By: Laura Coker
Selena Chavez graduated from UTC in May 2018 with honors and a double degree in Spanish and Humanities (International Studies focus). This summer, she is developing her professional skills through an internship obtained earlier in the spring with UTC's Interior Design professor, Dr. Eun Young Kim.
Selena is helping to bridge English- and Spanish-speaking populations in Chattanooga by conducting surveys, which measure housing conditions and safety, and by spending time at cultural festivals and neighborhood association meetings around the city. In the course of this work, she quickly realized that “the languages people share bring them together as a community.” Being bilingual, she was able to break down the language barriers and facilitate communication that will help to improve dangerous conditions for residents. The contacts she made through this internship have secured her three other opportunities: with the organizations Americorp/CNE and “All in Chattanooga” sponsored by Greenspaces, which are running research projects to measure the needs of communities downtown, in Orchard Knob, and in Brainerd while also bringing communities together through various activities. In addition to these two internships, she also earned another internship with Joda Thongnopnau’s political campaign.
These experiences have given Selena a determination to “keep helping.” She has decided to take a year away from her academic path to give back to the Chattanooga community, which, she says, has given so much to her throughout her life. Her next step will be to attend law school and pursue a career as an international attorney because, through her internships, she has encountered many “marginalized communities that can’t speak up for themselves.”