Marquisa Wince (Milwaukee, Wisc.), who recently completed her first year at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, is in Nairobi, Kenya, this summer for her International Public Service Project.
Wince is working with Probation and Aftercare Services, a government department under the Ministry of Interior and Coordination where she is supervised by Clinton School alum Florence Mueni, who serves as an officer in the department.
“She’s actually really involved in my work,” Wince said of Mueni. “I ask her to help me out. She’s introduced me to everyone in the office and set up the focus groups and made sure that I’m getting connected to the people that I need.”
Wince has been in Kenya for almost three weeks and has been able to start her work with few transitional issues.
“It’s been amazing so far,” Wince said. “It’s been pretty easy (in terms of the transition). I don’t know Swahili, which can be kind of difficult in some cases, but most folks can understand English. I’ve just been told that I talk really fast. I’m trying to slow down and be mindful.”
What drew you to this specific project?
What I’m doing is an evaluation for formerly incarcerated youth. Their system is different from the U.S. system. They have probation hostels, where if the judge deems it fit and the offender agrees to it, they can enter the hostel for one year. Like probation, or sort of like a half-way house, I’m trying to determine if the services are effective in the rehabilitation of the offenders.
What drew me to that, first, is my interest in working with young people. I’ve always been interested in being an advocate for youth and interested in the area of juvenile justice. That was one piece of it. Also, I’m a concurrent student who will be starting the J.D. program (at the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law) this August, so I definitely wanted to pick an IPSP that exposed me to some king of legal work, even though it’s a different system.
I jumped right in. The first week I was here, I had a trip to one of the hostels and started right away with data collection and interviews and focus groups. Initially I was a little anxious about how to connect, especially with the young people, because the majority in the hostels are under the age of 24. I was really worried about the language barrier, specifically. But, right away, it was really clear that I was supposed to be doing this work and connecting with people here.
Was there any particular moment you realized you were supposed to be doing this work?
This is true of all the hostels I’ve visited so far: I think it’s simply the time that I spend after the focus group is completed, removing myself from the official meeting area and just hanging out with the young men and women in the hostels.
They ask so many questions, and I realize the intelligence and innocence of these kids that are written off. It brings me home because I do a lot of youth work. It’s a reminder that young people everywhere are in need of advocates and people to listen to them and be honest with them. Not one specific conversation or moment, but that one-on-one time where I can sit down and have fun with the kids. I think I feel most at home when I have that down time.
What other sort of youth work have you done?
Something that was really important to me was my first exposure to it, a group in Milwaukee called Urban Underground. I wear my Urban Underground bracelet everyday, even here. It’s something that is a constant reminder. It shaped and molded me and called me to this work. It was pivotal. Had I not gone through Urban Underground, I don’t think I would be working here and doing this project.
In Arkansas, I led a workshop with the HRC Youth Summit. I went to the Lake Village area and did a week-long spring break camp with a cultural center. Back in Milwaukee I did a lot of day camp work, before and after care services, and other things like that.
Are there many similarities to your Practicum work with Phoenix Youth and Family Services?
Yeah, I was just thinking about that the other day. There are a lot of similarities. Not necessarily with the interviews and actual data collection, but I spearheaded the youth groups with Phoenix as well. Translating those skills, even with the language barrier, is something I fell back on. The youth with Phoenix were also involved in the juvenile justice system, so the population was really similar in how they view themselves or in the stigma that was associated with them.
The biggest similarity is just keeping in mind that the focus of my work is to make sure the young people receive the best services they can. That has kept me going – the work I’m doing can actually impact the lives of these young people.
My expectations are higher. I think I came into this with pretty high expectations, but after doing these initial interviews and seeing the need and importance of getting some quality work and recommendations for the department, I think the expectations for myself are way higher. The expectations and the duty I have to these young people is driving me to go beyond what I’m doing now.