A BCS Summer Intern's Experience

Throughout the year, Bronx Community Solutions relies on the careful, enthusiastic work provided by a rotating team of talented interns. Interns help out with intake and scheduling, classroom monitoring, special projects such as the DWI Initiative, and doing direct clinical work in the Social Service Department. One aspect that I find particularly rewarding about working with interns is that they often ask the important questions that keep us on our toes -- "How do we know that we are helping? Can we do this better?" Even the most innovative project can fall into routines and habits.

This summer we were fortunate to have the assistance of Robin Arnett from Columbia University's School of Social Work. Robin spent the summer providing direct clinical services and supporting the department with resource outreach and compliance efforts. She writes below about her experience at BCS:

This past summer, I served as an intern in the clinic at Bronx Community Solutions. I am currently a graduate student at Columbia University studying for a dual-masters in social work and international affairs. I just completed the first year of a three year program and have been working as an intern at BCS during the summer. In my time here, my primary role was to meet with clients for individual counseling sessions. The social services department at BCS assigns either attendance to a group or individual counseling sessions to clients as a part of their court mandate. Groups cover a diverse range of topics, including substance abuse, anger management, and women’s health, and I was able to sit in on some of these groups as a part of my time here.

This internship has been interesting and enlightening in many ways. This was the first time that I have worked within the criminal justice system. My field work assignment for my degree next year also does not involve the criminal justice system, but after working here this summer, I more fully understand how important it was for me to be here. Understanding this will be essential to my effectiveness as a social worker throughout my career.

I am so thankful to have had a chance to speak with and hear the stories of the many clients who came through BCS and spoke with me this summer. Statistics and impressions became flesh and blood human beings. When people are labeled as “criminals” the moment they enter the justice system, their humanity is not given the respect that it deserves. I have been struck by the diversity of clientele that I have worked with in only the few months that I have spent at BCS. I have also been impressed by the resiliency that I have seen in so many of my clients, even in the face of highly challenging circumstances. More than ever, I am convinced that alternatives to incarceration are crucial to the effective functioning of the criminal justice system, and hold the potential for great benefit to the system and to the communities within which it operates most heavily. I support the Brooklyn D.A.’s recent decision to decline prosecution in low-level marijuana possession cases, and I hope that the Bronx will follow suit. I hope that legislation like this, and programs like BCS can help to improve community relations with police and the justice system as a whole. Public safety depends on trust between law enforcement and communities, and imprisoning large numbers of people does not necessarily result in safer streets. Working at BCS has been highly educational, and I will surely take what I have learned with me in my work in the future.

- Robin Elizabeth Arnett
Columbia School of Social Work