Before working at Oregon Campus Compact, I had no idea that any one's college experience was much different than mine. I had no idea how deeply engaged Oregon campuses were in their communities and how connected students were to impacting the issues they care about most. However, working as the AmeriCorps VISTA Leader for the 2010-2011 team and then becoming the Communications Coordinator and eventually the Communications and Development Manager, I got to see how campuses and communities are improving the places students live, work, and study.
One memorable project I got to see while at ORCC was the Food Rescue Program that Kaely Summers developed while serving as an AmeriCorps member at Pacific University. Kaely saw waste being created from campus events and dining services and recognized that leftover food could be "saved" and taken to local food pantries to feed hungry families and individuals. She partnered with the administration to research the legality of re-purposing food and established a program supported by volunteers to collect and transport excess food to local organizations.
What makes this REALLY cool is that while Kaley was developing her program, Southern Oregon University was also looking to create a Food Rescue Program. Through ORCC, the AmeriCorps members at SOU were able to connect with Kaely at Pacific and learn how to start a program. In 2012, SOU was able to create their Food Rescue Program, which in addition to supporting local food pantry also supports the Student Food Pantry.
I think that's the power of ORCC. The organization brings people together--AmeriCorps members, students, staff, administrators, and presidents--to enrich their work and share resources. As the only statewide organization working with two-year, four-year, private, and public schools, ORCC has a unique ability to bring folks to the table who may not otherwise work together to benefit campuses and communities.
I've transitioned from ORCC to Girls on the Run of Portland Metro to work as the Program Manager. I've been on the board for three years and am excited to work full-time as a staff member. Girls on the Run is a self empowerment program for girls in 3rd-5th grade. Through conversation-based lessons and running games, the participants grow as smart, free-thinking, and happy girls. The program culminates with a celebratory 5K run which unleashes the girls' confidence through accomplishment and establishes their appreciation of health and fitness.
The organization is important to me not only because of the impact that it has girls, but also because of the impact it has on the hundreds of volunteers who support the organization as coaches and running buddies. It's really electric to see all the girls, coaches, and running buddies come together at the end of the season for the 5K run, the Starlight Run, to celebrate health and wellness.