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Sarah Parsons: Emory Alum talking about her Post-Emory Experience (Fall 2009 Article)

The day I walked off Emory campus with an Environmental
Studies B.A. diploma in hand, I felt the two things a woman
or a man always feels when they are about to step out into
a looming unknown: extremely excited about all that is to
come and utterly petrified… about all that is to come. I had
a plan, for which I was very grateful. I knew not everyone
had a plan after graduation, and I knew this case to be especially
true with recent college graduates of our generation.
And so I was grateful… in addition to being excited and utterly
Immediately following graduation, I pursued a summer position
with CIFAL Atlanta, a nonprofit
associated with the United
Nations Institute for Training and
Research (UNITAR). I came on
board with CIFAL as a Program
Coordinator for the Environmental
Sustainability department.
CIFAL’s greater purpose as an
organization works to shed light
on the United Nations’ Millennium
Development Goals. They
host conferences at different locations
throughout the world to
bring awareness to the MDGs
and provide local officials with
information and resources to
work on achieving those goals in
their respective cities and countries.
We hosted conferences on
a broad range of issues relating
to environmental sustainability.
We hosted a conference on solid
waste management in Ecuador,
a conference on sustainable
development in south Georgia,
an international conference on
water issues in Atlanta, among
several others. Working at CIFAL taught me valuable ways
of looking at the world through the eyes of other cultures
and perspectives. One of the greatest gifts I received from
CIFAL was realizing the importance of learning from other
perspectives of the world and using those perspectives to
re-evaluate environmental issues in the U.S. It is a gift that I
will carry with me in all my future career endeavors.
After my summer with CIFAL, I pursued a one year service
position working at the Community Food Bank in Tucson,
Arizona. Within the food bank
I worked in a department
known as the Community
Foods Resource Center
department has a
unique vision that I
believe brings much
hope to the looming
issue of hunger in the
world today. It works
to empower lower
income families to
grow their own food
and allow them access
to local healthy
produce so as to encourage an ethic of individual food security.
The CFRC has home garden teams that go out to low
income family homes and help families start gardens. The
CFRC also had a farm on which it grows organic produce.
This produce is then distributed at low prices at farmers’
markets the CFRC hosts throughout Tucson. At the farmers’
markets many different local small-scale farms set up booths
and sell their produce for prices that closely match those
of the CFRC farm. In addition the farmers’ markets accept
WIC and food stamps. I worked a great deal at these farmers’
markets as Consignment Program Coordinator. As coordinator
I gathered produce from other local growers in the
area and sold their produce at the
markets. Most of the growers in
this program had small gardens
that produced a small margin
of surplus produce, which they
generously gave to the CFRC
to sell. This program not only
increased the amount of quality,
local produce available for sell
at the markets, but it also helped
to connect and support the local
food system network in the Tucson
In addition to working at the
farmers’ markets, I also worked
on the CFRC farm. My work
on the farm inspired me to later
venture out and start some
small-scale farming of my own
in Georgia upon my return.
Since ending my year of service
in Tucson, I have returned
home to Georgia and started a
garden in my parents’ backyard.
I promised my parents I would
pay rent in collard greens and
lettuce greens (instead of paper greens) for a few months
until I returned back to school to get my masters. I hope to
pursue a Masters in Environmental Management at Duke or
a Masters of Ecologically Sustainable Development at Murdoch
University in Australia. We will see where the winds of
life decide to take me.
I would like to conclude with some very small shared bits of
wisdom for all aspiring graduates and world changers who
may be reading this article. Mind you my wisdom is especially
limited as a 23-year-old woman. For all of you I hope
success in your journeys to come. It is my hope for you that
you take a hold of the opportunities when they come to you.
It is also my hope that if the opportunities do not come to
you, you go to them. And it is my greatest hope for you that
if you do not find those opportunities right after graduation
(as much of our generation is discovering to be the reality)
that you find in yourself the deep reservoirs of faith that exist
in us all who hope to change the world for the better. There
is a great amount of strength that comes to those who hope,
and an even greater amount of strength that comes to those
who hope in creating a better world. That is something a
recession can never take away. So take heed of this truth,
believe in it, believe in you, and you will do just fine.
-Sarah Parsons


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