Well it’s officially August, which means my internship at United Way of Central Indiana is coming to a close, and yes — it feels like my first day was just yesterday! As the weeks fly by, I’ve been reflecting on how this experience has helped me to grow.
While I’ve grown quite a bit as a professional – or so I would like to think – the ways that I have grown as a citizen of this community stick out to me more than anything.
For years, I swore that as soon as I graduated college I would get out of Indiana as fast as I could. I didn’t think there was anything special about what seemed to be simply a “fly-over state.” I dreamed of moving to Washington, D.C., and I had every intention of making that dream a reality.
But that mindset changed shortly after I began my work here at United Way. Since May, I’ve had the pleasure of learning from Ty Spisak, the marketing and public relations manager here at UWCI – and yes, I’ve learned quite a bit (shout out to Microsoft Word’s “track my edits” feature). Last month, Ty wrote about those in Central Indiana who have dedicated themselves to fighting for our neighbors in need – the hand raisers and game changers – and it got me thinking.
I’ve always been longing for a community of people excited about making a difference, but I never realized that these people have always been hard at work in my own backyard. I just needed to open my eyes a little wider.
Over the course of the last few months, I’ve seen LINC members use their free time to construct a community garden at Flanner House. I’ve heard from the most crucial members of the pre-K coalition. I’ve even helped to prepare for this year’s Simulcast by reading dozens – yes, dozens! — of stories about hand raisers and game changers working tirelessly to fight for those who need it most.
These experiences have been fun and rewarding, but most importantly, they’ve allowed me to see Central Indiana in a different light – once a flight risk, I am now so proud to share a home with the do-gooders I’ve been surrounded by this summer.
I’ll be spending a semester in D.C. this spring (yes, the very place I’d always dreamed of getting away to). I’m beyond excited, but if I’m being completely honest, I think I’ll have a hard time saying goodbye to Indianapolis and all the people that make it so great. I can’t wait to see the amazing things I know will be accomplished while I’m away.
In the end, while I’m sad to be leaving United Way in two weeks, the things I’ve learned during my time here are invaluable. As Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz (my favorite movie, by the way) would say, “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.” I’ve learned so much this summer, but the most important thing — by far — is that my backyard is home to some pretty spectacular people.
If you’ve ever wanted to get involved in this community, trust me when I say there is no better time than right now. And hey, you never know – your efforts might make someone fall head over heels in love with Indy just like I did.
To find out how you can become a hand raiser and game changer, visit uwci.org/100.
Alyssa Brelage is the marketing and communications intern at United Way of Central Indiana. She is currently a public affairs student at Indiana University (Go Hoosiers!) with an unwavering passion for bulldogs and good coffee. When she isn’t working, she is most likely exploring the Old Northside with her sister, Emily – and yes, they almost always end up at the Thirsty Scholar for an americano.