EJ Intern Spotlight: Torrey Taylor

February 15, 2024
Emmaline Giles

Torrey grew up in a small rural town in Southern Illinois in a catholic family while attending private catholic school. As long as Torrey can remember, she was always connected to nature. As a youth in a small rural town, much of the ways she connected with friends and her community was through outdoor activities. Through these experiences, she grew to love and respect nature. By the time she reached college, she already knew she wanted to be a lawyer so it was fitting that she set her eyes on becoming an environmental lawyer to connect her passion with her career aspirations.

As an undergraduate junior with a double major in Political Science and Environmental Analysis and a minor in Environmental Engineering at Washington University (WU), Torrey jumped at the opportunity to apply for WU’s  Environmental Studies Impact Internship Program. The program embeds students full-time for a summer internship within St. Louis nonprofit organizations to engage with local environmental issues that impact people’s lives every day. Impact Interns receive a stipend covered by the program for the entire summer. When considering which organization to apply for, MCU’s mission to create positive policy change for local communities coupled with the roles’ focus on environmental justice (EJ) stood out to her.

Torrey joined MCU's EJ work as a summer intern in June of 2023 where her responsibilities varied from supporting virtual EJ meetings and actions to attending an in-person signature collection event in Kansas City. When Torrey began her internship, she had no prior community organizing experience but she had a great curiosity to learn and make an impact. At first, she found it challenging but quickly learned that the basis of faith-based community organizing is centered around being able to connect with people based on their faith and values which she could connect to her background and upbringing.

On reflecting on her experience with MCU, she shared that her internship was “awesome and eye opening.” 

During her internship, Torrey worked directly as a mentee under Beth Gutzler, MCU’s Lead EJ Organizer through regular check-ins, and supported all EJ meetings and actions. Torrey also supported visits to MCU member congregations that hosted air quality monitors as part of Air Watch STL, the St. Louis Community-based Air Quality Monitoring Program, to conduct check-ins with members and provide updates on the project.

These experiences helped her realize just how much goes into being an organizer. She reflected on how "the little things are so important to developing relationships” and how important it is to conduct various levels of engagement with members and leaders. In connecting her internship to her academics, she recognized how closely her political science major intersected with the practice of organizing as an essential tool of grassroots democracy. 

“the little things are so important to developing relationships”

One of her favorite experiences during her internship was MCU’s trip to Kansas City to meet with statewide partners for a signature collection on the Missourians for Healthy Families and Fair Wages ballot initiative petition. She was energized by being able to connect other MCU organizers outside of environmental justice, to meet new and longtime MCU leaders committed to making policy change in the state and locally, and to learn about people's stories and self-interest behind why they came out to collect signatures to support the initiative. She was also surprised at being able to connect and learn the stories of the strangers she asked to sign the petition.

She highlighted that one key takeaway from this trip was recognizing the age demographics of the signature collectors lacked young adults like herself. Looking forward in her academic career and beyond, Torrey is hopeful more people her age will get more involved in our democratic process in the ways she has learned about and experienced during her time with MCU.

To learn more and get involved with our environmental justice work, contact Beth Gutzler, Lead Environmental Justice Organizer at Beth@mcustl.com 

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MCU puts faith into action by developing leaders who move their congregations, organizations and communities to change public policy for the common good.
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