MacLeod applies psychology, sociology studies to nonprofit internship

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Hastings College senior Brooke MacLeod has her sights set on making a difference in the world, and she is active in her efforts to make a positive impact.

“My two goals are to get rid of food insecurity and homelessness. I’m always striving to reduce the number of those demographics,” she said.

The sociology and psychology double major spent her 2017 January Term (J-Term) serving the communities surrounding her hometown of Burlington, Colorado, with her internship at the Colorado East Community Action Agency (CECAA).

CECAA’s mission is to reduce and eliminate poverty in Cheyenne, Elbert, Kit Carson and Lincoln counties. Its primary function is to offer programs to focus on food and utility assistance, tax preparation and employment readiness. MacLeod helped run many of these programs while she was in the office over J-Term.

“I assisted a food drive for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), distributed food items, helped with the Simply Eating cooking class, worked at the CECAA thrift store and prepared taxes for a few clients,” she said. “I even got to sit in on a board meeting while I was there, and I was invited to join the executive planning committee for the Colorado Conference on Poverty happening in August.”

MacLeod originally accepted the internship with CECAA in November of her sophomore year, so she typically completes her tasks from afar while she is taking classes in Hastings. J-Term provided the opportunity to return to her home state to work on-site.

“Even though my duties are very similar, it’s a different experience to when I’m in the office. I am able to see people when they came in for help — I can help them right away, which I can’t do while I’m in Hastings,” MacLeod said.

Connecting academia and altruism

By being in the office, MacLeod could interact with the agency’s clients face-to-face. She applied her interest in counseling and her knowledge of psychology to real-life situations. For example, as a psychology major, she’s learned the emotional stressors of poverty, which she said helped her approach each individual on a human level, instead of a statistic.

Her sociology major also influenced her experiences. She said Hastings College helped introduce her to tough issues like food insecurity and homelessness, something that often goes unnoticed.

“Usually, a college student doesn’t really see these things happening because they are on campus and not necessarily exposed to these issues. I think by taking sociology classes, I’ve realized these things are going on; now I see the real-world instances of what we’ve talked about in class,” MacLeod said.

MacLeod’s internship inspired her to pursue more opportunities in volunteerism and nonprofit work.

On campus, she volunteers for the Food4Thought backpack program and helps with the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week events. She also plans to continue her internship with CECAA, whether on-site throughout the summer or from afar during her senior year. For her, it is an opportunity to combine her Hastings College education and personal compassion to make a difference to those in need.

By Mallory Gruben, a junior from Eckley, Colorado, majoring in journalism