- About Us
- My Profile
What sparked my passion
Submitted by csmith on 2012-07-25T11:14:58
When I was young, my parents instilled a great sense of community in me. I marched alongside my uncle as he was protesting when I was a kid. He worked at a factory in Decatur, IL. They all walked off the job because they were a union, and they wanted better benefits. He was out of work for a long time protesting. I walked alongside him and really understood the manufacturing community. I participated in Earth Day protests and other things along those lines when I was young. I knew that community was something I was interested in, and growing up I would volunteer a lot, but I never knew it could turn into a job.
What’s funny to me is when I got into non-profit work, a lot of people wondered if I got paid. There’s a common misconception that when you work at a non-profit you’re a volunteer, and you make zero dollars. Non-profits have a budget, which accounts for staff salaries.
When I went to school, I knew I wanted to write. I think it’s hard to say at age 18 this is what I’m going to do with my life, but I went to school to study English because I like to write. Then I realized most English majors become teachers. I respect teachers because my parents were both teachers, but I didn’t want to do that. So I went into journalism. It worked out very well for me because it made me understand how to be concise. I think I succeed in my job because I know how to tailor my speech and my content based on the person I’m talking with. I can very quickly switch from talking to a corporate person who wants just know the facts about why they should be involved to someone who wants to hear the success stories.
I couldn’t really see journalism as a career, because a lot of people go in and the first step is obituary writing, and I didn’t want to do that. One particular exercise really opened up my eyes to some of the harsh realities of journalism. We had to act like we were writers for our local paper. I’m from Oak Park, IL, which is a town of about 50,000 people. In the exercise, the President of the United States of America comes to your home town. How cool would that be for Oak Park! Our professor asked if we would put the story of the President coming to town or a fiery crash that killed five children in your community with actual pictures on the front page. I was the only one who raised my hand for the President. I got completely blasted for it. “Why would you do that? It doesn’t sell papers.” That’s when I realized I have too much empathy. I’m proud to have it. If that were my family, if those were my friends, that would be the last thing I wanted to see on the front page. Not only that, but I also dislike reporters who ask people who are grieving, “How are you feeling?” How do you think they feel? It just wasn’t the right business for me.
I knew I always wanted to go to Columbia College for grad school. So I thought why not just go and get my undergrad there? I picked up and left ISU and went into marketing and PR, the stuff I truly enjoyed. It was the best decision I ever made because I was entrenched with people who were working in the field. I would go to school all day Thursday from 8am to 8pm, while also having two full-time internships the rest of the week.
It bothers me when people feel like they don’t have a voice. People have to find other people who share their concerns, share their thinking, and rally together to create change. I get that one person can’t necessarily facilitate change. I don’t necessarily believe that though. I do know that a lot of people believe that and just give up. Are you passionate about it? Other people are too, so what are you doing about it?
Just a few weekends ago I was telling a few of my girlfriends that my fiance and I are committed to buying a house in the city. We are also committed to sending our future kids to public school. My friends freaked out. I said I want to be part of a PTA. I want to try to figure out how to be a parent and insight change into CPS. I think it’s something that a lot of other people are thinking about as well. You can see the trends of people who left the city to start a family in the suburbs are now moving back and doing the same thing. How can we all band together to make CPS better? The shock and the fear on my friends’ faces was exciting to me because they looked at me like I was crazy. It’s something that I want to do. They don’t understand why you’d put your children in a place where they can’t receive the best education. My point is they can, and I’m going to make sure that they do. Working for change is how I’m going to do that.
Looking back on my childhood reminded me of why I have always found myself working for a cause. Supporting those who were fighting for what was right ignited my passion. What will you find when you look back?