Internship experiences inspires student to help bring Green Party candidate to campus

February 28, 2013

Shelly Le '14

Whitman student Meaghan Russell ’13 interned with the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign last spring, working directly under Cheri Honkala, the Green Party nominee for vice-president in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

Cheri Honkala

Cheri Honkala, the Green Party nominee for vice-president in the 2012 U.S presidential election, addressed Whitman and Walla Walla community members on Feb. 27, discussing ways that individuals can create social change and battle poverty.

Meaghan Russell ’13 worked with Honkala as a student intern at the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) in Philadelphia, Penn., last spring. Honkala made such an impression on Russell that she wanted to bring her to campus for a speaking engagement.

“I wanted to bring Cheri because I thought she would be a really compelling speaker in terms of addressing how the anti-poverty movement can work and what we can do to start to be a part of it,” she said. “What I really love about Cheri is how hardworking she is. Working at PPEHRC is almost a full-time job, and it is a 100 percent volunteer organization. Cheri has another job to pay her bills, and she still devotes so much time and effort into the campaign.”

When Honkala was 17, she was a single mother living out of her car. She spent years in and out of homelessness, even moving into an abandoned HUD home to keep her family from freezing. After this experience, she became a pioneer in the housing takeover movement. She then co-founded the Kensington Welfare Rights Union and the PPEHRC. Honkala has organized thousands of people to advocate for the poor.

Russell interned with PPEHRC from February to April 2012 as a part of her off-campus studies, and Honkala was her direct supervisor. Russell organized press releases and city events and worked with media as a part of PPEHRC’s outreach efforts.

“I originally wanted to intern at a law organization, but I went into an interview with PPEHRC and was really impressed and inspired with the people who work there,” Russell said. “Most of the people who work there are people who have been or are in poverty themselves, so I was encouraged by the people most involved in issues of poverty.”

Shelly Le ’14 is a politics major.

Cheri Honkala spoke at Whitman Wednesday, Feb. 27 at 7:00 p.m. in Maxey Auditorium. See event listing »