In the months leading up to my summer internship at GLIDE, it seemed that everyone I spoke to knew what type of experience I would have. My teachers, my family, my friends – anyone who knew of GLIDE would say things like, “Life-changing experience,” “Eye-opening,” “Unbelievably loving and accepting atmosphere.” Maybe it was a natural youthful skepticism. Maybe it was doubt from the recent spread of global violence and sadness, and its pervasive accompanying rhetoric. Maybe it was my very own degree of detachment from and fear of these forces. I didn’t believe what everyone seemed to tell me. I had few doubts of the meaningful, needed programs offered by GLIDE, but I had trouble imagining such a community of radical love, acceptance and strength.
During the initial stages of the Emerging Leaders Internship, I, along with my fellow interns, was oriented to GLIDE’s programs and values in an intense two-week period of “Immersion.” By the end of the second week, we went through a self-selection process to determine the programs in which we would each work. I elected to work part time in Communications and part time in Fund Development, gaining exposure to the crucial behind-the-scenes work done at GLIDE. I work on projects ranging from an analysis of GLIDE’s social media platforms to aiding in the GLIDE Legacy Movement. On Fridays, after 4 days apart working in our programs, the interns come together for a day of reflection both on our work and on increasingly important topics such as internalized oppression.
In the time I have been here, my expectations and preconceptions have been routinely challenged. From Sunday Celebrations, to Recovery Circles, to Men In Progress sessions, to serving in the Meals Program, I have been astonished by the degree of energy, love, appreciation and optimism I have seen here. I have felt a high level of respect from and between GLIDE’s staff and those who use its programs. At GLIDE I have experienced a communal desire not to run from problems, but to acknowledge and address them. Despite growing tension and distance in our society, GLIDE seems to remain a place of acceptance. Eight weeks is not nearly long enough to work at GLIDE, but it is long enough to recognize its importance. I still cannot say if my experience here is best summed up by phrases I heard like “Life changing.” I may not even be able to sum up this experience in a single phrase or expression; the combination of learning and growth on professional and personal levels feels to complex. In no way, however, does my inability to sum up my experience take away from its value.
Jake Calthorpe is a rising junior at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He is majoring in Social Policy.