UCDC Fall 2023: Designing Your Own Destiny in D.C.

October 23, 2023

I am Celia Serrato, a current student at the University of California, Berkeley majoring in Gender and Women’s Studies. I was selected to participate in the University of California Washington Program (UCDC) for Fall 2023, where I am interning at the DC Center for the LGBTQ+ Community as a Social Media/Advocacy Intern. One aspect of my role is to advocate for and center the voices and lived experiences of the LGBTQ+ community in DC, facilitating access to our free resources. The center’s resources include a community closet, food pantry, binder program, and peer-support groups. The other facet of my role is that of social media. I am in charge of updating all weekly newsletters and remaining up to date with all social media postings. Learning how to design marketing material, update a newsletter, and maneuver social media postings for a community organization has been a new endeavor for me, one that has been highly rewarding. Everyday, I am learning new skills and challenging myself, which was my intention for coming to DC.

I wanted to share the following highlights from my internship. I recently completed a project that I am very proud of. Every year, for the last 30 years, the DC Center for the LGBTQ+ Community has hosted their annual queer film festival, "Reel Affirmations." Three weeks prior to the premiere, I was tasked with completing a project that would commemorate this milestone. I began with an appointment at The Kiplinger Research Library located at the DC History Center. While there, I had the privilege of browsing through some of their “Rainbow Archives,” archives preserving D.C.’s LGBTQ+ history. There I found “Reel Affirmation” programs reaching back to 1991, and it felt as if I were opening a time capsule. As a queer woman myself, I was overwhelmed with emotion, as I consider myself part of this history. I snapped dozens of photos, digitizing what I found, and I collected and compiled all that I could. Ultimately, I conceptualized and created a total of three posters commemorating thirty years of “Reel Affirmations.” I am incredibly proud of the work that I did and beyond excited to see my designs be unveiled at the Reel Affirmations Celebration Party.
It feels great to know that the work I am doing at the DC Center for the LGBTQ+ Community is meaningful and impactful, and that it aligns with my values, interests, and identities. To be able to interact with the DC LGBTQ+ community and beyond on a day-to-day basis is incredibly heartwarming and rewarding. I encourage others to visit, intern, and volunteer at local organizations that align with their passions and directly serve the communities around them .

My experience relocating to DC, if I am completely honest, was tough at first. I initially missed the campus, my friends, and the comfort of familiarity. But as time progressed, I adapted to my new environment and my perspective shifted. I was reminded that there is so much growth on the other side of fear and uncertainty. Now I am embracing DC and the East Coast in general with much gratitude, awe, and excitement. So far, I have been all over D.C. trying new restaurants, visiting historical sights, exploring neighborhoods, watching films, going to comedy shows, and attending community events. In addition to exploring D.C., I have taken the train to Philadelphia and New York City (I could write an entire blog post just about New York City!). I am currently looking forward to a trip to Baltimore at the end of the month for the National Women and Gender Studies Association Conference. By looking at UCDC as an opportunity for new experiences and growth, I have made and continue to make connections and memories that will last a lifetime.