From Henok Cronin’s desk in the City County Building in downtown Indianapolis, he could look down on the hustle and bustle on Market Street every day.
“I couldn’t believe that was my view,” he says, laughing.
In fall 2022, he was working with Indianapolis’ Office of Public Health and Safety as part of an internship with the mayor’s office. His work centered around projects to address the root causes of crime and reduce violence in Indianapolis neighborhoods.
“City government is very important to the community,” he says. “This internship was my first chance to get a feel for what it’s like to work in policy and government.”
To Cronin, policy work provides an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives here and around the world. That includes those in the East African nation of Ethiopia where he was born.
“Africa has my heart because we need a lot of help,” says Cronin, an O’Neill Policy Studies major. “That’s why I want to build my knowledge here and use it to help my people back home.”
Cronin was adopted at age 12 and moved to Central Indiana. Eleven years later, he’s in his final year at IUPUI. He had been searching for an internship that would provide him with the experience he needed to begin a career in policy. Once he heard about the mayor’s internship program, he knew he had found it.
“My internship with OPHS through the mayor’s office gave me a lot of hands-on experience,” he says.
He encourages other O’Neill students to go through the program as well. The online application for summer 2023 is open through March 31, 2023. There are six paid positions available. Cronin says students work 20 hours a week and are matched with opportunities based on the degree they’re pursing and their interests.
The projects on which Cronin worked were diverse—from writing speeches and working at press conferences to working with criminal justice professionals on reentry housing.
“I was trying to help families find hotels or affordable housing because we’re in a housing crisis,” he explains. “It was amazing to be that bridge because I know what it feels like to not have a home.”
Back in Ethiopia, Cronin was homeless before he went into an orphanage.
“Now, I’m in a place where I’m helping others and being a resource to connect them to a home or job,” he says with a smile.
It was his O’Neill courses that opened his eyes to those types of issues but also prepared him to intervene by creating change.
“There’s injustice in this country,” he says, “In class, we learned about people being treated unfairly in the justice system. They may not be able to afford housing because they have a criminal record. Some communities may not welcome them. Then I saw it first-hand.”
His classes prepared him for his internship. Now, that internship is now providing more context and a better understanding of his classes.
“I’m considering things through a different perspective compared to before because I know better what we’re talking about since I’ve experienced it,” he explains.
Cronin says that experience in the mayor’s office also opened new doors for him, including a job offer to work on policy-related reports for the Indiana Democratic Caucus. He says that position would serve as another important step toward his ultimate goal of travelling the world and working for the United Nations.
While his view may change throughout his career, he says his focus won’t. In fact, he’s returning to Ethiopia in the summer, a trip he knows will reenergize his commitment to helping others and will ensure he never forgets where he’s from, and how far he’s come.
“I’m going back to Ethiopia for the first time in 11 years to see my birth mother—and I’m taking my college diploma with me,” he says proudly. “To come from where I was and to be where I am now, this feels like the American dream.”