The Big Move

So this blog post may be a bit late. On top of work and the learning session last week, I finally got the keys to my first apartment on Thursday. It was a moment I have been looking forward to all summer, but anyone who was in Columbus this weekend could probably have told you that it was not the best weather for moving. Between the torrential downpour on Friday and the rental truck with only one working turn signal, our move was anything but smooth sailing. To top it all off, our apartment has what I would lovingly refer to as “quirks.” The toilet stopped flushing on Saturday morning, there’s white carpeting in the dining area, our front door jams and our spacious backyard is currently looks like an uncharted wilderness. What I thought would be a fun weekend of unpacking and putting the final touches on our apartment has become a logistical puzzle and daunting fix-it project with no end in the foreseeable future.
Walking into work on Monday after a stressful and exhausting three days, I was immediately thankful for the kindness of my coworkers. Each one of them asked how my move had gone and listened earnestly while I vented about the trials and tribulations of getting renters insurance and collectively agreeing on a floor plan. When I started to space out in a Development meeting halfway through the day, my boss, Tammy, reacted with genuine concern rather than disapproval. The group nodded understandingly when I explained that I had been up past 3 a.m. scrapping mold and mildew from the bathtub so that I could take a shower in the morning. Tammy even suggested I work from home a bit this week so that I can keep my hours more flexible while we’re still settling in. I’m beyond grateful that I have amazing coworkers who care not only about the well-being of the public but about the health and happiness of those directly surrounding them as well.

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Columbus: A Large City with a Hometown Feel

Even though Columbus is the fifteenth largest city in America, it often seems to be looked over as a major player in this country since it lacks some key features of major cities that tend to gain them attention. Without a major league team from one of the three major sports or a large tourism industry, Columbus is often looked over as a destination city for young professionals.  However, after growing up in a suburb of Youngstown, Ohio, I feel like a kid in a candy store spending the summer in Columbus.

Up to this point, I have primarily used this forum to discuss my professional experiences at the Columbus Early Learning Centers.  However, this week I will break from this habit to give you a day-by-day of my life in Columbus, Ohio after 5:00 P.M.  Based on my week, its clear that there is plenty going on in Columbus to provide the big city feel that could be an easy draw for other young professionals. 

Monday- A City with a Hometown Feel

When I came to Columbus three years ago, I joined Club Swimming at Ohio State and have since served in several leadership roles for the club.  After I left work on Monday, I joined our club’s advisor and two other members of the team for a swim at Northwest Swim Club located off of Bethel Road.  Although this was not my first visit to this pool, it never fails to bring back memories of swimming at my summer swim club back home in Youngstown.  It is amazing how living in a city as large as Columbus can still have the small, hometown feel at times.  After swimming about 3,000 yards, which we joke is the new 4,000 for those of us who seem to be getting less in shape with time, we all grabbed dinner at Bare Burger, a relatively new restaurant downtown, and caught up as we watched the US women’s soccer team defeat China in the World Cup.

Tuesday- A Day That Could Please Any Sports Fan

On Tuesday, after getting in a quick workout, I joined the other fellows for our first excursion at Huntington Park to watch the Columbus Clippers take on Norfolk.  Though not the biggest baseball fan, this was a great opportunity to hear about the experiences of other fellows at their nonprofits.  It was also great to be able to catch a great game just walking (okay…I drove) distance from my apartment on campus. In addition to this team, Columbus is the home a major league soccer team, a hockey team, and of course Buckeye football. How could a sports fan not be in heaven here?

Wednesday- For the Food Lovers Among Us

On Wednesday, after our second fellows development session, during which a panel of young professionals in Columbus came in to speak, I joined the other fellows for lunch at North Market.  For those of you who don’t know, North Market is located in the middle of downtown and has over thirty food vendors.  It is a great pick for those looking for an affordable and quick lunch or an early dinner.   Once again, this was a great opportunity to get to know some of the fellows and share early successes, funny stories, opportunities as well as challenges from the first few weeks on the job.

