Reflections on the Semester

In late January, I sat down with Carrie, the Director of Civic Engagement of an Ann Arbor non-profit organization, Casa Latina. Knowing little about the organization previously, I was surprised initially to learn the organization was operating under such tight financial conditions. Casa Latina operates with two staff members and does not host or manage a large volunteers base. The non-profit does not have 501(c)(3) status, nor has it applied, and essentially has just one source of funding. Effectively, I was about to being an internship with an organization that was very much still in development.

I learned through my internship what a small organization can do without significant funding, volunteers, and staff. Although the actually programing is minimal, the progress towards one day providing essential programing is great. Casa Latina is in the community, communicating with residents and organizations, and making their name relevant. The simple passion that the staff and board members appear to have is inspiring for the social entrepreneur in myself.

My future plans will be undoubtable impacted by this internship. In general, I became more knowledgeable about using WordPress, blogging, and SEO. Specifically, I believe I will use my skills in my  full-time that I will start in June. I am going to be working as a Legal Assistant for an immigration law office in the metro Detroit area. Part of my responsibilities will be administrative, involving a new marketing campaign for the law firm to reach more clientele. I feel that I can take my experiences communicating to a largely immigrant audience to this new experience, using my foundation in communications as a place to build upon my acquired skills.

My internship this semester was largely a learn-by-doing experience, and I was fortunate that Casa Latina accepted my help even though I would be learning along the way. I hope to stay involved with them even after the semester ends, and will offer to continue assisting with the website at least for the next few weeks.

Blog Transitions – advice for the next intern

Is this semester actually about to end? As I tie up my projects and internship with Writing 200, I am sad that this means that my internship with Casa Latina will come to an end.

I have been very lucky to work with Casa Latina this semester. The organization is focused, motivated by passion, and in the process of becoming an invaluable asset to Washtenaw County. My internship has centered around the account that Casa Latina uses their primary content management system.  Much of my time as an intern ended up spent updating the blog.  Casa Latina’s blog is used as an information sharing service, with blog posts that share updates and information about community events, immigration and related legislation, scholarship opportunities for minorities, research studies, general informat ion about the latino population, and more.

I am hopeful that support to the organization will continue, and there will be another volunteer, intern, or eventual staff member to take over the work I have done this semester with the blog. I believe it has been very helpful to the organization to be able to send all blog posts to just one person who can consistently update and maintain the blog. To make the transition easier, I am offering the Casa Latina staff some advice about blog posting that can be passed on to the  next person to take this role.

  1. Frequent updates: Because Casa Latina (CL) uses the blog to post events and timely information, it’s important to have a blogger who can update consistently. If not, the blog posts quickly become irrelevant and lose usefulness.I set aside time each week to blog – so that if I was backed up on posts, I could manage this. As sometimes I did three blog posts at once, I did not always publish posts immediately, so that posts would come at different times – a way for blog posts to not get lost in a group all published at once. 
  2. Content: For an intern, it is not difficult to create blog content because the content is all passed on from the CL staff. However, it’s important to pay attention to the details. If a flyer is given to post, take the important points from the flyer and list them at the top. Give additional contact information that might not be listed on the flyer, and always make sure that the post is visually pleasing.
  3. Original content: For future posts, original content from CL will help promote the organization while doing so much great promotion of others in the community. This may require guest posts from Carrie and Charo – with updates about the operations of the organizations, staff or board member profiles, and/or calls for support for the organization itself.
  4. Bilingual blogging: Separating blog posts between Spanish and English versions is a way to increase readability and accessibility for blog users. Eventually, the website may be able to take this dual role – with two websites separated by language.
  5. Stay organized: Maybe the most important point, this internship required me to be very organized. I created separate filters in my email to send requests for blog posts because they can be easily lost in a mess of other emails. This allowed me to quickly redirect the email into a separate folder to return to later. I also created folders on my computer to keep all flyer, documents, and images that go on the blog.

I hope these tips can be passed on to the next blogger, and that the communications of Casa Latina can continue to develop!

Getting to know Casa Latina

This semester I will work with Casa Latina as the communications intern. I’m excited to introduce you to this non-profit organization and explain my role as a volunteer in the upcoming months. logo

But, first: The Basics

    1. Washtenaw County has approximately 12,000 residents who identify as hispanic or latino according to the 2010 census
    2. The hispanic and latino population is not centralized in one neighborhood, or even one region of Washtenaw County, unlike Detroit or Grand Rapids. This means that that Spanish-speaking community lives all across the area.
    3. There is no newspaper, radio, or local television station in Spanish for the Washtenaw county community.
    4. There is no central information hub for Washtenaw county for hispanic residents to call upon for referrals to local resources
    5. Ann Arbor has existing programs and organizations that support specific needs of immigrant families, like ESL classes and immigration legal resources.

With these facts in place, Casa Latina sought to fill the void for a central information service to Washtenaw County. The organization established itself  between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti in order to the serve hispanic and latino members of the community from all parts of Washtenaw County.

