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Reflecting on my Development

I am so glad to finally be able to say,'I led a local project that resulted

in fostering community involvement, developing skills and strengthening values'. This unique program physically resulted in a beautiful garden for a family, but intangibly it has given me marketable workplace skills and experience that I plan on using in the future.

These are the skills I have been focusing on throughout this internship:

This opportunity let me successfully lead and complete a home garden project. The hands-on learning environment helped me evolve my project management skills and increase my experience that ultimately led to more confidence in my abilities. I was glad of the space that I was allowed to function in during this project. Through Shamsa's mentorship, I was allowed to plan, to make mistakes, and to decide what would work best. Once I got over my fear of making a mistake, I planned out much of the project and just led to the best of my ability. Giving directions during installation I knew that it would work out, but I had a plan for multiple unfortunate scenarios just in case (none of which occurred). I have certainly developed leadership skills over this time that will take me far both in and out of the classroom.

Ellen giving directions

This project required me to collaborate with over 20 college students, 8 high school youth, donors, and the family. I learned that effective collaboration means working effectively with others not just towards completion of the project, but towards the fulfillment of the organization’s mission - my growth & development.

I learned that communication is not only the ability to share your thoughts and ideas; it also requires skilled listening. I learned to communicate clearly and effectively as I met with homeowners, accrued sponsorships, ordered materials, organized volunteers, and read feedback on my reflection pieces.

I had to use writing and communication skills to fundraise for my campaign. I tried to engage the audience of each email and newsletter and blog post by directing it towards the people and making parts interactive and creating a story. People don’t just want to read something, they’re more invested if it holds value with stories, plots, or personal significance, something I hope I fostered and can conclude now.

Ellen presenting to Church Board

My final task is two presentations. One on campus and one off-campus. I presented at Liz’s (the homeowner’s) Church Board meeting one evening where the project was well-accepted. Since I was so involved in this project, I could talk about any aspect of it, but understood that I needed to focus on the completed goals: mostly my skills, but also the garden and the community interaction. I am still looking for an on campus opportunity to present. Let me know if you would like me to present to your group or class.

These are the projects that I wish to continue participating in and creating myself throughout my life. I hope to discover varying applications to do good in changing settings. With my studies in Anthropology, getting everyone together was a big focus for me; I would like to say that based on Saturday mornings' activities and the responses I've had from supporters that this has been successful.

I have mentioned that I am in an Introduction to Nonprofits class this semester, a political science class. It has greatly helped me in understanding the importance of a mission statement (VGnet's Mission) and how vital to success it is that everyone involved is on the same page. Through this class, I learned that the mission statement is not a guideline, it is the driving force behind an organization. Victory Garden Network is driven by passionate people trying to guide students’ to develop skills for themselves by fulfilling real, meaningful work. I mention the mission because when I joined VGNet, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into; I thought I would just be appearing at a site and telling people that we had to build a garden. But this experience has allowed me to communicate between communities and foster growth in my skillset, with people involved, and in the garden. It wasn’t until I was fundraising and realized that I was telling a story about me and trying to sell myself my own potential that I understood the importance of developing my skill set for this group. With everyone working nonstop to install the garden and fix up the yard Saturday morning, I'm thinking that my beginning remarks and prior reflections must have created at least some excitement for the workers to have enjoyed themselves. I've learned a lot about managing projects and the role of a leader. Learning when to direct and when to allow for interpretation of directions to occur has been one of those things. I think that my communication with everyone has led to a collaborative garden richer for the diverse input that's gone into it. I feel like I talked to many people and did various jobs while coordinating the garden, and I'm more experienced for it. I truly believe that this program will help future students to develop their skills while allowing them to involve the community in positive change and I fully expect to support it in the time to come. I would love feedback on my reflection pieces from you. Please feel free to email me if you would like to share your thoughts with me.

-Ellen Dubis NC State University |BA Anthropology, 2018

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