To begin, I want to give a brief introduction for those who don’t know me. My name is Ashley Bedoya and I’m a rising junior at Pace University NYC campus. I’m majoring in Peace & Justice Studies with a minor in Spanish and Latin American Studies. When I found out that I was selected by South Bronx United to join them as an academic intern this June, I had no idea what to expect. Not only was this going to be my first internship, but it was something I had to experience remotely. Like many other students felt this past March, the initial change to a remote classroom setting was awkward and challenging. With these feelings, I was excited to embark on a new opportunity but I feared that I would feel isolated by a remote environment.  But thankfully, I was met by a group of staff members and students who welcomed me with open arms—well, virtually of course. 

My internship this summer took place in my hometown and at my makeshift desk on Long Island. In the distance and disconnect I felt with the city as I moved off campus early Spring, I found myself embarked on a new relationship with its residents. South Bronx United provided a new community that I instantly felt connected with. While interning, my work included translation support, tutor supervision, outreach to students and their families, and inputting data. I found the most transformative aspect of my internship to be my involvement in the summer electives. As a co-facilitator, I created lesson plans and interactive activities. Now, to be honest, at the beginning I felt really awkward in my first few Zoom sessions. I feared a virtual classroom would hinder my ability to create a relationship with the students. However, as we quickly reached early August, I found myself referencing inside jokes with the students, alongside my colleague Maribel Flores. 

With the development of our relationships, I got to see just how amazing the South Bronx community is, because it was truly the students who were running the electives. When I felt that I needed support, advice, or new ideas for an upcoming class, I turned to the students. When I received feedback—which at times was brutally honest, I was motivated by their open-mindedness and eagerness to learn. They were engaged in the material, during a moment where many were left with great uncertainty. In our Bronx History elective, I learned about the student’s intimate connections with Bronx culture, food, and celebrities. In Teammate Talks, I witnessed students share personal stories that fostered productive conversations on ways we can support each other in times of need. The students logged on with a desire to connect with staff and peers, no matter the circumstances. Pushing through technical issues and all, participants remained committed, which motivated me even more. Overall, the students led me to become optimistic about the future, at a point where I was overwhelmed with the harsh acceptance that I would not be returning to school in person this fall. As I imagine, they were accepting those same realities and more. I followed the positive outlook of my students and changed my perspective. I am incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to work with such kind and intelligent individuals this summer. 

I would like to thank everyone at South Bronx United for making this summer special. I’ve built lasting relationships and gained new skills that will continue to guide me throughout my school and career. During my time at SBU, I was continuously amazed at the work being done at this organization. Likewise, impressed by the accomplishments and dedication of the student-athletes. Again, I’d like to thank SBU for inviting me into your community during these difficult times ridden with unpredictability. I’m grateful to have shared these significant moments with all of you. I’m confident that one day I’ll get the chance to meet you all in person. 

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Special shoutout to Matthew Guiracocha, Jesus Vazquez, Giselle Tapia, Alanny Gonzalez and Brenda Candia-Juarez for always being the highlight of my week.