After the workday, I was put back to work as I helped my cousin move from her old house to a new one in Grandview.  I will save you the exciting details from this evening.  However, afterwards, I was treated to Loops, a great Gyro restaurant located on King Avenue and Northwest Boulevard.  At first I was hesitant to break away from my regular Chipotle, Bibibop, and Fusian rotation when eating fast casual. However, I think it managed to nudge its way into my new top three.

Thursday- You Can Still Watch Netflix in a Big City, Too

I wish I had something exciting and adventurous to report from Thursday, but the evening was spent playing Euchre with some friends from Youngstown and finishing up the third season of House of Cards on Netflix.

Friday- Columbus’s Arts Scene

On Friday, I spent the evening drowning in the pouring rain and jumping in the mud with some friends at a Walk the Moon Concert at the LC Pavilion.  Originally a small band from Kenyon College, Walk the Moon has gone on to achieve recent success with their song, Shut Up and Dance.  (Fun Fact: Their first major single, Anna Sun, was named after a Kenyon Professor.  However, the song was not about her; they just liked her name and received her permission to use it). Despite the cold, rain, and mud, the band still managed to put on one of their best shows that I have seen, and this was my fifth.  In addition to this concert venue, there are multiple others in Columbus including the Newport Music Hall, The A&R Music Bar, occasionally Nationwide Arena, and the Schottenstein Center, and recently Ohio Stadium.  For the arts lover, Columbus also has a wonderful arts district that hosts a monthly gallery hop on the first weekend of the month as well as numerous summer arts festivals.

Some friends and I at the LC Pavilion downtown

Some friends and I at the LC Pavilion downtown

In the end, even though Columbus is often disregarded as a major city, there was clearly plenty of excitement to keep me entertained for the week.  On one hand, Columbus provided me the opportunity to see a minor league baseball game and my favorite band within walking distance of my house in just one week.  On the other, it provides the opportunity to go for a swim a few minutes from my apartment and just hang out with friends from back home.

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Chapter 3: Interviews

Busy, busy, busy.  But all in a good way.

I have found myself eyes deep in the water of non-profit videography. The good news is that I know how to swim. Everything I have learned at Capital University and from my previous employers has prepared me quite well for my Fellowship.  Over the past few years I have learned how to fill the role of film producer, director, and editor; it is finally being put to good use.

I have spent the last week and a half “on the road”, traveling all around to Columbus to listen to the many voices of Habitat For Humanity MidOhio.  Whether that be a loving and hardworking family, or a group of hungry and helpful volunteers, I have gotten to know some of the most inspiring people in Columbus.

The most interesting aspect of conducting all these interviews with complete strangers is how quickly I have become friends with all of them. It becomes difficult not to feel close to someone after you sit in a chair 5 feet away from them and ask them intimate questions with extremely personal answers.  I learn who they are and how their life has been changed by this non-profit I represent. I must say, video work has never felt more rewarding or more meaningful than this current role I find myself in.  Habitat is doing “God’s Work” as one of my interviewees put it.  Another even labeled the employees and volunteers from Habitat as “Angels”, saying “they should put wings on the back of their shirts”. Wow.  I have worked on lots of videos for clients before but never have I been labeled an angel.

You would assume that with all these compliments being thrown their way, all of the Habitat employees would smile and kick their feet up for a second to bask in their holiness.  However, this non-profit is filled with the type of people who will never be satisfied with the work they have done because there is always work left to do.  Habitat’s mission statement is as follow, “A world where everyone has a decent place to live. Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.”  Making sure everyone in the world has a decent place to live is a lofty goal that many hope one day to achieve, but I can say with confidence that there is no one better to lead this mission than Habitat For Humanity.  Bravo.

