2016-17 Jean O’Connor-Snyder Intern Anastasiya Titarenko reflects on her summer experience living and learning in Jasper, AL.
When I told a good friend of mine I was going to be spending the summer in Jasper, Alabama, she asked me why. I told her I wanted to work with local leaders, who I believe are the real change makers in communities. I told her I wanted to work in small community where I could meet many people. I told her I wanted to use my skills in a way that would benefit a community. I told her I wanted to understand myself better and learn about where I fit in the world.
I did all of that and so much more this summer.
The core of my experience was at my internship placement with the Jasper Area Family Services Center (JAFSC). I had the privilege of waking up each morning and heading to 2209 Delaware Avenue, where I learned what true and effective collaboration looks like. Under Donna Kilgore’s leadership and guidance, I worked on many projects. I wrote grants, designed a new website and Facebook page, engaged in case work, and enhanced methods of data collection for the Center.
I wanted to use my skills in a way that would benefit a community. I told her I wanted to understand myself better and learn about where I fit in the world.
Using the skill set I had, I contributed all I could to the JAFSC. However, I learned far more than I gave. Constantly, I was humbled by the amount of heart in one building, the sheer love folks had for the work, and the strong commitment they had for their community.
My time in Walker County was not contained at the JAFSC. I visited churches, walked around different parts of town, broadened my palate at restaurants, enjoyed delicious coffee at Lavish, and played at Warehouse 319’s trivia night. I went for strolls at Gamble Park, kayaked on Walker County Lake, got to know phenomenal community members, and embarked on a grand tour of Smith Lake given by the one and only Beth Stukes.
Getting to live, work, and learn in this community changed me and taught me a great deal.
Through the course of eight weeks, Walker County went from a place I only knew from maps, reports, and numbers to a place with depth, heart, and soul. Getting to live, work, and learn in this community changed me and taught me a great deal. I learned that happiness is built on doing what you love, that change is more often made through important little actions than big sweeping ones, and that local leaders really are the true change makers of the world.
Last week, my friend and I spoke again. She asked me what I thought of my summer, and I told her the truth: “I’ve learned so much about Walker County, myself, and the world.” Jasper, thank you for welcoming me into your community. Thank you for reaffirming my passion for working with people and for reinvigorating my commitment to a life of serving others. Thank you for a summer that I will carry in my heart for the rest of my life.