Friday, February 28, 2014

Alumni Fellowship

The Bennion Center/Alumni Fellowship. This was one of the best experiences of my entire life. 

I got to choose where to go, anywhere I wanted and I chose Arcata, California. I got my inspiration to go here from two things: 
1. Alternative Spring Break
2. My friend who lived there for a while said, "I think you would like it here."
After these two events occurred, I researched more into the city and the organization, Friends of the Dunes. 
After the application and interview, I was excited to hear that I was being offered the fellowship, I began prepping to move for the summer.
Due to a family emergency, I had to leave just a few days after school ended and head to the Sacramento Valley, where I spent about a week. From there, I headed up to Arcata. I had previously made housing arrangements through Craigslist, Skyping them to make sure they wanted to live with me and I with them. So when I arrived, I kind of knew what to expect, but I was still extremely nervous. My new roommates greeted me with warm, open hearts.
A couple days later, I started my new position. Everyone at Friend of the Dunes was so thankful I was there and I was so thankful to be there. I worked Tuesday-Saturday, usually 40-45 hours a week. I did everything from entering contact lists to planning events to restoration. On one of the first days I was there, we had to close the nature center because of a downed cable line, but thankfully a co-worker and I found a great alternative thing to do that day, we saw the Kinetic Sculpture Race, which included gems like this:  
I helped plan Ocean Day, this is where 900+ elementary school kids came out and did restoration for half the day, did a beach clean up, then were assembled to get into formation that looked like a squid from a bird's-eye view.  
Another thing I got to do was lead weekly restoration projects, where a group of people from the community would come in and help remove invasive species for a few hours a day. It was so great to go out and do this with people who knew how important it is to keep our dunes free of invasives and were willing to commit to our environment.
Yet another exciting day in the life of my summer, I got to help save a sea bird that was tangled in fishing line with a buoy stuck in its breast.
I loved my job so much, being out in nature every single day was amazing, I could not have asked for anything more. I learned so many things this summer and was adopted into a loving new culture and was embraced by the redwood forest around me.
There is no way to fully express my experience with Friends of the Dunes, but I urge you to apply for this Fellowship because it changed my life and it may change yours as well!

More information and application available online.

P.S. I got to lick this slug, too.

-Allison Weichmann

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Top Five Reasons to Volunteer with Project Youth

It’s an incredible cause: Here you are, a University of Utah student surrounded by the best in higher education. You’re here for a purpose: to increase your skills, opportunities, and relationships for a brighter future. Project Youth exists for the same purpose, with the added importance of making the future brighter for kids who may not have considered college. Their future starts with you.

It’s an ego boost: Think back to when you were in sixth grade. Didn’t you feel like the coolest chump in the school? You also probably had a hero that you would have given anything to meet. You can be that hero for these kids, even for just one day. From the moment they set foot on the U campus, you are their mentor, and they will adore you.

It’s schedule friendly: As a college kid, you are juggling theoretical calculus, a lawn-mowing job, snarky roommates, car trouble and a dozen other demands, not to mention a social life. With Project Youth, you can still get the satisfaction of volunteering without the stress of a long-term and potentially draining commitment. Only have a few hours? Come to orientation and then the day of. Want to be a little more involved? Contact the Bennion Center for opportunities to help with planning and school outreach. Be warned: if you’re like me, you’ll love it enough to stay involved for your entire college experience.

It’s a resume builder, but not just a resume builder: No employer likes it when they can tell an applicant has simply tried to pad their resume for length’s sake. But with Project Youth, you can participate in something that not only shows your generosity and involvement, but actually helps develop transferable skills like organizational leadership and public speaking. Kudos to you, kid.

It’s all about the love: Know from day one that our visiting elementary students will love you. However, you just might find romance, too. Two years ago, two colleagues of mine from a student group met at Project Youth; they are now only a few weeks from getting married and as giddy as Opus penguin learning to fly. It’s happened before, and maybe it could happen to you too, but either way, you’ll come out of this volunteer experience with a handful of burgeoning friendships.

-Megan Gessel Brewster, Project Youth 2013 Co-Director