin, TX aged 12 to 21 through tools such as after-school tutoring, safe spaces, and a mentorship program. Throughout my internship, I will create weekly graphics for GirlForward’s social media channels and newsletters. In addition to this, I will write approximately one newsletter a week and engage with GirlForward’s social media channels in Chicago and Austin. While working at GirlForward, I have the opportunity to propose and implement a personal project of my own choosing that will help support the mission of GirlForward. 

Najiya Shahzad

GirlForward Development
I am incredibly fortunate to be working at GirlForward as the current Development Intern! As Development Intern, my work largely consists of organization, innovation, and strengthening connections in relation to our fundraising database and program donors. I engage in a vast array of research, creative brainstorming and planning, and data management. Working at GirlForward has been immensely rewarding and I could not be more satisfied with the missions and values of the organization. The heart of GirlForward truly belongs to the wonderful group of young women who identify as asylum seekers, refugees, or immigrants and are looking to enhance their opportunities here in the United States. Knowing that I am able to make a difference in the lives of these women is remarkable and I am so excited to see where this journey takes us!

Angelina Smith

ONE Northside Community Organizing 

I’m Angelina and I currently serve as the undergraduate intern at ONE Northside. I am a sophomore majoring in Political Science as well as Sociology with a minor in Black World Studies. I have a passion for communal living and aiding underserved youth populations. At ONE Northside I serve as an advisor for event advertisement and help to target specifically college-aged folks to get involved.  I complete logistical work for the organization too, including event sign-up, reminder correspondence, data entry, etc. ONE Northside is currently focused on creating affordable housing for the Uptown and Edgewater communities as well as fostering safer, more efficient mental health care in said communities. Through this position I aim to gain hands-on experience with non-profit work and social work as a whole. I am so excited to work with ONE Northside and to strengthen my connections with the Chicagoland area I now call home! 

Kelly Tran

GirlForward Education Program

My name is Kelly Tran, and I'm currently a junior majoring in Biology. This year, I am an Educational Intern at GirlForward, and I’m fortunate enough to have this amazing opportunity to work with an organisation that helps beautiful young refugee and immigrant women connect to resources and other opportunities here in the United States. With my position, I engage in their after-school tutoring programs that happen virtually over Zoom and in-person at GirlForward. Additionally, I engage on the logistics side of these tutoring programs by prepping tutoring plans each week for the girls to utilise as well as facilitating the virtual Zoom sessions to enable an amazing tutoring experience for these girls. I am currently doing a yearlong project that incorporates imagination skills and creative planning to create a program to help these young women, my coworkers, and myself expand our horizons and learn about how to manage stress and forming healthy habits. When I work at GirlForward, this experience is so rewarding for me knowing I play an active role in helping these young women become confident, grow and learn more about their identity, and to discover something new. This is my first internship, and I’m very stoked that GirlForward is the first site for me to experience this. I look forward to becoming a better professional team communicator, a valuable team member, and a chance to grow as an individual in this wonderful space alongside these young women

 Mariana Vargas-Diaz

FORA Education

My name is Mariana Vargas Diaz and I am a sophomore at Loyola. I have a major in Economics, with a minor in Political Science. Through the Social Justice Internship program, I was paired with FORA (Forging Opportunities For Refugees in America). FORA is an organization that works with young refugees from the region of Asia, from countries such as Burma, Afghanistan, and Syria. They work towards creating a welcoming and empowering environment for all refugees, by being a means and resource in ensuring their access to an education sufficient to prepare them to become citizens of the world, and to engage in American civic life. FORA implements a customized high-impact tutoring method to allow students to learn at their own rhythm. By being a tutor, and helping the administrative team at FORA, I have been able to implement some of my in-class learning into real-life struggles, helping many refugee students to adapt and grow. I am extremely passionate about providing better life opportunities to this minority through education, and FORA is the right place to accomplish said goal. 

 Lizzy Zamora-Torrijos

Catholic Charities Immigration & Naturalization
 My name is Lizzy and I am a sophomore double majoring in Criminal Justice and Philosophy. Through Loyola’s Social Justice Internship program I was paired with Catholic Charities Immigration and Naturalization program. Catholic Charities is a non-profit organization founded a century ago with the purpose of helping the underprivileged and the undocumented. As an intern for this program I have the opportunity to provide assistance in translating and formulating legal personal statements otherwise known as declarations for clients. This is a pivotal document that can essentially determine whether or not they would be able to receive their legal status. I am responsible for keeping up to date with immigration and family law to be able to properly execute my tasks efficiently. Additionally, I have the privilege to review cases and reach out on behalf of the client in regards to making sure the information we have is as accurate as we can with legal authorities (this includes police reports and previous immigration status applications). As an intern for Catholic Charities you work side by side with skillful lawyers who all share the same passion as I and kindly guide me throughout the whole Immigration process