Written By: Mary Pollock
Ever since I was little, I have always been involved in some way or another in the well-being of children. From being the oldest of eight in my family, to having a brother with autism, to working with several non-profit organizations dedicated entirely to child welfare, I came to learn of the necessity of educational, public health, recreational activity investment in the lives of children.
Although my parents did their best to provide for us, the sad reality is that some of our needs fell through the cracks. My parents did not make enough to afford a daycare, so I spent most afternoons babysitting instead of taking SAT prep courses or joining an after school club. After my brother was diagnosed with autism, we struggled even more to provide him with the expensive therapies he needed to develop more like a neurotypical child. To make matters more complicated, we were also a military family, and were often uprooted to new homes, new friends, and completely new learning environments. The tearful goodbyes to best friends who we could not keep in touch with were always the hardest. I knew then that somehow, I wanted to change how hard things were for kids to just be kids.
Shortly before finishing my bachelor’s degree at Virginia Commonwealth University, I accepted a position as a Parent Engagement intern with the Children’s Museum of Richmond. While there, I learned about barriers to access to family enrichment programs for local children and their parents. I helped to combat these barriers through working on several nutrition, health and education classes for parents and guardians. It was not long until I became completely immersed in learning about how systems of inequality serve to severely hold back as many as 1 in 5 kids in the Commonwealth. Armed with this knowledge, I could not look away, I could not hide. I knew I had to do something about it, and I found a way to do just that through a career in social work.
During my first year in the Master of Social Work Program at Virginia Commonwealth University I interned with Prevent Child Abuse Virginia, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating the abuse and neglect of Virginia’s children. During my time here, I was assigned to work on advocacy efforts of the organization. I quickly realized through my work during the General Assembly session that legislative advocacy was an excellent way for me to put policies and programs in place that would help all kids, and not just one or two like in clinical practice. After seeing in real-time how these policies truly change the lives of children for the better, I knew that this was the kind of work I wanted to do!
I first heard of Voices and the work that they did during my time at PCAV, but did not fully absorb just how vested in advocacy and policy work the organization was until I met with Allison, a policy analyst for Voices. Imagine my surprise when I met a professional who was doing exactly what I wanted to do! From then on, I made it my mission to search for placements that would allow me to learn more about legislative advocacy and public policy. Amazingly, I soon learned that Voices had opened up an internship opportunity for MSW students. After learning this, the rest, as they say, was history.
Although I have only been with Voices for a short time, I have already begun to see into the crazy world that is advocacy, with all of its strides and setbacks.The staff has welcomed me here with open arms, and I’m excited about all the things I will get to learn from all of them during my time here. I could not have asked for a better place to learn about legislative advocacy and public policy!
Read More Blog Posts