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Lessons of a GOPC Intern

A farewell blog post by Raquel Jones, a fantastic GOPC Intern

As a lifetime resident of the capital of Ohio, I have come to learn and appreciate the unique experiences and amenities offered through Ohio’s cities. Over the years, I have witnessed the many transformations that Columbus and many other cities in the state have gone through as they have fought to create new identities while retaining their historic presence.

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Although I was young when it first hit, the Great Recession had a severe impact on my neighborhood and the community that I lived in, as it did in many parts of the state. I remember noticing a rise in foreclosures in the houses surrounding mine. Looking around the core of central Ohio’s metropolitan area, I could see the harsher effects of the downturn in the economy in the high number of boarded-up homes. I found this to be extremely disheartening, as I knew that many of these homes had the potential to be beautiful and once again serve a useful purpose, if only they were given the chance.

When I enrolled in the John Glenn High School Internship program through OSU, I knew that I wanted to work with a nonprofit that was working hard in the community to make a difference. When I was given the chance to intern at the Greater Ohio Policy Center, I knew little about land banks and government-sponsored programs, such as Moving Ohio Forward and the Neighborhood Initiative Program. I am now happy to report that I am knowledgeable in both programs, as well as others. Working at the GOPC has not only taught me about the daily functions of an office, but has also informed me on the process of policy formation, and the role that nonprofits play in engaging and interacting with local, regional, and statewide governments in producing outcomes that are favorable to both parties, as well as the constituents to which these policies affect. I have also become educated in a number of nationwide movements including the call for a multi-modal city, a more sustainably secure system of infrastructure, and public spaces that transcend the mundane.

As I noted earlier, I have learned a great deal about the issues surrounding blighted and vacant properties, and the role that city and county land banks perform in revitalizing distressed neighborhoods. Many localities have implemented programs that demolish or remodel affected properties, so that either the land or building may be given a second-life. This may mean that the land is transformed into a community garden or a side-lot for a neighboring property, or redeveloped for some other purpose. Overall, I have learned from my experiences at GOPC the necessities for creating an economically viable and environmentally tenable community for all those involved.

I believe that it is organizations such as Greater Ohio, with the support and leadership of governmental officials and community members that are responsible for the positive changes taking place in the state. I am confident in the work currently being done, and I am happy to have gotten the chance to work alongside GOPC’s staff in their ongoing push for a brighter future for Ohio.

Raquel Jones was a summer intern for GOPC and she has moved to D.C. to attend George Washington University.