The positive attitude and work ethic of Ana Paula Garcia de la Cadena Valencia was imperative to the ACLU of Georgia's advocacy work this summer.

As I head into the office for the last time this summer, I can’t help but reminisce on the wonderful experience I’ve had during my internship at the ACLU of Georgia. Coming in feels almost like a second home, strangers have become familiar faces who I’m excited to learn more from. Every staff member at the ACLU of Georgia plays a critical role in advancing the best interests of Georgians, whether it be the legal team taking an active role against the state’s discriminatory policies or the communications department making information accessible for everyone.  

During this internship cycle, I worked as a communications intern. I produced social media pieces to promote not only the ongoing work of the organization, but also highlight important civil rights history, events, and people in Georgia that often get overlooked. One of my favorite parts about this internship has been learning about countless important historical figures and their stories, most of whom I have never been exposed to through our education system. Besides my own work, I was able to learn valuable skills from my mentors and observe them accomplish various feats successfully. Along with their amazing capabilities, they also created a work environment like no other. Clocking in didn’t feel like a job. I was excited to go to work each day; the internship flew by in the blink of an eye. It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to this role. 

In addition to the dedicated staff, each intern this semester was remarkable to work alongside. It was inspiring to meet so many young people who are passionate about positive change, and I am incredibly grateful to have formed friendships with all of them. Although some people came to the internship without a clear idea of what their path is in life, a lot of us left with a great sense of belonging and purpose.  

The influence that the ACLU of Georgia has on the people is felt outside its offices. Earlier this summer, I participated in the Juneteenth Festivals with the organization. Not only did my fellow interns and I interact with people interested in joining our efforts, but we connected with countless Georgians who have in one way or another helped shape the direction our state is heading toward. I specifically remember meeting a lawyer who worked alongside the ACLU of Georgia in the late 90s. His story touched me deeply as we discussed that even though we are far from an ideal situation, our relentless activism and efforts have made true impacts. I was also able to interact with many young Georgians, ranging from elementary schoolers to college students, interested in taking a more active role to protect the liberties of their family, their friends, and themselves.  

In the current political and social environment we live in, it’s become second nature to believe we are drowning in political challenges. From incredibly restrictive legislative policies to the ever-changing news cycle overflowing with hate, it’s easy to forget that there are people fighting for our civil rights and civil liberties. Working alongside like-minded individuals, passionate about freedom and democracy, from diverse backgrounds has reinstated my hope for our future not only as a state, but as a country. It has truly been a privilege to contribute to an organization like the ACLU of Georgia, a true testament to what being an American is: courageous, resilient, and determined.