Current CFS Student Mark on Connecting with the Community You Serve


Name: MarkMark Specht


Major: Integrated Science and Science in Human Culture

CFS Concentration: Field Studies in Civic Engagement

I did not fully understand what I was getting myself into when starting this internship, as I imagine is often the case with new jobs, but that actually turned out to be a good thing. When I was told I would spend 80% of my time researching composting policies & case studies and 20% of my time doing all the other things that Seven Generations Ahead (SGA) does, I had very little idea what the “other things” were, but this was a good thing as well. Because, as I’ve found, not knowing preserves the element of surprise that cheers you up, keeps you engaged, and reminds you of what you are really working towards.

It just so happened that one of those “other things” was the “Food: Too Good To Waste Challenge.” This program enrolled Oak Park residents and provided them with tools that enabled them to reduce their preventable food waste at home. When one potential participant missed the informational meeting the day before, my supervisor and I met with her to explain the details of the program. But there was one problem- this mother’s babysitting arrangements had fallen through, so both her four-year-old and one-year-old daughters were along for the meeting. After it became apparent that these kids were going to be a significant distraction, I took matters into my own hands. I started talking to the four-year-old, asking her to read out loud a book that she had brought along. The older sister also started to tell me about her favorite movies. She said that she had seen Frozen recently, and I told her the only thing I knew about it was the song, Let It Go. So she sang it for me! At this point, the adults could not help but to take notice of the solo-act going on. When she was finished singing, she was so excited that she wanted to sing three more songs from Frozen for me!

While it may not be immediately apparent what this experience means or why it matters, I think there is a good answer. Not only do these unexpected experiences brighten your day – who would not be delighted when they are serenaded by a four-year-old girl? – but they also connect you with people in a way that reminds you that you are working for them. In the case of SGA, which “enables communities to make the changes they need to create a sustainable future,” we are working for the community. Through our programs, we are building relationships and educating community members to achieve a sustainable future. This outgoing, four-year-old singer is exactly who SGA serves, and it was a pleasure to spend a few brief moments getting to know her.