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Chatter. Chair shuffling. Music blasting from headphones. These were just some of the many sounds that I heard this past Monday as I nervously scanned the yoga and dance room to see 30 faces looking right back at me. After I took a deep breath, I introduced myself and politely asked the junior trainers to turn their music off and pay attention. The response was mediocre, but I continued with my duties of the day anyway.
To be perfectly honest, the first day of the Junior Trainers Program did not go as smoothly as planned. There were some logistical hiccups that severely hindered the timing and progression of the Youth and Fitness program in the afternoon – including a miscommunication in times with our guest speaker of the day. After what appeared to be a logistical nightmare, things fell in place rather unexpectedly. Call it my perfectionist nature, or my desire to see things run smoothly, but I was shaken by the experience when things started to fall apart. Fortunately, the rest of the day and week ran rather fluidly as both the Junior Trainers and I became more comfortable with each other and our schedule.
On Wednesday evening, the DukeEngage program hosted Catherine Walker, Head Counsel of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), in Gerberding Hall at the University of Washington campus. Catherine spoke of the co-operative business model that REI built itself upon and the various means in which REI strives to maintain its mission of providing affordable recreational equipment to all consumers. Kirk, Catherine’s colleague, spent some time elaborating on REI’s push for corporate sustainability. He spoke of REI’s current emphasis on sustainability as a product of the company’s objective to retain its founder’s moral principles in conducting business. Prior to the talk, I was familiar with the co-operative business model from an economics standpoint, but I was unfamiliar with the significance of consumer equality. The talk sparked my interest in learning more about co-ops as well as to visit/shop at PCC Natural Markets, which is the largest consumer-owned natural food retail co-operative in the United States.
The following day was our weekly DukeEngage group dinner at The Five Spot restaurant in Queen Anne. After work, I had an unintentional excursion of the Seattle area with two other DukeEngage interns as we caught the right bus going in the wrong direction. Luckily, a local Seattleite informed us that we were traveling in the wrong direction. Long story short, after half an hour of travel, we ended up across town in Madrona (Eastern Washington) instead of Queen Anne (our target destination in Western Washington). In the end, we figured out the bus routes and were only about an hour late to dinner… After we casually strolled into the restaurant, I had one of the fastest dinners of my life. Prior to coming to Seattle, my consumption rate was fairly slow, but after a few weeks here, I have surprisingly become much more efficient in my eating. Who knew that consumption speed would be a new skill that I would develop in Seattle?
On Saturday, I worked another NFL Play 60 Event at NOW IS Fitness Center. The event was a fitness passport, which means that there were several stations set up to assess one’s overall fitness condition. The ultimate goal was to Beat Blitz, the Seattle Seahawks’ mascot, in a certain number of fitness categories. For example, for elementary aged children, participants needed to surpass Blitz’s jump rope count of 70 in a minute in order to “beat Blitz” in the particular fitness challenge. If the participants “beat Blitz” in a certain number of categories, they were eligible for prizes from the Seattle Seahawks. During the event, I had the opportunity to be the Austin Foundation photographer and took a few action shots of our junior trainers, assistant and lead trainers, and staff. Photography has been a hobby of mine since high school, and I was delighted to capture these special moments for the organization. The event also took me back to my high school track and field days – I had the chance to run a 40 yard dash multiple times and competed with staff and junior trainers for the best time.
The week was capped off with a wonderful tour of the Theo Chocolate factory in Fremont – yummy! I used chocolate as an ingredient when I worked in a bakery as a high school student, but Saturday was my first time in a chocolate factory. I found Theo’s dedication to fair trade and manual decoration of their products to be most intriguing. In today’s competitive business world, it is difficult to find a company that attempts to balance out both business interests and moral principles. REI and Theo are both successful companies that manage to embody this balance. Using these two businesses as a baseline, I am curious as to why other retailers do not choose to adopt a similar business model. Hopefully, I will know the answer by the time my journey in Seattle is over!