Grace Balte, ’15, the author of this post, is one of four 2014 recipients of a South Carolina Internship Grant provided by Davidson College and The Jolley Foundation. The purpose of the grant is to allow students to participate in educational internships and to explore living and working in the state of South Carolina.
When I am not studying at Davidson, I am usually at my home in Atlanta. This summer, I have the amazing opportunity to work at Greenville Forward, which is a nonprofit located in downtown Greenville, South Carolina. Greenville Forward looks at Vision 2025—a document created by the citizens of Greenville that describes where Greenville as a community wants to have progressed by 2025—and monitors how far the community is progressing and how to promote positive changes within Greenville County.
Before this summer, I have not really spent much time in Greenville, so it has been a great experience to learn about multiple aspects of the city as I am working here. On my second day in Greenville, I took a walking tour through downtown Greenville, seeing firsthand how downtown had been revitalized in the past ten years. I saw how much pride the people of Greenville take in their city, whether it be making the entire downtown area a pedestrian area or using Goodnight, Moon as the inspiration for Mice on Main, where bronze mice hide along Main Street, creating a scavenger hunt.
Greenville Forward is very interested in engaging with the community in ways that change Greenville for the better. They do this through talks with the community, film screenings, and working in community gardens, among other programs. During my first week here, we had a roundtable discussion about urban sprawl, an issue which greatly impacts Greenville. Instead of just talking in circles about how it was an issue, we discussed why urban sprawl exists and why it is so difficult to change it. It is discussions like these that have come to define my time and research at Greenville Forward. Instead of just saying that a problem or pattern exists in Greenville, I have been looking at why the problems and patterns exist and why it can be so difficult to change them and what change is possible.
One afternoon last week, I worked in the community garden harvesting some garlic. Although there are many community gardens located throughout the community, I was working in the teaching garden. While I have had some experience gardening, I learned so much more just on one afternoon than I have just gardening on my own. The entire experience was great; I got to meet many other people who were also interested in gardening as well as the best way to pick kale.
I am currently about halfway through my time in Greenville and I have enjoyed every minute of my experience so far. The best part of my experience, right now at least, is learning about Greenville both from an outsider’s perspective and from an insider’s. For example, driving through town and walking along Main Street has given me a great chance to see exactly how Greenville has changed and grown in the past ten years. By working in Greenville and getting to know the community both through my research and through my time involved with Greenville Forward’s programs, I get to know a different side to Greenville, one that as an outsider I probably wouldn’t be able to see. Although I will only be here for a few more weeks, I hope that during my time I will be able to keep discovering new things about Greenville, by both living and working here.