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A Passion for Advocacy: Katie Tocci ’17

Aug 04, 2017


student katie tocci sits at tableAt her internship at United Planning Organization (UPO) in Washington, D.C., Randolph-Macon College student Katie Tocci '17 gained hands-on experience in the organization's Advocacy Division. UPO is a community action agency that provides child care, re-entry services, job readiness and training, hunger relief, housing assistance, and more to individuals and families. Tocci's internship was made possible by a generous grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and was arranged by staff from The Edge, R-MC's four-year career program.

A communication studies major and French and psychology minor, Tocci managed a mini grant that was awarded to the Advocacy Division to conduct domestic violence education and awareness sessions; worked with the communications department to coordinate staff participation in Kidney Action Day; and interviewed staff members, community members, and partners in conjunction with UPO's advocacy campaign. Ayana Bias, community liaison and director of volunteer services at UPO, served as Tocci's supervisor.

"Katie worked closely with all of our team members," says Bias. "She and I met daily, and my office door was always open to provide clarification and/or assistance as needed. Our team also provided peer-to-peer mentoring, which allowed Katie to work with diverse personalities and experience different group dynamics."

Outreach + Advocacy
In addition to projects, Tocci spent a great portion of her time in outreach, participating in community events and activities, attending community meetings, and learning about D.C. laws and policies.

"I did advocacy work in D.C.'s Ward 8, a very low-income community that faces many obstacles— homelessness, hunger, poor education, crime and violence," says Tocci, who distributed food boxes to seniors; worked on a domestic-violence campaign; and promoted UPO's partnership with the American Kidney Fund. "Advocacy work demands good communication skills, whether that be through face-to-face interactions or through flyers or speaking to large groups. My R-MC communication studies courses prepared me well for this important part of my internship."

Tocci also did advocacy work at The Petey Greene Program, a D.C. organization that supplements education in correctional institutions by preparing volunteers to provide free, quality tutoring and related programming to support the academic achievement of incarcerated people.

"At Petey Green I conducted interviews with residents, volunteers, and staff members,” she explains. “I took the information from those interviews and highlighted those individuals on social media—not only to get their story out to the public, but also to show off the wonderful services that UPO offers."

An Eye-opening Experience
"My internship was truly eye-opening to the many obstacles economically disadvantaged communities face," says Tocci. "In addition, it showed me that advocacy is the field I want to make my career in—I plan on pursuing a career in advocacy for the populations of women, immigrants or low-income communities in the Richmond or D.C. area. I love being able to provide a voice for people and communities that aren't heard."