Free stuff seems to be a pretty foolproof way to capture the attention of college students during finals week. While some students passed our table with the sullen, unseeing eyes of preoccupation and sleep deprivation, many were lured in by our sirens song of “summer jobs here!” and tote bag giveaways. Harmony, Caitlin, and I were at Hendrix College for a few hours of tabling in mid-December to build our email list, get the word out about SoS, and advertise for our latest job opening.
Applications for Program Coordinator were due over winter break, and after great interviews with all 12 candidates we decided to offer everyone a position in the program tailored to their needs, interests, and strengths. Almost everyone on the list enthusiastically signed on to join the Summer of Solutions magic, and most of them were ready to get started right away with fundraising, building partnerships, and getting to know one another. We will meet and greet as a full group next Monday to plan our attack for the spring.
In the meantime, the leadership team has been busy organizing logistics, refining our message, attending January Gathering, and exploring partnerships. A few blocks from our headquarters on 12th Street, another organization is opening what they’re calling the Young Adult Opportunity Center in an old house that is being renovated by YouthBuild. They have asked us to consider partnering with them to transform the three empty lots behind the house into a teaching garden where clients can develop skills in agricultural production and entrepreneurship. Some of our program leaders, mentors, and other local partners took a field trip last week to scope out the site and get to know the project leaders.
While we have been thinking carefully about our capacity for the summer and key partnerships that need to be built, we have had several organizations take the initiative to contact us with ideas for joint projects that we hadn’t considered before. We may end up with more interested organizations than we can realistically partner with! That’s an exciting prospect and seems to show that there’s lots of room for expansion and replication of this kind of green economy and youth empowerment work here in Little Rock. Onward and upward!