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My name is Rachel Fleming and I am a senior from Cary, North Carolina. I am a double major in Psychology (BA) and Exercise and Sport Science (BA), which has given me the unique opportunity to develop a firm understanding of how the mind and body work in tandem. I have worked in Dr. Sara Algoe’s Emotions and Social Interactions in Relationships (EASIR) Laboratory for the past year and a half, where I was able to work on the Everyday Social Interactions and Health Study which studies social behaviors, affect, and health. This semester, I am thankful to be able to combine my interests of psychology and working with children as a Karen M. Gil Intern at East Durham Children’s Initiative, a place-based non-profit.

East Durham Children’s Initiative (EDCI) works to empower families so that their children are ready to enter college or career after graduating high-school. Using over 40 community partners, EDCI can provide a pipeline of services starting at birth all the way to graduation. They are located within the “EDCI Zone”, a 120-block area of eastern Durham. I have been working on the Program Implementation and Community Engagement (PICE) team, which focuses on developing enriching programing for EDCI children and their families both during the schoolyear and summer. I had the opportunity to collaborate on curriculum for STEAM Saturdays, a weekend program focused around a monthly theme. For February, we celebrated Black History Month, with the exploration of contributions to art made by black poets and writers, by attending a poetry slam at the Durham Performing Arts Center, writing memoires, and finally with performing self-written “I am from” poems. The programming came together seamlessly, and the children enjoyed the opportunity to express themselves through their own work. I was able to see the learning objectives from the PICE team’s many meetings click into place.

I have also started a larger project of developing a systematic onboarding process for new families based off the Muti-Tiered System of Supports framework using EDCI’s newly developed needs assessment. I have been integrating empirical evidence to support tiering of families based on specific variables while also relying on feedback from parent advocate staff members. This project is just a start in the right direction in order to be able to draw more evidence-based conclusions for the amazing work the EDCI does.

I am so grateful that the Karen M. Gil Internship has given me the opportunity to apply psychology research in a non-profit setting where I feel like my work is making a meaningful impact. During my time at EDCI, I have further developed my professional skills in communication and collaboration and have truly felt like a team member on a larger task force. I am excited to see where the rest of my semester at the East Durham Initiative takes me.

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