Leaving my Mark on the Organization by Leaving their Mark in the Community

The Carolina Thread Trail is a planned regional network of greenways, trails and blueways that will ultimately connect 15 counties, 2 states and 2.3 million people. With the tagline of “Weaving Communities Together” the Thread Trail works to link people, places, cities, towns and attractions together. The Thread Trail preserves our natural areas and is a place for exploration of nature, culture, science and history. This is a landmark project that provides public and community benefits for everyone, in every community. It is creating a community and conservation legacy that will give so much, to so many, for so long.

In my first few months as a Davidson Impact Fellow for the Carolina Thread Trail, I haveLeaving my Mark on the Organization by Leaving their Mark in the Community spent most of my time learning and listening. Although the Carolina Thread Trail is an organization based so close to the college with trail segments in the town of Davidson, I was not fully aware of the organization and its mission until I heard about it through the Davidson Impact Fellows program. Within my first days at the organization, it became apparent that I was not alone in my lack of familiarity with the Thread Trail. The Thread Trail is a relatively young organization, with its beginnings in 2007. For the first years of its existence, Thread Trail staff and advocates worked with communities to establish and adopt a planned route in each county. Now, seven years down the road, the thread has over 220 miles of completed trail segments spread out throughout its footprint and two “blueway” paddling routes along the South Fork and Rocky River. Despite these resources, the fear of the lack of familiarity with the organization in the community was a central theme in my conversations with my co-workers.

My one-year fellowship with the Thread Trail will focus on measuring the current level of community awareness and work on smallprojects designed to increase that level of awareness. One of my first projects involves signage and trails. Signs are expensive, but necessary to inform trail users they are on a segment of the Carolina Thread Trail. My task was to try to research alternative ways of marking trails in a more cost-effective manner.  The result of the work so far is a pavement stencil with the Thread Trail name and logo. This stencil could be used to mark many of our paved section of trails incommunities where other signage opportunities are limited. After testing paints, my co-worker and I were able to put the first stencil on the ground at one of the Thread’s signature trails, the Seven Oaks Trail in Gaston County. Although it is only some paint on the pavement, stenciling the Thread Trail’s logo has been a tangible way my work has contributed to the goals of the organization—and made a very literal mark on some of the local communities as well.

My Place at The Mint

Wow! It is incredible how quickly the time passes. I cannot believe it has already been a month and a half at my new position of Davidson Impact Fellow with the Learning & Engagement Department at the Mint Museum.

My Place at The Mint

The Mint Museum Randolph, the site of the original branch of the U.S. Mint

Brief history: the Mint Museum was the first art museum in North Carolina and is so named because it was first installed in the original branch of the U.S. Mint. In its two locations, it is home to collections of African, Mesoamerican, European, and American art, as well as a vast collection from the Craft and Design movement.

This year, Davidson has broadened the Impact Fellowship Program with a “Build Your Own” option, an addition that I believe is an incredible way to encourage graduates to pursue uncommon fields and to ensure that they can get started in a great way. Because of this opportunity, I was able to seek out the non-profit organization that spoke the most to me and work for them. With this freedom, I am able to channel my passions, art education and the greater community, into an amazing postgraduate opportunity!

Now, just over a month in, I have found myself taking a step back and asking a few questions: What on earth am I doing? What do I hope to accomplish? and of course, Will there be enough time? I had all of these questions answered in my mind when I started the fellowship in August, but as a typical Davidsonian, I have made my goals much larger than 28 weeks can handle.

The Mint Museum Uptown, home to the Craft + Design Collection

What am I doing?

As I am the first fellow at the Mint Museum, this is a very valid question. I have signed on to be the Learning & Engagement Fellow, meaning that I assist anyone and everyone in the department with all features of their public programming to ensure their successand impact on the public. I work most closely with the Learning & Engagement Programs Coordinator on the museum’s Docent Program. I help organize training materials, am researching and reorganizing the structure of the program for efficiency, and I facilitate training sessions. Further, I am helping kick-start the Mint’s new Teen Initiative. Quite the exciting job!

 

What do I hope to accomplish?

Before starting this program, I came in with the intention of leaving with a complete and stable teen program series planned, a well trained and energized docent class, and nothing left to be done. Clearly, all of this is not possible. My overarching life goals of making art accessible to the community in a fun and engaging way, however, might be! In the next two weeks, I will help facilitate a teen program and an adult program, both of which are educational with the goal of engaging a hard-to-reach demographic, so I’m on the right track!

 

Will there be time?

Six and a half months is not a lot of time, especially to make the changes I envision. But, in these short 6 weeks, I feel as though I have accomplished a lot. I am already making great connections with the Mint Museum Docents, a group I believe is the face of the museum, relaying educational information to visitors and making their experience that much more fulfilling.


My Place at The Mint

Taking a step back to reassess is always good. Sometimes we get caught up in the now and forget to remember our goals in each thing we do. Though my time at the Mint Museum is short, I hope to make even the smallest difference in bringing the Charlotte community to the amazing world of art.

