On this episode of SHECP Talks, Mansi Tripathi, a 2022 graduate of Washington and Lee University talks about her 2019 internship with the Gateway Center in Atlanta and her postgraduate Fulbright experience in Colombia.
The Gateway Center works "to connect people experiencing homelessness with the support necessary to become self-sufficient and find a permanent home.” Although the Gateway Center’s mission is pretty focused, the agency takes a more holistic approach to their programming. With efforts related to everything from housing to health to job readiness to education, they work to address the underlying barriers that prevent individuals and families from transitioning out of homelessness, such as unemployment, behavioral health, housing affordability, and medical conditions.
During her time in Atlanta, Mansi was able to work in several of these programs, including the clothes closet and resume development. One of Mansi’s primary roles was to work with outside volunteer groups to provide services to Gateway Center clients. Each outside volunteer group went through a guided orientation before their service and had a time to debrief after the work. Mansi and the others working with the volunteers were able to educate volunteers about the complexities of homelessness and challenge any preconceptions.
When reflecting on how her internship impacted the rest of her undergraduate career, Mansi describes how she realized her interest in criminal justice because of the ways in which homelessness is often criminalized. This motivated her to take classes about things that “make [her] the most productively angry.” She researched topics such as the language surrounding homelessness and pre-arrest diversion during her time at Washington and Lee. As part of the Bonner Program, she spent several years working with Project Horizon, an organization dedicated to reducing dating, sexual, and domestic violence in Rockbridge County, VA that runs an emergency shelter for victims of domestic or sexual violence.
Mansi encourages students interested in a SHECP internship to be open-minded and journal during the internship to unpack the experience. ”Go into it thinking, ‘Regardless I am going to learn something about this issue, the local area, and something about myself.’”
While at Washington and Lee University, Mansi majored in politics and sociology and minored in Poverty and Human Capability Studies. After graduating, she taught English to college students in Colombia as part of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program. Now, she currently works in Washington, DC for the DC Public Defender Service as an Investigative Specialist.