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From the Clinic to Hilliard to Bhutan to Westerville to Hilliard

Monday, I had a productive outreach visit at Hilliard Horizon Elementary School with our volunteers Megan and Missy. We partnered with SON Ministries summer camp free lunch program for this visit. The kids for this visit were the MOST energetic and engaged kids I have ever worked with on an outreach visit! They were ALL over the activities and games that we brought, asking tons of questions, helping us by teaching the other kids the activities, and generally, enjoying themselves while learning! I really liked meeting the staff and volunteers from SON Ministries, and I was especially impressed with the number of activities and games they had for the kids. The program description as a summer camp is very accurate because it was not just a free lunch program for the kids. The day we visited the program, they also had tons of other games and playground equipment for the kids to play freely on, a presentation by a group of nursing students from Columbus State Community College, and more activities during eating. I think that having all these activities for the kids, especially during the summer when school is out, encourages them to want to play, learn more, and be more engaged during the summer. This excitement and engagement transfers to the school year, as well. I think this is why the kids during our visit were so engaged: SON Ministries has been doing a fantastic job fostering the growth of the kids!

Megan Insley outreach picture 3

On Tuesday, I spent the morning contacting principals at schools we would like to target to expand our outreach program. I used the list of percentages of students that received free and reduced lunches that I compiled from Ohio Department of Education data to prioritize schools to target. I prioritized our schools and created the final list based on how near the schools are to our clinic and how much need there is at the school, based on the percentage of students that qualify for free and reduced lunches. I spent the afternoon finding the contact information for the principals of each school and sent emails to almost all of the principals with schools near our clinic.

I went to the clinic later on Tuesday afternoon where Mrs. Zuber and I visited a focus group meeting organized by the Bhutanese Nepali Community of Columbus, a community organization of local Bhutanese Nepali community members, including a large number of recent immigrants. The purpose of our visit was to learn more about the Bhutanese community and to meet with leaders from the community organization. The Columbus Police Department was also invited to the focus group to discuss race relations and concerns about safety and security raised by Bhutanese Nepali community members.  I learned of the extensive outreach and community engagement initiatives by the Columbus Police Department, as well!

I found a good and very recent article by The Columbus Dispatch about the Bhutanese Nepali community in Columbus, which includes a brief history of Bhutan and Bhutan’s relationship with Britain and India since the 1850’s and an overview of the conflict and ethnic cleansing of all Nepali’s in Bhutan. This ethnic cleansing began in the 1990’s, which forced thousands out of Bhutan as refugees to different countries, including the US. The Dispatch article also describes the experience of new immigrants into context in Columbus and central Ohio. I also found a ThisWeek News article summarizing the Associations mission and efforts. At the beginning of the meeting, I was heartbroken to hear the struggles the Bhutanese Nepali community members faced day to day explained by the focus group members, but I was very optimistic about the determination of the Association leadership and community members in the focus group.

I had a productive check-in meeting with Laura in the afternoon and determined some deadlines to get some of my other projects this summer off the ground now that I’ve gotten a handle on my outreach responsibilities. Then, that evening, I went to the Clippers game with the other Columbus Foundation Fellows! It was a blast!

I had my most productive day yet on Wednesday! I started with a Fellows Learning session in the morning, where we met leaders in the central Ohio non-profit sector from BESA, Westerville Symphony, Forge Columbus, and a local charter school system. After our Learning Session, a few of the other Fellows and I grabbed lunch and hung out at North Market! When I got to the clinic, I worked on researching other successful dental clinics with unique operating and funding models. I then worked on gathering examples of clinic brochures from other organizations to base a rough draft of a brochure for the KidSMILES outreach program. These two projects took up several hours on Wednesday afternoon, but they were well worth the time spent!

