How to Know It's Time to Hire a Social Consultant

How to Know It's Time to Hire a Social Consultant

If you have no idea where to begin with your company's social media marketing, aren't sure of its real value, or are buried under the weight of its constant need for upkeep, you're not alone. With over 80% of Americans (90% of young adults) on social media, you can’t afford NOT to be present there, but establishing an effective social media strategy can be an overwhelming task.

As a business owner or manager, you might start out by tackling social on your own or assigning it as a project to an intern, but there will come a point when you consider hiring help. 

When you reach that point, hiring a consultant is often a better option than hiring a full-time social media manager. If you find someone who works to understand your business, a consultant can take your social to the next level at a fraction of the cost. 

The decision to hire a consultant is no small decision - whoever you hire will have your brand’s image in their hands! But hiring the right fit could make all the difference in creating a valuable social media presence.

If you recognize any of the following situations, it may be time for you to take the plunge and find the right social media consultant for your business.

Kapstone Social Media Consulting

You Need Help Establishing a Clear Goal

Step number one in any marketing strategy: know where you’re going. Without a goal in mind, it’s difficult to make or track progress in your social media strategy. A social media consultant can help you set and attain clear, measurable, profitable goals.

You Need Help Identifying What's Working - and What's Not

Already have a few social media accounts but unsure how much they’re actually benefiting your bottom line? A social media consultant can help you by going through your accounts, looking for hallmark signs of what’s working and what’s not. You may not know what to look for or where to begin in analyzing your current strategy, but a consultant will. They can do an audit of your current strategy and help you see if you’re on the right platforms for your audience, if you’re using copy that converts, if you’re posting at the right times, if you’re posting engaging content, and more!

You Can’t Keep up with Demands for Content (or don’t know where to start)

So, you’ve thrown together a few social platforms for your business. You’re on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest, you even started a YouTube account! But your audience is small and you don’t know how to grow it or how to create enough content to engage with the people who are following you. Creating effective content requires a great deal of both skill and time. A good consultant will hear your needs, get to know your business in detail, and be able to create effective and consistent content that speaks to your brand and your audience.

Kapstone Social Media Consulting

You Need Help Interpreting Analytics

A lot of social media management comes down to analytics – how well are you able to assess the value of your efforts? There’s no doubt about it – ROI of social media marketing is tough to measure concretely, even with the best analytics expertise! But it can seem nearly impossible without a solid understanding of analytics structures. A social media consultant can clear up the confusion so you can focus on what works, and ditch what doesn’t.

You Need Clean, Clear, Converting, and Consistent Messaging

When you have multiple social platforms, it's important to make sure that your brand is being featured in a consistent way across channels. Is your bio changing from page to page? Do you have a consistent profile picture? These are just the basics of consistency in social media marketing, but you’ll also need to ensure that you have a clear brand voice behind all of your copy and images. Visitors should be able to recognize a theme in your branding from platform to platform. This may seem like a simple feat, but it’s easier said than done. If you’ve experienced the frustration of doing this yourself to no avail, it may be time to call in a consultant.


Once you make the decision to hire a consultant, it’s important to hire the right fit for your brand – someone who understands your goals and can work well with you and your team to achieve social media greatness.

If you're ready for internet domination, click below to get a free quote and a complimentary audit of your current strategy courtesy of Kapstone - no strings attached!

John Muir Trail: The 1st 100ish miles

John Muir Trail: The 1st 100ish miles

I craned my neck up the trail to glimpse Silver Pass above me. It had been a tough climb, but we had almost reached our goal. I paused to turn around and take in the view. On the horizon, I could see Banner peak, the mountain we camped beneath 5 days prior. Now, it was dozens of miles away. I knew we had hiked a long way, but it was unreal to see the distance with my own eyes. Awe-inspiring moments such as this were common on the John Muir Trail.

I grew up with a lot of exposure to the outdoors. My older siblings were not in love with the idea of camping, so my mother viewed me, her youngest, as her last opportunity to have a backpacking buddy. As a result, I was taken on a lot of hikes growing up. Lucky for my mom, I grew into the role.  As I continued going into nature, I found more and more reasons to love and appreciate those wild places.  I began volunteering to hike with my mom rather than being dragged along. I looked forward to exploring new places that had not been consumed by civilization. And then, this year, my mother asked me if I would like to join her for a two week backpacking trip through the Sierra Nevada mountain range on the John Muir Trail, the longest trip either of us had ever done. I of course answered in the affirmative! The Sierra Nevadas contain some of the most gorgeous untouched wilderness in the state of California, and I could hardly wait to set out.

A breathtaking sunset at Lake of the Lone Indian.

The hiking party consisted of my mother, my friend Cara, and myself. Our journey would take us 140 miles over the course of 14 days. The most backpacking I had ever done before this was two or three night trips, so I knew this would be a huge undertaking, but I had no idea exactly what to expect. When I told people about my plans, many people did not share my enthusiasm about long-distance backpacking. I was asked questions like:

“Why would you spend your vacation walking all day with a heavy pack on your back with none of the comforts of modern life?”

