February 13, 2021

From Ivon Cabañas, BSW Intern at Trauma Informed Oregon

As a young Mexican American woman of color, my identities have not always been welcomed. It’s important for me to point out that inclusion to me as a person of color means accepting both my body and my mind. Too often I have been invited into spaces where my presence is wanted, but not my thoughts.

Through being an intern at Trauma Informed Oregon, however, I have been able to see collaboration and mutuality in action. At the beginning of my internship, I was caught off guard by the amount of power we were given as interns. I wanted structure, I wanted to continue to breathe and live in the white hierarchical systems that existed in my life.  I wasn’t used to the amount of power and decision-making that was given to me as just a student. I didn’t think I was ready, I felt like I needed to continue to be told what to do and what not to do. Being given this amount of power over how I wanted my internship to look gave me liberation. I finally realized that I was capable of making decisions for myself and that I was moving towards overcoming the imposter syndrome that I held onto for so long.

The leadership at TIO supports mutuality rather than hierarchy and this empowered me as an individual. We ALL are encouraged to collaborate to complete projects. Before I knew it, I was working on collecting research for a legislative informational session on the effects of COVID-19 on children. Dr. Mandy Davis, in every project I’ve worked on with her, has demonstrated a respectful and equal partnership. Today I am working with Dr. Mandy Davis on policy work which is something that I didn’t think I’d be doing early on in my career. Opportunities like these often come with an endless list of prerequisites one must fulfill to be “qualified”. Being part of macro-level projects has allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. At TIO, there is no project that is big enough that I can’t be a part of, and I think that’s a true representation of inclusivity.

The real fire within me and why I chose social work as my career choice was to give back to my Latinx community. Through TIO I have been able to do that by being part of projects that focus on mutual aid and empowering the voices of those who are often silenced. Currently, I am working on a “Parenting During COVID” video that highlights the voices of what parents are going through during this tough time. I, however, am doing my video completely in Spanish with bicultural/bilingual parents and parent providers. This is especially important to me as a Latinx individual. I feel like we often get these types of opportunities from Latinx organizations, which is amazing, but not from state-level ones like TIO. We as a community already know what we need; therefore, it’s important for our voices to be amplified by organizations like TIO, in order to reach communities distinct from our own and create a greater impact.

At TIO, without noticing it I have been guided to recognize my strengths and individuality. I have been encouraged to stretch myself beyond the limits I had set for myself and it has allowed me to grow exponentially both as an individual and as a future social worker. I’ll end this blog by including a quote that I believe is a representation of my experience at TIO:

Diversity is having a seat at the table. Inclusion is having a voice. And belonging is having that voice be heard.

—Liz Fosslien