Chicago Legal Aid Internship Bolsters Skills for Future Reporter

March 11, 2022

Caitlyn-Rae Arendse, Albion College Class of 2022

Caitlyn-Rae Arendse is a senior majoring in economics and management with an emphasis in international business and economics. Arendse is the daughter of Diane and Charl Arendse of Dublin, Ohio, and a graduate of Dublin Scioto High School.

By Jake Weber

Despite the pandemic’s many challenges, the 2021 educational plan for Caitlyn-Rae Arendse, ’22, was mostly unfolding as expected. She participated in-person at The Philadelphia Center last spring, then spent the summer in Chicago thanks to Albion’s Foundation for Undergraduate Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity.

This past fall, Arendse was set to cap the year as an intern with a Chicago television studio. But the opportunity evaporated amid a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections, leaving Arendse with a dilemma: go to Grand Rapids for a second internship with a media outlet, or go in another direction with the Urban Life Center in Chicago?

Chicago won out—and so did Arendse and West Town Law Office, the legal aid nonprofit where she spent last fall. She worked in a primarily Puerto Rican neighborhood, researching court cases and helping to prepare legal documents for the nonprofit’s mostly working-class clients.

Some of Arendse’s work required taking notes during live court proceedings, a particularly intense challenge. “Sometimes you hear things on opposing sides and you’re thrown for a loop. Sometimes it’s difficult to take notes on everything and be sure you’re being accurate,” she says. “My supervisor and other people in the office edited my work, but it was important to me that I get things right.”

In her quest for accuracy, Arendse revived a tactic from her FURSCA project and kept a field notebook of her research. She also relied on the support of the nonprofit’s staff.

“We worked with people who didn’t always want to talk to us, who didn’t trust ‘the system,’” Arendse explains. “The other staff told me that it was OK when things didn’t go right and it was OK to struggle. I was surrounded by hard-working people who had seen a lot.”

The internship provided valuable experience that Arendse will use in her future career—which she says will still be in journalism. “Everything I did with research is going to help me be a better reporter,” she notes. Arendse is considering graduate study in journalism and also, possibly, a master’s degree in law studies.

Arendse will begin work this year with Security Television Network, a CNN Newsource affiliate, as she prepares for graduate school admission in the fall of 2023. She will write mainly on cybersecurity news, ransomware and business ventures for STN, while she continues to build her journalistic talents and skills.