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Applications for the 2017 Shari Prestemon Social Justice Internship Are Due March 1

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The deadline for applications for the 2017 Shari Prestemon Social Justice Internship is approaching!

The Shari Prestemon Social Justice Internship provides young adults between the ages of 19 and 35 with a unique opportunity to participate in a 10-week summer program tailored to their interests. Drawing on the Mission’s long experience in community engagement and advocacy for justice, the internship will nurture participants’ passion for social justice and develop their appreciation for the church’s role in seeking social justice.

Applications must be submitted by March 1. Notifications will be made by March 31.

The internship will run from June 5 until August 11.

You can read more about the internship, and download the application, here.

Apply for the 2017 Shari Prestemon Social Justice Internship

By | Internships, Volunteering | No Comments

Back Bay Mission is now accepting applications for the 2017 Shari Prestemon Social Justice Internship!

The Shari Prestemon Social Justice Internship provides young adults between the ages of 19 and 35 with a unique opportunity to participate in a 10-week summer program tailored to their interests. Drawing on the Mission’s long experience in community engagement and advocacy for justice, the internship will nurture participants’ passion for social justice and develop their appreciation for the church’s role in seeking social justice.

Applications must be submitted by March 1. Notifications will be made by March 31.

The internship will run from June 5 until August 11.

You can read more about the internship, and download the application, here.

A Journal Entry from Sheryl Garcia

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The 2016 Shari Prestemon Social Justice Interns have graciously agreed to share their experiences with all of us. From time to time, we’ll be posting ‘journal entries’ from Sharell Shippen and Sheryl Garcia. Below is one of these entries.

Since this is my last journal, I wanted to take the time to thank everyone here at Back Bay Mission (BBM) for allowing me to enter their world and showing me the ropes. I truly appreciate everything y’all do.

I have spent some time this summer answering phones, filing papers, and entering data into QuickBooks, something that many people would consider ‘busy work’ and a waste of a summer. I will not lie and say that I did not at one point think the same myself, but as the time passed and I saw how Back Bay Mission functions as a whole, I began to see the importance all these ‘little’ jobs have. I got to alleviate the stress and amount of work staff members had to do and in turn I got to witness them work their magic and move Back Bay Mission along in accomplishing different goals. Just recently I have gotten to experience what it means to be the administrative assistant here at Back Bay Mission and let me just say: it is not a task to be taken lightly. The assistant is usually the first person you talk to when you call BBM and the first person you see when you walk through the front door. S/he handles day-to-day tasks from answering phones and filing documents to handling postage and keeping everyone informed about what is going on at BBM. The current assistant is someone who has taught me that it is important to not let people walk all over you because they think you are just the assistant. Her job is so much more than being just the assistant and how you see yourself will reflect how others see you.

My time working with the accountant has been very eye opening as well. Back home in Dallas I do similar work (on a much smaller scale) so I offered my skills thinking I would be inputting data and going about my day. Instead, I have learned the ins and outs of what makes BBM function (behind the scenes). I have learned that the donations and mission groups from the UCC and other organizations and individuals are a true blessing to BBM. I have even gotten to enhance my QuickBooks skills and found that a lot of the vendors BBM uses my job in Dallas also uses! That might just be because these vendors are very popular…but still…

This summer I also got to spend a lot of time with the community relations person. I got to attend various meetings and networking events and have seen what it means to make connections in the community and how that affects Back Bay Mission.

One of the biggest projects I have gotten to participate in was the changing of the mission statement. It was amazing to not only witness a group of people exchanging ideas and coming up with statements that best summarize Back Bay Mission, but to have my opinion also taken into consideration and being a part of the change. I never knew what really went into the marketing and advertising side of a business or non-profit but I now understand how important and beneficial it is to network and to have your organization be seen in a positive and well-known way.

All of the behind the scenes jobs may not be very hands on and what Back Bay Mission is known for, but it would be a mistake to think that what they do is not important and vital to BBM. I admire the work they do and I know BBM would not be around if it were not for them. So thank you!

