Fall 2015 Intern Kelsey on What She Learned at TEA Fund

Feminist: check. Self-proclaimed girl boss: check. Pro-Choice: well, of course! Right?

When I sat down for my initial interview with the Executive Director of the Texas Equal Access Fund, I felt grossly unprepared. My shoes were uncomfortable, I had already spilt coffee on my white sweater, and I was trying to remember if I had waited the standard two days between washing my hair or maybe I had waited too long? However, because I was a “good” potential intern, I had done the required amount of pre-interview research and I was well-versed in the mission and goals of the TEA Fund, but in all honestly, other than being a young professional babe who believes in other babes, I literally knew nothing about the political climate in Texas surrounding reproductive healthcare (other than it sucks if you’re not a rich, old, white dude) or the restrictive and oppressive barriers women face daily in this great state. Color me privileged.

What I learned in the following four months would be invaluable to my education. As I reflect now, I remember answering questions and feeling removed from what it really means to be reproductive justice advocate; however, now that I think about it, I remember a formative experience during my freshman year of college, I remember three friends and I had a mason jar stashed in a dorm room drawer with an impressive 324 dollars in cash. It was an ongoing joke, but more importantly a pact of sisterhood that secretly and quietly meant, that if any of use needed to pay for an abortion without telling our parents, we could make it happen. Fast forward to junior year. One of my friends would make the four-hour trip to Dallas from Oklahoma for an abortion.

What I remember most about her to this day, was her determination, and her relentless struggle to make it out of Holdenville, Oklahoma where she had gone through some rough family times, been a valedictorian, and been the first in her family to graduate high school and attend college. The sadness and fear in her eyes were haunting and if I were to close my eyes in this present moment, I can still feel the pit in my stomach I felt for her and how scared I was that she would have returned to this cyclical life she had worked so hard to overcome.

Fast forward one last time, and I’m a graduate in three weeks. Meaning, I will have successfully jumped through enough bureaucratic hoops, researched enough, written enough papers, and procrastinated enough on each tasks to have earned a Masters degree in Social Work. I say this to bring attention to my time at TEA Fund and to highlight the breath of fresh air that my time spent here has provided. What I have learned in the past four months has ended up being the cornerstone of my social work education. I learned what it means to part of a multi-faceted team of extraordinary individuals and what it means to put all of these high-brow, highly-politicized thoughts about social justice into action.

As proud ambassador of a generation often characterized by complacent action and being best motivated only when behind our respective screens, I’m proud of the work accomplished by the TEA Fund and the small part I’ve been fortunate enough to be part of.  I’ve learned about social advocacy and how small measures of success may mean meeting with county commissioners, speaking to donors about new and progressive advocacy efforts, and what it means to be an empowered woman in a climate that tries pretty hard to keep us down.

And I learned how to apply a reproductive justice framework to my work in the field as a practitioner.