On Thursday, I went to an outreach visit at another WARM summer lunch program in Westerville. Our outreach visit site was located at Huber Village Park, which is the park that my family and I would go to very frequently when my family lived in Westerville. Unfortunately, it was raining a LOT when we started our visit, which meant only the ten kids attended the free lunch that day go their lunch. The other thirty kids who normally come to the lunch program did not receive their lunches. Every one of the kids that came to the lunch program came to talk to Megan and I and to try all of our games at some point of our visit. Most of the kids came up individually to our table. We answered a lot of questions they had that came up during our oral health truth and false quiz game. What surprised me the most was how open the kids were about their experiences; almost all of them mentioned that their families could not afford them to take them to the dentist. While that broke my heart, I was so happy to talk to them about our clinic and give them goodie bags with our clinic information in it. Megan and I made sure that each kid knew to show the bags to their parents, so hopefully they would be able to get care from KidSMILES. On the way back, I even stopped my house that I lived in until sixth grade since it was five minutes away from our outreach site!

Megan and David 2

On Friday, I had a doctor’s appointment in the morning, but went straight to lunch with our executive director and our two new AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers at KidSMILES. The VISTA Fellows, Eric and Tionne, will be doing a  one year stay at KidSMILES where they will work full-time to help build capacity and sustainable growth at the clinic. The three of us went to meet our other volunteers at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Hilliard for an outreach visit with SON Ministries Summer Lunch Club. Just like our visit on Monday, the kids at SON were so energetic and ready to learn! After lunch, the kids had time for free play in the church gym and outside on the playground, and almost all of the kids came by our table at some point. We had a lot of volunteers for this visit, so everything went very smoothly! It was the best visit this summer yet! Every week is getting better and better!

Activities full table

Group Picture 2

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While the Cat’s Away, the Mouse Will Play

My boss was out for the week, but left me with plenty of direction.  I had a busy week of crunching numbers.  A program manager from a different office suggested that perhaps January was so high because we weren’t using In-Kind as much.  I investigated and found that the amount of IK we use is consistently average.  My second project I’ve been working on is a cost comparison between fiscal year 2014 and 2015.  In the middle of 2015, our chapter implemented some cost saving strategies.  So far, costs have been significantly down in 2015.  I’m doing my own in-depth investigation to be sure it is a direct result of our cost-saving strategies.  I find myself feeling very skeptical that these strategies brought our numbers down so much, and so quickly, although I very much hope it’s true.  It’s tedious business to analyze this because I’m trying to hold the numbers constant by adjusting for inflation, number of wishes per quarter, and number of people who go on each wish.  I analyzed the type of wishes from 2014-2015, breaking it down by National Type, travel vs. non-travel, then domestic vs. international travel.  I found no significant differences.

I had also been analyzing limo costs, but put that on hold.  They’re relatively difficult to analyze because it’s very time consuming and there are a lot of variables.  I found that one Wish Coordinator had much lower limo costs than any other WC, so I emailed her to ask what she does differently.  She attributed it to having many more limo companies in her region than others in our chapter.  This means that she is better able to find limo companies close to her wish kiddos houses, making the ride cheaper.

My project for the summer is a large task and I believe it could be turned into a full or part time position.  That person could develop templates for easy analysis to perhaps sell to other chapters.  The office has been expanding in the past year, so I believe it would be feasible to add a permanent Program Researcher position.

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“C-A-M-P-F-I-R-E-S-O-N-G Song. It would help if you just sing along!”

This has been such a great week at Shepherd’s Corner. We hosted a group of local youngsters for a week filled with summer camp fun!

On Monday I was able to meet the campers, and it was such a joy to see how excited they were, and to see that they were so eager to learn all about mother nature. They learned all about composting, and how recycling goes way beyond just putting paper and plastic in bins. With composting, microorganisms, such as worms, break down materials, such as food scraps and vegetation, to turn it into organic materials to create a rich, nutrient-filled soil. This is then used in gardens to provide nutrients to the plants, and the process starts all over again. It’s the ultimate recycling!earth

