First student funded by Endowed Internship for Racial Justice works with ACLU of Texas

by Jeremy Shapiro

Grace Duffy ’22 wanted a summer internship in public policy, law, or criminal justice reform to help her decide what career to pursue. Most importantly, she wanted to intern at an organization she could see herself working for in the future. When she secured a summer 2021 internship with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, everything came together.

“I could definitely see myself working in an organization like the ACLU in the future,” Duffy says. “Along with criminal justice reform and policy, I’m also very interested in immigration. Texas is a good choice for me. I’ll be working with them on issues related to detention centers, the Mexican border, and immigration services.”

The Grinnell College Alumni Council established the Endowed Internship for Racial Justice to help students like Duffy have this kind of valuable experience. Duffy is the first to receive the internship funding, which will be given annually to support Grinnell students who want to intern with groups pursuing some aspect of racial justice. All 26 of the 2020–21 Council members have made gifts to the internship fund, along with 33 former Council members. In total, more than $105,000 has been given or pledged.

After the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer, the Alumni Council needed to demonstrate tangibly its commitment to improved racial justice in America, says council past president Chris Meyer ’70.

Duffy’s internship aligns closely with this vision. She is interning with strategist Nick Hudson in the ACLU’s policy and advocacy division, directed by Sarah Labowitz ’04, which works to change criminal justice policy.

One ACLU focus following Floyd’s murder is making sure legislation is enacted to hold police accountable. The ACLU also is campaigning to create first responder positions to handle certain types of calls that police typically responded to in the past.

“I will be researching and drafting statements on these issues as well as doing advocacy work in the community, digital organizing, and monitoring legislative hearings,” Duffy says.

A Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native, Duffy is majoring in English and Spanish with a concentration in peace and conflict studies. This past school year, she worked as a research and curriculum design assistant in the College’s English and Peace and Conflict Studies departments. She also has served as a teacher, tutor, and student coordinator for the Liberal Arts in Prison Program.

Duffy is thankful to be the first recipient of the Endowed Internship for Racial Justice and thinks the concept is a great idea.

“To have alumni care about the causes that students are working for is a big motivating factor,” she says. “I’m excited to see how it grows. I think it will definitely draw students to apply for racial justice–oriented internships in the future with the knowledge they can get funded and have alumni support these causes.”

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