There was truly no way for me to predict the summer I’ve had here. I received the call in April informing me of the position, and I ecstatically accepted. Less than a month later, I began my road trip from Texas all the way up to Buffalo, New York (over a 20 hour drive). Once I arrived, I immediately felt welcomed by the CFI Outreach department as we enjoyed a home cooked meal by Cody and his wife, Taylor.
I arrived on a Sunday evening, so my first day of work was the following day. I was immediately thrown into the craziness that was the preparation for the 2016 Reason Rally. For the next two weeks I worked on making buttons, helping ship out materials, packing up enough boxes to fill the entire van, and various other tasks to make sure we were ready for D.C.
When it came to Reason Rally itself, the day before the event we carried boxes across the Lincoln Memorial’s yard until I thought my legs would fall off. They didn’t, which is extra surprising considering the next day I was standing or walking from about 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. From setting up materials in the morning, to taking Openly Secular photos, to working the CFI/RDF tables as thousands of people came through, to walking around the event handing out protest signs, all in the heat, the day proved to be some of the most intense “tabling” I’ve ever done. After it was over, though, the feeling of completing such a huge event with a team was more than rewarding enough.
Returning back to the office, we had plenty to keep us busy. First, we had to deal with Reason Rally aftermath. This included unloading all the previously mentioned boxes, unpacking said boxes, and entering by hand all the information from the email sheets, Then, we began overhauling the CFI Speakers Bureau. This involved contacting every single speaker on it, coding in the updates to profiles, removing people, arranging new category lists and eventually adding new speakers. This took up way more time than one would expect.
Also, a couple weeks after Reason Rally, we were all shocked by a tragedy. As I’m sure most remember, on June 12th, 2016, forty-nine individuals had their lives taken from them while spending an evening out at an Orlando gay club. On the following work day, I was asked by Stef to write a blog post about something of my choosing. The incident had hit so close to home for me, that I felt it was the only subject I could really throw myself into. This pushed me way out of my comfort zone. I had never liked posting my opinions online, especially controversial ones’, as some sort of online attack (such as vulgar name calling, assault threats, or even death threats) always (semi-illogically) seemed inevitable. To my surprise, the reactions to the post itself were pretty much all positive, proving these fears wrong. For the first couple days, it even caught a bit of traction, or at least more traction than any of my mildly funny Facebook statuses had. In this way, CFI helped me grow and showed me that posting your opinions online isn’t always a bad thing.
The next big event of the internship was planning for and attending SSA Con in Columbus, Ohio. This was nowhere near as intense as Reason Rally. It involved mostly sitting at our table and informing students about all the amazing work that CFI does, from our magazines, to our branches all over the United States as well as in other countries, to the CFI Office of Public Policy and Legal Department, to our On Campus program (which was extra relevant to the conference). During the conference, I was even able to attend some of the talks, including the one by the other intern, Sam Farooqui.
The rest of the internship after the conference mostly involved SSA Con aftermath, continued Speakers Bureau work, contacting campus groups from all over the country to re-affiliate, affiliating more groups, and, towards the end, making more buttons!
Overall, I’ve truly enjoyed my time here at CFI. During this internship, I was able to get to know all of the wonderful members of the CFI outreach team, grow not only as a person, but as a leader, and create connections and memories that I know will last a lifetime. After this internship, I feel more integrated into the secular community, and more set and confident in the career path that I want than I ever have before.
As a closing remark, I want to thank Stef, Debbie, and Cody. Not only do I thank you for this amazing opportunity, but for all you’ve done for me here, not just as co-workers, but as friends. I will miss all of you, and hope to make a return to Buffalo soon.