Right now Casa Latina is partnering with the University of Michigan School of Public Health‘sPrevention Research Center of Michigan and the Washtenaw County Public Health Department to conduct a community-wide survey of 500 Latinos living in Washtenaw County. The survey will include questions about physical health, mental health, and the social determinants of health – things that affect where we live, work, learn, and play. The survey will kick off in Spring 2013. With these results, Casa Latina will have an incredible resource of information about the community in which it wants to serve. This survey will be the guide for planning future programs, events, and services.

Casa Latina is still in the development phase. With just 2 staff members and temporary assistance from interns, the organization does not have the staff capacity to run full programs and open the office during normal business hours. The organization seeks Board Members to complete the organization’s development and recruit future supporters. Simultaneously the organization is seeking funding opportunities to build the capacity to host volunteers, run daily programs, and increase office hours.

I will be working with Casa Latina primary on updating their current website. In March, I will present to their Board of Directors my project proposal explaining the ways I think I can expand and improve their website. I’m excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to see how Casa Latina begins to unfold as an invaluable resource to the Ann Arbor community.

View their current website:, and make sure to follow them on WordPress!

Smart E-news

As I’ve begun to read Heather Mansfield’s Social Media for the Social Good, a “how-to guide” for using social media in the nonprofit sector, I’ve encountered aspects of communication that I’ve never considered. The E-newsletter is an interesting medium to consider because it is one of  the few methods of social media that can reach 15 year olds and 80 year olds at once.  Mansfield attempts to explain what to consider when creating an E-newsletter. After reading her suggestions, I couldn’t help but reflect on the digital newsletters I see in my own inbox. I’d like to highlight the Semester in Detroit monthly E-newsletter as an excellent example of how to approach this form of communication.

First, some of Mansfield’s key suggestions:

  • Keep your E-newsletter design simple
  • Publish newsletters using less than 500 words
  • Use screenshots for videos
  • Make forwarding, sharing on Facebook, and tweeting the newsletter easy
  • Don’t send your newsletters like clockwork

The newsletter aligns with the ideas presented in Social Media for the Social Good. Below is what you first see when opening the newsletter. The design is simple, and the color and font theme matches their website exactly. There is a large headline in black  highlighting two main ideas that are not presented in article form, but instead lead to links below. A graphic immediately follows the headline, instead of a paragraph text, which keeps the attention of the reader.

The graphic is a screenshot of the video “Engaging with the D.” Even if the viewer does not watch the video, they will see this candid shot of someone who has a connection to the program.

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There is also a “table of contents” found at the top of the blue sidebar. Although the newsletter is already brief, it simplifies the content into 3 distinct sections. Each white bullet links to a designated area of the newsletter.

If you continue to scroll down, you encounter an upcoming event, also accompanied by a large graphic. The event description details what the event is about, who is speaking, and where it is located. The descriptions are short, the date of the event is repeated multiple times, and the text stays within the theme to remain aesthetically pleasing.

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To the side, under “Share your Thoughts”, the editor of the newsletter has a small blurb. If anyone wanted to be featured in the newsletter or had an issue with content, there is a direct name and email to contact. I like that.

There is one more article and graphic to end the newsletter.  Only three articles make up the newsletter: A video, an upcoming event, and an spotlight of an organization that supports the program. This newsletter can gather interest for what Semester in Detroit is doing even though it is still an evolving organization – in just three articles.

What do you guys think?

Oh, and check out The whole newsletter.



Above, I am reading with Gabbi, a 3rd grader who goes to school outside of Quito, Ecuador. To my right is Daniella, another 3rd grader, with my teaching partner Hannah. I like this photo because it was a rare, calm moment. It was an achievement to get a couple of energized students to sit for a while and pass a book back and forth. I taught a class of ten 3rd graders this summer with Hannah in Ecuador for two months. We taught Math and Literature with The Quito Project, a summer program for the children at a school who struggled during the regular school year. As you can imagine, my Spanish-speaking skills improved drastically while I was teaching (or chasing after) these kids. I’m excited at the prospect of partnering with a non-profit in Ann Arbor that works with Michigan’s spanish-speaking population this semester. I worked in the Southwest Detroit community before going to Ecuador, and the combined experiences have left me with a real interest in supporting the latino community in the U.S., or supporting communities abroad like where I taught.

This was last summer. Now, I’m in my last year of undergrad at UofM studying Economics and International Studies. I’ve had really great experiences at UofM in the past four years. Working with 10 other UofM undergraduates and 10 Medical Students for The Quito Project was a highlight. Doing Semester in Detroit last Spring was an incredible experience to learn about the city itself and the development our own country needs. I’ve been a part of Phi Sigma Pi, a co-ed honors fraternity, serving as the Rush Advisor this year – which is both stressful and a fun break from school. Finally, I live with 5 girls who struggle to do dishes, but are always up for watching Chopped.

After I graduate, I want to continue working with non-profits before I continue on to Graduate School for Public Policy. Throughout the past four years, I have been drawn to non-profits as an outlet for service and creativity. I’m excited for this course because of the opportunity to do great work for an organization that might not have the resources otherwise, and to gain some hands-on experience. I hope to do some video production this semester – a hidden passion of mine since High School.

Here’s to a great semester!