Holden Gaupo ’20 Fosters Community Development, Creates 5-Year Plan for the City of Walla Walla, WA

What is a Community Development Block Grant? This was the question I wondered when I first came across the application for my current internship. I knew all the individual words, and I could certainly hazard a guess as to what it was, but I didn’t really understand the nature of a Community Development Block Grant. These four words, acronymized to CDBG, once felt clunky in my mouth, and I often mixed up the order of the acronym. In the last three weeks, however, they have come to roll smoothly off my tongue as they are a constant part of my work life. My name is Holden Gaupo and I am a rising Junior, Politics major, Spanish minor, with an intended second minor in History. This summer I have the privilege of being the Community Development Block Grant Intern for the City of Walla Walla.

A Community Development Block Grant is a grant from the federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These grants can be used in a wide variety of ways, but the general purpose is to fight poverty by providing affordable housing, and infrastructure and economic development. Among the more unique programs the city is working on is a micro-business assistance program where individuals receive business tutoring as well as startup funds and micro-loans. I have come to learn that the CDBG in Walla Walla funds many fantastic and vital programs, and it is amazing to be a part of it.

My work as the Community Development Block Grant Intern varies quite a bit from day to day. The biggest project I am working on is developing the City’s Five-Year Consolidated Plan for 2019-2023. The Consolidated Plan, broadly speaking, identifies areas of need in the community through analyzing data, meeting with stakeholders, and talking to citizens; from there, the City develops a strategic plan to best address the needs of the community and decides how the money of CDBG will be allocated. I’ve worked on numerous other projects and tasks as well, including creating historical population charts of Walla Walla by age and ethnicity, working on the City’s Title VI implementation plan, and creating a story map of the different programs and projects CDBG funds and how they’ve had a positive impact on the community. I really enjoy the work, and working for my supervisor Jennifer Beckmeyer has been awesome.

The politics classes I take at Whitman continually challenge and engage me, and I love my classes, but it can also be tempting to get lost in the clouds. Working for the City has provided me a very practical, on-the-ground view of how local government works. I am learning almost as much about government and politics, and how they fit into society, as I do in a classroom at Whitman. These two experiences complement and enhance each other, and I am ecstatic to be a part of both.

Experiences like Holden’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Victoria Wolff

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