The most rewarding aspect of my CMEP internship has been connecting with people who are passionate about working for peace in Israel/Palestine or are interested in learning more. In personal emails, I appreciate the responses from interested individuals. One gentleman learned I go to Scranton and excitedly told me about the benefits of his own Jesuit education. In emailing various individuals about planning informative and transformational trip to Israel/Palestine, I am excited for all those who express interest in trip planning. After my incredible study abroad experience to the Holy Land, I know how important such a trip can be for one’s faith and awareness of the need for peace in the land. I’m further encouraged by the number of Americans who really do care and want to work for peace in Israel/Palestine. Seeing people outside CMEP as invested as those working here, I am hopeful that peace is possible.
While this hope makes my efforts rewarding, the slow work towards peace makes my internship challenging. I will finish at CMEP in just a week, but the work of CMEP will continue for years to come. My impatient heart seeking justice and peace now hates the long-term planning and the fact that so many non-profits are working on various aspects of peace in the Middle East but there is so much still to be done. I find it difficult to trust that my work this summer matters when I (obviously) do not see any immediate, positive, largescale change. However, I know that with dedicated individuals like those at CMEP and those educating themselves on Israel/Palestine, one day peace will not be a mere possibility, but a reality.
The longer I work through my internship the more I have come to realize how much I have learned in just two months. In the past weeks I have been fortunate enough to accompany my mentor, Attorney Rose Randazzo, to several meetings, depositions, and site visits. These are the times when one meets interesting people: bank executives, realtors, contractors and engineers, judges and other attorneys, and even regular folks like me. Those encounters and experiences are the most rewarding pieces of my work—I learn best in the field. The simple facts that I did not know how to write a memo before June, or how I learned what happens at a deposition, are proof enough of the value of this internship.
However, with the benefits of working come challenges. The most frustrating part of my work so far has been experiencing the volatility of commercial development. I shadowed Attorney Randazzo through a real estate project from its incorporation to negotiation of purchase, development, and lease with a tenant. After a month of legal work on the project (and becoming rather attached to it) it completely fell through. I cannot express the disappointment I felt when I returned from lunch one day only to discover the project had been terminated. But we persevered and are moving in better directions with new ideas—as seen below. We’re currently working to donate some land to LHVA to give back to the community. I have been fortunate enough to follow the process.
The most valuable lesson I have learned from this came from Attorney Randazzo herself. She told me that, for every ten failed projects, only one usually passes through to finality. It is the nature of the business. But we must continue, going forward and learning from our failures and pushing to do better on the next attempt. But that lesson transcends work—it carries into life.
The most challenging part of my internship, and perhaps the most rewarding, has been learning how to become comfortable with failures. This summer, I faced a failure in the lab nearly every day. I quickly learned that failures are a normal part of science, and are to be expected when approaching an experiment. As the summer progressed I was able to bounce back from failures quicker each time. My ability to approach my setbacks with poise and an open mind improved, and I was able to see myself become a more resilient student.
Another rewarding part of my internship has been seeing my ideas come to life over the course of the summer. I have been planning and designing these experiments alongside Dr. Son since my freshman year at Scranton, so to be able to finally put my ideas to work has been incredibly rewarding. Additionally, working with Dr. Son and absorbing all the knowledge he has to share with me has been a privilege, and allowed me to grow as a scientist.
Watching myself mature both as a person and a scientist this summer has been an experience I am forever grateful for. This internship has taught me skills I can now relay into the classroom, and outside of the classroom in my extracurriculars. I am better able to accept mistakes and setbacks, and have learned that it is from these experiences I gain the most knowledge.
During my internship, I also had the privilege of teaching a class with Dr. Son to the students in the University of Success Program at Scranton. For this class I prepared a PowerPoint about crayfish for the students and organized three activities for the students with Dr. Son. Although not related to my research, this was a great experience where I was able to contribute to a such a special program.
My most rewarding experience at Manhattan Justice Opportunities this summer was shadowing intakes twice a week. During intakes, case managers gauge the mental state of participants and brainstorm ways to help them throughout their time at the center. From there, participants are given a variety of activities to help fulfill their mandates to complete their time at the organization. I received one-on-one experience with participants during this process, which I found extremely enjoyable. Being a part of a non-judgmental environment solely concerned with helping a marginalized community that is often criticized was immensely rewarding. Within the first week of shadowing, it was glaringly apparent how hesitant participants were to ask for help due to fear of judgment. I realized how quickly society criticizes those who have been incarcerated and the detrimental effects the judgment has on recidivism rates in the country. The fear of judgment often prevents those who may need help from asking for it which often further perpetuates the cycle of arrests and incarceration. I hope that as a lawyer, I will remember this experience and refrain from judgment for the betterment of my clients.
The most difficult, but most meaningful task I was given at MJO was to complete an annotated bibliography that described every mental health court and diversion program devoted to felony charges in the United States. To complete this project, I devoted a few hours a day to researching and calling different programs to find out their eligibility criteria and which communities they served. While I didn’t expect it to be difficult, many organizations were not available to speak with me and their websites were not updated. Those inconveniences made the research process take much longer than expected. I had to be very organized to ensure that I called organizations back during the times that were most feasible to them, in addition to checking newspaper articles for information that might have been left out on their website. During this process, I viewed a variety of different programs and read about how important restorative justice was to their participants and the way their methods differed from MJO’s methods. I realized while there are many practices of alternatives to incarceration, the overall goal is the same: to lower recidivism rates and produce a more humane and effective justice system.
The most rewarding part of my summer research experience is learning that I do want to go to graduate school and pursue a career in research. At the start of the summer, I was teetering back and forth on whether I should get a job following graduation, but now I am fully focused on applying to Ph.D. programs. I’ve also met some amazing people this summer. I don’t think I would have enjoyed summer research as much if it weren’t for them making everyday fun. The most challenging part of this summer was realizing the things I didn’t know that I didn’t know. Surprisingly, though I have great time management during the school year, I didn’t know that I didn’t know how to properly manage my time. Balancing lab and personal things like socializing, cooking, exercising, or even just relaxing was extremely difficult for me and it came as a huge shock. I also didn’t know that I’d have as tough a time organizing all my work and data. I’ve always considered myself a highly organized person, but with multiple test tubes of the same thing but made for different purposes, it was easy to get very confused. I’m very glad I’m learning all of this before graduate school.
Christina Alfano ’22
Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology