I am struggling a bit to write this post. I’ve started and stopped three times. As I reflect back on this summer with IMBY there are almost too many experiences I could write about. We took amazing trips to National Parks, worked hard to develop a sustainable, respected program, and even met the Secretary of the Interior (shameless plug for my previous blog post). But when I truly reflect back on what made this summer’s experience worthwhile, it was the people.
I was brought into IMBY as its first ever Community Outreach Mentor. “Mentor” is a bit of an intimidating word. I am that strange mix of a person who is an anxiety filled introvert who also happens to love public speaking and leadership. I believe deeply that the institutions I tend to want to work for, museums and parks, have historically not done so well in becoming a part of their surrounding communities. Maybe they are all introverts like me and sitting in our offices surrounded by cool stuff is easier, but probably not. Part of why I applied for this position was because I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. If helping push museums and parks to be accountable to their communities is what I want to do I should probably get used to going out and listening to people. And we did, or we have at least started to. But it is not just the events and meetings that have molded my growth this summer. I hope I have been able to provide some support or guidance to the team, but I have been shaped by this group of women in ways I could not have imagined. Each member of this beautiful team has contributed something unique and taught me something new. Amanda blew me away with her ability to jump into a project, take ownership and move forward with confidence. Once Rose came to work smiling when she had gotten oral surgery earlier that day. Megan pushed the group to reflect on our intentions and to keep our ethic at the front of our minds. Anna’s knowledge and passion about Seattle (and its public transportation) came in handy more than once. Dana’s excitement and intense desire to get stuff done helped propel us forward. Our fearless leaders, Kelsey and Jimi, have shown me what it takes to fight for something you care about. They have helped me through both their leadership and their friendship.
In the same way that this experience at its core is about people, so are our parks. It’s about people and their stories. The NPS stands at a precipice. Poised to move into its next century. We find ourselves in a position where a choice must be made about the stories we tell, and the people who are included in the telling of those stories. As we move forward as a program, and an institution, we must be intentional about these choices. I feel proud to be a part of a park that is making choices to imbed the NPS into the Seattle community. A park that is asking questions, important questions about where we fit and where we can be useful. It feels strange to be writing an end of season reflection piece when it’s less than halfway through my tenure here. I really feel like we are just getting started and I cannot wait to see where we end up.
–Molly, IMBY 2016 Community Outreach Mentor