The Experience, Sebastian Arango Chiquillo ’23
New Haven, Connecticut
Hispanic Studies Minor
Interview with Grace Flautherly ’23
Psychology and Gender Sexuality and Intersectionality Studies Double Major
From: Portland, Maine
What kind of relationship does Connecticut College have with our host city, New London? I work as a driver for the College’s Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, shuttling students to their volunteer jobs in the area. I spoke with Grace Flautherly about her volunteer experience with Safe Futures in New London.
Tell me about yourself…
G: I’m a senior with a psychology and gender sexualities and intersectionality double major. I’m exploring a combination of the two for a future career. I’m in acapella, the women in politics club, and I’m in my senior year, so I’m getting ready for the job market.
S: Yea, that’s a big thing for a lot of seniors this semester. Just stressing about “where am I gonna work after college?”
G: No one prepares you for how quick it comes on. It's ridiculous. It’s like the real world is starting to set in.
S: That’s true… okay, let's get started with the first question…
How did you get involved at Safe Futures?
G: I found this internship through a psychology and practicum class at Conn. It's a senior-level seminar, it's pretty much all seniors in the class and they do it every year. This year it's split into two sections, and I have Professor Singer who's amazing. Basically it's a long class, there's a class component, but then the extra credit really helps you secure an internship in New London. Working with Safe Futures in particular there's a lot of requirements. You have to take an exam about domestic violence and complete a lot of paperwork and that was all on me. But Professor Singer and Zakriski, who teaches the other seminar section, really helped me secure the internship. They’re close ties with the organization
What kind of work are you doing at Safe Futures?
So, Safe Futures is an organization that helps victims of domestic violence in the New London area. At Safe Futures I work with clients on an interpersonal level and help them with certain things like applying to jobs.
I also work at a donation center they have there. Today, for example, I spent time going through donations and finding clothes that were the right size for clients. We have a lot of children in the organization, so we find clothes for the kids and purchase additional items if there is a need for them.
Safe Futures does a lot of programming for the children that are in contact with domestic violence. We take the kids out on field trips around New London county to explore different things and have fun in educational ways. We do a lot of fundraising and community engagement as well, like the Safe Walk, which wasSunday, Oct. 23, that raises awareness and support for the organization. They also have this trunk or treat for the kids this month and I’m just really excited for it. It’s really cute! One of my favorite things about working at the organization is not only being able to work one-on-one with victims, but also with their family, especially with the children who’ve been impacted. They are some of the sweetest, most loving little kids that you’ll ever meet in your life despite the hardships they’re clearly been through.
Why do you like the work/Why did you want to get involved?
G: It’s definitely a lot of interpersonal work with the victim, but also with the people that work there. It's very collaborative which is what I like most about it. There’s different sectors of Safe Futures, but everyone is helping each other out; you know we're all there to benefit victims. Because of the nature of the work everyone who works there, I mean myself included, are incredibly dedicated to the cause. A lot of the people that work there talk about “I need to introduce you to so and so” and talk about taking their work home and thinking about them on their days off. It's very intense work and very heavy work at times. Particularly because you're working with victims and it's not always helping them get resources for their living situation, or helping them with job applications. At times it's helping them with court and things that have a big impact on their future. You know? Sometimes staff members even accompany clients to court, especially if there are some language barriers or individuals who might experience a learning disability. They are their number one advocates, in their corner at all times. It's really just the environment there, it's that everyone really cares a lot and it's not a casual space. It's casual as in that it's fun and that everyone there is really kind and loving but it's not like light work. By any means, even if it's just a simple little thing there's often layers to the situation, you have to remember that you’re always working with victims who have experienced serious violence. There is a lot of joy in the work too, especially with the children. Getting to work with them it’s really awesome. One of the babies learned to walk recently and we were all like “Yeah!!” cheering him on. It was really cute.
S: I can definitely tell that this is a safe space for kids too. When I’m doing my shift for the Holleran Center and I drive there I always see toys outside on the sidewalk, like little bikes and it’s so sweet. I can definitely tell that it’s meaningful work and meaningful work doesn’t always mean that it’s easy work. I can see that it is enjoyable, but it’s definitely some dense topics.
Do you plan to continue doing this sort of work in your professional career?
