Benedict Roemer, '19

July 27, 2018
Senior raises awareness for youth justice reforms during his Jepson Internship

Benedict Roemer, ’19, is passionate about affecting social change. So when the opportunity to raise awareness for issues like mass incarceration and the racial wealth gap as an intern at Campaign for Youth Justice opened up, Roemer went for it.

Roemer, a double major in leadership studies and philosophy, politics, economics, and law, first encountered Campaign for Youth Justice at the Active Citizens Conference, which he attended as part of the Bonner Scholars Sophomore Exchange Program. After the conference, he stayed in touch with the organization through weekly emails and continued to engage with youth justice through the nonprofit ART 180, which provides arts programming for Richmond youth in juvenile detention.

“When I was in the middle of internship applications this past spring, and saw the weekly email from Campaign for Youth Justice, it hit me that an internship at this organization would be the perfect chance to immerse myself into the field,” explains Roemer, who is completing his Jepson Internship this summer.

As the public interest communications and state campaigns fellow for Campaign for Youth Justice, Roemer promotes issues related to justice reforms through social media and blogposts and by creating graphics for media outlets and conducting research. His first blogpost, “Paternal Incarceration: How the Mass Incarceration of Fathers Hurts our Youth,” was published around Father’s Day.

“When I started out on the paternal incarceration post, I had an idea that the incarceration of fathers might contribute to higher incarceration rates among their children,” says Roemer. “But when I started the research, I saw how the two are actually connected, and how the connection is so much more complex and deep than I initially suspected.”

The blogposts, which Campaign for Youth Justice promotes on social media, reach a significant audience. His second post, “Racial Wealth Gap to Racial Equity in Youth Justice,” was published on July 19.

“I can’t say how many minds were changed or if the blogs encouraged anyone to pitch in to the cause, but just knowing that they’re getting out there and teaching people about the impact of mass incarceration or racial wealth disparities on our youth is perhaps the greatest reward,” says Roemer.

After graduation, Roemer, who previously interned at the Congressional Hunger Center and has also mentored students through the Scholars Latino Initiative, plans to continue working to bring about social change.

“Each time that I enter into a new field within nonprofits, I am amazed by the number of organizations and dedicated professionals working in that field,” says Roemer. “Somehow, when standing outside of the issue, you can miss entirely the work going on behind the scenes to move Congress and the country towards important reforms, but as soon as you step inside, you are caught up in the whirlwind of activity as hundreds of advocates, lobbyists, communications professionals, lawyers, and others working in unison to affect change.”