Shaye Martin ’25

Jewish Family Services of Western Massachusetts, Springfield, MA

Jewish Family Service (JFS) provides social services to Western Massachusetts’ diverse community. The New American Program welcomes forcibly resettled individuals to the Berkshires. Throughout my time at JFS, I helped dozens of Afghan and Ukrainian refugees make their homes near the Williams community. My role as the refugee program management intern entailed managing the volunteer work of more than 250 individuals, mainly Berkshire county retirees, who were primarily responsible for ensuring families were cared for.

A significant facet of my experience was learning the intricacies of a nonprofit organization and corporation management structure. Managing the volunteers of the New American Program required many independent projects. First, I assisted with the overall efficacy of the organization by attending volunteer and JFS meetings. Additionally, I recrafted the volunteer guides into five specialized areas: housing, employment, health, community and education. These guides contained resources, checklists and timelines to ensure the refugees were properly cared for during their first months in America. Lastly, I oversaw the volunteer base: maintaining up-to-date contact information, seeking out those ready for new projects, calling past volunteers to keep them involved, and serving as a contact point.

In my role, I deepened my engagement with the plight of refugees. As a political science major and competitive debater of eight years, my understanding of refugee politics was extensive yet shallow. My work with refugee resettlement this summer and over Winter Study allowed me to learn about the lives of individuals. Caring for families in their day-to-day lives develops the lived experience of refugees beyond the statistics I was accustomed to. My original interest in this position stems from my enrollment in a tutorial in the spring semester entitled Refugees in International Politics with Professor Cheryl Shanks. I intend to take my micro-focused experience assisting the assimilation of refugees into my macro-understanding of the policies responsible for the plight of millions. I am continuing my study of refugees in another tutorial this fall, The Arab-Israeli Conflict, with Professor Galen Jackson.

As I look toward my future, I see two possible paths. The first is pursuing further study in international policy. After obtaining a Ph.D., I am interested in working in public policy, through a think tank, university or the government. Alternatively, I am interested in pursuing a career in law. Working with the New American Program has exposed me to the intricacies and necessity of immigration lawyers. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the personal effects of forced migration on displaced people and their host communities as I look toward a career addressing the root of policy issues. I am incredibly grateful to the Kraft Family and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for providing me with the opportunity to work with the New American Program this summer.