When people ask Lauryn Fanguen what she did with her summer vacation, she’s going to have a lot to talk about.
Lauryn is one of eight scholars chosen for this year’s Frank Karel Fellowship, which encourages first-generation and minority students to consider professional opportunities in the field of public interest communications. On the strength of her application — which demonstrated particularly strong writing skills — Lauryn was assigned to a paid internship at Spitfire. It’s a program Spitfire is proud to participate in, because it reflects the firm’s commitment to nurturing young, diverse talent that can use strategic communications to advocate for important issues.
“I hope to see a lot of growth by the end of my fellowship,” Lauryn says. “I want to be able to look back on this summer and say I learned a lot and improved my skills, which I’ll need for my future.”
Lauryn doesn’t graduate until 2020, but she’s already accomplished a great deal in her 19 years. Currently a student at University of Maryland Baltimore County — with a double major in political science and communications — Lauryn had amassed some solid experience as an intern and volunteer.
In addition to volunteering for Chris Van Hollen’s 2016 Senate campaign and the United We Dream immigration advocacy initiative, she’s served as a communications intern for Maryland State Legislator Jheanelle Wilkins and the YMCA D.C. Youth and Government program, where she mentors high school students seeking to shape legislative skills. She’s helped organize voter registration drives and, while at Montgomery College, participated in the Model United Nations and Student Senate.
“I care about advocacy and issues but I’m also really into politics,” Lauryn says. “I definitely want to do campaigning in the future, especially in terms of speechwriting and communications and how to target certain audiences.”
Lauryn also brings some important real-life experience to her work. Born in Morocco, she came to the United States when she was three years old and is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient. Lauryn is proud of her Moroccan and Cameroonian heritage, even though she says she was “Americanized pretty quickly.” However, being a Dreamer gives her a unique perspective on immigration issues.
“I am in a position to educate others about the fact that DACA recipients are people,” Lauryn says. “However, I’m mindful of the fact that not every Dreamer’s experience is the same. When I’m explaining my story, I understand that a lot of Dreamers haven’t had the opportunities I have. This is my story, but it isn’t every DACA recipient’s story.”
For example, Lauryn says, she recognizes that a lot of Dreamers in the Hispanic community are discriminated against, something Lauryn doesn’t face because she’s Black. English is her first language, so she doesn’t feel anxious if she encounters U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. She’s getting a college degree, something only 18 percent of DACA recipients achieve.
“I don’t think Dreamers should get to stay here because they’re accomplished,” Lauryn says. “I think they should stay here because they’ve been here a long time. Even if they don’t have a resume like mine, they’re as deserving as I am to stay in this country.”
Although mindful of her relative privilege, Lauryn is using her experience to lift up the stories of others. She’s already helped draft a statement for a Spitfire client in response to the immigration crisis and an op-ed about temporary protected status (TPS) given to eligible nationals of certain countries who are in the United States. She’s also writing a blog post for Spitfire about being at the #KeepFamiliesTogether March in Washington, D.C.
In just the first couple weeks at Spitfire, Lauryn has also gained valuable hands-on experience that will prepare her for a career in public interest communications, including drafting tweets for a client advocating for SNAP and creating a media list to promote a book about economic equity through a racial lens. She’s taking over the management of Spitfire’s social media sites for a week and recently joined the internal editorial team. In the process, Lauryn says she’s learning to be more purposeful about reaching out to targeted audiences and is honing her writing skills.
“I’m really excited to be at Spitfire because there’s such a wide variety of topics to work on,” she says. “Of course, there are issues I’m particularly passionate about — like immigration, education, policy brutality and making sure there’s a level playing field for disadvantaged people — but being able to tackle a variety of issues at the same time is a plus of working at Spitfire.”
There’s no question the skills Lauryn develops this summer will help with her career goals, which are currently focused on one very big objective after graduation: working on the Democratic presidential campaign in 2020.
“Somehow, I’m going to get my way onto that campaign,” Lauryn says. “I really want to work on the national level, perhaps traveling with the candidate. Working for the presidential campaign is the big goal, and after that hopefully it won’t be too difficult to get a job in the field. Right now, I’m just trying to gain all the skills and build up my resume to make myself competitive for that job.”
Spitfire is delighted to send Lauryn off in August with the skills and experience she needs to continue sparking positive change in the world.