What I Learned on my Summer "Vacation"


October 19, 2012
Katja Kleine, Bonner Fellow and RESULTS Summer 2012 U.S. Poverty Intern

Before coming to RESULTS this summer, I had already completed over 900 hours of direct service in Rockbridge County, Virginia, where my school, Washington and Lee University is located. I am very thankful for all of the support the Bonner Foundation has provided so that I can complete this service. Direct service is my passion; I have developed close relationships with members of my community and constantly experience the mutual benefit of serving a person in need. Despite the overwhelming benefits I receive from direct service, there have been times when I have been frustrated that I cannot do more. But, I am only one person who happens to also be a full time student, so I know that my impact is limited by my lack of experience and lack of available time.

That said, I spent little time thinking about the federal decisions that affect my community in Virginia; I was content with my involvement in the community and rarely looked outside it to see what other factors were at play. Of course, I was educated about policies from classes and kept up with large national news, such as the Affordable Care Act. But, I was not following specific policies and looking for changes and reauthorizations of existing policies. This summer I was forced to open my eyes to many national policies that affect all American citizens, including the members of my community in Virginia. I was amazed to learn of legislation and ideas that are in the Senate, House, and circulating throughout DC organizations. It baffled me that I had not heard of these movements before. These anti-poverty decisions were not making national news or reaching the people who the policies benefit.

An example is the Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax credit that supplements the regressive nature of the payroll and Social Security taxes by allowing hard working families a refund on their income taxes. I first became familiar with it my Freshman year in a class. By chance, I have also talked to members of my community about how this specific tax credit benefits them and their families. But, I thought this policy was set in stone, that is was stable and well known. I couldn’t be more wrong. Not only is the EITC under attack, but a huge number of eligible families are unaware that they have the EITC as a support.

Therefore, as my time at RESULTS comes to an end, I have learned a very valuable take-away: It is my responsibility to stay up to date on policies and legislation that affect my community and take appropriate action. I need to be educating my peers and community members of what happens here in Washington. I need to be expressing my opinions to my members of Congress so that they know how these federal policies are affecting their constituents. My time at RESULTS has taught me that my impact can be broader than I thought possible with fairly little time and effort. Direct service is still my passion, but working at RESULTS has showed me that as an involved community member, I am an especially effective advocate. Moving forward, I will be sure to keep a more complete picture of all the factors that affect my community, including federal funding, regulation and decisions.

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RESULTS is a grassroots advocacy organization working to create the political will to end hunger and poverty.  We have groups in over 100 communities as well as in 6 other countries that take a specific action each month to make ending hunger and poverty a priority among our governments. Contact Meredith Dodson at the RESULTS office ([email protected]) to learn more about becoming trained to speak powerfully with members of Congress and aides, develop relationships with the media and educate and engage the community, or if you are interested in interning at RESULTS.

And don’t forget to sign up for the RESULTS Action Network:  http://capwiz.com/results/mlm/.

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