A Sad Goodbye

It really feels like just yesterday I was standing in my kitchen when I got the email telling me I earned a spot in this Fellowship program. Yet here I find myself, writing my last post on my last full day of work. The personal and professional growth that has happened in these last 10 weeks will stay with me for a lifetime, and I feel so blessed that I got to be part of this amazing program

I had my last outreach visit today, and the kids seemed cuter and more eager than ever, which makes it that much harder to say goodbye to doing this almost every day! I wish I could always hear about how many teeth the kids have lost, them bragging about brushing their teeth twice a day, or randomly telling me that their older brother’s name is Kevin (I really love the random outbursts!). The kids I got to work with this summer have made my heart feel so full and made my days just a little more bright. I absolutely plan on coming back as a volunteer in the Fall, because I really cannot imagine going too long without playing with a giant toothbrush!

The staff at KidSMILES have really went above and beyond to make sure I got as much out of this experience as much as I could; I got to see a little bit of almost everything, and I cannot wait to apply what I have learned to my future career. As sad as it is to say goodbye, I know I am one step closer to reaching my career goals because of this program. I am looking forward to hearing about everyone’s experiences and talking about my own tomorrow! To my very small amount of readers, thanks for following me these past 10 weeks.

Perhaps my hardest goodbye – Douglas the Dog!
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See you soon, Ohio Wildlife Center

As my 10 weeks at this organization are coming to a close, I feel very thankful I was able to spend my summer here. On my last day today, the development team I was a part of all ate lunch together outside on a picnic table. We talked and laughed while we ate, and I know I am really going to miss all of the amazing people I have met through this fellowship.

This week has mostly been about out-processing and reporting on my projects internally to my team and organization. I also had to move out of my apartment this week, moved all of my belongings into my friends house temporarily, and move again this Sunday, yay!

I have been preparing for the final presentation at The Columbus Foundation tomorrow, and I can’t wait to hear about everyone else’s experiences as well. Some of my favorite thing I got to do this summer are feeding baby birds in the Wildlife Hospital, meet an albino baby bunny, be on the set of Good Day Columbus and photograph releases of wild animals back to their homes.

Even though today is the last day in the office, I know I will continue to build the friendships I have made this summer. This fellowship has affirmed my dream of working in the nonprofit sector advocating for and helping animals in need. This fellowship is definitely going to help me get there soon. I can’t wait to see what’s next. Thank you to The Columbus Foundation and Ohio Wildlife Center.

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Non-Profits: Where there’s Always Work to be Done

As one of my peers wrote in their blog, I am left wondering where the time has gone this summer. It seems like the summer began and ended before I could truly process my project in its entirety. Have you ever reached the end of a project and wondered if what you did will ever matter? That’s where I am. It’s not because I think my project didn’t matter – I think that creating a course of action for collecting and using stories in nonprofit work is extremely valuable. I think that it’s the fact that I’m leaving with so much work left to be done.

I think this feeling, though, can be described in many ways. For me, it’s the ever so frustrating sense that a social issue you’re working with may never be resolved. In my case, and I would argue almost all nonprofit cases, this issue is poverty. While it’s frustrating to personally grapple with the fact that I may only make a small dent in the path towards resolving poverty over the course of my entire lifetime, this opportunity still allowed me to remain hopeful. Though my project was tiny in the grand scheme of things, it’s important to remember that small wins are still wins. I loved every second of spending time with children at camp, no matter how challenging it could be. The smallest positive change in a child could be what causes a ripple effect to change their entire life for the better. What I’ve learned throughout this summer is that nonprofit work can sometimes be about just fighting for those changes. The work I did this summer may not solve poverty for everyone, but it may help at least one person achieve a better life in some way. It is important for those looking to work in this setting to not devalue small scale changes.

My project could help make some of those small changes, and I’m leaving with that knowledge. I’m also leaving with a deeper respect with those who dedicate their lives to nonprofit work. I think nonprofits aren’t given the credit they deserve for their resourcefulness, grit, and unmatched passion. I’ve been challenged to think more about what makes a leader and have come to believe that our society sometimes overlooks the greatest leaders of all – those that exist in the nonprofit sector.

I already miss all the campers so much, and life is far less fun without them. I also thought I would stop taking naps after work because being in an office shouldn’t be as tiring as working with kids. I can confirm that I am still napping; the real world is hard, y’all.