“Do you have any idea how bad you’ll smell after? You smell bad enough as it is.”

Day 1 on the Johh Muir Trail.

“Why would you engage in a recreational activity that requires you to hold on to your used toilet paper for days at a time?”

Of course I had my responses to why the pros of the journey would outweigh the cons. I was going to hike the John Muir Trail to see the sights, to learn something about myself, to say that I did it. However, there were so many other reasons to hike the trail that I could not see until I actually completed the journey for myself. My vacation spent hiking the JMT proved to be one of the most fulfilling experiences I have ever had.

A two-week backcountry trek is certainly not as relaxing as a Hawaiian beach getaway, but part of the reward of the journey was that I had to challenge myself to meet the goals I had set for myself. On the JMT, I had to earn every mile I travelled and work for every view. From the moment we began planning the hike, we began setting concrete goals for ourselves. On a hike this long, we had to organize re-supply pickups along the trail so that we would not have to carry 14-days worth of food at once. This means that we had to make it to our re-supply point by a certain date or we would run out of food. What better incentive to keep moving than the threat of starvation?

There were points on the trail where I wanted to give up. For me, the hardest part of the journey was not the physical exhaustion but the mental strain. During the climb out of Yosemite Valley on day one, my pack felt heavy and my legs felt weak. I had the nagging thought that I wouldn’t be able to do this for two weeks. However, as I continued, I grew stronger physically and mentally. I remember one afternoon after lunch we were faced with a particularly steep and intimidating set of setbacks out of Shadow Lake. We began climbing, and continued climbing for about an hour. Halfway up the incline, I noticed “My breathing is fine, my legs feel great. This is a lot easier than day one”. That feeling alone made all the previous miles worth it.

A view like this necessitated a quick break.

We also found ways to entertain ourselves in order to beat the mental strain of walking all day. Singing became commonplace on the trail. One day we sang music from Grease, another day I wrote a song about the creek I was hiking along. Another day, we wrote a song about the importance of electrolytes, which turned into a six-verse sea shanty. We made rituals and traditions. In the mornings before we started the day’s hike, we performed the Touching of the Poles (a ritual involving trekking poles), and after we had hiked 100 miles, we earned our ‘trail names’.  

In addition to physical strength and mental fortitude, the trail handed out free lessons along the way. No matter how prepared we thought we were, the trail presented us with unexpected situations. My team and I had to adapt to the hand we were dealt if we hoped to move forward with our trek. On day 2, we left our packs near a trail junction while we hiked up Half Dome. When we returned to our packs two hours later we found that a bear had gone through our belongings, severely damaging my mom’s pack and destroying some supplies in the process. The first thought that ran through our minds was that this could be a trip-ender. With only two functional packs in our group of three, it would not be feasible to move forward. Fortunately, our repair kit was equipped with enough tape to restore the integrity of the shredded pack for the time being. What could have been a serious delay in our trek turned into a great story my mom loved to tell to everyone on the trail who would listen. This unfortunate bear experience shaped my mentality for the rest of the trip. I realized the importance of rational thinking combined with a positive attitude. It would have been all too easy to give up, but I was with a team that wanted to press forward and was sharp enough to make that happen.

A less seen view of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.

Another gift given to me by the trail was inspiration. One of the greatest things about being in the wilderness is the freedom from distraction. In my everyday life, my mind is constantly engaged whether it be working at a computer, listening to music, driving, etc. On the JMT where I am free from such distraction, I think with clarity. My mind is able to go to places it normally does not. I made up intricate stories; I began composing tunes and poems in my head as I walked. With this clarity came a profound gratitude that people a hundred years ago fought to protect this beautiful swath of wilderness and allowed me to experience it. The mental clarity I felt did not only occur on the trail, however. I took back home with me a motivation to create. I wanted to see the ideas I had on the trail set in motion. The beauty I experienced on the trail inspired me to create art long after I returned home.

Celebrating the last few miles of our trip at Piute Pass.

A trek on the John Muir Trail also creates some strong interpersonal bonds. Despite being one of the most secluded places I have ever been, the Sierra backcountry is a great place to meet people. We met people from all over the world who had come to California just to hike the JMT. It was common to stop and converse with other hikers who were headed the opposite way. We would hear their trail stories, and they would listen to ours (the bear attack story was most popular). They would warn us about a tough river crossing ahead, and we would let them in on the location of a hidden campsite a few miles down the trail. It didn’t matter who we were talking to though, most conversations ended with “You’ve got some great views ahead of you. Happy Trails!”.

