Loyola University Chicago

Center for Experiential Learning

Current Social Justice Interns

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

Lensa Ali

Internship Role: GirlForward Communications

As a Communications intern at GirlForward, I’ve been given the role of researching articles and writing/editing blog posts that follow communications guidelines. Additionally, I check the email daily and research online events relating to refugee resettlement and youth education to put on the website. I work alongside the Communications Manager to develop ideas for social media content. My main focus is to push the mission of the organization as a supportive community made up of young refugee women who have resettled in the United States, and to spread awareness of the obstacles faced globally by refugees today. I feel extreme gratitude to be in this position as an individual who shares similar identities to many of the girls at the organization. I hope to become more educated on the topic of refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers as I continue my internship.

Sylwia Balata

Internship Role: CommunityHealth Interpreter


For my role at CommunityHealth, I interpret and translate for patients that do not speak English. I work alongside doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and other health care professionals to ensure that our patients receive proper care and treatment. Apart from interpreting, I also learn a lot about different medical conditions and social issues that our patients face. I am extremely grateful to work in this position as I share many of the patients' background. I am passionate about equitable healthcare and I really feel like I am making a difference through this internship. With each shift, I learn a lot more about what it means to be a physician, especially in such a diverse city like Chicago. I learn about how one's zip code affects the quality of their care and how to account for any cultural and linguistic gaps between physicians and patients. Overall, I have had a very positive experience and I hope to incorporate what I learn into my future career.

Aliette Diaz-Valls

Internship Role: Catholic Charities Office of Latino Affairs

As an intern for Catholic Charities’s Office of Latino Affairs, I work with the coordinator of the office and complete a variety of tasks. I have been actively involved in recruiting donors for the annual Casa Catalina fundraiser and connecting the Office of Latino Affairs to different parishes that offer mass in Spanish. This year, due to the pandemic, my job has been entirely online but I have been tasked to research the effects of COVID-19 on the Latnx community in Cook and Lake county. I also work in translating documents between Spanish and English as well as creating infographics for the Asociación Comunitaria Latina in both languages. However, my most important position lies in charing a youth committee for the prevention of COVID-19 in the Latinx community. I feel like this position has strengthened my ties to the Latinx community I have come to call home here in Chicago, and it has given me the opportunity to give back to those in need. This internship has also served as a wonderful introduction into the world of non-profits, which is the industry I plan to work in as a future social worker. 

Blake Everson

Internship Role: Catholic Charities Volunteer Relations

My role as volunteer relations intern at Catholic Charities, I am involved with a project such as their annual Celebration of Giving. The Celebration of Giving is a way that Catholic Charities connects with the Chicago community and helps provide gifts for families during the holiday season. As an intern I help with organizing and coordinate the logistics for the event such as updating registries based upon the demographics of the recipients, communicating with donors and other non-profits, and using various software programs to keep the details of the event orderly. The opportunity of working with Catholic Charities as a Loyola Social Justice Intern has allowed me to keep an open mind about the people non-profits serve and the inner workings of a non-profit. There are social justice issues in the Chicago area that are brought to light by being involved with volunteer relations. I am looking forward to encountering more tasks and actions that Catholic Charities does help make a more just world.  

Samia Khatoon

Internship Role: GirlForward Operations

GirlForward, a non-profit organization, is dedicated towards providing opportunities for high school girls displaced by conflict and persecution. As an Operations Intern at GirlForward, I assist with analyzing and categorizing data. Currently, I am compiling reports for the Payment Protection Program (PPP) loan project, which provides loans to small businesses and non-profit organizations affected by COVID-19. Through this internship, I learned how non-profits operate and the different ways in which non-profits receive funding. I’ve realized the impact GirlForward has on the girls it serves and how it helps these girls reach their potential. As a future physician, I believe it is my responsibility to understand and advocate for the communities I will be serving, and I believe GirlForward has helped me learn more about the barriers girls who have been displaced by conflict and persecution face.

Melissa Madrangca

Internship Role: Misericordia Personal Effectiveness Program (PEP)

The goal of my program, PEP, is to help Misericordia’s residents reach their fullest potential through the structured development of adaptive behavior skills. Because of COVID-19, programs (sing-alongs, art classes, yoga lessons, etc.) that are typically held in-person are now being reformatted to be led through Zoom. As an intern, I observe these programs and form connections with residents and staff. I also facilitate my own photography program, which allows residents to interact in a safe, productive, and creativity-promoting manner. My program emphasizes task-focused, structured social engagement in light of the pandemic. During such stressful times, photography can be used as a method of practicing self-confidence, self-expression, and flexible thinking skills. Additionally, I will be co-leading a book club, which allows residents to foster their communication and socialization skills and cultural awareness. Interning with Misericordia is a very empowering and enlightening experience, and the staff and residents have never failed to put a smile on my face. As a future health care professional, this opportunity has helped me to better recognize the needs of this particular community and the importance of caring for the vulnerable. Interning at Misericordia has shown me that healthcare is more than just a doctor’s visit; healthcare must be holistic. 

