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Lenoir-Rhyne University students gain experience in Washington, D.C.
Lenoir-Rhyne University students gain experience in Washington, D.C.

Three Lenoir-Rhyne University students took part in a life-changing experience in the nation's capital through the Lutheran College Washington Semester (LCWS) program.

Chase Griffin, junior politics and pre-law major from Charlotte, North Carolina, Lupita Sanchez Rojas, a senior sociology major from Conover, North Carolina, and Yer Vang, senior psychology major from Taylorsville, North Carolina, were selected as three of 44 other students from colleges and universities throughout the United States.

As a member institution of LCWS, the students gained experience in a professional setting with internships in Washington, D.C., while also completing coursework toward their individual degrees. The fall semester ran from Aug. 31 to Dec. 8, 2019.

Griffin gains experience in Washington, D.C., legal system

In pursuit of a law degree, Griffin's internship was with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, while other LR students pursued experiences in the nonprofit sector.

"I have gained valuable insights into the workings of the legal system and its flaws and shortcomings," Griffin said. "I chose to participate in LCWS because of the ability to have real-world experience to supplement the education I have received at Lenoir-Rhyne. LCWS offers the priceless opportunity to work and see D.C. while making important contacts and relationships."

Griffin intends to attend graduate school to obtain his master's degree before earning a juris doctorate.

Rojas fights social injustice in Washington, D.C.

Rojas interned for Capital Area Immigrations' Rights Coalition (CAIR), an organization that works to ensure equal justice for immigrants at risk of detention or deportation.

"Working at CAIR has made me rethink and change my career goals and post-graduation plans," Rojas said. "I want to come back to D.C. after graduation and continue my career here. From going to court, to detention centers, to taking clients to different locations and agencies, I have had a lot of hands-on experience."

Additionally, Rojas states this experience was beneficial.

"Our classes were taught by professionals within the field we are studying," she said. "My professor was a lawyer and has worked within the police department. During one class, we had a homicide detective come in and walk us through some of their old cases. It was definitely a memorable experience."

Vang's 'wishful thinking' turns into opportunity of a lifetime

From afar, Vang thought the opportunity to study in Washington, D.C. would be a great experience.

"I first learned about LCWS my freshman year, and I thought that it would be so cool to take part in," Vang said. "At the time, it was just wishful thinking. I began to realize that LCWS could be my chance to break out of my shell and to experience what the city life was all about, so I began reaching out and applying for the program."

The experience was everything she hoped it would be. As a community resource intern for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, Vang supported family members grieving the death of a military loved one.

"I love what this organization is passionate about and pride myself in being a part of what they do," Vang said. "My experience at TAPS has made me realize that in the midst of being on the go all the time, we should take time to appreciate the little things."

In addition to real-world experience, students also expanedd their theoretical knowledge through the program, which offers courses such as Global Agenda, American Diversity, Public Policy Issues, Violence and Values, and Controversy and the Supreme Court.

Weekly field trips included visits to landmarks such as the White House, Pentagon, U.S. Capitol, U.S. Supreme Court, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Museum of African American History and Culture, and National Air and Space Museum. The students lived in metro-accessible, furnished penthouse apartments within walking distance to Georgetown while they took their courses and participated in their respective internships.

As a consortium of 13 institutions of higher education, LCWS brings students together from across the country for experiential learning opportunities in Washington, D.C. Students intern four full days per week for 14 weeks. Through the internship, students strengthen their skills, deepen their understanding of the professional world, and gain unparalleled experience that will set them apart when seeking full-time employment after graduation. Students also pursue two academic courses in a variety of subject areas to augment their professional endeavors.

Editor's Note: (left to right) Yer Vang, Chase Griffin, Lupita Sanchez Rojas have all participated in a semester-long, life-changing experience in the nation's capital through the Lutheran College Washington Semester program.