EAST ALUMNI One of the coolest (and most serendipitous) projects I worked on was creating PSAs for our city’s local access channel. We worked for weeks on commercials about recycling, shopping locally and “Stamp Out Smoking” until we sent them off to City Hall in hopes that they would air. One day during class, Mrs. Taylor said “Rachel, look!” as she pointed to the TV in the classroom. There it was; my commercial was playing on Channel 24! It was a magical moment. I felt SO official. So published. Little did I know, a few short years later, I would be working at City Hall creating content for Channel 24 almost daily! Life came full circle, and I attribute it to EAST! What influence, if any, did EAST have on your course of study in college? Did it impact your choice of major, and if so how? EAST taught me to love community service and volunteer work and encouraged me to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector. I learned early on that I was not motivated by sales, numbers or bonuses. I found my passion in serving others and giving back to my community through the skills I learned while in EAST. How did you end up working in city government? For the first 15(ish) years of my life, I wanted to be a Forensic Pathologist – full on Bones/ CSI/NCIS. However, four years in EAST taught me to trade one STEM field for another. I enrolled in the College of Media and Communications at ASU, got my degree in communications and now work for the municipal government in Jonesboro overseeing the marketing and branding of the city.
What’s it like to work in City Hall anyway? I imagine it’s not exactly House of Cards, but it’s not exactly Parks and Rec, either. What’s the day-to-day like for you? Ha! It’s definitely a happy medium. My office is on the fourth (top) floor right next to the mayor’s, so it can get tense sometimes, but in general it is lighthearted and fun! Certain seasons are busier than others, so our work and productivity reflects that. The Communications Department consists of three people; the communications director (my boss) and I share an office with another digital media specialist. Our office tends to get “weird” as we try to spark creativity and come up with fun ways to promote our city. Our boss walks in during brainstorm sessions sometimes and wonders why I am standing in the windowsill and my coworker is playing wall-ball or why we have the Hamilton Musical Mixtape playing on LOUD. We get some funny looks sometimes. I understand you once told Matt Dozier you planned to take over his job one day. Is that still in the cards? Even if not, what prompted that aspiration? I did tell him that! And I still stand by it! I have done quite a bit of research on the APPEL program and alternate licensure procedures and have not ruled out the possibility of becoming a facilitator or working at EAST HQ in Little Rock. I could be Melanie [Ridlon] or Jerry [Prince] first, then move up to Matt. I am so grateful to have known and learned from all of the staff at EAST HQ, and it would be an honor to work with them in any capacity! I am amazed at what EAST has become, and it is in part because of great leadership – how cool would it be to be a part of that influential crew?!
I’ve realized my passion for nonprofit work in the public sector. Municipal government is a good fit for me because we are so community-based and results-driven. In a roundabout way, I credit EAST for affording me my current position. My senior year, we did several projects for and with the mayor. I was even appointed as a youth member of a City Commission called the “Jonesboro 2030 Plan.”
Lastly, having been a part of EAST and now working in a professional world, what advice would you give to today’s students to help them apply the lessons of EAST to their future college and professional plans? Or, put another way, if you could go back in time and give your student self a bit of advice, what would you say?
These opportunities allowed me to dabble in municipal government and meet some very influential people. I suppose I made an impression on the mayor because he called me out of the blue five years later and asked if I wanted to come in for an interview. I don’t even know where he got my number! I came in the next day and got a job that I didn’t even apply for. He remembered my hustle while I was in the program and knew that he wanted me working for him.
VOLUNTEER! Give up a Saturday and clean up a cemetery, go to city council meetings regularly and learn what is happening in your community. Befriend students from other schools, introduce yourself to difference-makers early and often. I can’t stress how important it is to give your time to others. They WILL remember you, and they will return the favor. It might be five or 50 years later, but you will reap what you sow. Making connections through my time in EAST has proven to be the biggest asset I have in growing my career and serving my community. n WINTER 2017 | EAST QUARTERLY