By Khadija Diallo, Project Assistant, 2016-17
For the past year, I have had the pleasure of working on the Project on Family Homelessness as a project assistant. It was my dream to be part of the project from the minute I heard about it. I wanted to start using my Strategic Communications skills for good and I knew I could have an impact on my community if I worked on this important Project.
I’m happy to say that I was right.
Throughout the year, I have worked on blog posts, Storifys and event planning, but I would say the project that I’m most proud of is the “Streetwise Revisited: A 30-Year Journey” Storify I did about the entire Streetwise project. That project took a long time and it encapsulated all the different community events about Erin “Tiny” Blackwell’s story. It took a lot of hard work and I was very proud of the final product.
What I Learned
In terms of skills, I would say my writing skills have improved the most. As a communications major, and a soon-to-be public relations professional, I was able to further cultivate my writing skills by using different media to convey a uniform message: family homelessness is pervasive in King County and there needs to be more funding to combat it. I also developed better research skills through this project. For every blog post, reflection, communication plan, or event, there was some component of research.
In addition, I have learned a lot about event planning throughout this project. I wish I could have learned even more about planning events because I believe it will be an important skill in my public relations career. I also have learned to think quickly on my feet and to be a better team player. Every major project, I did it with the help of the other two project assistants, Mandy and Shan. I’m so grateful that I got to learn from them about how to better work as a team.
Before being a part of this project, I didn’t know how serious of a problem family homelessness was in King County. I didn’t realize the fact that homeless shelters tend to break up families. There is a shortage of family shelters. I became much more sympathetic and compassionate towards families than before I started working on this project.
One project that really helped illuminate how long Seattle has been struggling with youth/family homelessness was the Streetwise: Revisited project. From watching “Streetwise” and “Tiny — The Life of Erin Blackwell,” it became very apparent to me that Seattle has been struggling to solve its homelessness problem for over 30 years.
What I would improve
I love working on this project. I think one thing we could be doing better on the Project would be to promote our events in a better way, though I’m not sure what that would look like. We covered our bases for the three events we hosted, but we still had an issue getting a sizable amount of people to show up for our final event, which was a Renters’ Rights 101 event. I think we could do more aggressive marketing of our events.
Our challenges, I think, also are related to learning about the impact of our various projects. For example, do we have a way of quantifying how many people are reading our blog posts and viewing our projects? [Editor’s note: We do!] If we’re already doing that, then I wish there was a way to highlight that better.
I really enjoyed working on our events, especially Renters’ Rights 101 event and the Give a Heart, Get a Heart event. I liked that I got to work with really brilliant and talented students, Shan and Mandy. It was a pleasure getting to brainstorm with them and see our events come to life from a communications plan to execution. I loved collecting the 100 hearts to send to our legislators. I also enjoyed learning more about our rights as renters in Seattle because I knew it was information that would be beneficial to a huge number of people.
After graduation, I am taking a much-needed break for this summer. I’m originally from Dakar, Senegal and I haven’t been back there since my high school graduation four years ago, so that’s where I’m going to be from mid-June to early October. Afterward, I’m not really sure what position I will be taking on. I’m interested in interning at a major public relations firm, or working in a communications role for a Fortune 500 company, but I haven’t started applying for anything yet. It’s still too early for that. I wish I could stay on this Project for another year, but I’m graduating in few days.
As for the incoming students, I would advise them to take the job seriously; every word and design has a huge reach so it’s important to be accurate and to work diligently to always produce top-notch work. I would advise them to be open to criticism, take joy in learning new things and to not forget to have fun, and take pride and joy in the work they do!