My favorite part of my job is engagement. By that I mean, being in front of a group of people. Whether its talking about my career path, institutional resources, or using documents to teach history, I love it all. That is the part of outreach that invigorates me.
In April, I had the chance to talk about my institution and my career path to a group called the Youth Brigade. The Youth Brigade is a community newspaper written by middle and high school students. It’s the passion project of a local Austinite named Arlene Y. I had the opportunity to meet Arlene at the 2016 MLK Celebration and Festival near Hutson-Tillotson University. That festival was the first time that my institution had participated. I spoke to over a hundred people during that event. I had given away all of my business cards. Then, I met Arlene. I remember our conversation was good even if I cannot recall the specifics. I jotted down my contact information and kept it moving.
That was the best decision I had ever made. Within a week, I was immersed in Arlene’s expansive world of community contacts. I had a community connection.
Despite my busy schedule and work travel, Arlene kept in contact. Eventually her efforts paid off as I agreed, finally, to speak to her student reporters on a Wednesday night at the local library.
I didn’t know what to expect. I had spoken to colleagues that had worked with or been interviewed by the Youth Brigade. One colleague, in particular, told me “those kids are sharp. They’ll keep you on your toes.” I took her advice with a grain of salt.
My colleague was not joking. These kids asked the best questions about my institution and my career path. I had incorrectly taken their quietness for disinterest. Instead, they were quietly absorbing everything I was saying and formulating questions. I realized very quickly that I was dealing with very smart children so I needed to adjust my encounter with them.
I ended the evening sitting amongst them and talking to them peer-to-peer. It was an unforgettable experience.