What surprised me most about trail culture is how many repeat encounters we had with people on the trail. One man whom we met, Abhi (trail name: The Unstoppable Indian), was on vacation from New Jersey to hike the whole JMT solo. We met him the first morning of our trip in backpackers’ camp in Yosemite Valley, and we wished him well on his journey. It turned out, however, that we were still running into him on the trail days later, which always made me smile. Sometimes we would go two or three days without seeing him, and then we would have a mini-reunion and catch up on what had happened since our last meeting.

“Did you finally ditch the guide books you were carrying? Those things probably weighed a ton”

“I’ve seen plenty of pack mules, but did you see those pack llamas above Edison Lake two days ago?”

“Who was that cute girl you were hiking with last time we saw you? I think she liked you.”

And after a brief chat, we would part ways with Abhi and hope we would cross paths with him again.

When we were out on the trail for such a long time, my team and I spent virtually every waking hour with each other, and as a result we got to know each other very well. We started to pick up on each other’s strengths and limitations, which allowed us to become a more efficient team. My mom noticed that we were slow to get moving in the morning, so she would bring us coffee in bed most mornings (minus the bed). Cara saw that I was taking a long time to filter water, so she would assist me. My mom got nervous on river crossings, so I would take her pack across to allow her to have better balance on the log bridges. We all helped each other out, because our goal was not for an individual to complete the trek. The goal was for the group to make the 140 miles together.

Cara and I elected to celebrate the last night of our trip by sleeping under the stars without a tent. We woke up the next morning with a thick layer of frost on our sleeping bags.

Because of the shared goal that exists within a group of JMT hikers, a group becomes a team throughout the journey. In order to be efficient backpackers, everyone must work cooperatively and act in the interest of the group. If someone was running low on food, we rationed our supplies so that everyone would have enough to eat. If someone was slowing down significantly, a faster person in the group would volunteer to take some weight from their pack. Two days from the end of the trip, Cara ran out of toilet paper. I’m sure she appreciated the extra supply I gave her. By the time we had finished the trek, the team had become a family in and of itself. For days after the trip, I felt odd not setting out every day with my team. I missed them.

Even though this trip was a serious undertaking and a significant challenge, I feel it was the best possible way I could have spent a two-week vacation. I also feel that people reading this would feel the same but might not know it yet. When I began the JMT, I had some ideas of what I thought I might gain from the trip. However, when I finished the 14-day journey, the list of gifts the trail had given me was longer and altogether different than what I had originally anticipated. I became stronger, as did my relationships with those I travelled with. I was inspired by some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen, and I carry that inspiration with me. I got to experience a part of the world that few people get to see, and I relish the fact that there are thousands of similarly beautiful square miles that remain completely untouched by humans. With the overwhelming combination of emotions that struck me at the end of my journey, I gave my thanks to those who allowed me to have such a profound experience, those who fought to keep these beautiful places wild.

Becoming a Wild Urbanist

Becoming a Wild Urbanist

Here in Southern California, it's easy to think we live in a civilized urban environment. But would you be surprised if I told you that we actually live in the wild? That the wild is not something separate from our daily lives - it’s actually a part of everything around us?

This is the story of how I became what I call a “wild urbanist” - someone who sees wilderness and nature all around, even within urban environments, and makes efforts to explore the world around me - and how, with a change of mindset, you can become one, too, and connect with your surroundings in a whole new way.

It began when I was on a trip to Yosemite with my fiance Art for his birthday. We had made the mistake of staying in the valley (the biggest tourist attraction of the park) during peak season, and the bathrooms were packed every morning. I hadn’t even brought most of my beauty products - we were, after all, in the wilderness and not preparing for a fashion shoot. So I was shocked when I walked into the shared bathrooms in the morning to find every sink occupied by a woman or teenager putting on makeup, with baggies full of their regular beauty supplies arranged before them.

Hiking and exploring mountainous terrain have always been activities that unite Art and myself. Our adventure to Yosemite is what kickstarted our vision of "wild urbanists".

Here we were, nestled among towering granite walls, beautiful trees, rushing waterfalls, and hidden wildlife. We were sleeping in canvas tents and everything was covered in dirt and campfire smoke, and yet everyone seemed to behave as if they were still back at home in the suburbs. Art and I would come back from strenuous hikes, exhausted and overwhelmed by the beauty that surrounded us, and would see crowds of people enjoying popsicles and large fountain drinks while lounging on wooden porches. I realized then that while we may have been transported from our homes, we were still the same people. And for some, this meant carrying on with routines from home. 

It was then that something came strangely into focus. Here, it was obvious we were in the wild - there was the constant threat of bears, and there were only thin canvas tents separating us from the outdoors as we slept. But wilderness exists everywhere - even at home in the suburbs or the city. When we are at home, we trick ourselves into thinking that our lives are very separate from the wild world outside. We have paved roads, electricity, and modern buildings to shelter us from the elements.

But in reality, the wild is waiting just outside our door. Take, for example, the small blades of grass that peak through the cracks in the sidewalk. We may pave over the dirt and grass, but it is always there and even seeking to grow despite our efforts to civilize it.

