Finding Your Voice: An Interview with Denisse Ochoa
Student: Denisse Ochoa
As a Sociology major, Denisse Ochoa learned about advocacy from the perspective of the classroom, but when she started her internship with the Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center, she truly got to put her learning in action in a real world environment.
Denisse discovered the Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center when she saw their pamphlets on campus, and she reached out when she learned they were seeking interns. The Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center, also called the ZCenter, provides quality, comprehensive, client-centered services for free to survivors of sexual assault and abuse. In spring of 2022, Denisse joined the ZCenter team as their Advocacy Intern and was immediately immersed in the philosophy and mission of the agency through the organization’s training program.
Denisse described her work as making a difference in big and small ways. On top of creating social media posts to bring awareness to the work of the ZCenter, she joined webinars with other community nonprofits, worked directly with the community to provide essential resources, and perhaps most challenging of all, answered phone calls for the hotline. On the other end of that phone could be a survivor or a family member of one who needed help and resources. Denisse was a part of many challenging conversations on sensitive and traumatic topics. At first Denisse was nervous to take hotline calls, but her confidence increased over time. She recognized how important it was for her team to create a safe environment in which these conversations could take place.
“Building that rapport is so important…as I worked with other interns and volunteers at the agency, we created a great community where we felt safe to discuss these topics.”
Denisse found that time management and communication was crucial to her role, as well as creating professional networking relationships. She learned that nonprofits often work closely together in order to accomplish shared goals, which means relationship building is key. Denisse worked hard to create a community for survivors and acknowledged that this work can’t be done alone. She felt that her time spent as an Advocacy Intern made her more open to the issues of society and has empowered her to voice her opinion on those issues, even when she’s afraid to speak up.
“Sometimes people don’t agree with what you’re saying, but I know that because other people are facing these issues that they must be discussed.”
Denisse graduated in May of 2022 and brought all the skills she learned at her internship to her new job at the Lake County Clerks Office.
Experiential Education Specialist
Office of Community & Business Engagement