Archives for August 2014

YES Prep – That's a Wrap!

Dson PicI cannot believe that my time at YES Prep has come to an end! Over the past year, I have met so many exceptional people and honed skills that I didn’t even know I have. As I look back, I am certain that no other postgrad experience could match my time at YES. Had it not been for my Impact Fellowship, I would never have been given access to the people and types of projects I learned from over the past year.

I have many surprising and funny stories about my time at YES, but the one I would like to share is about my favorite project. As resident millennial of the Communications & Marketing team, I slipped into the position of social media marketing expert. For YES Prep Senior Signing Day, an opportunity for each graduating student to reveal their college choice to friends, family, staff, and supporters, I organized a social media campaign to publicize the event.

For two weeks, I photographed students with their college paraphernalia, and each day for 30 days prior to the event, we featured a student on the YES Prep Instagram with the hashtag “sayyestocollege.” On my first visit, I met a student who had been accepted to six Ivy League schools, as well as Davidson. On her Davidson acceptance letter, however, I noticed Chris Gruber, Dean of Admissions, had written a personal note of congratulations. As a Davidson alum, it was exciting to see first generation college-goers provided with the same opportunities as any other student in America, regardless of race, gender, class, or economic status. As I laughed and mingled with the students that day, I felt similarly fortunate for the amazing opportunities provided to me through the Impact Fellows Program.

The chance to apply what we learn at school to the non-profit sector is imperative in continuing our lives of service beyond four years at college. I have cherished my time at YES and look forward to seeing all that our future Impact Fellows accomplish, as I am sure the program will see more success with each year!

If you would like to watch a video of the YES Prep Senior Signing Day ceremony, you can find it here!

The impact of trails, the impact of a fellow

Tree Amigos!

Tree Amigos!

One year as a fellow. I’ve researched, studied, data-crunched, and presented. I’ve walked, biked, paddled, and hiked. I’ve mapped, plant-IDed, chopped, and chain-sawed. I’ve spent an excellent year of analyzing, promoting, and stewarding the land and trails that my two organizations protect and build. I have gained many skills and have many stories to tell. In thinking about how to sum up my year in a blog post, I came back to the title of the program. The Davidson Impact Fellowship.

The purpose of the Davidson Impact Fellowship program is to provide hands-on experience in non-profit work, giving the fellow an opportunity to shape the community in which they work and make a meaningful contribution towards tackling challenging and critical community issues. I spent a year with the Catawba Lands Conservancy and the Carolina Thread Trail. They serve as land stewards and trail builders in the Southern Piedmont covering 15 counties in North and South Carolina. While many people can understand and accept the environmental, health, and recreational benefits of the protected land and trails, few fully realize the extent to which both are an economic driver for communities and regions. My primary role this year was to help tell this economic impact story.

I could tell within the first few days of getting to know my organizations, networking with others in the trail community, and researching trail impact studies from across the country, that this was a highly prioritized project across the field. Trail advocates have long sought after concrete, quantitative evidence of economic benefits to pair with the numerous qualitative data and anecdotal stories. I spent 12 months working towards this goal and the more I delved into the project, the more I could tell that my efforts would be truly valuable. It was both challenging and rewarding to create ways to tangibly demonstrate this connection between trails and economic benefits. It required creativity, persistence, and focus on details while working towards a big picture goal.

Catawba Springs

Catawba Springs

It has been really satisfying at the end of my time to see it all come together and the numerous ways in which my fellowship has been impactful. Most directly, I can see that the meaningful results and products coming from my work will be central to future funding initiatives for my organizations and others. My efforts have greatly contributed to a more complete story of the benefits of trails and greenways. In another light, my role this year has built a partnership between the fellowship program and my organizations, who will be continuing to work with a DIF fellow this coming year and hopefully in the future as well.

Cottonwood Goat Island

Cottonwood Goat Island

Finally, I see that this program–this opportunity– has had an impact on me and my career development. Throughout the year, I was able to work on a variety of projects in several different roles, refine my skills and learn new ones while simultaneously gaining a better understanding of how I want to develop my career. Overall, this past year has given me a better understanding of the struggle non-profits face in achieving their goals and well as the important role they play as a community partner.

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