Community Connectors: Connor Jones
Community Connectors is a monthly series highlighting Ohio State staff members who have shown leadership in partnering with our communities to make an impact. Photo: Connor Jones in Guatemala working with Constru Casa.
Program Coordinator for Buck-I-SERV
Office of Student Life/Office of Student Activities
I am the Program Coordinator for the Buck-I-SERV alternative breaks program at Ohio State. During a typical year we send out about 1,000 participants to serve with communities all over the country and the world. I advise the undergraduate Buck-I-SERV Board, select student trip leaders and participants, manage trip logistics and much more.
Why is engaging the community important to you and your work?
Community has always been a priority for me in my work and is the reason that I am in my current role. Community is so important to me because it is the great connector. Strong communities help out their members and lift them up to new, greater heights through proper systems of support. I have always wanted to help build and support communities because of this fact and think community can really, truly change lives.
What lessons have you learned from the community that have helped you as a university staff member?
Every time I go out in the community I learn something new that (hopefully) makes me a better staff member. I've learned how important some people can be to connect their communities, even if you do not always see it. I've learned to care about people you may not know and how impactful working together can really be. Finally, I've learned how important humor and joy can be. In this work there can be some very difficult moments, so it is important to remind yourself why you do it.
What has been your favorite moment from your community-engagement work?
Wow this is an absurdly difficult question, there are so many to choose from. I would say that one of my favorite moments would be building homes in Guatemala with the organization Constru Casa. Buck-I-SERV has been working with them for over a decade and it was amazing to see their work in action. The work was incredibly physically demanding but getting to work side by side with local masons (with some lunchtime soccer games thrown in) and the families was a truly rewarding, eye opening experience.
What advice do you have for other staff members who are interested in getting involved in community engagement?
Acknowledge your mistakes, because you are going to make them. Community engagement work is an imperfect art and there are going to be times when you get it wrong. The important thing is that you learn to do it the right way because it is absolutely critical not to cause harm when you're trying to support. Ask other community connectors where you're working for their advice and really listen so that you can do this work the correct way.