When COVID-19 locked the entirety of New York indoors this past March, there wasn’t much optimism regarding what the upcoming months would hold. With internships, job opportunities and vacation plans going down the drain, the rapidly approaching summer seemed hopeless. However, with the school break now behind us, it seems that many Queens College students still found ways to make the best of this unpredictable situation and gain professional experience both virtually and in-person.
Anlisa Outar, a QC junior majoring in urban studies, spent the summer participating in CUNY’s virtual Summer Intensive for Public Policy (CUNY SIPP). This program helps CUNY students through the process of policy formation by allowing them to come up with their own policies to perfect and present. The program was four days of training led by three CUNY professors, each in charge of one group. The group Outar was placed into focused on public safety.
The policy that Outar’s group agreed upon was the reallocation of funds within the NYC budget. They specifically suggested that the funds be redistributed from the NYPD to other sectors within the city. “One of the reasons for the revision of the budget was because the NYPD focuses on criminalization instead of community building. We want to promote community-based organizations and social services over the NYPD,” Outar stated. On the day of presentations, each group presented to one public policy professional who were all women of color, something that she appreciated greatly.
One facet of the program that really stood out to Outar was the sense of community and CUNY pride shared by students and staff. The enthusiasm and drive each student showed for their projects shone through, even with cameras off and no in-person interaction. A lot of the students even exchanged social media and continue to talk. “Even though we can’t see each other and everything is distance learning, the program still made me feel really good about starting school.”
Yvonne Scorcia, another QC junior majoring in urban studies, had the opportunity to partake in a virtual internship through the Jeannette K. Watson Foundation. This prestigious program offers undergraduates across NYC the opportunity to experience three years’ worth of internships.
This summer, Scorcia chose to intern with the Department of City Planning in Pittsburgh. Their project focused on sustainability and food security in the Steel City. Under a 10-week time constraint, Scorcia and four other interns began interviewing city leaders, activists and everyday residents in Pittsburgh. This allowed the group to learn more about food security initiatives within the city and what support they could provide to both city-wide organizations and individuals in the neighborhood. “It’s not my place to tell them what they should do, but rather they gave us ideas and tips, and we started to implement them and tell their stories and really amplify their voices.”
Being able to communicate with organizers and activists within the Pittsburgh community was a huge highlight for Scorcia. “We were hundreds of miles apart and I’ve never met any of them in person, but I did feel a sense of connectivity when we talked.” Scorcia admired their passion and drive to gain equity and security for their city, no matter how big the obstacles ahead may seem. “They have the whole world stacked against them and they’re still not giving up hope. They’re saying, ‘We can make a change. Where do you need me? How can I help?’”
While others were being virtually productive, I found myself back on campus beginning in late July. It was at this point in the summer that laboratories were reopening at QC, so I was able to return to my research after four months of inactivity. It felt great to weigh powders and swirl beakers again, but it felt even better to walk across the Quad for the first time since March. There was a sense of serenity to it, considering the fact that campus was completely deserted. A ghost town, almost. Still, the campus breeze on my back and the distant city skyline gave me a feeling of normalcy. I look forward to the day that I can walk onto campus and be greeted by chatting, music and laughter at every angle again. But if this past summer taught QC students anything, it’s that online education can still lead to amazing learning experiences and the blossoming of new friendships. So, here’s to a great Fall semester!