Internship: ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), Baltimore, MD
I came to Washington and Lee confident in my political views especially in regards to poverty. However a combination of theoretical study in Poverty 101 and real life experience with ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) in Baltimore City exposed my vast ignorance. Poverty does not just mean a lack of income. Poverty is a reduction in capabilities and freedom that magnifies the every day problems of life. The group I organized had to decide which part of the multi-faceted problem they wanted to attack first. Drugs, crime, lead paint poisoning, better policing, predatory lenders, and slumlords all were worthy of action but we settled on the vacant houses that lower property value, breed dangerous rats, and serve as a home for prostitution. You do not need money or a well placed friend in government to enact change. Political power can be derived from sheer numbers and persistence. It was through this latter strategy that we staged a successful rally and garnered a meeting with the Baltimore HUD.
Poverty is a complex problem with no easy solution. Poor people cannot just pick themselves up by their boot straps. Likewise, throwing money without direction does little to help. It is the responsibility of those who have certain opportunities to examine why those opportunities existed in the first place, and work to extend those privileges beyond current economic and social barriers. This is exactly what the Shepherd Poverty Program at Washington and Lee accomplishes.