I am excited to update you all on my past few weeks of interning at the Community Engagement Center in the Hill District. It has certainly been a fascinating and rewarding experience, but before I fill you in, I would like to provide some background information about the CEC.
The Community Engagement Center, abbreviated CEC, in the Hill is one of two Pitt-sponsored centers dedicated to building stronger communities. In brief, a CEC works with its respective community to address any wants or needs that the community may possess. For example, the CEC in Homewood emphasizes health and wellness, whereas the CEC in the Hill further promotes STEAM education. By working with student organizations, departments, and resources at Pitt, the CECs are able to provide programming that effectively supports the communities to the best of their ability. The CEC’s offerings promote youth education, improve the residents’ quality of life, provide valuable experiences, and so much more! Undoubtedly, the CEC possesses an excellent mission, and I only wish other universities would adopt a similar model.
As I have been interning at the Community Engagement Center for approximately a month, I am confident in my ability to identify some of the key skills and strengths needed to succeed at this organization.
At the CEC, we are constantly working to support tens or programming (in some capacity) simultaneously. We may be at the planning/brainstorming stage for a program, or we might be at the curriculum development stage. Ultimately, there are many different programs, and it is easy to get mixed up when they have similar names/topics, such as the Intergenerational Robotics workshop we offered at our Annual CEC Summer Fun Day vs. Intergenerational Robotics workshop at STEAM Saturdays. I have found that utilizing email folders has definitely helped reduce the chaos in my email inbox. There was also one point in time when I created a personal list for myself of all future programming to guide myself. Overall, the sheer number of programs the CEC has completed and the amount of organizations the CEC is involved with makes it easy to get lost and overwhelmed. However, developing small organizational tactics is the key to success.
The CEC is a unique organization that is intended to be deeply ingrained into the community. Because we have such strong ties to local neighborhood groups and community partners in addition to notable residents, we must be extremely meticulous in all of our communication, personalizing it specifically to the recipient. We want to ensure that the community knows that we deeply care about our work and respect the community. Therefore, it is imperative that we go the extra mile to ensure that all of our communication is not only professional but personalized and effective. Further, this skill allows the CEC to function effectively and efficiently because we produce high-quality results by working diligently.
In addition, these are some general competencies necessary to succeed in the community engagement industry.
This past month has clearly indicated that community outreach is an essential competency for this industry. When working in this field, you must first recognize the best outreach method for your community. Does one receive the greatest response for news blasts or maybe social media posts? It is important to not only experiment with various methods of outreach but also track the efficacy of each strategy. At the Hill CEC, we have found that a culmination of various strategies tends to be most effective. While newsletters produce substantial results, personal communication via emails, texts, and calls has also performed well. Overall, the Hill is a rather diverse community and therefore entails a diverse set of outreach strategies.
This last competency goes hand-in-hand with my past section regarding community outreach. Regardless of which outreach strategy you select to utilize, you will need supplementary material to provide families, such as a flyer. This flyer can be distributed physically, texted, blasted, etc. A flyer not only spreads information about events and programs but also provides an easy mechanism to sign-up via a QR code. If a flyer is not visually appealing or effectively convincing the viewer to sign up, it will not benefit the community organization.
Ultimately, working at the Community Engagement Center in the Hill, or in community engagement in general, entails a series of specific skills and competencies necessary for success! While this list is not all-inclusive, I feel it provides a sufficient overview.
Stay tuned for more updates about Sarah at the CEC!