Soon after I began working at Crag Law Center, I realized just how much DukeEngagers have contributed to Crag over the last eight years. Looking at Crag’s volunteer page gets you nine bios from past interns. Searching “Duke Engage” gets you five pages of results. Asking Development Director Suzanne Savell gets you dozens of stories about passionate DukeEngagers that have contributed their unique skillsets to making posters, interviewing partner organizations, and more.
I admit that hearing about past DukeEngagers is a little daunting. At DukeEngage Academy, Crag Executive Director Ralph Bloemers talked about past interns, and I remember worrying that I wouldn’t live up to Crag’s high expectations. Though my initial nerves settled down by the time I got to Portland, I was daunted again by the mountain of work that awaited me. On my first day, I sat there with a seven-page work plan and did little more than stare at it and wonder how I would ever get anything done.
I also admit that hearing about past DukeEngagers is a little comforting. If so many past interns have been so amazing, then I am among a select group of amazing people working on behalf of Crag. If they have done so much work before me, then I too can do a lot of work to help Crag.
It’s also encouraging that I am continuing DukeEngagers’ work from past summers—advancing the case summary process that McKenna Ganz began two summers ago and enacting the communication strategy that Lindsey Zimmer and Jordan Bollman formed last summer. I now know that I do not have to finish everything because my work will not end after I leave. It will continue on with other DukeEngagers taking my place.
And my own experience with Crag will not end after I leave. Crag makes a concerted effort to stay in touch with their former interns. They even have a blog series called “Where are they now?” focusing on what interns and summer associates have done with their lives post-Crag. I will remain in their memories and on their contact lists.
In fact, I interviewed a past DukeEngager for a “Where are they now?” blog post. She too reminded me that my DukeEngage experience will continue to affect me even after I leave. McKenna acknowledged that,
“Overall, the program was the most useful thing I did when I was at Duke.”
Her DukeEngage experience led her to her current job at the Denver Indian Family Resource Center (DIFRC), working to prevent American Indian and Alaska native children and families from being forced into the child welfare system. Indeed, Crag helped her to define her career path. When she began her Crag internship, she thought she wanted to be an environmental lawyer. However, working in the development office and reading about Crag’s cases taught her more about nonprofit development and community advocacy. She soon decided that these were the things she wanted to pursue. She remarks that,
“I basically turned my DukeEngage placement into my career. I’m doing exactly what I did in my internship.”
She continues to use the skills she learned here in her professional life. She sees thematic connections to her Crag experience as well in that “the factors that make it hard for families to stay out of the child welfare system are the same as the ones that cause them to be vulnerable to environmental hazards. Things like historical trauma, systematic racism, intergenerational cycles of poverty, lack of culturally appropriate services and equal access to public decision making.” She is grateful for her DukeEngage experience and all the things she was able to take from it.
Reflecting on how McKenna’s internship impacted both Crag and her own life, I can’t help but think about how my internship and the internships of DukeEngagers to come will impact Crag and our own lives. It seems to me that our work will live on at Crag long after we leave, and Crag will live on in us long after we leave. In some ways, the impacts of our DukeEngage experiences will matter forever.
In some ways, immortality exists.