Phone Calls, Twitter and Newspapers

At worst, an internship can be a place where you’re forced to go every day to sit in front of a computer for eight hours and waste time. At best, I thought, an internship can be a place where you’re given work that’s kind of interesting, nice people to work with, at an organization you support. That’s how I imagined my summer at Dogwood would go, but it has proven to be so much more than that. Working as the Communications Intern at Dogwood this summer has inspired me even more deeply to dedicate my career to environmental work and led my love of nature to grow even stronger – and I wouldn’t have thought that was possible!

Waterfalls and the forest.
Waterfalls and the forest!

Originally, I applied to intern here at Dogwood because of my interest in the energy industry. I hoped that this internship position would not only give me an introduction to environmental work in the nonprofit sector, but also help me evolve my own views on what the answer is to the global energy crisis. If there’s one thing I’ve learned for sure this summer, it’s that woody biomass is not the answer – our forests aren’t fuel!

During the past ten weeks, I’ve been working on communications, marketing and campaign projects for Dogwood. I’ve built lists of media contacts for the organization’s various campaigns, called more than 300 people to personally invite them to the People’s Public Hearing in Wilmington earlier this summer, managed and updated all of Dogwood’s social media accounts and worked on the website’s Google Analytics.

More important than the skills I’ve honed through my various assignments, though, is what I’ve gained by asking questions and paying attention to what’s going on in the organization at a higher level. Before beginning this internship, I had only limited experience in environmental work. It seemed like a daunting, difficult cause to work for. Making change is hard, and the opposition to environmental voices is quite loud and vehement. Quickly after beginning work here, though, I realized that Dogwood’s current campaigns stand on the shoulders of the success of its original paper campaign. With those great accomplishments defining what Dogwood is today, it’s impossible not to face the current biomass campaign with a sense of hope and excitement.

One of the most memorable experiences of the summer happened in Wilmington, during the public hearing. On the day of the event, as it was starting, a man approached me to ask if I knew how to access the stairs in the building because his wife was afraid to use elevators but wanted to make it up the three flights of stairs to attend the hearing. I went downstairs to find this man’s wife, and as I was escorting her around the side of the building to the staircase, she explained to me what led her to attend the hearing. She’d had no knowledge of the issue of woody biomass until “someone” from the Dogwood Alliance called her to explain the situation, but during that phone call she realized that she had actually seen some forest clear-cuts on a road trip with her family the previous year. Connecting what she’d seen with what she heard on the phone had motivated her to attend the hearing. Speaking passionately about how ugly the clear-cuts were, she told me that she wanted to do whatever she could to help out the campaign. I specifically remembered talking to her on the phone because we’d had a bit of an awkward interaction when her 15-year-old daughter had been on my list of people to contact, but I could tell that she didn’t know it was me who called her. As I walked that poor little lady who was afraid of elevators up the stairs, I felt extremely proud to have motivated someone else to care about an issue that’s so important; it didn’t matter that she didn’t know it had been me.

As I get ready to start grad school at Duke in the fall where I’ll be working towards a Master of Environmental Management degree, I’ll carry with me the inspiration and enthusiasm this job has given me. I sincerely want to thank my supervisor, Scot Quaranda as well as Amanda Rodriguez and Adam Macon, with whom I’ve also worked this summer, for giving me such a positive experience here. To everyone at Dogwood Alliance – I’m amazed by the work that you do and your passion for the environment, and it’s been a pleasure working with you this summer. I can’t wait to continue to support Dogwood when I can and to read about all your future success stories in the news!

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