A Month Down: City Livin' and Workin' in the District of Columbia

Last spring, I applied for the Williamson Fellowship—a subset of the Davidson Impact Fellowship Program—and was awarded the opportunity to work with the Trevor Project in Washington D.C., the nation’s leading nonprofit organization that promotes mental health wellness and suicide prevention among the LGBTQ youth population of America. Due to a somewhat sudden shift in circumstances, with the departure of two key employees (one of whom had been appointed as my supervisor for the fellowship) from Trevor’s D.C. office, I was given the option to work out of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) office while still technically working as a Trevor employee. At first, I was a bit hesitant about the switch, but I am now so glad that I agreed to it.

A Month Down: City Livin' and Workin' in the District of Columbia

 

My main project for the next twelve months is the development of a suicide prevention model policy for institutions of higher education across the nation—a mission that the Trevor Project is spearheading, with AFSP as a partner organization as well as the enlisted help of Active Minds and the Jed Foundation. Therefore, although I am working remotely for Trevor right now (which is subject to change in a couple of months once the D.C. office rehires the positions of the two employees that left), it is wonderful to have immediate, direct access to the partner organization for the project . The AFSP office in D.C. is small, intimate, and has a great vibe among its employees. I am nearing the four-week mark of my job, and I have really enjoyed it so far. Plus, my office has full-length windows and even my very own door: any new-to-the-workforce gal’s dream come true.

A Month Down: City Livin' and Workin' in the District of Columbia

 

The transition of moving to a new city was hectic and a little hard at first; I’ve called North Carolina my home for 22 years, so it has been a big adjustment. I’ve always been fond of the city of Washington D.C., though—it was by no accident that I selected to work in the Trevor Project D.C. offi

ce (there are also offices in West Hollywood and NYC). It has most anything you’d want out of a fun, good-to-live-in city: interesting groups of people everywhere you turn, gorgeous architecture throughout the diverse neighborhoods, super clean metros, countless good brunch spots (people here are honestly obsessed with brunch, but I won’t complain).

Next blog post, I’m sure I’ll have more to report on the details of my job life, as my primary project picks up momentum. But so far, so good!

P.S. Today is World Suicide Prevention Day! Make sure to spread the word and your support. 🙂

A Month Down: City Livin' and Workin' in the District of Columbia

 

The impact of trails, the impact of a fellow

The impact of trails, the impact of a fellow

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.

The impact of trails, the impact of a fellow

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.

The impact of trails, the impact of a fellow

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.

People, People, People

The holidays, especially Kwanzaa and New Year’s have reminded me to reflect. Recently, the topic of people and relationships has been on my mind a lot, professionally and personally. I enjoy a robust and diverse friend group and work in a field that focuses on people—and the connections between them.

Over the holidays, I caught my family members up on my experiences with my new co-workers. Working at a theatre means that you are guaranteed some big, quirky personalities. It can be one of the greatest parts of the work environment.

People, People, People

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this group?!

 

The Theater Offensive exists in the space where theatre and activism intersect, which requires a revealing honesty about who we are and where we come from. It also provides a family structure of support that challenges and nurtures us.

I visited my home, Raleigh, NC over the holidays and had an impromptu high school reunion. I admire and enjoy the company of a large number of my high school friends. It seemed like a lot of my peers shared that feeling, because with less than 48 hours notice, we had a group of over 60 alumni (almost 10% of our class) get together.

 

My mother’s sage advice to “keep in touch with good friends. You never know how much they will mean to you” resonated in my mind as I had conversations with these now young adults. Their occupations ran the gamut from doctors and plumbers, teachers to and grad school students. Some were starting families or traveling and others were moving back home. With many of my theatre friends from high school, I cannot help but fantasize that some of us will come together and start a social justice theatre company one day—perhaps in our hometown.

People, People, People

Reunion: William G. Enloe Class of ’09

Either way, these exchanges led me to thoughts about the future and unique career challenges I might face. For the majority of my baby boomer parents’ telecommunications career, they have worked in jobs that did not exist when they entered college. I believe this phenomenon will hold true across sectors for many in Generation Y. Most of us have graduated thinking that the decade ahead may bring with it five or more distinct job titles. We must think in terms of a winding path rather than one that is straight, stable and narrow.

The realities of job instability, insecurity and innovation seem to m to hold true or even be magnified in the field of theatre.

So I ask myself “what does that mean for me, a social justice theatre practitioner-to-be?”

At a Davidson career services session, I heard the statistic that “only 30% of all arts and entertainment jobs are posted anywhere.” (After all, my current job was not posted.) How will I find my next job?

We have all heard the saying “people give money to people, not programs.” Will I chase grant money to fund my work?

I have finally started to understand first hand why networking is so important. When I say networking, I do not mean a soulless exchange of fancy business cards over martinis, I mean connecting with individuals you admire or who share your vision in order to find ways to support each other, your contacts or your cause.

Who will I meet this year that will impact my future?
With whom from my past will I cross paths?
For whom can I help pave the way?

What part do I play in this world of people, people and more people?

Welcome!

This is a blog for reflections from a group of recent Davidson College graduates now working in non-profit organizations around the world.  The Davidson Impact Fellows program placed 16 students into one-year fellowships beginning in the Summer of 2013.  Each of the fellows is a 2013 graduate of Davidson College working in his/her first professional position after college.

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