How my REACH Beyond Domestic Violence Internship Changed my Views on Policy Work


Blog by Emma Keeling

I have always said that I dislike policy. I never had solid grounds for this argument, but something about staring at a document for hours and picking apart every piece of language seemed boring to me. Although as a Public Health major I knew how important policies were, I avoided policy work and instead took a more downstream and educational approach to the domestic violence work I was doing at my school and in the community at large.

The work I did REACH Beyond Domestic Violence changed my mind.

Emma Keeling, intern at REACH
Emma Keeling, intern at REACH

I came in as an intern in May 2021 ready to support survivors and the community on the online chat. Although working on the chat to assist people through complex issues may seem daunting, there was a sense of ease I felt from being a Peer Supporter in my school’s office for Violence Prevention and Education Outreach and a Resident Advisor for first year students. I had experience with helping survivors and community members at college, so while I knew there was always more to learn, I was not intimidated by the prospect of encountering new situations on the chat.

During our summer training, I was asked by Lauren Nackel to work with her more closely on legislative projects. At first I heard the word “legislative”, and I immediately reverted back to my thoughts about how I disliked policy. I was going to turn the opportunity down, but then I paused for a moment and realized that this was the perfect opportunity to learn more about policy in a supportive environment. The thought of working on policy was a bit overwhelming, but I felt that with support at REACH, I wanted to dive into this new territory. I was nervous since I did not know much about policy but decided to take a leap into the unknown.

I am so grateful that I made this decision.

As I started to work on policy I inevitably learned many technical skills, but the main lesson I am taking away from this experience is the passion that so many different people have for policy. I was able to watch Lauren speak from her heart about the impacts of the Healthy Youth Act and was amazed by the way that people from all different organizations in the Healthy Youth Act coalition were able to each use their individual skills to advocate for a bill that they cared so deeply about.

I also learned that policy work is anything but boring. It’s emotional, chaotic, and filled with passion. Over the course of my internship, I was able to reframe my views of what it means to work on policy, and I have to admit I enjoyed it. Through creating social media posts, reaching out to legislators, and writing a blog post, I was able to find the avenues through which I became excited about policy.

Social media post created by Emma
Social media post created by Emma

We had a legislative advocacy day this spring where I was able to call legislators on behalf of REACH to advocate for the Healthy Youth Act. After spending time making graphics and social media toolkits, calling legislators was a way for me to actively interact with people who did and did not support the Healthy Youth Act while getting support from the team of callers. It was exciting to be able to call these legislators to speak passionately about why the Healthy Youth Act mattered to me. I never thought I would be advocating in this way, but it was a valuable learning experience.

Sadly, my internship ends this May, but I will be forever grateful for the time that I was able to spend with REACH this past year. I want to thank Lauren Nackel for believing in me from the start and always providing me with a safe and empowering environment to learn this year. If I were to give any new intern a piece of advice it would be to take a chance on yourself. Give yourself the chance to succeed and know that you have the most supportive team around you that can help you thrive.