Two programs I have spent the most time with this summer are the Emergency Assistance and Food Pantry programs. I was especially interested in the food pantry because my university has a food pantry that I hope to contribute to and work in. Like with many things, my first few days of running the pantry were hectic. It seemed like there was so much information that needed to be entered and we only had a short time to serve all the people who came in and HOW COULD WE POSSIBLY GET IT DONE?!?!?

Then the caseworker looked at me and said, “we are not fast food, they will all be served so there is no need to rush.” Once I had that drilled into my head it felt like the easiest job to do, depending on the day. I did not expect how rewarding it feels to have someone thank you for walking them through a pantry and letting them choose what food they want. A lot of the people I assisted felt comfortable enough to hold conversations with me and wouldn’t ya know… they are people too! (sarcasm) It is a great feeling to know that for the few minutes you were in the pantry with them you are making a difference, maybe not to the world, maybe not to the whole community, but to that particular person.

One of the most physically demanding programs is the housing rehab program. I only got to spend a certain amount of days working with them, but in those few days I gained such an appreciation for what it means to work not only on houses, but in the community. The work that the housing rehab program does impacts the community and those around them tremendously. They are not just fixing houses, they are creating room for growth and the possibility for those living in the houses to live a more comfortable life without the stress and worry of holding the pieces of their house together. The summer days were not kind to me or the other volunteers, yet we still managed to get in a full day’s work everyday. It still amazes me to think about how excited each volunteer group was to go out every day and work on different projects knowing that what they’re doing directly affects someone living on the coast. I now understand why the housing rehab program is such a huge part of Back Bay Mission and I look forward to returning with my church as a mission group and spending a week working with them again.

Back Bay Mission does so much more than I knew walking through Dr. Graham’s door on my first day. They are not just an organization that assists those experiencing homelessness. They are not just a place where people can go to get food on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. They are not just a place where those who need rental assistance or have housing repairs that need to be done can go. Back Bay Mission is a place where when you walk through the front door you are greeted and offered the best help possible. A place that has a mission to give a hand up (not a hand out) to those who truly need it. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to spend my summer interning at Back Bay Mission and I look forward to what the future holds and seeing how the knowledge I have gained will play a role in my life.

See a Collection of Sheryl’s Photos on Facebook

A Journal Entry from Sheryl Garcia

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The 2016 Shari Prestemon Social Justice Interns have graciously agreed to share their experiences with all of us. From time to time, we’ll be posting ‘journal entries’ from Sharell Shippen and Sheryl Garcia. Below is one of these entries.

This summer I was fortunate enough to not only work alongside another intern, but share a house with long term volunteers from whom I learned a great deal.

I feel like I say this a lot, but this summer did not turn out exactly as I planned. I have learned, though, that what I have planned and what God has planned do not have to match. I did not anticipate sharing a house with three other people, or briefly sharing a room for that matter. At first, the idea of living in a house full of strangers was uncomfortable – I mean, what if we did not get along? What if the other people found me annoying? WHAT IF… but luckily ‘what ifs’ do not count for anything and my time with the other house guests was enjoyable. I learned how to manage space (especially in the fridge… just kidding) and the importance of personal space. Just because you live together does not mean you have to spend every minute of every day with each other. My house mates were all very independent, something I have never had to be, and I have started to grasp at the idea that it is okay to do things by yourself even if it feels weird. To my own surprise I was able to venture out on my own, go sightseeing and eat at a restaurant alone. No one looked at me weird or tried messing with me (which was my biggest concern) and it gave me the opportunity to reflect on my time here and how to apply everything I have learned to my life back in Dallas.

My housemates have taught me that sometimes opportunities do not just fall into your lap and if you want something it is best to just go out and look for it! I have been inspired by the things my housemates have done and the places they have traveled and I look forward to seeking out my own opportunities in the future.

It has been a great summer and while I now have the house to myself (yay!) I am glad I had the opportunity to work with and learn from others volunteering/interning here at Back Bay Mission. 

