Tag: Field – A RARE AmeriCorps Perspective AmeriCorps

Making New Friends in Unexpected Places

Coordinating the logistics for Mid-Columbia Economic Development District’s (MCEDD) annual Economic Symposium was not only the first big project on my designated work plan as a part of my RARE term with MCEDD, but it was my very first time planning a real event. To say that I was pretty nervous is a vast understatement. Luckily I had an outlined list of tasks to complete in preparation of the event so I set to work on getting tasks done so that I could begin gradually crossing off the empty checkboxes that covered the page.

Aside from the tasks I had to complete by myself, there were a variety of things that I had to coordinate with other partners, which gave me the chance to start meeting some of the people in the community. One such partner that I met with and steadily worked with in preparation of the symposium was Skot, the Events Manager at the venue space we were going to be using to host the symposium. As far as the event space was concerned all that had been done before I arrived at MCEDD was that a deposit had been placed in order to secure a room at The Dalles Civic Auditorium, a concert hall and event space that I later learned had been around since 1921 (There’s a cool fun fact for you.)

I reached out to Skot to ask if I could tour the auditorium since I hadn’t been able to see the physical space we were going to be using and wanted to get an idea of the layout of the space in order to better figure out the logistics of the room and the equipment we would be using for the symposium. Skot happily agreed to give me a tour, and when I arrived he ended up giving me a tour not only of the room we would be using, but of the entire Civic Auditorium, which was really cool because as I learned from Skot, the building had been restored only a few years earlier and was in pristine condition. I appreciated the opportunity to learn about a little piece of The Dalles’ history while simultaneously working on my designated task at hand.

After the venue tour I continued working with Skot until the day of the symposium to figure out how many tables and chairs we would need, where the projector screen would be placed, how many microphones we would need, and other logistics of that nature. Skot was extremely patient with me and accommodating throughout the entire process, even as I continued to ask an abundance of questions and emailed him frequently to give him new information. On the day of the symposium Skot was there at the auditorium to make sure that all the equipment worked properly and to take care of any technical difficulties we encountered.

The symposium ended up being a pretty great success, and the only negative feedback we received was that there wasn’t enough room to move around in the room we reserved, which was because we ended up putting in two more tables at the last minute to accommodate all the additional people who bought tickets at the last minute! After the symposium was over and we had wrapped everything up and got ready to leave, I thanked Skot again profusely for all the help he gave so that the event went on smoothly. Not only did he give me some words of encouragement and validate the good job that I did, but he then invited my roommates and I to come to the Civic Auditorium for a concert that was going to be held there later that week, for free. Through this experience I learned that
1. I’m capable of a lot and I need to believe in myself and my skills
2. Catered cookies are absolutely delicious
3. The importance of building relationships with people and partners in the community who can make your job a whole heck of a lot easier if you work to foster a positive relationship

I learned that building positive relationships with project partners is extremely valuable and can go a long way in making my own working experience a positive one. And if I’ve learned anything from my own experience, you never know where a positive relationship might take you! Like to a free concert, for example.

About the author, Tatiana Eckhart: Tatiana has BA’s in Sociology and Planning, Public Policy, and Management from the University of Oregon. She is originally from a tight-knit community in Hawaii and enjoys the sense of communal support that living in a small town provides. She loves exploring the great outdoors, especially hiking and camping, and has traveled to over a dozen countries! Tatiana is excited to being back in Oregon and serving in a rural region, learning new skills, and helping build strong sustainable communities.

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 

Coast to Coast

Something I have started to value as I venture out on my own is asking people about their experiences when they were my age. The most common things people tell me are to take more risks and travel often. If you’re a recent college graduate with student loans like myself, then you probably aren’t able to take a week off of work and drop a g to travel to Dubai at this juncture. Although traveling abroad is a valuable intrinsic experience which allows an individual to interact with new cultures and broaden his/her/their perspective, traveling within the state you are living can be just as rewarding.

I have grown up on Long Island and remained in the state of New York for twenty-three years. I went to University located upstate NY, (shoutout SUNY Oneonta, Go Red Dragons). FYI for us Long Island folks we consider any location upstate once you exit the metropolitan area. Living in my hometown, I would hop on the long island railroad for an Islanders hockey game in Brooklyn or a night out at an overpriced bar in Manhattan, but I still have not explored a majority of this expansive state.

I discovered the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments AmeriCorps program while job searching in April of 2017 and seeing the location on the opposite coast immediately dismissed it. How could I move somewhere I had never been, where I knew no one and be a functioning human being? Make friends as an adult in a new town… (cue internal shudder).

After a few more months of searching with no luck I still had the program swimming in my consciousness. One night it bubbled to the surface and I could no longer ignore it. After a quick google search I discovered that they had reopened their application process for a few last-minute placements. Call it coincidence, serendipity or divine intervention, I knew that I was going to pursue this opportunity.

Within a month’s time of submitting my application I booked a 6-hour plane ride with a one-way ticket to Oregon and became an east coast transplant. Over a year later and I have decided to continue as a second-year placement in my community. Since moving to Oregon, I have traveled more this past year than I have in my entire life. I have friends I can visit in every corner of the state. I’ve visited the communities near the ocean on the coast, seen beautiful mountains, rafted on the river, hiked the forests and camped near Crater Lake. I have been an integral part of providing capacity to community development projects based on grassroot efforts. By doing so I have uncovered where my strengths lie and have an expansive professional network in my discipline.

I have also been more uncomfortable than I have ever been. I have had to try to make friends: through the process turned into my mother taking every opportunity to strike up conversations with random strangers. I have taken myself out for nights on the town; dinner, movies drinks… the works. I have also spent months apart from some of the most vital people to my identity.

Despite this, if you ask me for my advice, I would tell you to DO IT! The risk you are scared to take, the change you are hesitating to make, the thing that you tell yourself you can’t do. You can and it’s worth it.

About the author, Emma Vallillo: Emma studied Geography with a concentration in Urban and Regional Planning at SUNY College at Oneonta. Before coming to Oregon for RARE, she worked for the Town of Brookhaven, NY Planning Department and shadowed the principle planner, gaining invaluable experience in planning and local government. 2018-2019 is her 2nd RARE year with the City of Coburg, where she played an integral role in the Coburg Golden Years Festival.

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