2016-17 Jean O’Connor-Snyder Intern Kate Mauldin reflects on her experience living and learning in Marion, Perry County.
I spent three months living and working in Perry County this summer with Shana Oshinskie. In May, Shana and I lived at Judson College with students from The University of Alabama Honors College University Fellows Experience where we learned about community development in the Black Belt of Alabama. In June and July, we were able to learn even more as David Mathews Center Jean O’Connor-Synder Interns working with one of Marion’s nonprofit organizations, Renaissance Marion.
This summer confirmed that I would love to live, work, and serve in rural Alabama.
Shana and I lived independently in a cute red cottage within walking distance of downtown Marion. We worked to help establish an active and stable Main Street Marion organization four days a week. This included setting up for a launch event, painting parking lines during a community work day, and driving to Tuscaloosa for supplies. Yet, I found some of my most meaningful experiences occurred outside of Renaissance Marion’s Washington Street office.
This summer, I felt blessed daily by the warmth and hospitality of Marion. People welcomed us into their homes, churches, and workplaces. Over these three months, I learned the importance of investing time and energy in the community where you live and work.
I found some of my most meaningful experiences occurred outside of Renaissance Marion’s Washington Street office.
In college, my schedule is often defined for me by classes and my work. In Marion, I had the wonderful opportunity to choose how and where to invest my hours, my heart, and my money. During this internship experience, I was able to spend my free time building relationships and finding stories in Perry County.
I learned new skills helping out with projects, met new neighbors, and explored historic sites. Thank you Perry County for giving Shana and I so many adventures. We explored acres of sunflowers that towered over our heads, the concession stands of Marion Little League games, and farmers markets with homemade cinnamon buns and pepper jelly.
This summer, I felt blessed daily by the warmth and hospitality of Marion.
Most days of the week, Shana and I were able to work out at a gym and participate in group exercise classes. This summer was probably the most physically fit I have been since moving to college despite all the delicious food I enjoyed. Thanks to a new crock pot from my PawPaw, Shana and I cooked many a slow cooker meal.
Thank you for providing fresh fruit and vegetables daily to support all of our summer recipes. But, as fairly inexperienced cooks, none of our meals could compare to the many dinners and lunches we received in church at Wednesday night fellowship, at local restaurants with our new friends, and in the homes of our neighbors. Thank you for bringing “home” a lot closer over food and conversation.
This fall, I will begin my senior year at The University of Alabama. In May, if all goes as planned, I will graduate in Tuscaloosa with a degree in International Studies and a minor in Arabic. For the next eight months, I will be figuring out where I will go after graduation.
This summer confirmed that I would love to live, work, and serve in rural Alabama. I learned to appreciate the natural beauty, the complex history of Perry County, and the sweetness of the people of Marion. I see so much opportunity for young adults to contribute to and learn from communities in Alabama’s Black Belt. Thank you for showing me that people matter more than money or titles or fame and that purpose is found in community.