My time in Wilson has been interesting thus far. Since I am serving under the Human Relations office, I have been involved in various community events and have met several Wilson residents and stakeholders. For example, on my second day of service, the office held their annual National Night Out event. There I met some of Wilson’s first responders and the residents living in the neighborhood where the event was held. During the event, I observed the families having fun, learning about different community organizations, and interacting with the first responders. I truly enjoyed watching this positive community engagement because it made me see how the Wilson community genuinely cares for one another. Then, a few weeks later, the Police Department held their 21st annual Festival del Verano (Summer Festival) which focused on Hispanic outreach. While being involved in the planning process was exciting, nothing compared to being at the event and seeing the Hispanic community have fun and interact with one another and the community vendors. I felt so much joy listening to the music I grew up with, eating the food my family typically cooks, watching the performances, and seeing the vendors sell beautiful crafts. Seeing the Hispanic community here made me feel like I was back home in Winston-Salem attending the Fiesta Festival, which made me feel excited about the work I have ahead here in Wilson.
Aside from participating in these events, the first big project of my fellowship involved being the head planner of one. For this project, I was in charge of organizing a Teen EXPO, where different community organizations and businesses would set up booths and speak to teenagers about the volunteer and job opportunities they offer. After reaching out to over 40 organizations, around 23 were able to participate. Though not as many organizations participated as I hoped, through this outreach, I was able to learn about what these organizations do for Wilson and network with several community leaders. I also had to coordinate the event set-up and figure out other logistics such as entertainment and prizes. Despite some stressful moments and setbacks, once the event happened and I saw the teenagers meaningfully engage with these organizations and leave with piles of books, brochures, bags, and flyers, I knew it was worth it. I got to witness the impact of my work and it felt rewarding. It is one thing to have an indirect impact on people through ordinances and policies, but to see this direct impact through these events makes service much more meaningful. As someone who loves to help others and make people happy, this event was perfect for me to plan.
After the Teen EXPO, I realized my role within the Human Relations office has helped me learn about Wilson residents and explore the city to an extent I do not think would have been possible if I served for another department. I could have simply worked from my cubicle all day and locked myself in my apartment afterward, but I have been going to different parts of the city for meetings and interacted with many residents through events. I am very grateful for my work scope because it has pushed me out of my comfort zone and is helping me to adjust to my new environment faster than I realize. As someone who is extremely close to her family and has never left her hometown for more than three months, coming to a new city by myself was a big step in my life. Even then, while being away from Winston has been hard, interacting with the community here in Wilson has made me realize the new relationships I can form here. I can only hope that I get more opportunities to explore Wilson and meet wonderful people.