This past summer, one of our majors, Jovonnie Quintero, interned with the Southern Education Leadership Initiative (SELI) through the Southern Education Foundation. Jovonnie is a senior from Phoenix, Arizona double majoring in Sociology and Education. As his internship, he worked with the Arkansas Public Policy Panel (APPP), a statewide organization dedicated to achieving social and economic justice by organizing citizen groups around the state, educating and supporting them to be more effective and powerful, and linking public policy with grassroots movements. Specifically, Jovonnie helped craft and push a restorative justice program which aimed to reduce the suspension/expulsion rates of poor students of color and end the school to prison pipeline in rural Arkansas; this program will be considered and voted on in the Arkansas state legislature in a few months. When asked about why he was interested in seeking this educational fellowship opportunity, Jovonnie explained:
I love discussing intersectional identity politics, especially through the necessary and relevant context of our education system. I would like to empower students through their identity and shift the conversation to address how students can see themselves in their curriculum. I would like to study how intersectional identity representation affects the Xicanx/Latinx education pipeline.
As a sociology major, Jovonnie was struck by the racial and socioeconomic stratification of the organizations working with the APPP in rural Arkansas, with many of these organizations concentrated in poor communities of color. He was particularly attuned to the role of the church in this community after having taken a Religion and Society through our department. In this course, he learned about the significance of the church in black communities in particular, especially during the Civil Rights Movement. He commented:
The organization I worked with was founded during this time to promote integration in Arkansas. Even today, the APPP’s Education committee is staffed by mostly Black women (in fact, I was the first Latino to work on any committee through the APPP). It was really cool to see how the Church was still a prominent force pushing for equality in Arkansas, especially through the work of Black women.
This experience this summer sparked new questions for Jovonnie, such as the link between education and health, or how introducing social justice classes into schools may have long-term effects on health. After graduation, Jovonnie will be returning to Phoenix to teach in a high school with Teach for America.
For more information about the Southern Education Leadership Initiative, visit this link: http://www.southerneducation.org/seli.aspx
For current students interested in applying for this internship, the application is due March 1 and can be found here: