In the summer of 2013 I took an elective English course in American Regionalism that changed the trajectory of my life. Far from what is considered a “traditional” seminar, the class was small and we met off campus at Mariposa—a developing community north of Amarillo dedicated to the concept of sustainable-living. There I met an incredibly vibrant and intellectual woman named Mary Emeny who would later provide me a scholarship to attend the annual Quivira Coalition Conference and subsequently introduce me to Darryl Birkenfeld and Ogallala Commons.
From there, several seemingly separate portions of my life converged and I found myself in a place where my practical, intellectual, social and career interests in community, sustainability, and conservation were aligned–my internship through Ogallala Commons Connected me to the Amarillo Area Foundation.
Community Asset Mapping
Over the course of my summer internship at the AAF, I focused on the research and construction of a Community Asset Map intended to detail the strengths and weaknesses of all 26 panhandle counties served by AAF. A small and revised sample of the work and research I compiled can be found in my third blog, Community Asset and Commonwealth Mega-Map.
Challenges and Outcomes
I encountered many challenges throughout the course of my internship. The most difficult challenges I faced were related to the development of my project.
For one, the scope of the project exceeded the amount of time I was allotted. As my research methodology began to emerge and I fell into stride, I became incredibly invested in the project. I very desperately wanted to finish, but time would not allow me to do so. Though leaving the project unfinished was slightly depressing, the pressure to finish resulted in harder work and more efficient research.
Second, my research was limited exclusively to the internet. This restriction worried me in the beginning. In my experience, rural communities are rather reluctant to participate in the technological revolution that defines our current era. I didn’t expect to find a substantial online presence for most communities. Though I was partially correct—several communities had little to no presence—I was pleasantly surprised to learn that many communities are definitely trying to put themselves out there.
Other challenges I faced involved learning to navigate a professional environment. While a friendly nature coupled with good-old-fashioned manners and etiquette have served me well since I left home—this was my first experience in a business-professional atmosphere. The biggest challenge I faced here, and am still working on, is networking and communication. Being shy in this type of environment serves only to limit success—forwardness and initiative are qualities that win the day here. Though I’ve made substantial progress in reinventing my natural tendencies for introversion, thanks largely to my supervisors at AAF, I still have a good ways to go.
The completion of my internship is, to date, one of my most significant accomplishments. I was able to aquatint myself with a variety of people and organizations that could potentially influence my career path and success further down the road. Already, I have begun a second internship at the Amarillo Area Foundation in which I will be able to complete my Asset Map before moving on to a new project! Furthermore, as I also begin work on graduate studies, I find that Ogallala Commons represents ideals that pertain to my thesis as well as to numerous other points of contact I have made over the course of the summer. I am so very excited to see where this path is leading and continued ripple effects it creates.