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Community Semester Story: Sephora Wembo … in Her Own Words

My name is Sephora Wembo and I am a senior at CUNY’s Hunter College majoring in Sociology and minoring in Women and Gender Studies, graduating this December. In the fall of 2019, I got nominated by my professor to take part in the Community Leadership Program at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. When I heard about this amazing opportunity, I was excited to take part because I wanted to broaden my experience and skills and further my education in order to become a social worker.

The Community Semester program was an intensive academic and service-learning experience. It gave me the opportunity to not only learn academically but also outside the classroom with an internship. When I began this program, I kept on hearing the words “community organizing” and I had no idea what that meant. I now know that community organizing means empowering people in underrepresented communities to fight for issues that affect them. In class we not only learned about the subjects academically, but also got to experience them firsthand. For example, I attended one campaign in the city called “Housing Justice for All.” It was really empowering to see a lot of organizations come together to work for change in their communities.

For my internship, I was placed at a non-profit organization called Seeds of Peace, which was created to cultivate and inspire new generations of leaders in communities divided by conflict around the world.  I worked as an administrative assistant. My duties included answering phone calls, receiving mail, filling out check requests, creating new personnel files, and keeping calendars and contact lists updated. I wish I had had the opportunity to meet some of the teenagers who came from countries divided by conflict and hear their personal stories.  However, I am very glad because the skills I learned are very useful in my current job. The experience also helped me develop leadership skills.

Fast forward to now:  Last year I finished the program at CUNY SLU and got my Certificate in Community Leadership, and went on to complete my Bachelors’ at Hunter College. Crystal Joseph has been such a great support, even after my journey at SLU ended. I was looking for a job but I wasn’t getting the result I wanted when I interviewed. I knew I was doing something wrong, I would be nervous, but there was more to fix. That is why I decided to seek guidance. I reached out to Crystal and this past summer, we worked on my interview skills. At the same time I was applying for jobs. I got called for an interview and hired the very same day. I was so shocked because I had such a hard time before with interviews.

The same thing happened when I interviewed for my current job. I am now working at Sauti Yetu Center for African Women as a Case Aide, and it’s all thanks to Crystal. I am grateful for all the things I learned at SLU, which I’m still able to apply to my work and use in my daily life.

You can learn more about SLU’s Community Semester Program HERE