Stories from the Field: A RARE AmeriCorps Perspective

That’s Right, I’m From Kansas


One of my favorite things to do when I go skiing is to make it widely known that I am originally from Kansas. This almost universally elicits the same reaction by all who are willing to listen: you begin to see this glimmer in their eye as it clicks that they are giving this girl in her mid-twenties, who is from an area that is literally flatter than a pancake a totally new and broadening experience not only into this particular realm of sports, but into an entirely new set of topography. And, their reactions, in my case, are justifiably warranted. Each time I see a mountain it is as though it’s the first time; the excitement, even after a year has yet to dissipate.

This principle is very much so comparable to my time spent working in Eastern Oregon, namely, Milton-Freewater. I have never ceased to be amazed by the dedication of these people to the place they call home. Growing up in a suburb of Kansas City, this deep sense of identity and unique culture just didn’t seem to be a focus. Here, however, these are the things that community members are willing to put in hours of their time and sums of money to achieve. The more time I spend with such people, the more I begin to catch this “bug” and the more I want to be a part of the growth of a community working together to become the ideal place to live in and visit. Without the opportunity to be placed in Milton-Freewater through the RARE AmeriCorps Program – Resource Assistance for Rural Environments, the spectrum of opportunities for community development would be much like the mountains prior to my moving to Oregon; something you can read about in books, but is life-altering in reality.


Alina Launchbaugh RARE Resource Assistance for Rural EnvironmentsAbout the Author: Alina Launchbaugh received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Kansas State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biblical Studies/Theology from Manhattan Christian College. After graduating from college, Alina lived and worked in Nyeri, Kenya as a Youth Enterprise Volunteer. Following Alina’s second year with the RARE AmeriCorps Program, she plans to attend law school.

Alina is placed with Milton-Freewater Downtown Alliance, where she works as the organization’s Main Street Program Manager. Specifically, Alina is conducting research needed to identify available commercial space in the business district. She is also taking the lead on moving forward the city’s newly developed Main Street Program via an array of advocacy and outreach efforts.

Meet CPW GTF: Jay Breslow

Jay Breslow GTF CPW Community Planning Workshop Connected Lane County AspirationsWhat is your name? Jay Zuelke Breslow

Favorite word? My favorite word is onomatopoeia (it just took me three tries to spell it correctly though).

Where were you born and where do you call home? I was born in Bend, Oregon, grew up as a small child in Red Bank, New Jersey and spent my other formative years in Hillsboro, Oregon. Currently Eugene is my home as I recently realized that I have lived here for more of my life than any other place.

Something fun you like to do? During the Summer I am a Whitewater Rafting Guide. I got into rafting during graduate school in 2005. I was working on a Master’s degree in School Counseling and it seemed like a good idea to have something to do with my summer times. I have been guiding and running rivers ever since.

In which graduate program are you enrolled? I am currently enrolled in a Doctoral program in Education Studies. I am in the Critical and Sociocultural Studies in Education program specializing in Creativity Studies.

What project are you working on for the Community Planning Workshop? As a GTF with the Community Planning Workshop, I am currently coordinating the Middle-High Bridge listening session project. Our client is a group called Connected Lane County. I am coordinating and facilitating a series of listening sessions with middle school aged youth regarding their post-secondary aspirations. (Connected Lane County Aspirations Project)

What are some of the project outcomes you hope to gain that will assist you professionally? I hope to become a more skilled facilitator, specifically in designing and facilitating discussions that are engaging and productive both for the youth and for the adults charged with their education and care. I hope to learn from the youth of their aspirations whether those are to go to college or towards some other goal. The information gathered from this work will help inform the way schools structure their support for students as they progress towards graduation.

How does your involvement with the Community Planning Workshop relate to or inform your education? I have been lucky to be a part of the CSC. As a departmental outsider I have gained valuable experience as a student in project-based learning environments. In my time in the Community Planning Workshop, I gained valuable experience as a member of a student-directed team, working on a project that I had very little experience in (that being good stewardship of the McKenzie River). As a teacher, I have been part of structuring project-based learning opportunities for my students but I had never participated in one as a student. This perspective in valuable in that I came to understand various approaches to leadership, the power of a steep learning curve, and the importance of group communication.

What is your favorite quote?  “An optimist isn’t necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places–and there are so many–where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”   — Howard Zinn

What advice would you give to your ‘younger’ self just beginning as a graduate student? I would tell myself to hold the goals that I have for myself in mind as I work through the program. It is easy to get lost in the academic shuffle and lose focus of your original intent. Every book or article you read and every paper you write should bring you towards a more complete understanding of what and how you want to be as a professional.