FELLOWSHIP: Ongkiko Works to Enforce Anti-Discrimination Laws

FELLOWSHIP: Ongkiko Works to Enforce Anti-Discrimination Laws

NORTON, Mass. - Eighteen Wheaton College student-athletes have earned fellowships this summer through the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services that will enrich their academic experiences. 

The Davis International and Porter Cleveland fellowships are just a few examples of the Wheaton Edge – a promise that every single student will receive financial support for an internship, research position or other experiential learning opportunity by the time they graduate.

Throughout the summer, the athletics department will feature the student-athletes taking part in these fellowships, including an outfielder from the softball team Lily Ongkiko '19

A political science major from Joliet, Ill., Ongkiko will work as a housing and testing intern at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in Boston.

Wheaton Athletics: Tell me a little bit about your fellowship. 

Lily Ongkiko: I'm working as an intern with the MCAD this summer. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination's mission is "to eliminate and prevent discrimination and educate citizens of the Commonwealth (of Massachusetts) regarding their rights and duties under anti-discrimination statutes." The MCAD was established in 1946 as the state's chief civil rights agency with the authority to investigate, prosecute, and resolve all cases of discrimination. This summer, I'm learning about Massachusetts' anti-discrimination laws in many areas, including: employment, housing, credit, public accommodations, and education. The MCAD protects individuals in many protected categories and investigates discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

This summer, I've been placed in the Housing Unit of the MCAD and am working on many cases where individuals feel as though they've been discriminated against in their housing situation. I've spent my summer interviewing individuals and their witnesses along with aiding the investigation of many housing complaints where individuals feel they've been unfairly denied housing because of their race, disability or sexual orientation. Throughout my summer at the MCAD, I've also had the privilege of sitting in investigative conferences, mediations, and public hearings all with the unified goal of eradicating discrimination throughout Massachusetts and settling the complaints of many who have been unfairly denied housing, employment, or education. 

WA: What interested you in the fellowship? 

LO: Originally, what interested me most in this fellowship with the MCAD is their mission statement. Massachusetts is absolutely at the forefront of public, anti-discrimination law seeing that this public Commission was only the second in the United States at the time it was established. I've always been interested in law, and especially laws that aim to benefit the greater good. With this fellowship at the MCAD, I was able to see myself making a difference in the lives of many who reside in the very state I do. Throughout my education at Wheaton, I've taken numerous courses on international politics and have had the fortune of learning, in-depth, about the discrimination millions face each day due to their race, religion, disability, gender, and sexual orientation; however, when I came across this fellowship with the MCAD, I was immediately intrigued because I would be able to make a difference in the lives of those who have felt this discrimination right at home in Boston. 

WA: What experiences are you hoping to gain from your fellowship? 

LOFrom this fellowship at the MCAD, I've already learned many of the technicalities of public law. Seeing that there are so many different facets of law, being able to gain experience in both anti-discrimination and public law in the same summer is an unforgettable opportunity. I've been able to experience the investigations of almost 20 cases this summer and have been able to interact with the attorneys, complainants, defendants, and hearing officers in these cases. Being able to watch a case as its matures and makes its way to either a public hearing or settlement as an undergraduate is an experience I will constantly be drawing from in my professional career. 

This summer I'm interning with about 15 other students and I have loved getting to know each one of them along with the personal and professional experience they've brought to the MCAD. I've met both undergraduate and law students who have been able to give me first-hand advice on law school and law in the professional world. Making these connections and friendships with other students who have the same passion as I do is one of the most valuable experiences I've had this summer. 

WA: What are your career aspirations and how will this help you achieve them? 

LO: After graduating from Wheaton, I plan on continuing my education by attending law school. This fellowship with Wheaton and the MCAD has allowed me to experience a small part of public law and I would love to expand my knowledge of law in general. I think, as I stated earlier, one of the most valuable experiences that I've gained from this fellowship is listening to the personal advice of students who are maybe 3 to 5 years older than me, but who have been in the same place I am right now – learning about the path and education it requires to become an attorney. Seeing that throughout my education at Wheaton, I've taken many courses and a specific interest in international and human rights law, I would love to eventually follow this career path, helping those who may not have the voice to help themselves or those who don't have the voice to enforce their rights as a human being. 

This experience has exposed me to the realities of becoming an attorney. I think, now more than ever, my aspirations to attend law school have taken precedence. This fellowship with the MCAD has made me realize, in 2017 especially, this discrimination is very real and it still exists within our borders. Although I would love to travel internationally to aid those that may not have a voice in human rights law, this experience has shown me that you don't have to travel more than 5 minutes to witness discrimination in its purest form. 

WA: How will this experience make you a better leader at Wheaton and on your team? 

LO: This fellowship with Wheaton has improved my leadership skills by showing me that your first impression of someone, on or off the field, is rarely correct. Everyone is dealing with something within their personal lives and everyone deserves your respect, no matter their color, religion, or sexual orientation – I think this experience at the MCAD has only further confirmed this.  

WA: Finally, why do you think these opportunities are beneficial to Wheaton students? 

LO: An opportunity such as this one is inexplicably valuable to Wheaton students because it allows students to experience 6 to 8 weeks of a professional career they have already shown interest in. These experiences are priceless because they can play such a huge part in a student deciding what he/she wants to dedicate the rest of his/her life to. A majority of internships, especially in public law, are unpaid, and the Wheaton Fellows program allows for the professional growth of a student without having to constantly worry about whether or not he/she can afford to benefit from the experience. These experiences allow the student to put educational growth before monetary worries – and this is something that I find particularly important when deciding on a career.