Gaining Clarity on a Career in Criminal Justice Reform

November 23, 2020 The Washington Center

Olivia Avery: Gaining Clarity on a Career in Criminal Justice Reform

Olivia Avery, Political Science and Anthropology major from University of Vermont, interned at the Council for Court Excellence in the Spring 2019 semester of TWC’s Academic Internship Program. Here, she shares her experience.

On Landing the Internship

Spring Semester of my Junior year, all of my friends were planning to study abroad. I, too, wanted to get away from Vermont for the semester, but  didn’t want to spend the money involved in studying abroad. At the time, I had somewhat of an idea as to what I wanted to do in my career and thought that an internship would be a good opportunity to consider different options.

Coincidentally enough, TWC came to visit campus, which is when I learned about the Academic Internship Program. Once I knew TWC’s program was in D.C., I didn’t really consider any other options. TWC sounded like a great opportunity to take a break from being a traditional student (which is exhausting!)

My internship showed me exactly what I wanted to do with my career. I came into the program thinking I wanted to work for the federal government, but I really fell in love with the nonprofit sector and advocacy work.

Olivia Avery

On the Internship Experience

My internship showed me exactly what I wanted to do with my career. I came into the program thinking I wanted to work for the federal government, but I really fell in love with the nonprofit sector and advocacy work. During my internship at the Council for Court Excellence - a nonprofit, nonpartisan civic organization - my daily responsibilities varied pretty heavily. One day I could be traveling to a meeting and taking meeting minutes and another day I would be interviewing government employees and community members. I also did research on policy and local organizations. 

During my internship, I became really involved in research regarding substance use disorder treatment in the District. I got to interview impacted folks from around the District and present my findings to one of the committees that guide the organization, which was really exciting for me. The report from that project was recently released and my name is listed in it!

The most valuable aspect of TWC was being able to experience being a full-time employee in my potential career field before having graduated . . . I came out of my internship with a very clear idea of what I wanted to do.

Olivia Avery

On TWC’s Greatest Benefit

The most valuable aspect of TWC was being able to experience being a full-time employee in my potential career field before having graduated. When I applied for TWC, I was really unsure as to what I wanted to do after graduation. Through TWC, I came out of my internship with a very clear idea of what I wanted to do and still had two semesters at school to learn about and prepare for a career in criminal justice reform with my professors.

Parting Advice 

In general, my advice for college students is to do as many internships as possible. When I left D.C., I felt 100% confident in my plan for post-grad because I knew that I loved what I was doing and was willing to do the work necessary to keep doing it. But it’s not realistic for everyone to do three or four internships in college, so my next best advice is to ask a ton of questions to anyone who will answer. Do informational interviews with people whose jobs you find interesting, ask your supervisor to tell you about how they ended up in their position, talk to graduate students in your field, etc. In doing so, you’re both creating contacts for yourself and getting to know more about your career options!

I’d also challenge students to interview for internships that you wouldn’t normally apply for. I would never have applied for my internship on my own, just because I didn’t even know enough to understand that I’d love it. I was really wary of accepting my position, but I genuinely think that this may have been one of the best employment opportunities I’ll ever have (and made some awesome professional contacts in the process!) 

Let The Washington Center Help

Internships are one of the best ways to learn more about your industry, get hands-on experience under your belt and build a well-rounded skill set.

We partner with more than 400 internship sites around the country, working closely with students to find the internship that best aligns with their career goals and interests. And many of our offerings now have remote work options, meaning you can take advantage of even more opportunities and you’ll add a whole new set of “working from home” skills to your resume. 

Want to figure out which TWC program is the best fit for you? Take our quiz

About the Author

The Washington Center

The Washington Center is the largest and most established student internship program in Washington, D.C. Since our founding, we've helped more than 60,000 young people translate their college majors into career paths. We use our scale and expertise to customize each student’s experience to be truly transformative.

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