An interview with the 2021 Mary Danckert Youth Intern, Stacey Mendes

We spoke to Stacey Mendes, our 2021 Mary Danckert Youth Intern, about her experience in the role and the importance of listening to young people. The Mary Danckert Internship is named after CMY’s Youth Support Manager who worked at CMY from 2005-2013. The internship was established to reflect Mary’s passion and commitment to supporting young people and was designed to provide young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds with hands-on work experience in the not-for-profit sector.

New to the Youth and Community Sector in Australia, Stacey was eager to learn more and build her confidence. She hoped to draw from her personal experiences and her placement experience in Cambodia that involved mental health and family violence support, to help other young people like her. Ultimately, she wanted to become an advocate for young people and contribute towards meaningful change in the community.  

Being a migrant herself, means Stacey can relate to some of the issues young people face, “personally I have experienced racism in both covert and overt forms being a migrant in the education and employment sectors. The lack of representation and privilege in those spaces lead to unfair systems and the views of people of colour are left out of the equation.” This inequality drove her to want to make a difference.

“Working with young people has always been a passion of mine. To be inspired daily by such creative and knowledgeable views has been life-changing and has opened up my perspectives of many things.”  – Stacey

What was it like starting a new role during the pandemic and having to work online for almost the entirety of the internship? 

It was challenging to have not met any of my colleagues in person until nearly about a year into the role. Connecting with young people and storytelling online was also challenging without the face-to face human interaction.  

But being able to join in on meetings with other teams all with the click of a button, meant I got to learn about various CMY departments and familiarise myself with the organisation quickly. And of course, being able to wear comfy clothes around the house while working was also great.

What are some of the highlights working as a Youth Intern? 
The opportunity has been rewarding as I have had the chance to work on different projects within CMY based on my interests and passions. For me personally, I’ve learned more about project management, improved my communication skills, and facilitation skills with young people.  

I met and got to work with, like-minded people who are passionate about youth participation, and they held space for me and other young people to feel empowered.  

The Youth Intern role also opened up opportunities for me within CMY, such as landing a Project Officer role and working with the Metro Youth Advisory Group, Shout Out and Positive Change Makers Project.
What are some things you’ve learnt personally, and one thing you will take with you? 
1. Young people always have a way to fix a problem. 
2. Never hold back speaking about your experience. There is always at least one person who will benefit from your lessons or feel inspired by you. 
3. Positive impact is positive impact regardless of the size. 
4. Lastly, I will take with me that, an [abundance] of knowledge and excellence lie within our youth and communities, and impactful change can be achieved when they are at the forefront of conversations. There is always so much more to learn from them. 
What are you doing now and what does your future hold?  
I’m currently studying a Master’s in Counselling and Psychotherapy. I am also immersed in research towards building my own private practice in counselling. I’ve started a passion project via social media to encourage young people to navigate the ups and downs of life and hoping to integrate that with my therapeutic practice.
We’re loving watching Stacey grow as a professional, and congratulate her on her new role at CMY as a Project Officer!