Tag: Meet Our RARE AmeriCorps Members

Prioritizing Community Voices

By Carolina Negron, Community Food Liason, Community Connection of Northeast Oregon

There is a power in conversation. In the spoken words shared between individuals. The passing of traditions, stories, and information over time. When we look up and into the lives of individuals around us, we are exhibiting an act of openness and a willingness to learn. We are giving power and space to the words, and lived experience of individuals. In the systems of today’s government assistance programs, many voices are lost. Therefore, it brings me much joy to be able to give space for these voices through my position as the RARE AmeriCorps Community Food Liaison with Community Connection of Northeast Oregon.

Stephen R. Covey once stated, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” One of the most powerful lessons I have learned in my position has been the setting aside of myself to elevate the voices of individuals experiencing food insecurity in Eastern Oregon. I spend many of my days traveling from county to county, holding focus groups, distributing surveys and conducting one-on-one interviews with food assistance users and stakeholders. I have seen individuals light up when they are told that their opinions and insights are not only valued, but needed.

One of the most notable observations I have made is the palpable shift that occurs when I enter the space with a willingness to learn and a value for an individual’s lived experiences. By elevating the voices of individuals, I am able to better understand the needs of a community and recommend the most effective program. I have learned that engagement sparks from offering citizens the space to play a role in the discussions and implementation of programs that affect them. The first four months of the service term taught me the crucial role and value that listening brings to community engagement.

About the Author, Carolina Negron: Carolina received her BS in Agricultural Sciences from Pennsylvania State University. Carolina is passionate about the outdoors as well as the connections between people, the land, and their food. Having worked with food banks and farms in Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and Hawaii, she is excited to take on the Pacific Northwest.

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 

Shedding Away Self Doubts through Service

By Kaitlyn Cook, Pendleton RARE Participant

It was 5:45 am, dark, icy, and I was trying to carry a plate of homemade Christmas cookies across the street into the belly of the Pendleton government/court/library/ building. The committee meeting starts at 7:00 am but I had to print the meeting agendas and set up the room. I arrived at work too early so everything was done in twenty minutes, which gave me plenty of time to imagine how many ways this meeting could be a complete failure.

Photo from City of Pendleton Facebook

Considering my task, failure seemed like it could very well be an option. I did not personally know the people that I invited to be on this committee, it was icy, and early in the morning to talk about how to plan a convention to teach people about home ownership and renting in Pendleton. I was hoping that they cared enough about this conference to be involved.

I waited. I was accompanied by the custodial staff who was talking about his recent trip to Disney World and my many feelings of self-doubt to keep me company.

At 6:55 one person trickled in the room, got a steaming cup of Folgers coffee and a cookie. We made some small talk. Then, ever so slowly, people started to trickle in. Some knew each other, others did not, but there was chatter among folks. With some persuading, I gave my Christmas cookies to them. I waited a couple of minutes after 7:00 for everyone to settle in their seats and the meeting started. Then even more people came in. It was a higher attendance rate than I expected and had to drag a couple more chairs to the table.

Now that the table was full, my worries about attendance floated away and I could focus on trying to lead this committee meeting. I was frantically writing notes and all seemed well.

However, the self-doubt did not subside as much as I’d thought. I was unsure if the people I invited would be intrigued enough to want to participate in the discussion. My mind flashed back to my high school days where the teacher would ask a question and the class would stare blank-faced back at them. I did not want a discussion like that. Despite my worries, the discussion flowed well. So well, that I had to wrap up the meeting so we did not go over time. It was a successful meeting.

Self-doubt is something I struggle with. It can be mentally taxing to do it constantly and it can take me longer to produce work. However, this instance gave me the confidence in my ability to bring people together for a common cause. It is great that the community has the ability to get together to solve a problem. I am deeming this meeting to be the starting point for me to start shedding away, bit-by-bit, my self-doubts and become more confident in my professional abilities.

About the Author, Katilyn Cook: Kaitlyn majored in Planning, Public Policy and Management and minored in Spanish at the University of Oregon. Originally from a rural town on the Oregon Coast, Kaitlyn aspires to use her skills to make positive change in communities like the one she grew up in. She looks forward to applying the city planning theories and principles she learned at UO to benefit the community of Pendleton.

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