Nature is all around us. So much so, it's hard to keep it out even when we try to pave over it!

Even the very pavement that we assume makes us so separate from the wild, even that pavement is made of natural elements - rocks! Even plastic is made of oil, which, although we associate it with a “man-made” product that fuels our cars, is an element from nature. When we see things this way, we can see that nothing is truly man-made. Although we have manipulated things from nature to suit our “modern” needs, everything around us existed somewhere in nature before we found it, mined it, and shaped it into the tools we use.

A change in mindset can help you appreciate all of the ways we depend on the natural world for our survival. Often, we become so afraid when animals like coyotes “encroach” upon our property, but this is only because we forget that we are not separate from nature - we are a part of it! We share the same world, the same environment with the animals and plants that surround us, even though we make great efforts to separate ourselves into some other realm. If we make efforts to see the wilderness all around us in this way, we become more conscious of the natural world and all of its beauty - and of all the benefits it adds to our lives. If we can add this layer of consciousness to our everyday lives, then maybe it’s possible for us to become even better stewards of that nature - whether we are on an officially protected nature reserve or not.

Seeing nature in daily life hasn't diminished my love for exploring beyond city bounds - it's only increased my drive to protect the natural spaces we live in and depend on for survival.

    When we recognize our dependence on nature, we can have a new appreciation for it and even be inspired to explore the world around us in new ways. We may even realize that, because nature isn’t as far away as we once thought, it’s also easier to explore than we once thought. I used to believe that in order to interact with nature I had to go somewhere like Yosemite and really remove myself from my human surroundings. And there is still something incredibly beautiful to be said about that type of experience. But it isn’t always necessary to go that route in order to connect. All we have to do is hike the hills surrounding our homes, even walk our pedicured streets and search for the signs of the wild all around us. Now, when I hike the hills behind my house, I look out on the skyline full of houses and strip malls, and instead of being bogged down by the fact that I can’t escape humans, I realize that even these are like small settlements in the wild. The flip side of this, is that it also causes me to desire to protect nature and ensure that these nature settlements of ours are as compatible as possible with the world around us - what a shame it would be if we destroyed the very environment we live in and depend on!

I for one have been transformed by this recognition of the wild around me. It’s changed my interactions with things in my daily life on a wide scale. I’ve become a wild urbanist because I believe that we really are all wild urbanists, just waiting to see it in ourselves. We are all much closer to the wild than we believe. So over the course of my future blogs, I will be sharing stories with you on what the wild urbanist experience brings into focus and how you can bring this focus to life in your own day-to-day. Plus, I'll be sharing the experiences of other wild urbanists, so we can all develop eyes that allow us to see the wild even in the apparently mundane.



3 Ways Dogs Connect Us to the World

3 Ways Dogs Connect Us to the World

Most people will go through their entire lives without witnessing a miracle. Me? I’ve experienced three of them. I’ve named them, too: Miracle #1 is Pepper, Miracle #2 is Suki, and Miracle #3 is Jasper. These are the names of my three dogs.

I know what some of you may be thinking…“but Claudia, they’re just dogs. Miracles are something that’s supposed to be life-altering! Dogs don’t change lives! They’re just cute and cuddly!”

Suki (a.k.a. Miracle #2) is just one of three wonderful dogs that have changed my life and shown me the world in a totally new perspective!

Well, actually…they do change lives. Or at least, they’ve changed my life anyway.

Before you write me off as some dog-crazed lady (though I wouldn’t blame you if you did), let me explain how dogs are shaping the way we see the world.

Dogs Connect Us to Others

When I was in college, I walked around—A LOT—and in doing so, I met a ton of people. I went to a large, public university which meant that I could encounter a hundred people just by walking from one class to another.

For a girl living in a car-centric suburb of Southern California, walking around was something I only did in college because that was the only way I could get around campus. So after I graduated college and started working full-time in an office, the amount of encounters and conversations I had with strangers dropped dramatically. It’s very difficult to meet new people and find community when I’m constantly shuttling myself from place to place in the secluded comfort of my own car. All of the sudden, I went from seeing new faces every single day around school to seeing the same faces every day around work. I’m not trying to knock down my coworkers or anything—they’re some of the most interesting people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing—but I missed learning new things about new people I came across while walking around school.

So, what did I do about it? I turned to Pepper, Suki, and Jasper, of course.

No, I don’t mean that I replaced human interaction with long talks with my three dogs (they’re fantastic listeners but they don’t contribute much to the conversation). What I mean is, I decided to start talking to people I came across while walking my dogs around my neighborhood. And what did I discover? Glad you asked!

We Southern Californians have a habit of driving from place to place so we miss out on the people and places we drive by. Dogs have the amazing capacity to break this habit and force us out of our cars and onto our sidewalks! By getting out of the car and going on regular walks with our dogs and exploring places we’ve never been to before, we get a chance to meet people we would otherwise never encounter. This allows us to build relationships with others which in return, helps us foster a sense of connection and belonging to our communities. A strong, vibrant community isn’t measured by the flow of traffic that comes in and out of it—it’s measured by the flow of communication between its members.