Matt, my co-worker who is doing a year long stay at Shepherd’s Corner through Americorp., and I took the kids on a woods walk through the big woods on Friday. It was so much fun! We stopped at so many interesting spots along the path and had short lessons to go with them. For example, we stopped at the tree with the giant Pileated woodpecker holes where the kids were able to get up close and touch the holes. Did you know that woodpeckers have really really long tongues that they store by wrapping it up into the back of their heads?! It’s gross, but fascinating! We also stopped at a tree that is in the process of falling over, and the roots are exposed. Matt and I connected this with the life cycle of a tree; a seed is dispersed, a sapling/baby tree forms, a mature tree develops and becomes the home and support system for many animals for animals and surrounding vegetation, the tree grows old and dies, the tree becomes week and falls becoming food for decomposers, and that decomposed tree is transformed into nutrients for the next tree that will grow in its place. There were so many other stops and lessons along the way, and this experience made me even more confident in my choice of eventually becoming a biology teacher.

It was so important to have the kids out to Shepherd’s Corner because they are the future… literally. No pressure to them, or the rest of the younger generations, but the well-being of the earth is in their hands. However, they will not know how to take care of it if they don’t learn from those that already know what they are doing. Teaching these kids about conservation, gardening, and care for all of the earth has restored my faith that Earth is in good hands, and that it will thrive for many more generations to come.

In continuation towards preserving the earth, the resurveying for Ask the Land is still going strong! I have contacted everyone on the list given to me by Mark Dilley, and we have three confirmations from people that are willing to come and survey at Shepherd’s Corner!!! Jeff Bates (wetland specialist), Dan Boone (plant specialist), and Michael Hoggarth (malacologist – mollusk specialist) will be visiting to do their resurveying in July, and I cannot wait to be by their side and take in all of their knowledge that they have to share.

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A Privilege to Serve

Hello all! This week I’ve been out of the office on a family vacation, working remotely from the sandy beaches of Hilton Head Island.

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The view from my “office” for the week.

So since I have been away from the Per Scholas team this week, I thought I would share a bit about my interest in this fellowship and the non-profit sector in general. I have had the privilege of serving with and supporting several non-profit organizations since high school. I’ve served within my church and school for many years, and more recently in my community, so service has been a part of my life for a while now. To be honest, it probably started as a way to build up my college applications, so keep up pushing those extra-curriculars, universities!

Organizations focused on providing HIV/AIDS education and treatment are especially close to my heart and I have had the privilege and the pleasure of serving within two such organizations. I traveled to Swaziland two summers ago and served with The Luke Commission, a medical ministry based in Swaziland that is providing hope and healing across that beautiful country. In Swaziland, I helped set up TLC’s bi-weekly clinics, tested patients for HIV, distributed medications, unloaded entire shipping containers full of medical supplies and donated materials, and worked on a number of other tasks. At the end of the day I was bone-tired and fully aware that this work was done each and every day, whether a team of volunteers was there or not. It was an undeserved privilege to work with TLC and see how their operations are changing lives. The next summer, I put my tireless organizational impulses to good use and served as an administrative volunteer at ARC Ohio. My contributions were simple; anyone could have re-organized a filing cabinet or scanned some documents into a computer. But I was the one with the opportunity to do these things and again I recognized the distinct pleasure of service. These experiences showed me that it is an honor to serve another human being in any capacity.

I share these experiences with you because they are a huge part of the reason why I am here today. As I neared my graduation, I began to look for ways to use the skills I’d acquired in college for the service of others. Then I stumbled upon this incredible opportunity, applied, and was offered a spot amongst these excellent fellows. I realized then more than ever what a privilege it is to serve. Plenty of people wanted this fellowship and were certainly qualified for it, but I was awarded the opportunity. With such a great honor comes a great responsibility—did I just quote Spiderman? Oops!—to work diligently and to do good. It is my hope that I never take the chance to serve for granted and that I always do my best to love others and serve them well.

Be sure to check back next week because it’s the Per Scholas Columbus graduation and I am so excited to share it with you!

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