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Summer Internships: Alexa Barstow '25

June 21, 2023
Alex Barstow smiling with thumbs up in front of a table under a tent

Name: Alexa Barstow
Class Year: 2025
Major: Political Science & Queer Studies (independent major)
Hometown: Thomaston, Maine

Internship Organization: OUT Maine
Job Title: Summer Intern
Location: Rockland, Maine

What's happening at your internship? We would love to hear what kind of work you are doing!

I am the only intern for the summer at OUT Maine, and as a small non-profit with only eight full-time staff members, my role has mostly been providing extra support for each of their positions and furthering the work of OUT Maine's mission, which is to "help Maine’s diverse queer youth thrive by demonstrating how much they matter." OUT Maine is the only organization in Maine focused solely on LGBTQIA+ youth, and we use a three-prong approach to work towards this mission: education, support, and empowerment. As an intern, I've been supporting the education prong of OUT Maine by joining August Sender, OUT Maine's training coordinator, for the various training sessions they conduct with public educators, camp counselors, healthcare workers, law enforcement officers, and other public officials on how to create accepting, affirming, and empowering environments for LGBTQIA+ youth in Maine. OUT Maine's "support" prong is executed through group counseling sessions led by our Mental Health Coordinator Maura Oakes, involving parents learning how to best support their LGBTQIA+ children. The "support" prong also goes hand-in-hand with the "empower" prong when it comes to our weekly youth groups, which I attend three times a week with Maggie Hirshland, our youth engagement coordinator. Maggie is my direct supervisor and the person I work closely with every day, and so far our work has consisted of leading three youth groups a week, hosting PRIDE events across the state of Maine for the month of June, meeting with various community organizations (including children's museums and other youth-focused non-profits) to collaborate on supporting LGBTQIA+ youth, and visiting the state house to help lead Youth Lobby Day and to attend the reading of Maine's June 2023 Pride Proclamation.

Group picture of OUT Maine staff, public educators, and high school students
OUT Maine staff with Equality Maine staff, other public educators, and Maine high school students with Governor Janet Mills at Youth Lobby Day 2023.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I applied for this internship because of the experiences I've had with OUT Maine in the past and the deep admiration and passion I have for the work that they're doing. While in high school, I worked on a two-year youth policy board led by OUT Maine, which was focused on redesigning sexual education curriculums in Maine to be more inclusive and comprehensive. As someone who was once an LGBTQIA+ teenager in rural Maine, I know firsthand how hard it can be for queer youth across the state and how much good an organization like OUT Maine can do. My alignment with OUT Maine's values and passion for their mission is what led me to apply for this internship, as well as the fact that their efforts to directly support queer youth as well as to reform and improve the social systems of power that serve them lie directly at the intersection of my interests and majors, those being political science and queer studies.

OUT Maine staff smiling and sitting in a row in an auditorium
OUT Maine staff at the Maine statehouse on June 15th, 2023, where we were invited to hear the reading of the Pride Proclamation, which officially declared and acknowledged June 2023 as PRIDE Month in Maine.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at your internship?

The biggest challenge I have faced at my internship is learning to deal professionally with much of the opposition OUT Maine and LGBTQIA+ people across Maine, as well as the country, are currently facing. While great progress has been made in many ways across the state, visiting schools and other public buildings with the OUT Maine staff has been a hard but necessary reminder of what still needs to be done, ranging from gender-neutral bathrooms to inclusive and safe classroom spaces. OUT Maine also makes sure to stay up-to-date on controversies that may arise across the state, such as opposition to certain diverse books being allowed in the classroom or open discussion of gender expression and pronouns; hearing about how hard some people are working against LGBTQIA+ people, especially kids, is incredibly difficult; learning how to continue working through these emotionally-draining obstacles and to engage in difficult conversations with people who may not want to listen has been a challenge, but has also been a necessary and fulfilling learning experience to have.

Alex Barstow and a OUT Maine Coordinator standing side by side and smiling under an outdoor tent
Myself and OUT Maine's Youth Engagement Coordinator, Maggie Hirshland, at Rockland, Maine's first ever PRIDE celebration, which Maggie and OUT Maine planned and organized.

What is most rewarding about your internship?

The most rewarding part of my internship is seeing the effect our work has on the kids we're working for. In our youth groups, which meet on Zoom once a week, it is so amazing to be able to see these kids, who live in all different parts of the state and often do not have access to their own LGBTQIA+ community, have the chance to come together for an hour and just be with people they feel comfortable with and understood by. I've also had the privilege of hosting tables at multiple PRIDE events and parades across the state throughout June (PRIDE Month), and seeing youth there being open, happy, and proud of who they are has given me a heightened sense of pride and joy for the work that I'm contributing to at OUT Maine.

Visit the Summer Internship Stories page to read more about student internship experiences.

Political Science