Center for Community Engagement

Internship Postcards: Alex Gomes Pereira '12

CNA Picnic

July 2011—story by Jenny Morgan, photo courtesy of Alexandre (Alex) Gomes Pereira '12

Alex Gomes Pereira ’12, a history major from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, first took an interest in immigration while answering the phones at the Massachusetts State House in Boston last summer. He noticed that immigrants were calling frequently to get help “navigating the system” on a number of issues, most notably health care.

This summer, 150 students interned in twelve states and thirteen countries around the world through the Center for Community Engagement’s summer internships programs. Each day this week, we’ll share a different internship postcard. Today's postcard is from Alexandre (Alex) Gomes Pereira '12, who interned at the Center for New Americans in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Alex Gomes Pereira ’12, a history major from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, first took an interest in immigration while answering the phones at the Massachusetts State House in Boston last summer. He noticed that immigrants were calling frequently to get help “navigating the system” on a number of issues, most notably health care.  He wanted to know more about the structural barriers they faced, and he wanted to be more directly involved in helping to navigate those barriers—so his first step, naturally, was to take every course he could find on immigration the following year. When he found an internship with the Northampton, MA-based Center for New Americans (CNA) this summer, it seemed an ideal opportunity. The CNA serves almost 500 immigrants every year, offering free courses in English and technology; job counseling; support services; and coaching for the citizenship application— exactly the kind of direct involvement he’d been looking for. This summer, Gomes Pereira has helped to create an alumni network for graduates of the English as a Second Language (ESOL) program, including conducting focus groups with exiting students and alumni about how the CNA can improve their services.

He’s noticed that the most pressing issues facing immigrants “depends on whether or not they are documented,” explaining that undocumented immigrants are undergoing the process of applying for political asylum or other channels to remain legally in the United States. Immigrants who are documented are, by and large, working towards becoming citizens. Still, there are common issues— health care, learning English, getting a driver’s license— and the CNA’s holistic approach allows immigrants to find the support they need. He’s found that communication was both the most challenging and rewarding aspect of his internship. “Sometimes I’ll be interviewing someone on the phone—I have an accent, they have an accent—everything gets a little confused. But when you finally manage to get your idea across, when that goes through, it feels nice.” Gomes Pereira hopes to continue to work with immigrant and minority communities after he graduates next year, adding that he’s interested in addressing the high rates of homelessness in Boston’s immigrant communities.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's postcard from Adoma Manful '12, who interned at the American Cancer Society in Chicago, Illinois. You can read yesterday's postcard from Emma Vaimberg '14 here.

Jenny Morgan is a staff writer for the CCE. She welcomes any questions or comments at jmorgan[at]amherst[dot]edu.