Lauren Hernandez ’23

Town of Williamstown, Williamstown, MA

I became interested in government relatively early in high school and wanted to pursue my interests while in college. I began my internship during my freshman Winter Study for the town of Williamstown for about three and a half weeks, where I learned just enough to complete my winter session. I was eager to learn more and ultimately decided to continue my endeavors this summer. In these unprecedented times, it seemed more important than before to see how local government works. Although my internship was remote, I was able to interact and engage with my tasks on the same level as before.

This summer my responsibilities changed to fit the needs of the town. My first project was researching and creating a plan to carry out town meetings. We began to brainstorm and research effective ways to combat obstacles presented due to the pandemic. I formulated different plans for in-person and virtual town meetings; impending the ultimate decision to hold it in-person. I compiled local news articles and CDC protocol to formulate a list of needs to hold town meetings in-person. Since this was new for everyone, news articles and local reports were the main source of information, where we discovered the best methods to conduct town meetings while also learning from others’ mistakes.

My other project consisted of researching and compiling ideas for the new Williamstown master plan. I researched local communities, small college towns, and extremely innovative urban cities throughout the world. I worked together with the town manager and director of community development to look at past master plans and resources locally available. While the master plan is currently in the works, the initial research and critiques will be helpful in its creation.

One of my larger projects was community policing and engagement. In the wake of the death of George Floyd, communities were correcting and rethinking local law enforcement. My job included researching and compiling data on community policing, how we can hold law enforcement more accountable through greater transparency, steps that need to be taken to reform police departments’ racist origins, and the acknowledgment of mental health needs and its integration in both law enforcement and as part of a town initiative for its own branch.

My internship allowed me to see how a local government operates, but most importantly how crises from the world around us are handled. My internship has solidified my interests in government, where I will continue pursuing a political economy major. While I am extremely interested in local government and will continue to participate, I’m not sure that I will pursue it professionally. It has given me invaluable 
experience that I will use no matter the route I decide to take. Upon reflection, I have a greater appreciation and understanding of local government and truly felt that my work was impactful. I was able to see the results of my work put into action and how my research will be used in the future. It has furthered my interest and pursuit of change-making and allowed me to understand the importance of active involvement. No 
matter how minuscule or formidable something may seem, a conversation, 
idea, or research truly will make a difference. I would like to thank the Class of 1972 and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for making this internship possible, allowing me to explore and gain valuable insights for the future.