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Community Spotlight: Q&A with Holly Swendig, intern

Who are you?

My name is Holly Swendig, and I am a senior in Portland State University’s Community Development Program and a Portland Climate Action Collaborative intern at Verde. I am very interested in equity and sustainability and hope to apply those lenses to everything I encounter. I recently spent two years working for a nonprofit in Cambodia during my three-year stay. This was one of the most phenomenal organizations I’ve seen and had the privilege to work for that introduced me to communities to learn from. This experience led me to return to Portland to finish school so to be better prepared to continue this work.

What are you working on now?

I have the privilege of interning with Living Cully and am primarily working with their partner organization, Verde. Both organizations work out in the Northeast Portland Cully neighborhood. Among other things, Verde is a part of a cohort of other organizations who are trying to solidify the connection between climate resilience and anti displacement through advocacy, program development and policy change. I have been helping plan calls and meetings among the cohort and am currently interviewing each member from each organization to get a better idea where everyone is in our work together, in order to find the way we can move forward confidently with our shared agenda, while sharing experiences and skills as we do so.

What’s the one thing you want the sustainability community to know about what you’re doing?

I would like the sustainability community to know and understand that we’re all in this together and in the next four years it is essential that we work together to continue to improve the quality of this planet and lives of our beneficiaries. This will be a lot of work, but it’s something that’s truly worth it and we can’t slow down or lose hope.

What’s your favorite thing about being a part of Portland State?

My favorite part about being a part of Portland State is the diverse community of students. Being a non-traditional student, re-inserting myself into the university community and all of it’s endless energy and drive has been a phenomenal experience. The students and faculty of Portland State make it such a wonderful thing to be a part of.

What sustainability issues are you most concerned with?

The aspect of sustainability that interests me the most is the intersection between equity and sustainability. I have an immense love of people and the diversity and immeasurable richness they can bring to our lives. This is sometimes stifled because of our inability to develop in an equitable manner. I believe we need to do everything we can to allow access to environmental assets and infrastructure to all communities, making space for diverse thriving communities, which in themselves are the ultimate asset.