A Journal Entry from Sheryl Garcia

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The 2016 Shari Prestemon Social Justice Interns have graciously agreed to share their experiences with all of us. From time to time, we’ll be posting ‘journal entries’ from Sharell Shippen and Sheryl Garcia. Below is one of these entries.

Last week I got the pleasure of meeting Shari Prestemon. She is the former Executive Director of Back Bay Mission and the person who the internship is named after.

My pastor has always spoken highly of Rev. Prestemon and I knew just from the way the Back Bay Mission staff described her that she was someone to admire. She has been described as a kind, caring, compassionate and goal oriented person, all things that held true upon meeting her. From my few weeks here it is obvious to see that she had a lasting impression on Back Bay Mission and her time and guidance while here made a real difference.

Rev. Prestemon set the bar pretty high and it has been a true blessing to be an intern under her name. 

I am reminded every week what an honor and privilege it is to be here at Back Bay Mission. While there may be obstacles to overcome (eh, such is life) each day has its own set of surprises and I could not ask for anything more. I know the last three weeks will fly by, but I hope they do not go by too fast.

A Journal Entry from Sharell Shippen

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The 2016 Shari Prestemon Social Justice Interns have graciously agreed to share their experiences with all of us. From time to time, we’ll be posting ‘journal entries’ from Sharell Shippen and Sheryl Garcia. Below is one of these entries.

Last Friday I had the pleasure of meeting Shari Prestemon. As you can imagine that was quite an honor as a Shari Prestemon Social Justice Intern.

I had learned many things about Shari and her personality before ever meeting her. I knew that she was kind, that she cared for and loved people. I knew of her commitment to social justice, her work ethic, and her personal touch and connection with those whom she supervised. Before her arrival the staff spoke about her with such admiration and respect and after meeting her it was apparent that she felt the same. During her visit she and her former staff exchanged updates and recounted memories of past experiences. She asked questions about their lives and how they were doing. It was exciting to watch and to listen as they talked and shared.

It was also a reminder that each day we are building our legacy. A reminder that with each interaction with a client, conversation with business partners, or lunch time conversation with a coworker we are adding to not just our professional but our personal legacies. For good or for bad we will be remembered not just by what we say but also what we do. Shari has done an incredible job of building a legacy that reflects the love of God. She has left her mark on Back Bay Mission and the Mississippi Coast. She worked hard during her time here and made sure that she and Back Bay Mission were known as allies of the community. At the mention of her name people smile and rejoice.

As a Shari Prestemon Intern, it is a pleasure to be associated with her and this wonderful organization.

A Journal Entry from Sheryl Garcia

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The 2016 Shari Prestemon Social Justice Interns have graciously agreed to share their experiences with all of us. From time to time, we’ll be posting ‘journal entries’ from Sharell Shippen and Sheryl Garcia. Below is one of these entries.

When I decided I wanted to go to school for social work there was no doubt in my mind that I made the right decision. I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world and be a part of the bigger picture’, whatever that meant. The question still remained: what area of social work do I want to focus on? Just like that, I felt like I was back at square one. I know I want to work with children, but again to what degree? As I began researching the different fields within social work I found that ‘working with children’ could mean anything. Do I want to be a school counselor? Maybe I could be a probation officer, or run a day care center… the list goes on and on and on.

I knew coming to Back Bay Mission would not necessarily help me make a decision since the population they serve does not have many children. My hope was that what I learned this summer would be an introduction to social work and I would walk away still wanting to focus on children. Unfortunately (for me) I cannot say I have a better grasp on what exactly I want to do. If anything, it is even more unclear. Back Bay Mission has opened my eyes to a side of social work that I never even considered.

Working with those experiencing homelessness and assisting with the emergency assistance programs I have found a different passion for helping people. There are many programs here that give people a hand up (not a hand out), and are able to help a person get back on their feet and (hopefully) reach self sustainability. Back Bay Mission does so much and has their sights set even higher for future projects and programs and I wish I could stick around to see them all unfold. This is the first true nonprofit organization that I have worked with, so maybe I am just overly excited about the things they seek to accomplish… but I am truly inspired by all that Back Bay Mission does, and if given the opportunity I would love to follow in their steps and make a difference in my own community.

