Katie Bailey has always taken an interest in international affairs – in studies and travel. As a teaching assistant in graduate school at Indiana University Bloomington, the professor she worked for offered to take the students in his class on a spring break trip. His challenge: find a country that’s close but different enough we can analyze it for comparative politics. They chose Cuba, where Bailey found a fascinating country with rich history. During the trip she got to learn about nonprofits and government organizations, practice her Spanish-speaking skills, and meet locals.
“I realized what I like about politics isn’t actually being a politician, but digging into the data, understanding policy and government programs, and seeing what works so we can help people and make society better.”
Her first job in Indianapolis was an internship at Indiana Legal Services doing outreach for migrant farm workers; a population often in vulnerable situations. The supervising attorney there appreciated Bailey’s Spanish skills and gave her ample opportunities to speak one-on-one with clients. That experience made her realize the importance of being able to properly translate and interpret for legal cases. One word can make all the difference in the outcome of a case.
Bailey has been able to apply what she learned there to her volunteer work with the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, for which she is nominated for United Way ELEVATE’S Young Professional Volunteer of the Year. As Spanish Team Leader, Bailey manages a team of 50 volunteers who serve immigrants and refugees with interpretation and translations services. She created an evaluation process to make sure volunteers demonstrate high levels of Spanish language acumen.
When needed, she still steps and helps with interpretation and translation. Many of the people she helps have experienced a traumatic event in their home country, and she has to navigate intimate and difficult conversations. Despite the challenges these newcomers faced at home, Bailey says the people she helps want to go through proper legal process in the United States. They arrive with little understanding of how life works and language barriers that make it challenging to get the right legal help. Bailey relishes being able to make someone comfortable by speaking to them in their language and make sure they understand the process.
All of this work has led Bailey to her dream job as research project manager at the IU Public Policy Institute, where she conducts community-based research for vulnerable populations, like the mentally ill and homeless communities. She continues to serve Central Indiana through work and volunteering and says she hopes “we continue to become more inclusive and welcoming of immigrant communities, that we get better at helping people adjust to life and extend our Hoosier Hospitality to people from all over the world who relocate here.”
Congratulations on your nomination, Katie!