As I walk through new experiences in my life, I continue to learn more about the world, about others, and about myself. This summer, I had no idea just how much I would learn from being an In My Backyard Mentor.
The first thing I learned right away was that this was going to be different from anything I’d ever done before. While I hadn’t had similar job experience before, I had worked with youth and diverse groups, and I was excited for the opportunity to continue working in youth programming. With the National Park Service, the work environment was so different than what I was used to. In college, I studied the legal system and political science, and up until IMBY, I worked almost exclusively in the legal field—I was used to working independently in a quiet law office. The Center for Innovation at Klondike is a lively office that encourages creativity, uses icebreakers, and cultivates learning together. This summer I have been fortunate to work with this office of people in a new environment.
In the third week of IMBY when mentor groups got assigned, I was both excited and nervous—would I be able to support my group in the ways they need? Would they be able to learn from me? By the end of that week as I got to know the three interns better, I felt confident that I would know what I needed to do in order to be the best mentor possible. A few weeks later, I lost a bit of that confidence when I felt I didn’t have answers for them all the time. I quickly hit the reset button in my mind, and realized that instead of trying to know the answer to everything the interns asked, I could take the opportunity to learn with them and from them.
During our history and allyship week, we had an entire group debate about the Elwha River restoration. I will always remember this—all of a sudden, my group started talking about bankruptcy, corruption and politics. I remember thinking “when I was their age, I had no concept of these things.” I was blown away by their knowledge. Soon after this thought, my group descended into laughter, bantering back and forth about the roles we were respectively supposed to be playing. I had never seen the three of them smile so much. By the time my group was supposed to share out to the larger group, we didn’t have an idea of what we wanted to share, so they all spoke and threw together random aspects from our conversation and it probably didn’t make any sense, but it mattered that they were all having a good time.
I think one of the most effective and important ways of educating people is learning with them, and this debate was one of the times I was able to learn about them—what they find important, and what knowledge they possess that I do not. By the end of IMBY, these brilliant interns had showed me so much. The four of us were able to have conversations about contemporary issues involving the education system, political issues, art, culture, and more. I learned all about different art styles from them, and new ways to be creative. I am so thankful that these interns shaped my experience here, and I hope that I had the same impact on them in these nine weeks.