A few weeks ago Dr. Graham was introducing me to previous board members and jokingly said something along the lines of “oh, she’ll be back in a few years as a new board member or director herself.” I laughed at the time because it was never something I truly wanted, but as I spend more time reflecting on it… it does not sound like such a bad idea or an unreachable goal. When I think about being a part of the ‘bigger picture’ and making a difference in my community, Back Bay Mission is one of the first things that pops into my head. I look forward to the next few decades and seeing how this new inspiration impacts my education and career choices.

A Journal Entry from Sheryl Garcia

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The 2016 Shari Prestemon Social Justice Interns have graciously agreed to share their experiences with all of us. From time to time, we’ll be posting ‘journal entries’ from Sharell Shippen and Sheryl Garcia. Below is one of these entries.

Confidence is key… but what is the key to confidence?

I made a promise to myself that while I was here at Back Bay Mission I would work to better myself. Everyone has aspects of themselves that they want to improve on and I was eager to really take that leap and come home a different person than when I left. I specifically wanted this summer to be the summer I gained more confidence in myself.

Many people who know me will say I’m a shy, soft-spoken, quiet person. I’m sure you could even ask the Back Bay Mission staff and they would confirm that I am a quiet person. While in public school that was always praised, especially when class sizes were 20 plus students and there was always chaos. But as I have entered the “real world” my lack of confidence has put me at a disadvantage. I have lost many opportunities and have even gotten scolded by employers and teachers for not speaking up at appropriate times. For one reason or another it has been ingrained in me that I am only to talk if spoken to and after being a quiet person for over 20 years it is definitely a challenge to voice my opinion and make myself known.

While it has been challenging, I have made it a point to try and speak up and ask more questions in my day-to-day tasks. This internship allows me to attend many meetings and work with a variety of people, forcing me to talk and at times ask questions. It’s a strange feeling to be in a room full of strangers (more or less) and have moments where the attention is all on you. I have learned that being on the spot is not comfortable for me, but who ever grew by continuously doing things that were comfortable for them? It’s definitely a work in progress, but like all things it takes time and practice and I am confident (see what I did there?) that as the weeks go by I will find my voice.

After that, there’s no telling what I can do.

A Journal Entry from Sharell Shippen

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The 2016 Shari Prestemon Social Justice Interns have graciously agreed to share their experiences with all of us. From time to time, we’ll be posting ‘journal entries’ from Sharell Shippen and Sheryl Garcia. Below is one of these entries.

Over the past few days we have been inundated with images and reports of violence and senseless killing. I have gone through a range of emotions: anger, rage, sadness, numbness, sorrow.  Just days after we celebrated the emergence of this great nation into a state of freedom, I was reminded that in many ways I and those who look like me are not free.

I was confronted with so many complex emotions, feelings and thoughts that I lacked the words to express in a healthy way. I was confronted with the reality that there are children who are now fatherless, mothers faced with the task of burying their child, communities that are shaken and forever changed. Such careless regard for life and value in other people was the thought that dominated my mind. How long before the next hashtag? Would it be someone I knew next time? Would it be me? Am I dressed the right way? Do I have the right amount of education? I have been trying to see myself as other people see me, trying not to see my nephews and brothers when looking at the images of Alton Sterling or Philando Castile.

My heart is grieves for the families of the officers from Dallas. As a Christian, a social worker and human being, I find it troubling that people do not have respect for life.  While none of these events have taken place in Mississippi, two of them have taken place just a car ride from here. My fellow intern being a resident of Dallas, we are all connected to these events. 

One of the main reasons I came down to Biloxi – Back Bay Mission – was to force myself out of my comfort zone, to place myself in a situation that would help me grow both personally and professionally, to find my voice and my place in the worlds of social work and social justice. I intentionally removed myself from the circle of people who I could run to for comfort and reassurance when the world didn’t make sense to me, from the people who looked and thought like me. I wanted to be challenged, to gain the ability to see obstacles and solutions from a range of perspectives, to engage in conversations and interactions that sparked change.

