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Broadening My Scope In My Internship

June 19, 2013

Photo of Bonnie PrestridgeFor the past year, Bonnie Prestridge has interned at the US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). Her previous professional experiences have included working with bilingual students as a Spanish-language reading interventionist and as the founder and director of a Spanish-language summer camp. During college, she also held several leadership positions in the Berkeley Student Cooperative, the largest student-owned housing association in the United States.

Bonnie holds a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, where she concentrated on contemporary Latin America. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, and basic French, and plans to pursue international careers in bilingual education, cooperative business development, and social entrepreneurship.  She is completing her YiD internship at the National Democratic Institute, which works to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

Washington DC is full of highly-specialized people. People who work in international gun trafficking law. Experts on one particular strain of malaria in one particular region of the world. It’s taken me a little while, but I’ve figured out what I want my own niche to be: participatory democracy. Whether it has to do with local schools, a worker-owned business, or national policy issue, I want to help people organize to have a voice in the institutions that govern their lives.

Given this particular passion, I was stoked (to use the technical term) when I found out that, through USICD, I would be placed at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) this summer. NDI is a nonprofit, non-partisan, nongovernmental organization that supports democratic institutions and practices around the world. They do this by partnering with governments, political parties, and civil society organizations to share knowledge and experiences that can be adapted to meet each countries individual needs.

Within NDI, I’m working with the Citizen Participation Team, which provides consultation for any NDI program focused on helping people engage with their government. There’s a special emphasis on including historically excluded and underrepresented groups, such as youth, ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities, and given my previous experience with a youth-led organization and with disability employment policy, I’m arriving at NDI with a solid foundation to build upon.

And there’s going to be a lot of building. My undergraduate studies were almost entirely focused on the region of the Americas, but now that I’m on a team whose projects span the globe, I need to broaden my scope. As a result, in addition to the usual new-hire orientations, my first week was spent gleefully poring over old reports and reading news articles about countries that I know little about, like Serbia, Uganda, and Azerbaijan. I also attended brown bag presentations by representatives from Code for America and Souktel to learn about how technology is being mobilized to support citizen participation.

I have a lot to learn, but that’s exactly what I want to be doing. It’s going to be a great summer.

Connect with Bonnie Prestridge via her LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/pub/bonnie-prestridge/52/899/771

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