North Central College seniors Elisabeth Volkamer and Jessica Martin were accepted to a 10-month internship at Belle H. Bennett House, an intentional community for the empowerment of young women at Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, TN.
The program, beginning in August, consists of 40-hour work weeks that focus on female empowerment and the eradication of racism through volunteer work, community living and internships at various organizations in the area.
Martin and Volkamer will live in a home provided by Bennett House and participate in a variety of community-building activities that include mentoring, studying, retreats and a variety of workshops.
They will work with mentors and community members, serve at the Scarritt-Bennett Center, develop leadership skills through community organizing, and serve as interns at a site placement where social justice is practiced.
Many site placements are available to Martin and Volkamer. The Magdalene/Thistle Farms organization teaches women how to create and sell natural bath and body products, while Community Food Advocates collects, grows and distributes nutritious food to low-income communities in the area. Volkamer has applied to work at both companies, while Martin hopes to work for Book'em in Nashville.
“A big part of the internship focuses on living in intentional community,” says Martin. “We live in a sort of commune-style environment where everyone works toward a similar goal—the eradication of racism and empowerment of women.”
Martin, of Madison, Wis., with a major in theatre and minor in social change and public advocacy, performed in several North Central productions: “House of Cards,” “Threepenny Opera” and the popular female empowerment-themed “The Vagina Monologues.” Volkamer, of Elk Grove Village, Ill., with a major in theatre and minor in Spanish, played a major role in the North Central comedy “Stage Door,” a play about the dreams of a group of young actresses.
Volkamer credits North Central College for encouraging her to participate in a program like the Bennett House: “My liberal arts education at North Central fueled my ambition to help create a world without racism or sexism. There are many amazing professors from many different fields of study who inspired me.”
Volkamer and Martin plan on attending graduate school after their internship at Bennett House. Volkamer hopes to pursue a career in broadcasting, journalism or social change theatre. Martin says, “My long-term goal is to combine my theatre experience with social change work. I believe theatre and performance can be used to bring about awareness and discussion of specific issues within a community.”