2016 Fall Intern Elise Frank ’17 Increases Educational Opportunities With Community Council


I first heard about the Walla Walla Community Council when the SEC featured the organization’s director, Mary Campbell, at a “Looking at Leadership” lunch early in the fall. As an avid reader of all emails that the SEC sends out, I was intrigued by the blurb describing the Community Council’s mission of fostering a civic culture emphasizing citizen-driven, consensus-based, problem-solving processes to enhance the quality of life for everyone in the Walla Walla region. I was also intrigued by the promise of a free lunch. Mary’s charisma, passion, and compelling leadership trajectory guided me to find a seat at the following week’s Community Conversation at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds. The space was filled by more than 120 Walla Walla community members. A facilitator led a series of exercises designed to ensure that every individual voice was heard in an efficient, equitable way as we ranked our community’s most pressing issues.


Photo credit is Alfred Diaz, Union Bulletin.

After the Community Conversation, I knew that I wanted to be involved in the Community Council in some capacity. Getting to live, learn, and grow in the town of Walla Walla has been one of the highlights of my time at Whitman. As an organization that facilitates the empowering of people to collaborate and foster solutions to the challenges of their own region, the Walla Walla Community Council process celebrates the individuality and potential of this region and this region’s people. “It sounds like a better organized Stars Hollow,” commented a friend as I gushed about the Community Conversation. “Were the Gilmore Girls there?”

linkedin-headshotAfter an application process and interview with Study Coordinator Catherine Veninga, I was thrilled to be invited to join the Community Council team. Because the Community Council is not currently in a year of conducting a study, I have gotten to observe and contribute to a matrix of the different projects that are currently underway. A significant portion of my work so far has involved reaching out to the fifteen different school districts in the Walla Walla region and maintaining communication in order to collaborate effectively with the “Education as a Path to Economic Growth” study implementation. Encountering so many different styles and modes of communication and outreach illustrates the diversity of approaches to education in the region. Just interacting with the technological developments allowing a span of outreach resources far exceeding what was available even in my own elementary school experience has elucidated the significance of the “growth” concept in the study. Talking to so many different people who are committed to increasing educational opportunities and the quality of life for members of our community has only deepened my awe of Walla Walla. I’m grateful to have stumbled into a town that encompasses the kind of place that I want to be connected to forever.

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