Communication and Community

Recycling and turning off the lights is simply not enough proactive involvement for senior Charlotte Proctor when it comes to keeping her community green – she’s after a much more involved and focused experience.

When she arrived on campus from her hometown of South Mills, North Carolina, Proctor explored and found interest in many of CNU’s clubs and organizations. She eventually chose to dedicate her energy to her communication major and work as a Bonner Service Scholar. Bonner Scholars engage in direct service work, participate in national conferences and events, and help coordinate the Center for Community Engagement' s service tracks, areas where all CNU students can find opportunities to serve the community. Her interest in the environment led her to the Newport News Green Foundation, which was seeking a younger perspective, fresh ideas and a connection to students.

The Green Foundation runs the Green Corps club, which equips high school students with tools and knowledge to embark upon environmental service projects around the city. When the Green Foundation received a grant to extend the youth outreach program, it decided to focus on elementary school children, and named Proctor youth education outreach coordinator.

To learn the precise needs of the local schools, Proctor designed a survey to present to the program’s pilot institutions. The survey featured questions ranging from “What is the study of trees called” to Newport News-specific facts about government programs and policies regarding the environment. Using the results, Proctor figured out how to most efficiently help the teachers promote environmental advocacy in young children. “The teachers were lacking the resources to teach the kids, so through the questionnaire, I identified the key points the teachers and kids needed to know, and spent the next year designing, drafting and revising a 30-page workbook for children,” says Proctor.

The workbook, “Growing in Green,” includes coloring pages featuring the parts of a plant, a challenge to match the Latin name of native trees to the English name and picture, a “Did You Know?” page starring everything nature in Newport News, and much more. “Charlotte has been an incredible asset to the Foundation,” says Gary Hunter, President of the Newport News Green Foundation Board of Directors. “Her dedication has truly helped to further our mission of expanding and preserving green space within Newport News." 

Proctor attributes much of her success to her CNU experience. “Being a communication major has given me the experiences, contacts and skills I needed,” Proctor says of her success in working with city officials and the Green Foundation. “I’ve had to take public speaking, interpersonal relations and relational communication, so when I go to board meetings at the Green Foundation and sit in on meetings with the mayor and others, I know I am dressed properly and can give confident, articulate presentations. When I start talking about the Green Foundation and all the work I’m doing, people give me a second look and realize, despite being a student, I know what I’m talking about. I attribute all of that to CNU.”

Proctor has found success inside the classroom as well. “I first met Charlotte when she was enrolled in my interpersonal communication class,” recalls Dr. Linda Manning, Chair of the Communication Department. Manning was impressed by Proctor’s passion for communication and genuine interest in course concepts throughout the semester, as well as her natural ability to lead a group. “Charlotte embodies my ideal college student. She is smart, curious, funny, kind and caring,” says Manning, “and she commits a lot of time and energy to things she cares about, in class and in the community.”

After graduation Proctor aspires to work for the Green Foundation full time, or for a similar nonprofit organization where she can use her communication and leadership skills to promote positive change. “I intend to use my education to pursue my passion for conserving natural resources, and hope to always be in a position to empower others to care about our global environment and more importantly, their own backyard.” She says. Wherever she goes, Proctor will undoubtedly dedicate herself fully and with enthusiasm. She will always go the extra mile – though in the spirit of reducing fuel emissions, she’ll get there on her own two feet. – Sally Grace Holtgrieve (’15)

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