This post is from our Alumni Spotlight series, featuring stories and reflections from past Summer of Solutions participants. The 2013 Summer of Solutions programs are now accepting participant applications! Apply here!
Hi All! I’m Emily Stiever, a native of Minnetonka, MN. I was part of the inaugural batch of Solutionaries at Macalester during the summer of 2008. As I think back now, it’s difficult to remember exactly how I stumbled across the awesome group of people that morphed into Summer of Solutions (SoS). I think I had just come back from studying abroad in Nicaragua and I heard about the first January Gathering (in 2008). I have a vague recollection of showing up for a meeting at Macaleter’s Eco House over winter break and (since I got the time wrong) everyone was still sleeping. But once we got going, the January Gathering was really interesting and I was on board for spending the summer at Macalester and working on a number of the projects we’d dreamed up.
My experiences in SoS
One of my favorite experiences was riding back from a meeting at the Ford plant one evening. We’d just come from having a great discussion about ARISE (The Alliance to Re-Industrialize for a Sustainable Economy), “a coalition of local stakeholders, advocacy groups, and students seeking to create a sustainable redevelopment plan for the closed Ford factory in Highland Park, St. Paul.” (The Twin Cities SoS program will once again be working with ARISE this summer!) It was warm, and we all biked quietly home along the river trail on the Mississippi. It was one of the first times where I could see what my life could look like in the future: the ability to work on social issues that I cared about and to live sustainably in community with people who shared a similar passion. SoS helped me translate a general feeling of, “it would be cool to work on these issues at some point in my life” to a much more tangible, “this is how my life could look now.” The experience helped me clarify what I am looking for, both in my professional life and how I want to live personally, and has guided me as I’ve sought out living arrangements and jobs in recent years.
The other big take-away from my experience with SoS was the need to ground my activism and social justice work in extensive background knowledge about the issues. Throughout my summer in SoS, I learned a lot about climate change and renewable energy. Timothy, one of the program leaders, taught an ExCo (Experimental Community Education) class on climate, we met with multiple speakers, got into the nitty-gritty details of how to implement an energy efficiency program with Cooperative Energy Futures, and I borrowed a couple of great books from others in the program. I learned a lot of information that summer and I am surprised even now how often I use that technical and philosophical information even today. Continue reading