Time is an interesting thing. When you are waiting at a doctor’s office, the minutes tick by with a painfully slow cadence. Full weekends, however, pass in the blink of an eye, and Monday is right back in your face. Time is funny like that, slowing down and speeding up, it seems, whenever it fancies.
I started at the SC Campaign almost six years ago, in August 2007. I had graduated from USC that May and had been looking for a position when I interviewed with Polly Edwards Padgett on what I am sure was the hottest day of the year. When I got to the interview, in my polished three-piece suit, I was water logged. I continued the interview process the following week, dressed more appropriately for the weather, until my hair clip exploded out of my hair mid-interview, much to the shock of both Polly and Erin Johnson. I was sure, after melting at my first interview, and having exploding hair in my second interview, that they would not be calling me back. Much to my delight, they did! And after working with them for six years, they can tell you that stories like this are more normal than not with me!
I started at the SC Campaign when there were about 12 other employees. I shared an office with Kim Butler, and I was scared to death. People there are so smart and so good at what they do. It was intimidating and exciting at the same time. I worked as the Technical Assistance Associate with Polly and Chris Rollison, both of whom were newlyweds and were working hard on creating relationships and helping programs throughout our state.
As our agency grew, we started to add on fantastic new people to lead interesting new projects. Sarah (Huggins) Kershner joined our team to work on evaluation. Dana Becker joined our team to work in Spartanburg. Shannon Flynn became our Director of Evaluation. We were growing by leaps and bounds. And still, every person who joined the team was incredible! I felt so lucky to have the opportunities to be a part of an agency that could attract this type of talent!
Over the years, our agency changed shape; we added a Finance Director, Melanie Foltz, and our Accounting Specialist, Tameka Bell. We saw opportunities to educate the next generation of professionals through different interns and graduate assistants who were able to stay on as full time because they were so amazing, like Jordan Slice and Andrea Heyward. We struggled with legislative decisions that meant big, sometimes heartbreaking decisions for our community partners, but we also had successes, like bringing two large-scale federal grants to our state.
After two years as the Technical Assistance Associate, I was able to move into the role of Grant Specialist. I was in charge of the grant process and grant funding to our community partners and was able to get to know the “on-the-ground” folks around our state very well. With each site visit, I was empowered by their good work. Stacie Thompson in Anderson, Shedron Williams in Hampton, Eartha Cunningham in Colleton, Ms. Josephine McBeth in Union…I could name more, but this blog would be eight pages long. Each time I met a new person working on teen pregnancy prevention, my heart would swell to the point of bursting. These are the people that make such a difference to young people, and they did so because they wanted to, not because they had to.
Over the years, I was also able to work on new, innovative projects like our initiatives with clinics and colleges. I learned from people like Beth DeSantis and Stephanie Friesner that it takes dedication to make change. And that change, although hard, can reap rewards beyond measure for young people. I worked with colleges like USC Beaufort, USC Spartanburg and College of Charleston that were dedicated to providing access to services they needed, even if the school couldn’t provide them on-site. I found my “sister from another mister” in Rena Dixon as she joined the SC Campaign team. Again, working with these people made me realize how much dedication is needed to see a difference in the world. They were making a difference.
When I moved into my role as Communications Specialist (which, incidentally, is a better fit for my marketing degree), I was able to work with folks like Communications Director Cayci Banks and co-workers Kim Wicker (former Newberry community person) and long-standing Ms. Carol Singletary (a veteran of the Department of Social Services and 40-year advocate of teen pregnancy prevention). I thought after four years in the agency, I couldn’t really learn any more. And I was wrong. That’s the thing about an agency like SC Campaign. You can never learn all that anyone there has to teach you, but you have to be willing to try. I would listen to Ms. Carol talk about bringing the first funding for teen pregnancy prevention to the SC Campaign. I would listen to Kim talk about her experiences on the ground working with young people in Newberry. Many times, Cayci would have to talk me down from a graphic design disaster where I felt it would be more functional to throw my computer out of the window than try to start again! Our brainstorming sessions were legendary, and our abilities to get a lot done with few resources are still impressive.
And then, like that, I am looking at six years of my life. There are so many more stories about my time at the SC Campaign that would make this into a book instead of a blog, like the time I got maced by the automatic air freshener in our bathroom or the time I got lost heading to Spartanburg and ended up in Georgia. Or the time…well, there are a lot of those.
I have been with these people for the last six years. I have seen engagement rings, wedding photos, new baby announcements and I have signed sympathy cards. I have passed around enough birthday cards (“I DO NOT HAVE THE FOLDER, MS. GREER! Oh, wait…”), that I may have a slight hand cramp for life. And I have seen our agency band together to do good work, to save jobs and to save teens.
But now, the time has come to move on. I will take every ounce of the inspiration that the people I worked with daily were so kind to give me, and grow, both professionally and personally. My next adventure is sure to be a change. I am leaving to become a director, which will be a first for me. And I am leaving to work with animals instead of people, so, my talking points have to change a bit. But the lessons learned about being dedicated and being a team player don’t change. I am taking everything I have learned about what makes people great and carrying that on.
To those I have worked with, at the SC Campaign and through the SC Campaign, I love you all. And I will never forget the lessons you have all taught me. I will pass them on, pay it forward and make you proud. I promise.
By: Taylor Wilson, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Supporter and former Communications Specialist