I arrive at work at 10 a.m., sign in, and get settled at my computer. The Beat Within is a very small organization, but we work in the offices of a large ethnic news agency, so there are always plenty of people around. I greet some of the full-time employees who work at the computers near mine and check in with the other Beat intern. We usually spend the mornings typing, editing, and responding to the handwritten pieces from the workshops. Typing is pretty straightforward—the hardest part is deciphering the handwriting (most of the youth we work with are teenage boys, after all), and I often end up wandering over to the other intern’s desk to get a second opinion on a scrawled word or sentence.
Editing and responding are a little more difficult. It’s crucial to make sure the pieces are appropriate for all audiences without censoring the author’s voice, since the program is intended to provide a safe outlet for self-expression. We change profanity, but don’t delete it, and we have a long list of gang references which must be removed or modified (all numbers, for example, must be written out in words). We don’t, however, take out references to violence, drugs, alcohol, or abuse. We then respond briefly to each piece so that the authors know their writing is being read and appreciated. Responses are meant to encourage further reflection, so we try to include a thoughtful question or two in each one.
Around one, I grab lunch with the other intern. We’re both English majors and in the same year, so we usually end up talking about the classes we’ve taken, the books we’ve read, and what we hope to do after graduation. After lunch, our supervisor will usually assign us a few projects to work on, ranging from making copies of the topics for the next workshop to printing and folding the most recent issues of the magazine. Since I speak Spanish, I’m occasionally called on to edit pieces written in Spanish or translate a piece from one language to the other. We also recently learned how to process letters for The Beat Without, a recent program which I’ll discuss further in a later post. At five, we finish up whatever we’ve been working on, sign out, and head home for the day. Working at a small nonprofit means every day brings its own surprises (like free ice cream!), but in general, this is my daily routine.