Crawling under the impossibly tangled link of hands, I maneuvered myself into an even stranger position than my previous. My arms twisted behind my back to reach the mass of intertwined hands as I wiggled into a slightly more comfortable position. Coaching each other through each motion, my coworkers and I held hands, laughing as we struggled to untangle ourselves from the human web, never letting a hand disconnect in the process. Once we finally set ourselves free, we separated to fulfill more individual tasks before our morning feedback meeting.
My experience at the Massachusetts Avenue Project was not the conventional office experience that I had expected when I initially applied to the High Road program. Connected to PUSH Buffalo, the MAP office is an open space to encourage discussion, complete with bright green walls and colorful paintings of vegetables lining the perimeter. Making its start in 1992, the Massachusetts Avenue Project has built an office culture of community and team building, qualities the staff employs when tackling the tough food issues of the community. The quirky games and giggles filled our mornings, and I knew that this experience would change my straight-laced, career-oriented state of mind.
Within the Massachusetts Avenue Project umbrella, I have varying responsibilities and roles. I work primarily with the Growing Green youth, teaching lessons on active citizenship and policy. Through the Growing Green program, about 30 teenagers work at MAP every summer, learning farming, team building, and leadership skills. Bonding and learning with one another, the teenagers are able to express what food accessibility changes they would like to see and actively work towards community improvement. I also assist with the summer programming for the Youth Advisory Council, an organization that helps Buffalo students take action to live healthier lives in their communities. Lastly, I assist Rebekah in her meeting organization for the Western New York Growing Working Group, a collective of professionals dedicated to the increase of sustainable farming and environmental improvement in the region.
Growing up with extremely career-oriented parents, I never considered that an employment opportunity could be engaging and enjoyable for me. I was always taught that a job or career was simply a financial necessity, and true enjoyment was to be found outside the workplace. Through my opportunity, I am able to experience work that I love everyday in a workspace that encourages creativity, team building, and camaraderie. The culture is all-inclusive, fun, and I’ve learned the value of making work personal. The ILR program allowed me to apply organizational behavior concepts and management skills to my lessons and responsibilities, giving me more autonomy in my activities. My High Road experience will be one that I will never forget.