G: As far as Safe Future goes, I’m definitely planning on staying as long as I can. This practicum can either be one semester or two semester class and I’m honestly planning on staying for two. Going on in the future I don’t know where I’ll be post grad. But I know now that I want to work with people on an interpersonal level and I want to work with people who’ve experienced trauma. Whether that looks something like Safe Futures or more clinical psychological environments, like in-patient stuff, I’m not sure yet. That field is where I’m aiming right now. I know that requires extra school work, so I'm thinking about the long-term and grad school is definitely a goal. In terms of jobs I want to have, I would be more than happy to be in an environment similar to Safe Futures, especially working one-on-one with people and victims who haven’t had the easiest time.
S: And I get that, it's definitely a lot easier to work with people and you can have a conversation, rather than talking to a wall. There's some work environments that have been like that personally for me and I don’t like it at all.
G: Right, it feels meaningful when you’re actually doing work collaboratively with a team and working with others. It feels like you’re actually making a difference whereas sometimes I feel that way in more psychology oriented stuff, like doing studies and research. That’s definitely another goal. To me it’s a different feeling to be working with someone face-to-face, you know working together on something, then helping a client, than putting results of studies and data into a spreadsheet software. They're both meaningful, it’s just different.
What skills have you developed since working with Safe Futures the past few months?
G: I definitely feel like… I don’t know, I definitely consider myself a people person, and I’ve talked about this whole thing where I really want to work interpersonally with people, but I think that is something that I’ve become more accustomed to. I Mean I go to school here, I’m from Maine. And in those environments that I’ve lived consistently in, thankfully, I’ve never been touched by that much trauma in my own life, which you know I’m more than grateful for. It’s definitely an adjustment and going from… you know I work at the coffee shop here and back home I work at a restaurant. Whereas here I work day-to-day with people who have experienced horrific abuse and like so many different layers of addiction, hardship, getting their kids taken away and stuff like that. So, I think that, I don’t know if it's something I necessarily got better at, but I don’t know if humbling is the right word… It kind of helped me… what's the right way to put it, do you know what i'm trying to say?
S: What I’m getting is that in a sense you were able to learn some sort of perspective.
G: Yes! Get a sense of perspective that’s exactly what it is. It definitely put a lot of things like life experiences into perspective and I really feel like it made me even more passionate about it, like it made me really sure of what I want to do at work. I know that didn’t really answer your question, but that’s a big thing that I’ve been thinking about.
S: In a sense you’re saying it’s not an entirely new skill, but something you’ve gotten better at. But in a different aspect it's still learning something new. It’s learning something you hadn’t expected or had known nothing about before. That’s what I’m getting.
Are there any closing remarks you would like to say as we close this conversation?
G: I mean I definitely want to shout out Professor Singer and Zakriski. The Psych Practicum class is really great. It’s definitely a huge opportunity for any psych majors who want an internship and don’t really know where to start it's kind of nice to have that helping hand getting you into it and the great thing about the class its support network for when you’re encountering things that are difficult at your internship or you’re struggling. You have a group of people who are also, some of them who are in a first time internship you can kind of lean on each other, so that's been an experience that's been really helped me throughout this whole process. You know, Safe Futures is an amazing organization and it's definitely unfortunately an organization that is very necessary right now. My supervisor had mentioned today that, and I don’t have a source for this, but 1 in 4 people or women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime which is like a horrifying statistic and you know the stats are pretty bad in Connecticut in particular. And while there are domestic violence organizations in Connecticut, they can only do so much, you know what I mean? They all work so hard. I wish that people were more aware of the organizations around them even if it doesn’t benefit them. Even if they’re not in a situation where they or someone they know experienced DV (Domestic Violence) it’s really important to just know that there are these organizations. Yeah, they do a lot of important programming and I’m very lucky to be able to work there to any capacity even as an intern.
S: Yea, that sounds like it's been a great experience so far really. That’s honestly really insightful. I definitely think that people should know about places like Safe Futures, not only Safe Futures, but other programs in their area. This one because it’s closer to our campus and our little bubble. It's definitely good to know even if you haven’t experienced it directly.
S: Yea, that was kind of it. Thank you again for taking the time to meet with me today!
G: Anytime, this was a great interview! hahaha.
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