Thank you to SON Ministries for trusting in me and thank you to The Columbus Foundation for the opportunity to immerse myself in nonprofit work.

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I Can’t Explain It

Where has the time gone? When I use to say this in the beginning it was with that familiar feeling of just filling in space with words that could be relatable. Time never stops is something we all can agree on. Now when I think about this question it is filled with the absence of children that brought so much to every day. The days are now missing their tiny arms hugging me in an embrace, their witty sometimes catty responses, and their demand to make every activity ‘fun’. I miss them. For a while the first day back it felt like something was wrong. I have not spoken nearly as much as I did before and my eyes are not scanning the room looking for the kids. When I was bombarded with this powerfully expressive presence that demanded my attention, although stressful, I was having fun. Now I am reminded of the beginning of my fellowship that consisted of research for future programs, sitting at a desk, and typing on my computer. My schedule is back to the typical 9 to 5 every weekday whilst during summer camp I left at 4 and was off Fridays. The lackluster effect after camp is starting to rear its ugly head. 

However, I love my office mates. At Lower Lights we share an office space with the church’s pastors and other co-workers that maintain other programs. Our office space is a container of jokes, happiness, and sarcasm that brings a smile to my face. In the beginning, I would walk up the stairs to the office space, but not anymore. I never noticed how I was running up the stairs to the offices until someone pointed it out. Running up every morning with a smile saying “GOOD MORNING”! I am sad that the kids are gone, but I am still happy with the people I get to work alongside. Their hearts are on their sleeves and their smiles are engraved in my heart.

This journey although coming to an end is transforming into friendships that will last well past my fellowship and I am forever thankful.

See you next time!


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Shifting Things Up

As we are getting close to the end of the summer, the projects I am working on are shifting. Instead of working on long, more in-depth projects, I am now taking on small ones that correlate to different aspects of Best Buddies.

This shift has allowed me to see different sides of Best Buddies-as I am able to get an inside look into their grant process, evaluation tools and some of their different evaluation methods. These new perspectives have allowed me to learn so much more about the inner process of Best Buddies and how it relates to different parts of the community. Especially through working on their grant processes, I am able to see fuller picture of their funding process and how their various programs are supported.

From this I also get a deeper look at why and how decisions are made-which has also allowed me to see the differences in decision-making and leadership strategies of my two supervisors. It is so interesting how individuals with different leadership styles can come together to make such a successful work team. Is demonstrated the importance of effective communication and a commitment to respecting each individual role.

All in all, the shifting in responsibility that I have been giving has allowed me to reflect on what I have accomplished at Best Buddies within the last two months and what I would like to accomplish within my last week.

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The Last Week of Summer Day Camp

Today was the last day of the CND Summer Day Camp and I don’t know how to feel about it right now. On one hand, I am exhausted from working with the kids every day, constantly on my toes and running around to keep up. On the other hand, I am sad to see them go and don’t want the summer to end (but who does?).

We spent our last day at Zoombezi Bay as a whole camp. It was my first time going since it was called Wyandote Lake (call me old, its okay) and it was a blast! I helped with a group of 8-10 year-olds today and we got to do almost everything there was to do. The children were excited that I was gonna get in and have fun with them. We got to do the lazy river, wave pool, Baboon Lagoon, and we even had time to go down one slide (the lines were endless).

Some other teachers were not as excited as I was to be playing in the water with the kids. Some were complaining of the water being too cold or the sun being too hot, but I was there to make sure those kids were able to have the time of their lives before the summer ends. Some of the children who come to our camp would never have the opportunity to go to a water park like this if it weren’t for CND and their funders. It absolutely warms my heart that CND is able to treat these kids to something extra special because they all deserve to have fun.

By the end of the day, I was walking out of the zoo with about 4 kids clinging to my arms because they didn’t want to leave me. Just about all of them asked me if I would be here next year, which makes me happy. Even if I am not working at CND full-time next spring, I will at least still apply to help with their Summer Day Camp. Until then, I still have one week of work left before my contract is up. Hopefully after that, I will start working on recruiting kids for our after-school programs and getting to know people we work with at schools around Columbus. I am walking away with such a warm, good feeling about my work here at camp, which has me extra excited for what’s in store helping kids in the near future.

