Rachel Naftel: Clearfork Community Institute

Rachel Naftel is senior majoring in political science and French.  In addition to being a member of the spring 2010 course Developing Community in Appalachia, she led a return trip with three other students at the end of the semester and participated in a summer internship in Eagan, TN.

My work at the Clearfork Community Institute (CCI) kept me busy during my internship in Eagan. I was assigned many different tasks at CCI, including jobs such as researching different grants available, organizing the community archives and helping the volunteers cook lunch. My personal goal for the summer was to help Auburn better establish a partnership with this community, and I feel that my work at CCI did just that.

Being a political science major, I have a strong interest in law; therefore, CCI had me work part time for the Woodland Community Land Trust (WCLT). The land trust is a separate organization in the area and is run by Tonia Brookman. Tonia had me work on a project for WCLT’s lawyer. She needed copies of all the deeds for everyone living on the land trust. This meant, I was to go to the courthouse and search for the deeds. The courthouse is located in Jacksboro, about a thirty minute drive down the mountain from Eagan. At first, the job seemed to be easy enough, but I soon learned that the deeds could be located anywhere and registered under several different names. Pulling copies of all the deeds ended up taking me several trips down the mountain to the courthouse. It was my first experience in a registry of deeds office, and I certainly got to know the staff there very well.

I found that the most rewarding work that CCI allowed me to get involved with ended up being the time I spent with CCI’s Volunteers in Partnership (VIPs). These VIPs are locals from the area who volunteer their time at CCI. Some are AmeriCorps workers while the others are paid through CCI’s certificates of investment.

Marie Cirillo, the director at CCI, asked me one day, about two weeks into my internship, to help VIP Vanessa research local nursing schools in the area. Vanessa had recently received her GED and is looking to continue her education. This project seemed like a fun break from my regular work at CCI. As I begun to work with Vanessa, I quickly became interested in observing her. Soon enough, she started to open up to me. She told me all about her dreams and why she is interested in nursing school. Nobody in Vanessa’s family had ever gone to college before, so she was nervous but also intrigued by the idea. She became very enthusiastic and excited about all the possibilities her future holds, and I quickly became just as excited to help.

The following week, I took Vanessa and Chris, another VIP from CCI, to three local community colleges and vocational schools in the area. I found it both interesting and amazing watching Chris and Vanessa take action during those college visits. Vanessa met with Roane State’s financial aid assistant, so she could better figure out her options. Chris has a strong interest in auto repair, so he set up a meeting with the auto department as well as with the admissions office at the Tennessee Technical Center. I was greatly impressed with how positively and confidently Vanessa and Chris handled the college visits.

I realize that somehow I stumbled upon a mentoring position with these two locals from Eagan, and even though I am not currently present at CCI, I know my work there is not finished. I do believe that Vanessa and Chris are fully capable of college degrees and I want to help in any way I can. I have a duty to Vanessa and Chris to follow up with them and continue to support and guide them with their futures. This was not a specific job that CCI assigned me, but I am eager to continue my work with these two individuals. This mentoring position I stumbled on does hold importance to me and hopefully to Auburn. It has helped me establish and strengthen my partnership with the area; therefore, I feel it adds to Auburn’s partnership as well.

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