Francesca Marchese Gonzalez

Internship Role: GirlForward Teaching and Tutoring

GirlForward is a community that provides immigrant and refugee girls with the resources necessary for them to succeed academically and professionally in the U.S., in addition to being a space in which the students can learn more about who they are and the power they have to create change in their communities. In the past year, I have worked with GF Chicago as a Teaching Intern and as a Tutor, and I have been drawn to its mission of empowering and uplifting their students. This year, I have the honor of being the Education Intern, which consists of serving as an aid to the different Education programs offered. My role is mainly that of supervising the After School Tutoring program, and later on in the year, planning and making arrangements for next summer's Camp GirlForward to run as smoothly as possible. In addition, a couple of classmates and I hope to perform some qualitative research with the help of the GirlForward community in order to learn more about the barriers to education for immigrant and refugee girls present in the U.S. high school system and analyze how to better breach those gaps. I am really excited to once again be an active part of the GirlForward community and to see how I can use my work in service of our current students and those to follow.

Tess Mooney

Internship Role: ONE Northside Economic Justice

With ONE Northside, I am working with the Economic Justice campaign for the Fair Tax. The amendment on the ballot this November is to lift the flat rate on the income tax and replace it with a graduated income tax. My time is focused on spreading information on how the Fair Tax will change the Revenue Articles of the Illinois Constitution, the ways that it will benefit taxpayers, and provide funding for essential public services. Due to our current concerns for health and the wellbeing of the community, our work is looking much different than it would before a typical election. In my time with ONE Northside I am learning how to coordinate community organizing through online video calls, recorded presentations, phone banking, postcards, and social media.  

Emma O'Driscoll

Internship Role: Madonna Mission

I just joined Madonna Mission as their first intern! We are a small nonprofit that works to provide after school and ESL tutoring, as well as community support, for refugee mothers and their children. I am helping to facilitate the writing of their Policies and Procedures Manual, as well as running a writing group for middle school girls. I also gather information on helpful resources, such as information on naturalization or the steps to receive a GED, so that the mothers have access and support if they are interested in those options. I am really enjoying learning more about how nonprofits work including the processes of grant writing and budgeting. I have also helped start a discussion on diversity, equity and inclusion. The staff is all white while our clients are predominantly women of color. I saw an opportunity to build awareness of implicit bias, and to start discussion about diversifying the staff and board of directors. 

Karina Rodriguez

Internship Role: ONE Northside Police Accountability

At ONE Northside I work directly with the community of Chicago's northside neighborhoods. In addition to working with individual community members, ONE Northside works with a number of grassroots organizations across the city of Chicago. ONE Northside works on a variety of issues such as affordable housing, education, health care, violence prevention, just to name a few. My department works to address structural racism, violence, and mass incarceration in the Chicago justice system. They do so by working to remove employment barriers, reduce incarceration rates, drop the expulsion rate, and change people's narrative. My team is currently working on endorsing different campaigns ranging from a Fairness Act to defunding CCJ resolutions in the Cook County Board. As an intern, I sit in on meetings to decide which campaigns to endorse, give presentations on these campaigns and give my personal recommendation for the endorsement of the campaign. I am constantly learning something new with a great staff, and I am excited to contribute to these efforts for police accountability!

Grace Ruane

Internship Role: Catholic Charities Government Relations

At Catholic Charities, I have had the opportunity to join their team asa government relations intern! Part of my role there is to assist Catholic Charities' grant writers with thorough research integral to the grant writing process. The subject matter of my research ranges from information on homelessness, food security, or equal transportation. This research will then be utilized to craft local, state, and federal grant applications. I am proud to be a part of such an empowering organization, assisting in Catholic Charities' goal of providing compassionate and professional services to support those in need amongst Chicago's local families, communities, and individuals. 

Evelyn Vandervoort

Internship Role: Wellness Center COVID-19 Care

As an intern for Loyola's Wellness Center I have the opportunity to work closely with the team of COVID-19 Care Coordinators. In my role, I am responsible for completing wellness checks for on-campus students in quarantine/isolation. The Wellness Center manages all aspects of care of students in isolation to ensure their safety and wellbeing. Additionally, in my role I assist with COVID-19 Contact Tracing for all students and faculty. In my interactions with the Loyola community, I am able to provide relevant resources and address concerns. Contact tracing slows the spread of COVID-19 and protects others by communicating with individuals who may have been exposed. In doing so, an individual can moniter their health for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. I am grateful to be a part of the effort to protect Loyola's community. I have the opportunity to broaden my understanding of healthcare, gain experience using electronic health records, and be in communication with those impacted by COVID-19. 


Montse Villasenor

Internship Role: Catholic Charities Immigration and Naturalization Services

At Catholic Charities, I am the intern with Immigration and Naturalization Services. This department helps immigrants with apply for legal status and citizenship. I speak with clients to gather information that would help the strongest case possible. I write and edit declarations for the client. I also translate any of the necessary legal documents. Being able to meet and work with so many incredible people has allowed me to learn so much. The staff is supportive and helps boost confident in the work that you are doing. The client's stories keep you motivated. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to be an active member in my community.