This past summer, All Our Kin had the pleasure of hosting Kiana Hernandez, a Liman Fellow from Yale College. The prestigious Liman Summer Fellowship is awarded by the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program to undergraduate students passionate about addressing inequality and improving access to justice by working with organizations that support public interest.
This is not All Our Kin’s first experience with a Liman Fellow—it was the Liman Fellowship for Yale Law School graduates, which funds work on public interest legal projects, that funded All Our Kin’s Executive Director Jessica Sager during her first year building the organization. As such, the support of the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program through the Liman Fellowship has been instrumental in All Our Kin’s success.
During her time with All Our Kin, Kiana worked most closely with the Early Head Start program, through which she was able to form valued connections with children, families, and providers. Read below to learn more about Kiana’s experiences working with All Our Kin, and how these experiences transformed her personal and professional goals as she furthered her commitment to serving children and families.
Read Kiana’s Story:
For my summer fellowship, I was placed with a New Haven-based nonprofit called All Our Kin. The primary focus of All Our Kin is to improve the quality of early childhood education and care in underserved populations through direct work with the community and advocacy.
Over the course of my time with All Our Kin, I had many projects relating to different aspects of the mission. My primary project was the creation of a policy memo, with the help of some of the data available in the office, for a state program that provides childcare subsidies to low-income families. Other projects were based largely in the Early Head Start office, and included translation, – from interviews with childcare providers to a handbook for parents enrolling in All Our Kin’s New Haven-based Early Head Start program – workshop planning, creating a video to promote the program, and helping set up a study on the efficacy of the All Our Kin Early Head Start program to be conducted in the near future. At times, I even met with families interested in the Early Head Start program to help them apply and enroll.
It is important to note, however, that I did not spend all of my time in the office. On certain occasions – say, when a newly enrolled family was starting their first day at a provider’s home – we would go out and visit the Early Head Start sites. During these visits, I got to see the smiling faces of the kids’ whose names I had already seen a number of times in the office. My first visit to a particular site meant that the children would always start off shy around me, but would ultimately warm up and even try to pull me along into their games.
I cannot say there is one specific memorable moment in the entirety of my summer, but there are definitely a couple dozen small ones. Watching the children sing a morning song or sitting with them as they finger-painted and blurted out the names of the colors. Hearing the joy in a mother’s voice as she was notified by phone that we were able to offer her child a spot in the program. Working with parents on their resumes and interview skills during a job skills workshop. All of these small moments have left me with an image of my summer imprinted in my mind that still gives me a sense of warmth whenever I look back on it.
My summer was filled with many families and many, many children. It did not take long for me to realize that it is impossible to focus solely on one or the other, because in practice, they are so connected. To make sure our support system has a strong effect on children, we must also ensure that the adults in their lives outside of their childcare program are also being supported. We held many workshops for parents and providers alike, as a result. It was in those workshops that my resolve to go on to law school was solidified. When I first applied to the Liman fellowship, I was a (struggling) Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry major, trying to decide whether I would ultimately go into research or law. Through my experiences this summer, I realized that there is no better feeling than being a helping hand to those who truly need it.
As I enter my junior year, I enter “undeclared”. I have no major and feel like a freshman again shopping so many classes. Sometimes, I even get lost trying to find all of these Humanities buildings that I have never before had reason to find. But I am so much surer of what I will do in the long run, and I have this summer to thank for that.
To learn more about the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program and the other fellowship awards it supports, click here.