The Mission District is a neighborhood home to artistic murals and cultural cuisine, a direct contrast to the established homelessness and street crimes for which it is also known. Mission resident and USF senior Anita Buitrago is well accustomed to the colorful culture and violent downsides of the neighborhood, but was never aware of the daily contributions made to improve community life until she landed an internship that opened her eyes to her own backyard.
Buitrago acquired the opportunity early in the spring semester to intern for the Mission Community Council (MiCoCo), an umbrella organization for 25 Mission community organizations that work together to offer programs to families, youth, working residents, immigrants and the Latino community. As an intern, she is assigned various tasks updating and emailing weekly newsletters, updating the organization’s website anything that improves the fluidity of MiCoCo’s operations.
“It’s not a typical office job where you sit at your computer all day,” Buitrago said. “We go to meetings and do different things,” including attending and supporting MiCoCo’s weekly meetings to provide community members information and hold forums on neighborhood concerns.
Within MiCoCo’s building, programs are offered that help people find jobs, provide students with after-school programs, hold classes to learn English or attain one’s GED, and even provide an accessible computer lab to the community. Encountering community members on a daily basis, Buitrago said, makes her have a different perspective on the neighborhood she grew up in.
“I lived there my whole life but I was never involved with the community because I felt like I was sheltered,” she said, “and I’ve noticed before that there’s a lot of gang violence, but the Mission nowadays is lot more justified…its a different community.”
The main reason Buitrago decided to intern for MiCoCo was because it directly helps the community in which she grew up in. “It’s where I live, and now that I’m older I’m getting to know the real, positive things that are going on in the neighborhood.”
But acquiring the job was somewhat unintentional, she said. With only retail and office experience under her belt, she applied to a couple of internships, not knowing whether she would receive a response from any of them. When MiCoCo contacted her, she said it was somewhat of a surprise.
“I was really interested just because it involves the community,” she said, “to make good connections within my neighborhood.” And the experience thus far has been a rewarding one, she said, exposing her to political issues that she was not aware of before.
“Now that I’m a part of it, I know now that’s what I wanted to do,” she said, “get that [political] experience.”
One of MiCoCo’s projects that Buitrago helped put together was the “One Mission Peace March” on Jan. 28, a rally intended to spread messages of love and peace to Mission youth by advocating non-violence as a way of life in the community. It also highlighted the efforts of organizations to prevent crime, as well their fight against the Mayor’s Office for cutting the funding to programs that serve the youth in the Mission. “I was on the committee looking up facts for the youth,” Buitrago said, referring to the poster signs that displayed youth and crime facts that rally participants hold. “Whenever they needed help I helped them, making calls or faxes,” she said.
The internship above all has given her networking opportunities, the chance to meet other people and find out their life stories, and find out what they went through to get where they are now. “The people I work with, they really love what they do,” she said, “having this job reminds me to keep in mind that, if I’m not happy with what I’m doing, then why do it at all? But I’ve learned that I really love what I do.”
To find more information on MiCoCo, visit: http://www.micocosf.org/