The Foundation's Summer Fellowship Program engages the next generation of nonprofit leaders by offering fellows "real-world" experiences while building the organizational capacity of Franklin County nonprofits. Fellows have the opportunity to work with nonprofit organizations for a 10-week period, supporting projects that benefit our region as well as developing their professional skills.
This summer, 2022 Summer Fellow Jenna Hays, a student at The Ohio State University, is supporting ARC Industries Inc. of Franklin County, Ohio (ARC) on projects that increase community inclusion for individuals with developmental disabilities. ARC's mission is to help people with disabilities achieve their life goals by supporting individuals as they access the community where they live and work, helping them develop independence, self-advocacy, and skills important to employment and community membership.
Previously posted on the Summer Fellows' blog, learn more about Jenna's recent experiences as a Summer Fellow with ARC below! Visit the blog for weekly updates from more Summer Fellows.
Week 4: Gardening, Soap Stores, and Book Clubs
This week, I began my days at ARC with the ASPIRE program. As a reminder, the ASPIRE program is a program in which participants come to an ARC site in the mornings, then we all decide what we want to do with our day. The activities are community-based and can range from anything to going to Dave & Buster's to heading to the craft store to browse.
This week, participants wanted to head to their community garden to tend to the vegetables they planted a little bit ago. It was a beautiful day to spend outside, so I headed to the gardens with an ARC employee and three participants. When we arrived, two participants helped us water and weed the garden plot so the plants could continue growing. In the garden, there were tomato plants, cucumber plants, corn plants, and more. After some careful inspection, we found one tiny tomato that was sprouting!
ARC Industries Inc. supports and empowers persons with disabilities to achieve their life goals.
After the garden, it was time to head back to the site for lunch, where we decided to go to a soap store and the park for the rest of the day. One might ask, "What is a soap store, and where does someone find such a thing?". I had the same question, but I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. We went to a small shop on 5th Ave called Glenn Avenue Soap Company. This shop makes essential oils, soaps, body butters, lip balms, and more. We spent some time browsing and smelling the different products, and one of the participants even convinced me to purchase some essential oils to try.
This visit to the ASPIRE program was my first time returning to a site with the same participants. With a group of only about ten people– staff and participants included– I was a little worried I would be viewed as an outsider or "the new girl." However, I was welcomed with open arms and smiles. When I arrived, I found that the participants remembered me and the things I had told them about my life. They were excited to see me again and catch up. One participant even told me he was on "my campus" for the Special Olympics the previous weekend. It felt really nice to be so welcomed into their friendship circles they have at their site.
Additionally, I am continuing to work on launching the Next Chapter Book Club at ARC. While it is still the beginning of the process, I am excited for this project to launch. There are still meetings to be had and trainings to be done, but it is incredibly exciting that I am helping to lead this entire campaign.
Overall, I find that my weeks at ARC keep getting better and better. Going to work is rewarding and fun, which is something I was pleasantly surprised to find. I never thought that I could grow up and genuinely find value through the work I do every day.