Dogs Connect Us to  Our Neighborhoods

The amount of people I’ve encountered while walking around my neighborhood with my dogs isn’t quite as high as the amount of people I came across at college, but the quality of the connections is the same, if not better. Because guess what? You and I have something very important in common with the people in our neighborhoods: we live in the same place! That means we probably visit the same grocery store every week and probably get mad at our dogs every night for barking at the sound of Disneyland fireworks too.

Jasper introduces me to all the best grass patches in the neighborhood.

Before I had dogs, I thought I knew all there was to know about my Orange County community. I knew which streets would lead me to my favorite local eateries. I knew which houses to visit during Christmas and Halloween because they always had the best decorations. I could picture my neighborhood and it’s neatly ordered houses in my head. I thought I saw everything that needed to be seen. But of course, I was wrong. There was so much more to my neighborhood than I realized, and I was only able to realize it because I had dogs that I needed to walk around.  

To the casual eye, my neighborhood looks like every other suburban neighborhood. Its streets are lined with cookie-cutter homes on either side, some are decorated with white picket fences and others with meticulously manicured lawns.

It wasn’t until a puppy by the name of Pepper was dropped into my lap did I realize that my neighborhood was more than met the casual eye. Suddenly, I had a new reason to step outside my front door and do that dreadful thing so many of us Southern Californians try to avoid: walking! Whoa, hold on you might be thinking. Let’s not get out of control here...I mean, why would we walk to places when we can sit in climate-controlled vehicles while singing along to Beyonce on the radio? Or is that just me?

Enter the magical powers of dogs. You see, dogs are like Aladdin and his magic carpet: they can show us the world.

Ever since I started walking my dogs around, I’ve realized that my neighborhood isn’t just a place filled with random cars, buildings, and people. My neighborhood is so much more beautiful and complex than that. My neighborhood has a house on the corner whose sprinklers always make a puddle of mud that my dogs will inevitably JUMP in. My neighborhood has a specific spot where you can see the Disneyland fireworks through an opening between the oak trees. My neighborhood isn’t just filled with people; it’s filled with families that take walks on warm nights after they’ve had dinner. It’s filled with other dogs (like Big Rupert, the Retriever) that love to jump in the puddle of mud on the corner, too. I know which streets have my favorite flowers, I know where the best parks to play fetch are, I know so much more than I could have possibly known if it weren’t for my canine companions.

How Dogs Connect Us to Ourselves

So not only do dogs shape the way we see and experience our neighbors and neighborhoods, they help connect to ourselves, too! Is there anything dogs don’t do for us? Let me explain...

I work full-time in an office so that means that I don’t have many opportunities to get up and get moving (unless it’s to walk to the refrigerator to get a snack). A typical day for me is usually spent staring at a computer screen at work and then going home and staring at another computer or TV screen. I’m a millennial, and true to our millennial ways, I spend a little too much time face to face with a screen. After a full day this constant screen time, I’m usually mentally spent. Luckily for me, I have three furry little reminders that give me that much needed push out the door to get some fresh air and exercise every day. It’s been incredibly beneficial for me to take a break from the hustle and bustle of emails, texts, and tweets. By walking my dogs, I give myself the time and chance to reflect and think about new things I’ve learned throughout the day, my favorite moments, or things I should do to better prepare for tomorrow.

There’s a reason why dogs are known as “man’s best friend”. Not only do they help us get physical AND mental exercise, but they do it with endless enthusiasm and undivided attention!  

The Dog Days Have Just Begun

You know that one idiom about “the dog days of summer”? It’s a popular idiom that refers to the hottest days of summer--a time usually marked by lethargy, inactivity, or laziness.

The dog days are just beginning! With guides like Pepper and Suki, I've seen new aspects of my neighborhood and even met new people. You, too, can get more out of your neighborhood - there's always more to explore!

Well I’d like to propose a new definition for that idiom. I think the “dog days” should refer to days filled with activity, excitement, and exploration! Dogs are little miracles that are changing our lives! They help us see things in our neighborhoods we never realized were there, they help us connect with the people around us, and they help keep us healthy and active. They’re the ultimate package of furry and fun!

Now for those of you that don’t have dogs (I haven’t forgotten about you), let me remind you that you don’t need to have a dog to connect with your communities. Having a dog certainly helps build a bridge to connect you with a healthier lifestyle and community, but you can take the initiation and make these bridges yourself! Get out there! Take the time to enjoy the countless people and nuances of your neighborhood. Make an effort to notice something new every day. You don’t need a dog to enjoy your surroundings (although it is highly encouraged).







That Time I Crashed the Fiesta

That Time I Crashed the Fiesta

A Venture into the OC Community

You’ve all seen that movie Wedding Crashers? Well, I haven’t. Can’t say I’m a fan of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn...but I’ll save that for another post.

