Emma Ronai-Durning 19’ reflects on her CCE Community Engagement Academic Outreach Endowment (AOE) grant funded employment with Rural Organizing Project.
This summer, thanks to an Academic Outreach Endowment Grant, I was able to return home to Oregon and work with the Rural Organizing Project. My summer was full of new projects that challenged me and enabled me to grow as a human and as an organizer.
I started the summer researching how to file public records requests. My goal was to create resources for folks across Oregon so that they could carry out their own research into what was going on in their communities in regards to police-ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) collaboration. As I discussed in my initial project proposal, this practice of providing the tools of research to those who might not otherwise have access to them aligned with my spring semester’s geography course, which explored radical geographic pedagogy quite extensively. More personally, it was exciting to see how the work of so many different fields can come together for a common cause.
In my research I worked with activists, immigration lawyers, public defenders, immigrant justice organizers, and criminal justice advocates to figure out how to best file public records requests in the state of Oregon. It also confirmed in me the answer to a question I often receive from family members and family friends: “No, I do not want to be a lawyer.” While I deeply appreciate the assistance I received from those with legal training, I feel much more motivated to work with people at a community-wide scale instead of on a case-by-case basis. This summer provided me the opportunity to gain more clarity on my goals beyond college, while also becoming a more skilled and experienced organizer, so as to better fill that role in the future.
You can read the resources I created on Public Records Requests here: a story of how records requests can be used as one tool in the toolbox, and a nitty-gritty how to.