By Allison Marshall (LFNC Fellow – Shallotte)
April 1, 2021
It’s hard to believe two years ago I was waiting to find out if I was selected as an inaugural Lead for North Carolina Fellow. I was a senior in college, unsure of where my future would take me. I’ve been working for the Town of Shallotte since August 2019. In that time, I have worked on countless projects, dressed up as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, drank a LOT of coffee, discovered new favorite spots in town, taken many lunches at the beach, walked a lot of miles at our park, worked through a pandemic, dealt with uncertainty, joined an unknown number of zoom meetings, and had fun with virtual trivia nights and happy hours with my LFNC co-fellows. Suffice to say, it has been quite the time of my life.
I’m really bad about living in the present, and the COVID pandemic has taught me to embrace what’s right in front of me. It’s all about the small wins. The future might be uncertain, but right now I can be thankful that I’m still employed, I’m healthy, and I’m surrounded (virtually) by a support system of peers who are going through the same thing as me.
My fellowship term ends in just a few months, so what’s next?
When I began my fellowship in 2019, I was not fully sure of what I wanted to do after my contract ended. This past October, I began researching and applying to graduate programs. It took me a while to land on a degree that fit me and my future goals, but I ultimately landed on pursuing a Masters of Public Policy. I sent out my applications, paid the fees, and waited. I started hearing back in the middle of January and still have one out of seven programs to hear from. For graduate school, the enrollment deadline is April 15, which really only leaves me with a couple of weeks to make a decision.
Okay, so I actually made my decision a week ago. It took a lot of thinking and several pro/con lists. I was fortunate to get accepted to a few great programs that made my decision very tough. Ultimately, I had to go with my heart and choose the program that most aligned with me, what I’m passionate about, and what I want to do in the future. I decided to accept my offer at The New School in New York City! I will be pursuing a Master of Science degree in Public and Urban Policy, nationally ranked the fourth best public policy analysis program in the country. While I am there, I hope to also pursue a graduate minor in Global Mental Health. I have no doubt in my mind that being a Lead for NC Fellow was a major part of why I was offered admission into some of the most competitive graduate programs across the country. This program prepares you for anything you want to do!
In many ways, the past two years have been the toughest of my life. However, I have grown immensely in this time. I have learned things about myself, my limits, my passions, my power, and my worth. I have met incredible people. My Mayor has been truly the greatest mentor and role model and always includes me in everything, allowing me to see every side of local government.
If you’re on the fence about applying, trust me when I say this experience is worth it all. I am so fortunate and thankful to have had such an exceptional time and the most incredible learning experience!
If you are applying to be a part of Cohort 3 of Lead for North Carolina, and you’re reading this post now, I have a few pieces of advice for you:
- Take it slow. This experience has been invaluable. I’ve grown in ways I didn’t think were still possible, and I can honestly say I am thankful for everything that has happened during my fellowship. Good, bad, happy, sad, tough, exciting; it has all been incredibly formative and essential to making me the person I am today.
- Be open. Open to yourself, open to others, open to uncertainty, and open to learn. You are undoubtedly going to encounter people who you’ll disagree with, whether it’s politics, the environment, or even movies and sports. These people don’t need to be enemies, but teachers. They represent a school of thought different from your own and as important as your own.
- Be present. I spent too much time thinking about the future, whether it’s the next day or ten years from now. The pandemic has taught me to slow that down and try to be more present.
- Connect with your community. No matter how small or big your host government community is, it is an incredible part of this state. Explore your area. See the parks, walk the sidewalks, support the local businesses. You might just find some of your new favorite spots and people.
- Get close with your cohort, and the alumni network. Your cohort will become your family. I love these people so much and the perspectives on life they’ve each given me is invaluable. I have met people in this program that will be a part of my life forever. Make efforts to build relationships with one another outside of work. Have fun together! Even if it has to be virtual. We did virtual happy hours, monthly game nights, mental health check-ins, birthday celebrations, and so much more. This will be your ultimate support system for your duration of the fellowship and beyond.
- THANK DYLAN. He puts his heart, soul, and then some into this organization and be sure to thank him every now and then for everything he does. He is truly an extraordinary human being, incredible role model, and supportive friend. I honestly do not know where I would be today if it were not for his support, whether it be about work or personal matters.
- Have fun, and reach out if you ever need anything!