What I do remember about the movie is its tagline: Life’s a party...crash it! Truer words have never been said. But crashing weddings really isn’t my thing - because I’ll be honest...I couldn’t awkwardly pretend to know the bride or the groom. I would immediately get caught!

But you know what I wouldn’t mind crashing?  Those cool-looking events happening in my community that I see other people going to, typically on the weekends. I’m sure you’ve heard or read about these events, too - festivals, art shows, antique fairs, concerts, food fairs...they’re everywhere in Orange County! But for some reason I never go to them, even though I do enjoy talking to people (sometimes too much I’m told) and consider myself to be somewhat adventurous.

So why don’t I go? Well, I’ll be honest - it’s probably a mixture of the following: 1) I’m lazy to leave the comfort of my own home (and Netflix), 2) You try leaving Mochi (my cute dog and snuggle buddy) at home and tell me it isn’t hard! and, 3) Who do I even go with?! It’s not exactly easy nowadays to get my friends together to do something new and adventurous. Everyone is on different schedules, busy with other things in their life, or ballin’ on a budget. And unfortunately, I can’t take Mochi everywhere with me.  

Does any of this sound familiar? Don’t worry, I understand all too well and I got your back. Consider this your official introduction to...Community Crashers! It’s a group that our Kapstone family started on and it’s open to anyone looking for a little adventure and meeting some pretty cool people (like me!). What we do is find Orange County community events that look like a fun time and we simply show up and enjoy the day with our friends, family, strangers and anyone else that wants to join in! Did I mention, it’s FREE (which is probably up there as being one of the best four letter words of the American English language)?

Community Crashers gives people like me the chance to explore our communities and meet new people without the discomfort of going alone!

Honestly, Community Crashers just makes it easier to connect with people and experience that sense of community in a casual yet engaging way.

The Orange County community has so much to explore and it’s rich in culture, diversity and not to mention...SO MUCH good food. I’m tired of taking it for granted and ready to marble (please tell me someone got that rock pun) in it’s beauty, explore its unique communities and hopefully meet new interesting people along the way! And with Community Crashers, it’s easy because there’s a group of people trying new things on a regular basis. We find the events. You show up. And we all have some fun! Not too complicated, huh?

Let's just say, Community Crashers is one of my guilt-free distractions from work. I feel lucky to work with a group of people at Kapstone who share my desire to create a sense of community. With Crashers, we now have a catalyst to get us out in the community to try things we probably wouldn’t have done on our own otherwise. And we’re always looking for new people to join us so don’t be shy or a stranger to us!

While I have your attention, let me give you a little taste of a recent Community Crasher event we held at San Clemente’s annual Fiesta Music Festival. Here’s my take on it...

I took the Metro train from Tustin with my friend Claudia (who also works with me at Kapstone), and we discovered the beauty of the train as we were dropped off right at the San Clemente pier. It was about 10:15 in the morning and the beach was busy - and why wouldn’t it be?! It was a beautiful day with a perfect view. There was an interesting mix of people from young teeny boppers to families with small children...perfect for people watching.

The Fiesta Festival was packed with all sorts of fun booths, food challenges, music, and just about everything else!

In addition to people watching, the festival was full of other opportunities...eating, drinking, bands, games, contests and more. We set up camp at a nice lawn area with beach chairs and a large umbrella brought by Kapstone’s lovely office manager and awesome lady, Robin. It was the perfect setup for hanging out with friends, and checking out the festival.

There was one event I was especially looking forward to at the festival: the salsa challenge. No, not the dance. I’m talking about salsa, one of the best chip dips mankind has ever known, and every year the festival holds a challenge to see who can whip up the best tasting salsa. Now, you have to understand... if I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, I would choose chips and salsa...hands down. Needless to say I was in heaven with not one or two but TWELVE salsa cups and a pile of chips. One of the salsas I tried was called “The Yoda.” Spicy it was. Sadly though, after just trying four out of the twelve salsa cups my mouth was on FIRE and I could barely see because my eyes were filled with water! Kinda weaksauce, I admit. I was even warned by the salsa makers themselves (and my friend and co-worker Alison) that the salsas were spicy. But they don’t know me!! Fortunately, there was ice cold beer from Left Coast Brewing Company to wash it down and make it all better. Turns out Left Coast operates locally in San Clemente.

My idea of heaven: almost endless salsa and chips! Plus local beer, of course.

After being defeated by the salsa tasting, we walked around to see the different exhibits, music performances, vendors...and to find more food. The festival was a lot more packed than I had anticipated. A lot of people were watching a band performing the song “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness. Look it up and you can thank me later, or not. . Mainly people were just walking around and hanging out with friends in a space that is normally a busy roadway for cars. Yep, the festival took over the entire street, including parking spaces.

