RARE: To Be Uncommon Among Common People

By Garett Peterson

As a Program Analyst in the planning department at the City of Scappoose, I’m responsible for multiple projects that relate to small city planning and community development. In the short time at my placement, I’ve already had the opportunity to work on multiple meaningful projects that will help advance my future career as a sustainable land developer, such as write staff reports and present them to City Council for adoption, help manage the City’s Park and Recreation Committee, and create a framework for an adopt-a-park program that will be implemented this spring. However, my most significant project completed thus far is planning and overseeing the City’s Annual Town Meeting which has been planned and managed by RARE members for the last three consecutive years. The general purpose of the event is to update the public on current and future City projects, but more importantly, it is an opportunity for residents to give feedback on the direction of the City. These meetings are essential for a healthy and vibrant community because they help hold City staff accountable and provide clarity to the public on decisions that will impact their daily lives in Scappoose.

Since the meetings are surprisingly well attended by the community (usually between 120-175 people), there was a lot of pressure to meet the expectations set by the City and my own professional standards. When I first started to plan the event, my first course of action was to break the project down into more manageable pieces to aid in the organization and execution of necessary tasks. For example, I had to create promotional flyers, reach out to stakeholders to participate, find local businesses to sponsor, and create the presentation, among countless other things. This experience taught me that the devil is in the details and that there is a lot of things that need to happen behind the scenes for a project to be successful.

When the day of the meeting arrived I was somewhat nervous that something bad would happen, but ultimately I was confident that the City and I had done our due diligence to ensure a quality event. The first half of the meeting focused on updates from City staff who discussed progress in meeting community goals that had been identified in the 1st Annual Town Meeting two years ago. This helped demonstrate how the City actively pursues many of the concerns identified by the public. This section led perfectly into the follow-up break out session which asked the attendees the same three questions from the 1st Annual Town Meeting. The second half of the meeting featured several speakers who discussed a number of important issues facing the City. Most notably, State Senator Betsy Johnson updated attendees about efforts to promote and develop OMIC (Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center) which she has been closely involved with and that could lead to significant new job opportunities in Scappoose. Throughout the meeting there were a few bumps in the road, but overall I am pleased with the outcome and I believe that most people walked away more informed and satisfied with the direction of the City.

Before my placement in RARE, I had limited amount of experience in community engagement and event planning so being responsible for such a big event seemed like a daunting task. Where do I even begin? I felt lost before I even started. But before I allowed doubt to take up residency in my mind, I took time to reflect on the RARE program and I quickly realized that facing uncomfortable situations is essentially the main purpose of being a RARE member because it forces you to grow both professionally and personally. Realizing that planning this event was not merely an additional burden on my workload, but instead an opportunity to test my abilities, converted my hesitation into excitement for the opportunity to challenge myself with something that will help me in the long run. This mentality is usually shared among successful RARE participants, the ability and willingness to spin negative into positive, but unfortunately it is not held by the general public which causes RARE members to be uncommon among common people.

A bit about Garett Peterson:

  • Currently serving as a Program Analyst for the City of Scappoose.
  • Bachelor of Science in Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning, University of California, Davis, Spring 2015
  • People may be surprised… “Recently backpacked through eight countries in Europe over a span of two months this past fall.”

Does community development work interest you?  Are you looking for a life changing experience in rural Oregon?  Learn more about serving with the RARE AmeriCorps Program via our website: https://rare.uoregon.edu/application-process/member-application-proces

 

On Letting Go of Control

By Alexandra Ferrara

RARE has allowed me to meet some really special people. That is all there is to it.

Okay, just kidding. That is a huge part of my experience, but there is some more to it.

Recently, I was having a conversation with one of those special people I met through RARE about painting with watercolors. I mentioned that after spending the past four years of college drafting in a design studio (where EVERY last detail had to be perfect) I started using watercolors to learn to let go of feeling the need to have complete control in my art.

My statement about watercolors sparked a reflection about my life and how I have learned to feel comfortable letting go of control. Like a rush of water, I began recalling all these moments where I let go of the illusion of control I held and received results that were beyond anything that I could ever have expected. Before moving to Oregon, I lived in the same Midwestern town for my entire life. All twenty-two years of it. Applying to RARE, eventually being accepted to RARE, and knowing that I would be moving 2,000 miles away to work for the Independence Downtown Association bred some of those first, serious moments of actively letting go of my desire to control the situation. Thoughts would flow into my head, I would remind myself that it will happen how it happens, and then they would flow back out. This practice has stuck in my life ever since, but not always smoothly.

Quick disclaimer: this anecdote is a dramatized story from my head. On the outside, it probably looked and sounded like everything was perfectly fine. And thinking back on it, it really was not that bad. But for the sake of my point, I am going to tell it anyway.

My first couple of weeks were rough. One of my tasks given from my supervisor was to simply “get out and meet people.” I am not usually one to get out and meet people… if we are being honest here, I am usually one to stay in and avoid people. Because of this, I wasted so much energy on trying to predict what would happen during my first couple attempts of introducing myself to downtown business owners. I expected a certain outcome for a situation that I had no possibility of being able to predict. Quickly I realized that this was hindering my experience. I needed to stop wasting my time with these thoughts. I knew coming into this position that it was going to involve people – communicating with people is a key aspect of Main Street work. And I pursued this position because I wanted to challenge myself, but I was not allowing that to happen. Once I dropped the feeling of needing control, I felt more confident in introducing myself, my conversations started flowing better, and the interactions that I had felt more genuine.

This small and, frankly, silly moment has set the stage for the rest of my experience. In my ability to let go of control, my community has been able to grab hold of opportunities and run with them. And while they are running with them, I am standing by, cheering them on, and being there as a resource, but letting them guide their own interventions. I have learned to embrace the unknown and trusting in myself and my community has made my experiences during RARE incredibly impactful and unforgettable.

A bit about Alexandra Ferrara:

  • Currently serving as a Downtown Manager for Independence Downtown Association
  • Bachelor of Science in Interior Design with a Minor in Urban Studies, Illinois State University, Spring 2017
  • People may be surprised… “I have spent over one hundred hours volunteering during my college spring breaks alone.”

Does community development work interest you?  Are you looking for a life changing experience in rural Oregon?  Learn more about serving with the RARE AmeriCorps Program via our website: https://rare.uoregon.edu/application-process/member-application-process/