I understand my scope is limited and that it is difficult to see outside of my lived experience, but those conversations haven’t take place. What could have been a time of open dialogue was a time of eerie silence. Instead of people coming together it was a time of division, where each withdrew to their own corners and places where they felt ‘safe’. There are many ways to process and handle these current events but the only way to challenge our preconceptions about each other is to create a safe space where we can come together and find common ground, not with a goal of making people see it my way or a conversation that ends neatly, but a conversation.

Dialogue that ends with agreeing to disagree is an option; respectful conversation is an option but silence… silence is unacceptable, silence is not an option. 

A Journal Entry from Sheryl Garcia

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The 2016 Shari Prestemon Social Justice Interns have graciously agreed to share their experiences with all of us. From time to time, we’ll be posting ‘journal entries’ from Sharell Shippen and Sheryl Garcia. Below is one of these entries.

There is something satisfying about doing a job and actually seeing the difference you make in a single work day…

The last two weeks have been my busiest yet! It also feels like time is flying by. How have I already been at Back Bay Mission for four weeks?! I do finally feel like I am a contributing member to this organization and that is an amazing feeling.

While I could write a book about my experiences just over the last two weeks, I think I will reflect on three occasions in particular: my time working with the work-camp volunteers, shadowing Roxanne, and assisting Lori with Quickbooks.

Last week I was able to go to one of the houses under the Housing Rehabilitation program and assist in fixing it up. I have honestly been looking forward to working with this program all summer. While I do not consider myself a “handyman”, the housing rehab program is hands on and by the end of the day you can actually see what difference you made. I spent the day painting and caulking and even climbed on the roof to paint some more; something I never in a million years thought I would do.

To my surprise, I am more skilled than I thought! Not only was I able to work on the house, but I was able to interact with the weekly volunteer group and the owner of the house. The excitement of the group after traveling down to Mississippi and getting up early each morning to work on a stranger’s house was refreshing, and with a new group each week things are always changing and different… in a good way.

Earlier this week Roxanne – who focuses on homeless outreach along with offering different services at the Micah Center – took me out with her while she did outreach. We started our day at Sea Shore Mission to help in any way they needed. We ended up reorganizing their donation room and talking with the lady who runs the whole operation. I look forward to coming back and working with them to serve their guests (who a majority of are guests of Back Bay Mission as well). Afterwards, we stopped at Feed My Sheep to pass out hygiene kits. Feed My Sheep is another organization that serves meals to those experiencing homelessness. I saw a wider variety of people at this location than I see every day at Back Bay Mission. At the Mission, a majority of our guests are older males, but that day we passed out kits to males and females ranging in age from 17-65.

By the end of our time there I felt an abundance of emotions that ranged from unsettled to sad. These people are no different than me or my family. I broke a little inside when I handed a kit to a 19-year-old girl who had been homeless for a week. A week… a girl not even a year younger than me is at a place looking for help because she is homeless. No, I do not know her story or the circumstances that led her to be where she is now. I do not even know what happened to her after we left, but all I could think about was “what if that was me?” What if my family was on the other side of the table looking for hygiene kits because they have no other way of getting them? I thank God every day for the blessings in my life and I could not be more appreciative of my family and support both here in Biloxi and across the US.

After my day doing outreach, I am sure now more than ever that my decision to go to school for Social Work and complete my degree is the right decision. Places like Back Bay Mission are making a difference in the world and I am eager to be a part of that effort.

The rest of my week was spent mainly helping Lori, who runs the financial aspect of Back Bay Mission, with organizing and updating her department. In Dallas, I worked for an Environmental Engineering group where I paid bills, balanced the check books etc., so when I found out Back Bay Mission uses the same software, I was both surprised (small world… ha!) and excited that I finally found an area where I almost completely knew what I was doing. I never would have imagined that spending three years using Quickbooks at my other job would come in handy here of all places, but I will take this knowledge and run with it! Hopefully by the end of the summer I will have helped the finance area and acquired more accounting knowledge that can in turn be useful when I go home.

Exciting things are starting to happen! Who knows what these next six weeks will hold?

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