You see, I always get this warm, fuzzy feeling when I see people hanging out and enjoying themselves with good company at a community event - especially when it’s at a space that  wouldn’t normally accommodate pedestrians. I totally get that #plannerd moment at times (when you realize why you love urban planning so much). and I’ve gotta admit that the feeling of belonging to a diverse community  of like-minded Crashers is a good feeling...almost as good as taking the first sip of ice cold local beer after eating too much spicy salsa. What can I say? I love beer and salsa too if you couldn’t tell. .

Sharing is caring - so I want to share this experience with not just my friends but as many interesting people as possible. I love meeting people and hearing their stories! So don’t be a stranger to me. Now that you know what’s up, come crash with me and the rest of the gang this Saturday, September 3rd at the Downtown Santa Ana Artwalk . It happens every first Saturday of the month, but I’ve never been soo I’m looking forward to checking out the 20 art galleries (didn’t even know there were this many in DTSA) and of course, the ice cold local beer at 4th Street Market. Check out the Community Crashers Meetup page for more details on the DTSA Artwalk event and other events we’ll be crashing next in the near future. Also, see for yourself the photographic evidence of past events (don’t have been rated PG).

So maybe we’ll crash into each other soon?


My Journey to Energy Efficiency, Part 1

My Journey to Energy Efficiency, Part 1

Energy Efficiency: More than a Buzz Word

Confession: I used to be an energy efficiency rookie.

Sure, I knew the basics like most of us do. I knew that things like leaving a light on in an empty room wasted energy, but my knowledge didn't go much deeper than that. Sound familiar? So when I was presented with the opportunity to interview for a position with an energy efficiency education company, I was googling the topic like mad, trying to cram as much information as I could in just a few days. The result? I actually got the job!  Thus began my crash course in energy literacy.

Training ran the gamut from energy basics to exploring topics about grid management and maintenance. I learned that at its most basic, energy efficiency is a pretty simple concept. Rather than espousing shunning technology, energy efficiency is about making smarter choices so the energy we use works to its full potential. By the end of my training, I definitely had a new appreciation and perspective on the matter.

Efficiency campaigns came in all shapes and sizes, and incorporated other sustainability efforts, too. Some students even planted seedlings in compostable containers for Earth Day!

Before I knew it, I was teaching energy literacy to students in Los Angeles County. I loved it! Kids got fired up about the ways they could save energy, money, and the environment at school. Student campaigns ranged from posting signs on campus reminding everyone to turn off lights at the end of the day, to larger scale projects like taking a petition to the school board for permission to de-lamp light fixtures in over-lit cafeterias. Energy literacy offered the students a chance to learn about exciting new technologies, different career paths and community initiatives, and gave them pathways to perform community service. Not only that, but students had the opportunity to earn money for their schools. As an incentive to the schools participating in these programs, Districts agreed to return between 50 to 100 percent of monetary savings directly back to schools!

The results were dramatic. One of my student groups raised so much money through their energy efficiency efforts, that they were able to buy their school a brand new computer lab. Another group installed solar panels at a home in a low-income neighborhood - simultaneously gaining work experience while giving a family access to a clean and cheap energy source.

Experiencing these student outcomes made me passionate about energy efficiency and energy literacy. Teaching gave me the chance to become knowledgeable about a topic I had previously known little about. Suddenly, I was getting paid to go on field trips to power plants, sit in on lectures about HVAC, and keep up-to-date on the latest energy efficient technologies! Though I was once a rookie, I now consider myself a pro and I love to keep learning.

Much of my energy efficiency expertise came on the job - we even had the chance to install solar panels!

Much of my energy efficiency expertise came on the job - we even had the chance to install solar panels!

Even though I no longer work directly in the energy literacy field, I have carried my passion into my everyday life in all aspects. Through my work at Kapstone as a Community Intern, I’ve been exposed to new applications of energy efficiency in the urban planning field and overall development industry.

From infrastructure to building techniques, energy efficient opportunities are everywhere. In fact, buildings account for the largest amount of electricity use worldwide, but it is estimated that nearly 80 percent of the energy efficiency of buildings is untapped. The United States uses over a quarter of its fuel alone each year to transport people and goods. Public transit and alternative transportation infrastructure are crucial to ensuring better energy efficiency.

What's exciting is that the opportunities for smarter applications and better outcomes are available today more than ever before. But at a practical level for you and I, it all begins with small personal choices on a daily basis that add up to big changes over time!



Some students even staged principal-endorsed sustainability marches. But you don't have to put on protest to get involved - you can become an expert by starting with simple steps.

So why am I sharing all of this? Well, I’ve benefited so much from what I've learned over the years and I know that a real impact is possible when people get involved and play their small part. People like you! But sometimes it's hard to know where to start and that's where I come in. I’ll be back every month (or so) to offer you some simple tips, personal experiences, and latest updates in the energy efficiency arena to get you going. It doesn’t take much to get started and every little bit counts. Who knows? Maybe you'll catch the spark and end up a pro too!