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Week 9: A Gooey Butter Cake Goodbye

I can’t believe it’s time to say goodbye to my summer as a Fellow for the Grange Insurance Audubon Center. What an absolute blast it’s been working with the incredible staff here, and I’m so grateful for all the things I’ve learned and done in just nine short weeks! I’ll go into further thank-yous and reflections later on, but first I want share about all the fun we had this week!

Saturday and Sunday were busy days manning the front desk, and Monday we hosted our first conservation program of the summer involving trash pick-up down by the Scioto River and chopping out teasel, an invasive species in our grasslands. It was quite hot on Monday, and I was worried the kids were going to be bored and tired, but I was really impressed with the energy they brought and the teamwork they showed–in just one hour, eighteen kids picked up over six hundred pieces of trash and chopped down over a thousand heads of teasel! So that experience left me with a hopeful feeling because the kids were able to work together and make a difference! I also ran a few errands to get ready for Wednesday’s fundraiser and got to stop by a snow cone stand, which was perfect for such a hot day!


Tuesday featured a program on habitat exploration, which is one of my favorite programs because it involves sit spots! I always enjoy reflecting in nature with the kids. We also had a staff meeting Tuesday afternoon to talk about the GIAC’s participation in hosting a Big Table, so that was exciting to share what I had learned from the Columbus Foundation. Then, after the meeting, the staff treated me to Jeni’s and gave me the sweetest card! It was great to enjoy some Brambleberry Crisp and Gooey Butter Cake (the BEST flavors) while chatting with everyone about non-work things.

We had another bird study program on Wednesday, and I have always loved playing the Migration Game with the kids, but today I also got to help teach the program to prepare me for leading the whole program on Friday. I felt surprisingly comfortable teaching and engaging with the kids, and they always impress me with what they already know about birds and conservation. The fundraiser at Kingmakers was a blast–we played some fun board games and ate some yummy snacks, and we had a great turnout! I also got to help out with the raffle tickets, but this is also where I had to say goodbye to a few staff members who wouldn’t be there on Friday.

I had my day off on Thursday to move out of my apartment and show my cousin around, and I took her here to the GIAC because our swallowtail butterfly finally hatched, and we wanted to watch her fly off into the world! (: Even on my days off, I just can’t seem to stay away! And today, I led the whole bird program with an absolutely FANTASTIC group of kids. They were so smart and so kind to each other, and it was a great way to end my last day here. I’m really going to miss sharing and learning with kids to get them excited about nature.

Our swallowtail girl! (:

I’ve still got to submit my time, finish my presentation, pack up my desk, and close up the building before it’s goodbye, but it’s not goodbye for good! I’ll be staying on working manager and facility attendant shifts a couple times a month, and I’ll try to help with programs and education, too if I can! So while the next few weeks will be busy with moving back into my dorm room, RA training, and the start of a new semester, I’m excited that I’ll still get to work with the staff here and get to be a part of the GIAC!

So as I wrap my rambling up, I’d like to thank the staff here at the GIAC–Dawn Hammer Tabata (our Executive Director), Michael Goldman (our Conservation Manager), Kristina Rawson (our Operations Manager), Chrissie Wilson (our Educator), Allison Clark (our Education Manager and my supervisor), and Stephanie Weykamp (our Outreach Educator and my deskmate). I can’t thank you all enough for the warmth, kindness, and encouragement you have shown me from my very first day. Thank you for valuing me, being patient and understanding with me, and sharing your knowledge and insights with me, and I will miss working with such a dedicated and wonderful group of people. I’d also like to thank the volunteers and the other folks at and affiliated with the GIAC who keep us going every day and have been really fun to get to know and learn from. Also, thank you to the other Fellows for sharing your experiences and being a fun and inspiring group of people I’ve gotten to know this summer! And of course, a BIG thank-you to everyone at the Columbus Foundation who selected me for this opportunity and have brought us Fellows together during outings and learning sessions–I have learned and grown so much this summer, thanks to you and the connections I’ve gotten the chance to make.

And finally, thanks to everyone who has supported and cheered me on this summer–my family, my friends who helped me move in and out, my roommates, ice cream, and anyone who’s kept up with my summer here on this blog! I hope you all have a fantastic rest of your summers and a wonderful weekend! (:

With love and gratitude,

McKenzie (:

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