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"I want to help people be leaders. And, especially, I want to help people see opportunities they don’t see in themselves." – Emma Silvers
The City of Eugene’s Recreation Department has taught 22-year-old Emma Silvers a great deal, though, one of the most lasting benefits of her lifelong experience with Eugene Rec is a boundless confidence and optimism that has helped her achieve her goals.
"If you can handle six 5-year-olds, an angry parent and a kid with a bee allergy all at one time—everything else is easy," said Silvers, a month before preparing to graduate from the University of Oregon with a journalism degree in public relations.
A 2012 graduate of South Eugene High School, Silvers grew up in Rec, starting with dance classes and summer camps. When she turned 14, Silvers’ parents—both City of Eugene employees —suggested she start working.
That’s when Silvers’ love for activism and leadership really blossomed.
"That understanding of working for a government agency and working to provide for others was always really big," Silvers said.
She started as a counselor in training at Amazon Community Center under the watchful guidance of program coordinator Gina Tafoya. It wasn’t long before Silvers had the training wheels removed and was off and running programs on her own.
"I think that was pretty much the foundation for the success and the opportunities that have been provided for me," Silvers said. "Knowing that you’re responsible for other people and keeping them safe, as well as making sure they have fun—that’s big."
Even after graduating high school, Silvers kept coming back every summer. She applied the life skills she learned in Rec to her college life with amazing results. She received a Ford Family Foundation scholarship that paid for 90 percent of her college expenses. In college, she dove into student government, worked with the Children’s Miracle Network, performed work study with the Conduct and Discipline Office, was chosen to attend the prestigious LeadersShape program, and landed an internship with the Dean of Students’ office.
Silvers was also appointed to the national collegiate advisory committee for the "It’s On Us" campaign, sponsored by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, to fight campus sexual assault, for which she received an Oregon Dean’s Award for exceptional service.
Most of her time, though, was dedicated to her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, serving as chapter president her senior year. During the 2016-17 school year, she will be the educational leadership consultant for the national chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta, based in New York. Further down the road, she’ll transition into a master’s program at the University of Florida, where she will work as a graduate assistant in the student affairs program.
Silvers said her time at Eugene Rec paved her path to work hands-on with students.
"I want to help people be leaders," Silvers said. "And, especially, I want to help people see opportunities they don’t see in themselves."
Because of her busy schedule, this will be the first time in more than a decade Silvers won’t return to Amazon for the summer. That makes her sad, she said, but her memories and experiences will stay with her forever.
"Recreation has been such a constant in my life—I have to attribute a lot of what I’ve done to that," she said. "I spent too much time there for it to have not had an impact."