I am truly humbled to have the opportunity to share with you a bit about my journey with Ed thus far. Like most good things in my life, my journey with Ed started in a rather unconventional way.
In May 2017, I graduated from Birmingham-Southern College with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Educational Psychology. As a recent college graduate, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do in the time before going back to school (I have always wanted to go to graduate school and receive a master’s in fine arts). I did know, however, that I was ready to get out of Birmingham. After living in the city for 10 years I felt as if I had made all the connections I was going to make, and I was ready to expand my roots further out of Birmingham. Little did I know, at the time, that I was only skimming the surface of Birmingham. In the summer of 2017, while working at the Dance Foundation, where I had worked for 2 years, I applied for 82 different jobs.
Yes, you read that correctly. I applied for 82 jobs all over the country- mostly with different theatre companies and arts education nonprofits. The last 2 jobs I applied for were in Alabama, one of which happened to be at the Birmingham Education Foundation. Two interviews later, I accepted the job as Program Specialist AmeriCorps VISTA with the Birmingham Education Foundation. I’m not sure exactly what made me decide to abandon my firm decision to get out of Birmingham, but for some reason, I felt like Ed was where I needed to be. I had this feeling for the first time in the job search process that I felt like I was going to receive more at Ed than I could ever give. And my past seven months at Ed have definitely proven that feeling right. The past seven months I have been truly blessed to work with and for the immensely talented, hardworking, hilarious, spunky, and intelligent students in Birmingham City Schools. From my personable and goofy twelfth graders at Wenonah High School to the loving and creative 2nd graders at Wylam Elementary School. I have had the incredible opportunity to combine my love of education with my passion for art therapy.
Through my work with Network Nights, I am continuously inspired and motivated by not only the conversations held at Network Night but the individual teams at each school who work together to make the events successful. The teachers and staff that I am blessed to collaborate with have shown me time and time again what it truly means to dedicate yourself to the future of this country, and how supporting each other leads to the greatest successes. This may all sound sappy and cliché. Yet when I truly take the time to reflect on the experiences I’ve had, and the people I’ve engaged with, I find myself at a loss for words. These students; these parents and teachers; these men and women are simply doing their job. However, it is the way in which they go about doing it; the love and passion they put into it that has been revolutionary in my world. Here’s the thing they don’t tell you in college: every single person you meet, from the time you graduate, will have an impact on the trajectory of your career.
Seven months ago, I saw myself working my first job post-grad for one to two years tops. I felt like I didn’t have any more to take in from the city of Birmingham. And just like most twenty-something-year-olds, I was very wrong. Birmingham is ever evolving, and I am experiencing a whole other Birmingham then the one I knew before. I am truly thankful every day that I made the impulsive decision to stick around, and I am truly blessed and grateful that I have a new home and community within Birmingham City and the Birmingham Education Foundation. As easy as it is for me to sit here and type that I love being able to make a difference in the lives of the students we serve, the reality of the situation is that they have made far more of an impact on me than I can ever make on them.
I want to challenge you to take a second, look around at the community you live in, and think about the last time you truly went out and made an honest effort to get to know those around you; those outside your close-knit group of friends, or your colleagues. Get out there and serve! You will find that new peers, mentors, inspirations and a new kind of family are out there just waiting for you. Even if you’ve lived in Birmingham 50 years, I guarantee you have something to learn from the person living down the block.