David-Earl Russell and Elijah Henderson are interning with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation this summer as part of their education at the Eugene J. McCarthy Center for Public Policy & Civic Engagement at St. John’s University. We invited them to share their stories as they start on this work; this is the second of two posts about their conversation.
(Elijah Henderson) What was your favorite park experience growing up? How did it impact you?
(David-Earl Russell) My favorite park experience growing up was when I was younger and my sister had her baby shower at a park as well as a couple of her children’s birthday parties. When I was younger, I was more of an outdoor kid, so I wanted to always go out and play instead of being inside playing games and watching TV all of the time. I feel that part of me being this way was the impact of constant exposure to parks and the outside world in general which has shaped who I am today because I still enjoy being out and about outdoors.
What is your major? What influenced you to choose your major?
My major is Sociology and a minor in Hispanic studies. My mother’s career is what influenced me to choose to become a Sociology major. She is a social worker herself and when I was younger, I would go to her job a lot. She works with senior citizens, so I would keep them company and do different fun activities with them. From that point on I knew that I wanted to go into a field in which I would be able to help others in a similar way. The minor in Hispanic studies came about because I have been learning Spanish off and on since the 1st grade and becoming fluent in Spanish would open up a wide range of opportunities for me in my career field.
How has St. John’s University prepared you for this internship?
St. John’s University (SJU) has prepared me for this internship through course work, professional development workshops, and the different experiences I have gained while being at SJU. Up to now with all of the course work that I have completed, I have learned about the undersurface and sometimes unconscious reasoning behind our actions as humans and how that has the power to have a negative effect on the lives of others, whether or not that was the intention. When it comes to professional development, SJU has offered various workshops that range from the very first steps to searching for an internship to securing a position and learning how to build a network within my new work environment. My experiences that I have gained over the course of my three years at SJU have exposed me to different points of view in the world and encouraged me to be more open-minded and also taught me some things that can’t be taught from a textbook.
What motivated you to get an internship for the summer?
I was motivated to get an internship this summer because I was accepted into the Jackson Fellow Scholarship program, which allows for college students to have a wider range of internship opportunities by paying them to work for organizations that can only offer unpaid internships. For students like me, this is a huge deal because not being able to receive an income for the whole summer can be detrimental to students and their home situation. Thanks to this Scholarship I was motivated to find work in my actual career field instead of getting a summer job just to be able to make ends meet.
What brought you to intern for the Minneapolis Parks Foundation?
My attention was drawn to the Minneapolis Parks Foundation because this type of organization is something that I had never seen before. As I was making the decision and transitioning to a career in the field of Urban Planning, I was told that there were a variety of opportunities and different aspects that I would be able to get into. The organization’s focus on parks was intriguing to me because it was a different aspect of Urban Planning that I had never come across.
What is something that the Minneapolis Parks Foundation has brought to your attention in regards to the city/park system? Why is it important? How has this impacted your experience so far?
A couple of things that the Minneapolis Parks Foundation has brought to my attention is that when it comes to creating new parks and infrastructure within a community, the focus should not be the design but the impact it will have. Knowing this would require projects to not only value the importance of architecture, but policy and politics as well. This is important because the betterment of the community should always be the focal point of any project being implemented because they will be the first to be affected by it. Learning those couple of new things stirred up a feeling of excitement and anticipation of what is to come next.
What do you hope to gain from working with the Minneapolis Parks Foundation?
My hope is to continue to gain more knowledge about the amazing ways that offering something as simple as a park into a community can bring positive change in multiple aspects of life that one would never think could be resolved with a park.