Francks, Erika

Erika Francks

Winter & Spring 2016 Fellow,
Thriving Neighbors Initiative / Ignatian Center

Major/minor: Environmental Studies, OMIS and Political Science Minors
Home Town: Olympia, WA
Interests: Traveling, hiking, eating, cats
Organization: Thriving Neighbors Initiative/ Ignation Center

Give a brief summary of your responsibilities/tasks in the internship.

My internship required me to be pretty flexible in terms of what responsibilities I was assigned, and the tasks varied significantly over the course of the two quarters. Both quarters, I attended all meetings regarding the health grant, Camino a la Salud, at Washington Elementary School. These meetings were conducted entirely in Spanish and I took notes during each one, as we made adjustments to the exercise program and planned a celebration for the mothers.  In the spring TNI had events nearly every week, which I helped to plan, set up, and work. Some of these events included SCU’s Day of Service, a Mother’s Day Celebration, Family Engagement Day, a celebration for Camino a la Salud, and a graduation for the students in the Nobili after school program. For these events, I worked closely with the TNI student assistants.

How do you think you made positive contributions to the department/organization?

I made a positive contribution to TNI by being willing to take on any assignment they needed me to do. At the beginning of my internship, neither my boss nor I could have predicted that the mothers would ask for a yoga class, but when they did I stepped up to teach it, even though it would have to be in Spanish and I wasn’t entirely confident in my Spanish speaking skills. On top of that, I hope I deepened the connection between SCU and Washington by being a friendly face at Washington Elementary School and forming relationships with mothers and students there. The programs TNI runs work because there is a mutual trust between the members of the community and the TNI staff. Finally, I helped to plan and run many of the events TNI put on in the spring, which helped the TNI team have incredibly successful events.

How did this experience enhance or connect to what you are learning in your LSB or other courses?

At the same time I was taking a course for the Global Social Benefit Fellowship where we learn about social entrepreneurship and prepare for our summer working with a social enterprise in a developing country. It took me until the end of my internship to notice the connection, but when I started reflecting on my experience with TNI I noticed how so much of what I’ve learned working with the Thriving Neighbors Initiative directly relates to the work I’ll be doing this summer. TNI emphasizes the importance of building trust with a community and listening to their needs before offering any judgment or opinions. This is exactly what we are learning in my social entrepreneurship class. TNI also aims to create sustainable programs in the Washington community and working with community members to take responsibility for the success of the programs. Similarly, the social enterprises we have studied and will be working with aim to do the same for communities in developing countries. Getting first-hand experience working with this sort of business model so close to home gives me confidence that I can transfer these cross-cultural communication skills to development projects in other areas of the world.

What was the most beneficial aspect of this experience for you?

This experience gave me the opportunity to apply the values I’ve learned at Santa Clara to a context outside of the classroom. By the end of my sophomore year, I felt very connected to the ideals of competence, compassion and conscience that SCU instills in its students, but I had yet to feel like I was really embodying these values in my own life. I was ready to step out of the Santa Clara “bubble” and connect with the areas around our school. The Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative Fellowship jumped out at me as an opportunity to do just that.  As a Community Development intern with the Thriving Neighbors Initiative, I made connections with parents and students at Washington Elementary School, and learned about the community that is so close to Santa Clara physically but so different economically. Just ten minutes from campus, I entered a place that challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone and engage with people who spoke a different language than me and had very different life experiences. Despite all this, I discovered the value of finding common ground and connecting on very human level. The relationships I formed this year are incredibly important to me, so much so that I am going to continue teaching yoga and working with the mothers at Washington next year.