For Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellow Emily Rego, improving the Bloomington-Normal community is a top priority. “Service rarely happens in a bubble,” said Rego. “I’ve noticed that as one type of service starts to happen in an area, more projects tend to follow, which leads to more people getting involved.”
Having completed the first year of her master’s degree in political science, Rego’s professional practice is with the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council (EDC), a long-time partner of the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development, which coordinates the ACED Fellows Program.
As the EDC communication and marketing coordinator for her 11-month professional practice, Emily uses social media and marketing materials to give organizations interested in relocating to the area a better look at why Bloomington-Normal is the perfect spot. Rego engages with local businesses about community development and spreads the Bloomington-Normal name to those who might be unaware of our community.
In this role, Rego thinks creatively: “I know what it takes to have to take the initiative, start planning, carry out those plans, raise the funds, and record the data. Many people are complacent not to have to do those things; they follow the norms in government or in private sector jobs. I like to stand out and challenge myself.”
For these skills, Rego credits the Stevenson Center faculty and staff who have been involved in her academic and professional journey every step of the way. “I found that the staff was very friendly and remained patient with our cohort as we struggled with all of the obstacles that graduate life threw at us,” Rego noted. “They always remained positive and excited for us as we went through the placement process which helped me get through it without freaking out too much.”
Prior to coming to Illinois State, Rego served as an AmeriCorps member with an Area Health Education Center in Connecticut, where she was the project coordinator for the Youth Health Service Corps. “The most significant take-away I got from that experience was the realization that not too far from where I grew up there was a whole community filled with talented youths who had a very limited perspective on what types of opportunities they had available to them,” said Rego about her work in the Waterbury community. “I enjoyed helping the kids find a positive purpose in our weekly service events, or explore the field of healthcare and realize they found something that they loved to do. It was very rewarding.”
The Stevenson Center has strong ties to AmeriCorps. The ACED Fellows Program attracts AmeriCorps alumni from all over the U.S. Eight of the Stevenson Center’s 18 new students have completed at least one term with AmeriCorps. They represent several programs from around the nation, including NCCC, Public Allies, and VISTA.
The Stevenson Center also has a partnership that allows some students to serve as AmeriCorps members during their graduate programs. Rego is one of six AmeriCorps members working for the good of Bloomington-Normal. She is joined by: Jessica Aceves at the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging, Melissa Johnston-Gross at the United Way, Derek Conley with the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Colton Johnson at Leadership and Community Connections on campus, and Peter Elias on a grant-funded project with the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. Stevenson Center AmeriCorps members have received Segal Education Awards totaling over $170,000.
Illinois State University’s Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development trains students for a lifetime of public service and global understanding. The Center serves communities and organizations around the world, but most importantly, it provides students with the tools they need for successful careers in community and economic development and related fields of study.