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Thank You to Our Fall 2021 Interns!

December 6, 2021
Courtney M. McSwain

Three photos of Fall Interns

We’ve had three incredible interns working with NJJN this fall who have helped us in our publications, policy advocacy and communications. Huge thanks to all that they helped us accomplish! 

Izabella Nunes, American University, Graduating Senior
Policy Intern

Photo of Izabella Nunes1. What got you interested in youth justice advocacy work?

From a young age, I’ve always been interested in youth justice advocacy work because it’s such a prominent issue impacting members of my community. As a Justice & Law minor, I hope to use my knowledge and passion for this issue to be a champion for change in my community and beyond.

2. How do you hope your experience with NJJN will support your goals moving forward?

I’ve learned a lot during my time at NJJN and it’s been a huge privilege to be part of an organization that aligns so closely with my personal and professional values. Through this experience, I was able to explore my passion for issues impacting youth in the legal system and it’s helped me envision a future for myself in this field. More importantly, this experience has taught me the power of community in helping to create change and this is a lesson that I will continue to carry with me in my advocacy efforts.

3. What college/post-grad course has had the biggest impact on you? Why? 

The college course that has had the biggest impact on me is a class that I’m currently in called, The Prison Community. This class focuses primarily on the experiences of prisoners as they adapt to the psychological, emotional, physical and interpersonal traumas of U.S. prisons. The structure of the class isn’t very “conventional” in that it’s heavily based on class discussions, which I enjoy because it allows us to formulate our own thoughts on the course materials. In my previous classes, prisoners were never presented in a humanizing manner, which made it harder to understand their experiences. For this reason, this class has had an immense impact on me, because it’s helped me become a more empathetic person. One of the biggest takeaways from this class is that, “We should not be judged solely by the worst things we’ve ever done”.

4. What are you looking forward to doing over the holiday break?

I’m supposed to be travelling to Brazil (if Omicron permits) to visit my family during the holidays. I haven’t been able to visit them since Covid-19 started back in 2020 and I’m looking forward to seeing them. I'm also looking forward to escaping the cold weather in DC for a couple weeks and hopefully going to the beach with my cousins!


Sahith Mukku, George Washington University, Master of Public Health 
Health Equity Intern

Photo of Sahith Mukku1. What got you interested in youth justice advocacy work? 

I first became interested in youth justice advocacy work after working in community health, where I met people who spoke at length about their experiences with incarceration and our country's justice system. One of the key issues they spoke about is how they felt as if they had no voice. To help address this, I decided to create a podcast for previously incarcerated people to share their stories. Hearing their thoughts and ideas about our carceral system helped me to realize that youth justice advocacy, or focusing on keeping kids out of the justice system, is incredibly important to address our country's steep incarceration rate.  

2. How do you hope your experience with NJJN will support your goals moving forward? 

Through NJJN, I have had the opportunity to conduct research on topics related to youth justice that I am interested in. In the future, I hope to take these skills with me to continue conducting novel research on the topics I am passionate about.  

3. What college/post-grad course has had the biggest impact on you? Why? 

I am currently taking a course called "Preventing Health Disparities," and each week we learn about how health disparities manifest and present themselves among different groups of people. The class has been eye-opening and has helped me to become more mindful of the issues communities face in our current day.  

4. What are you looking forward to doing over the holiday break? 

I am looking forward to spending time with my loved ones, as well as having a much-needed break away from school and my other responsibilities. I'm also excited to watch the new Spider-man movie! 


Valerie Salazar, Cal Lutheran University, 4th Year Undergraduate 
Communications Intern

Photo of Valerie Salazar1. What got you interested in youth justice advocacy work?  

Going back to school and majoring in Sociology at my local community college at 40 years old brought up topics that uncovered deeply buried trauma of my childhood spent in the system. I entered at 14 years old and spent more time behind bars than anywhere else until after my 18th birthday. It motivated me to get involved where I can. It was unacceptable then and it’s unacceptable now.  

2. How do you hope your experience with NJJN will support your goals moving forward? 

The NJJN has already supported my goals so much; I’m a YJLI alum and found a family for life within its program. I’m hoping after graduation next year to work with or start a community-based organization in some capacity and learning media communication skills is of the utmost importance in this work. Getting to learn from someone I really admire is amazing. 

3. What college/post-grad course has had the biggest impact on you? Why?  

It was an English writing course assignment in my first year of college. We had to write a research/opinion paper with multiple references and citations. I did it on why locking youth behind bars is wrong and further traumatizes kids who already have trauma. It was my first time dealing with real data and statistics, and it was appalling.  

4. What are you looking forward to doing over the holiday break? 

I work three jobs, volunteer for two organizations, and attend school full time. I’m taking a break from EVERYTHING and looking forward to some Netflix binge-watching with my sixteen-year-old and knocking out a few books on my reading list.

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