By Jana Carver

Nieri posing in front of the Eiffel Tower during a trip to Paris in 2015.

Nieri posing in front of the Eiffel Tower during a trip to Paris in 2015.

Guilford Technical Community College student Kathryn Nieri started off the year with a plan—albeit an atypical plan for an average 18-year-old; she wanted to travel abroad and take a stand for human rights.

“I feel that I have been given a great deal of privilege in this lifetime, and I want to use my privilege to give back to those who do not have the same privileges,” Nieri said.

What she didn’t anticipate was that her passion for human rights law would lead her to South Africa this summer. Nieri is spending close to three months in Cape Town, working on behalf of the Triangle Project, a South Africa-based nonprofit human rights organization that offers a wide-range of services to the LGBTI community including health clinics, counseling and community outreach.

Nieri discovered the internship through Connect-123, which develops and administers volunteer, internship and study abroad programs in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Dublin and Shanghai. The opportunities are customized based on each student’s career goals and needs.

“You basically tell them what you’re interested in, where you’d like to travel, and they find something that works for you,” said Nieri of Summerfield.

The first internship Connect-123 suggested for Nieri was the Triangle Project. She originally thought the organization’s work would be more focused on race or gender violence. “… Something you would usually associate with a third-world country,” Nieri said.  But once she learned about the nonprofit’s mission, she said she knew immediately it was the right opportunity for her.

“I think it’s a really noble cause … and so worthy of my time,” she said. “I just felt like I couldn’t say no.”

While in South Africa, Nieri will spend time researching and constructing ideas on how to improve or change laws in order to help protect the LGBTI community, an issue that she believes needs to cross borders.

“Even if our government doesn’t necessarily reflect those values, a lot of individuals within our country really have a drive for equality and access to education and resources that makes making change a little easier for us,” Nieri said. “I think if we can look beyond our own horizon and get our hands in the issues abroad, we really have a lot to offer.”

Ultimately, Nieri wants to pursue a career in human rights law with a focus on gender-violence and female rights. GTCC became the first step toward that goal. In fall 2015, she enrolled with the intention of taking classes for one year before transferring to a four-year institution. She said she wanted to use that first year of her academic career to grow personally and academically.

“I decided to take a year at home and get some stuff out of the way, learn some study skills, some adult skills,” she said.

Nieri said that GTCC’s affordability helped her prepare financially to travel to South Africa, and because she wasn’t taking a full course-load she had more time to research and organize her internship.

“I think if I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have had the time or the resources to plan the trip,” she said.


– June 29, 2016