Alumni Spotlight: Cecelia Watkins

We are now accepting applications to participate in our 2013 Summer of Solutions programs!  Apply here!

My name is Cecelia Watkins, and I am a proud Summer of Solutions alum. This is my SoS story.

After four years in a liberal arts college and many more years spent desperately wondering how to funnel my passions and skills into making a difference in this crazy, suffering world, I found myself at somewhat of a loss. I was a second semester senior in college, and despite an incredible amount of growth and community support, I found myself looking into my future with a deep and unrelenting anxiety. First off, I struggled to determine what I wanted to do in the next year (not to mention the much larger perceived struggle of deciding what I wanted to do with my life). Secondly, I felt a deep fear that even if I miraculously decided what I wanted to do, there was no way I’d ever be able to get paid a living wage to do it (let alone a student-debt-alleviating wage).4

While at the PowerShift convention in Washington DC that spring, I ran into two young men standing behind a table with the banner “Summer of Solutions.” A few lengthy conversations later, and I decided to sign on to the SoS program based in the Twin Cities—the land where I grew up, where I’d hardly been since leaving for school four years prior. Why did I sign up? It neatly filled a gap of time between my graduation and a work exchange I had set up starting in late August. It sounded cool. And it would fulfill my guilt-driven longing to bring my new passions and energy back to my neglected hometown.

Fast forward a few months: I am sitting in a church basement with a motley crew of other young people, feeling blown away. Matt Kazinka just finished his presentation on the history of the Twin Cities, and how that history has sculpted the modern reality of racialized neighborhoods, environmental injustice, and industrial dominance. In that half an hour I gained a deeper understanding of the place where I grew up than in my 18 years of living there.2

Fast forward another month: now I’m in it deep, working 60 hours a week on Summer of Solutions projects not because I have to (I absolutely don’t), but because I want to, because I feel deeply driven to. Some examples of the projects that drove me to wonderful, fantastic madness: evolving the volunteer capacity of a local community bike shop, teaching people about energy efficiency in their own homes, and canvassing about bulk insulation packages. Okay, it doesn’t necessarily sound glorious. But the SoS community gave me such strength and deep meaning that every task did have a certain glory to it. SoS made it clear that every small step we took and every one of us participants were an integral part of the much larger movement for a just and sustainable future. I’ve never felt so connected to that movement as I did that summer, and every day as I biked 14 miles from East St Paul to South Minneapolis, I felt the breathtaking excitement that comes with being part of an epic and urgent story.

It’s been nearly two years since my time as a participant in Summer of Solutions, but still I carry those memories and lessons with me every day. The greatest thing I took with me was a deep sense of practical empowerment—a sense that money is far from the only resource we can leverage for change, a sense that we are rich in those other resources. A sense that we’ve only just begun to tap our power. SoS taught me that my dreams of a meaningful life could be congruent with a financially sustainable life, and that I don’t have to wait for the perfect job opportunity to find me—I can create my own.

I haven’t yet started a social enterprise of my own, but I continue to build on the practical skills I learned while participating in SoS. Currently, I’m serving as an AmeriCorps with the non-profit GRuB (Garden Raised Bounty). My job is to partner with low income families to build backyard vegetable gardens—this spring we plan to build 70 some gardens, and empower 70 some families with the knowledge that they can grow their own solutions. Since the closing of my experience in Summer of Solutions, I have remained involved with the national Grand Aspirations. It’s easy to continue volunteering when it means getting to stay in touch with friends who also happen to be incredibly inspiring humans. It’s easy to keep working when the work is so vitally important.

1If you’re thinking about joining Summer of Solutions, ask yourself this: Am I uncertain how I want to create a better world, and want to explore several strategies at once? Am I in need of inspiration, a passionate community of change-makers, and a chance to really get my hands dirty? Am I the kind of person who will work harder than I’ve ever worked before when I’m working for something I believe in? If yes, then apply, apply apply. You will not regret it.

– Cecilia

Calling all Solutionaries!  The National Participant Application for all Summer of Solutions programs is now open!

During the Summer of Solutions, you will receive training in community organizing and sustainable community development techniques. You will use these skills to demonstrate the promise of energy efficiency, community-based energy, green industry, local food production, and/or smart design as described in the locations you choose. Beyond the concrete skills you learn, Summer of Solutions will be a really fun community-based experience. It is a great chance to grow with, learn from, and work with other incredible young people and community leaders who are building a better future.

Not sure if you should apply?  Follow our new blog series, Alumni Spotlights, to hear from past Summer of Solutions participants about how their experience changed their life and prepared them for a life of solutionary work!

Now accepting participant applications: Arleta, CA; Chicago, IL; Hartford, CT; Iowa City, IA; Ithaca, NY; Johnson City, TN; Lexington, KY; Little Rock, AR; Middleton, WI; Oakland, CA; Raleigh, NC; Southern West Virginia; Twin Cities, MN; and Washington, DC!

Applications for the final round are due on 4/14/2013. Some programs may keep their local applications open beyond 4/14, but there is no guarantee that any specific program will do so.

Find more details and the online application here!

One thought on “Alumni Spotlight: Cecelia Watkins

  1. Pingback: Inspiration to Join Summer of Solutions 2013 by April 14th! | Solutionaries

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