Seth Kirkpatrick ’24 — I would first like to thank the Dill Fund and all those who were able to make it possible. Due to this fund, I was able to contribute to my hometown of South Bend, while simultaneously learning about its intricate inner workings and meeting all those who make the city as great as it is. Were it not for the Dill Fund, or even Wabash College itself, I would have been in no position to take this phenomenal learning opportunity. The Dill Fund and its generous contributions paved the way for me to grow this summer, in which I became both a more responsible citizen and one who can better appreciate the countless hours of effort that go into making a city great. I would specifically like to thank Dr. Sara Drury, who made me aware of the Dill Fund while assisting me in the application, and Dean Ronald Morin, who ultimately gave me this phenomenal opportunity.  

Since May, I have had the pleasure of working for South Bend Venues Parks and Arts (VPA), which functions as the city’s Parks Department. Going into this internship, I had thought community parks were going to be the primary focus of the group, though I quickly learned that they do far more than anyone could imagine. The VPA has one primary goal: making South Bend more livable, and more loveable. This goal can be broken down into four separate focus groups, and to balance, these are what they would call “finding the sweet spot.” These four focus groups include Social Equity, Health and Wellness, Neighborhood and Economic Impact, and Ecological Stewardship. Not only does the VPA spend countless hours bettering the local parks of South Bend, but their other areas of work include: creating programs that make activities such as sports easily accessible to youth of all ages, and socioeconomic statuses, maintaining the cultural and economic impact of historic city locations such as the Morris Performing Arts Center and developing events to boost the city’s economy and tourism. Throughout my time at the VPA I was able to work on each of these projects in my role as an intern for the Development Department.  

Although I had a variety of projects that I worked on during my time at the VPA, my primary task was to create an annual fundraiser. Despite being 10 years old, the VPA never has been able to launch its own annual fundraiser program, which is crucial in its work as the funds would be used for a variety of different programs throughout the year that often lack funding. To accomplish this task I had to identify, research, and develop three key tasks that would create a successful fundraiser. Each step took roughly 30 hours’ worth of work each and would only be completed after about 2 months into the internship. After accomplishing each task, I was able to find the most effective kind of fundraiser and how to best advertise it. I ended up settling for a tier donor system, in which each tier would result in the donor getting a different benefit, such as a free night of ice-skating. This donor system would also include unique names for each tier, based on famous parts of the city, as well as a donation match which would be done by local businesses. This fundraiser would be about three weeks long and would be kicked off with an exciting event at one of the most popular parks. As for advertisement, I was able to create a system that would last about two weeks, and hopefully create the most momentum. This advertisement system would include a 2 weeklong countdown across several social media platforms, advertisements in the local newspapers and TV networks, group pages on Facebook, heavy utilization of LinkedIn to contact working citizens in the area, and possible use of social media challenges to generate excitement. I would then take all of my research and show it to the staff over the course of a few presentations, one of them being shown in the picture above. All of this has been sent to the Executive Director of the Development Department, which will hopefully go to the VPA’s main Executive Director as well.  

My experience at the South Bend Venues Parks and Arts has taught me that the mayor’s office is not the only part of local government that plays a role in creating a great city. Though this may sound obvious, sectors of government such as the parks department are often portrayed as less important, when in reality, they are the backbone to making a city both livable and loveable. Were it not for departments such as this one, cities across America would be left without community spaces, events, and opportunities for all citizens to come together and enjoy what makes their city enjoyable. Ultimately, my opportunity at the VPA has made me into a better citizen and one who better understands and appreciates each sector and employee of local government and how each one makes a positive impact on the lives of the citizens.