Ditch your screen saver! Screen savers for your laptop or computer monitor do exactly what their name implies, they save the screen from any image being burned into them. They don’t save any energy. In fact, screen savers use just as much energy as when you are actually using your computer. To save energy and increase your battery life, change your computer settings to have your computer go to sleep or hibernate when not in use. This will save your work and allow you to easily wake your computer when needed. Voila! Energy efficiency that saves you money, energy, and time!


Design Secrets of Disneyland

Design Secrets of Disneyland

Disneyland is my home away from home. In high school, when I wasn’t at school, soccer practice, or in my bed - I was at Disneyland!

 I was a Disney fan practically from birth!

Around the office there are mixed views on the corporate behemoth that is the Disney company, and I, too, question many of their profit-prioritizing choices (Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars). Despite my questioning, my love-bordering-on-obsession for Disney and Disneyland always prevails. In college, I started thinking deeply about what I love about this world-famous amusement park and why I spent most of my Barista earnings on that place. Why am I so obsessed? Why do I always buy candy there that I could easily purchase at my neighborhood grocery store for half the price? What magic does this park have that keeps me coming back? And it’s not just me! 16.2 million people visit this place each year and a whole bunch of them keep coming back, too.

The obvious answer to the magic: Disney’s brand recognition and all that fantastic nostalgia that comes with it. Most people I have met in my life have heard of Mickey Mouse and watched a Disney movie or two (I bring up my Disney obsession with strangers a little too much, I know). The rides are nice and amusing, but there are plenty of other theme parks in Southern California that have rides. There’s something even more than nostalgia that is able to make 16.2 million visitors a year feel as attached with Disneyland as I do. It wasn't until I started down my path as an urban planner that the connection became obvious. Disney mastered a concept long before it became a popular trend for re-creating public spaces in the modern urban planning era. So what is it? Simply this: placemaking ... through urban design.

Planning and design play important roles in creating the sense of place recognized by so many people at Disneyland!

In July 1955, Disneyland opened and featured five areas: Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland. Main Street, USA is the entry to the Magic Kingdom and is where the design secrets all begin. It provides guests with a familiarity of the downtown areas of America’s small towns and was inspired by Walt Disney’s hometown of  Marceline, Missouri. As visitors enter the park, the buildings’ bricks become smaller and smaller as the buildings get taller. Main Street is arranged in a subtle “^” shape as visitors walk towards the Sleeping Beauty Castle, so visitors feel intense awe when they approach Disneyland’s most recognizable landmark. As visitors walk down Main Street, there are even small vents alongside the candy shop and ice cream store that release vanilla scents to encourage visitors to visit the sweet shops.

This vent is patented and known as the Smellitzer! The Smellitzer is not exclusive to Main Street and can be found throughout the park. Pirates of the Caribbean smells of sea salt and wood; the park entrance smells of fresh buttered popcorn, and the Haunted Mansion smells of dust. These thoughtful designs provide a distinct identity to Disneyland that induces memories and nostalgia and encourages visitor shopping habits.

The park’s remarkable landscaping is imagined and maintained by the Disneyland Resort Horticulture team. Over 100 cast members work to maintain and update the remarkable landscaping each season. To see how it’s done, check out this video of this year’s Spring landscape update:

Not only does the landscaping represent the different seasons (which otherwise are often not recognized in sunny year-round Anaheim), it provides additional context and placemaking for each Land. Tomorrowland was designed to represent the futuristic year of 1986. A year in which Walt and his imagineers believed that cities in the future would have limited space and the landscape that would persist would be functional. This functional landscaping concept is known as “Agrifuture.” All the landscaping in Tomorrowland is edible! As you enter Tomorrowland you will see herbs, citrus trees, and even grapes. In high school, my friends and I would gather what we could and taste the “pygmy citrus.”

If you take the train around Disneyland, you'll see a billboard featuring Walt's idea of what the 1980's would be like. (Photo credit:

I do not recommend eating Disneyland fruit as the implemented Agrifuture concept is solely a concept and not actually meant for consumption (those grapes were sour and not so tasty, but they were pretty!). As you take the classic Disneyland railroad from Toontown station to Tomorrowland station you will see Disney’s concept on a billboard, further cementing the futuristic land of 1986. Disneyland’s landscape further emphasizes a distinct sense of place which adds to the magic of the “Happiest Place on Earth.”

Taking pictures with characters and having an adrenaline rush on the various Disneyland Mountains is great, but what is even greater is the sense of place and wonder that is created by Disney’s detailed planning efforts. My appreciation for urban design came from my Environmental Psychology class during my second year as an undergraduate at UC Irvine, where I learned that the physical environment shapes so much about how we perceive the world - not just in places that are strategically consumer oriented.

My favorite (non-Disney) example is that of street trees. Glorious, beautiful, innocent street trees. Street trees are just trees that are located along local roads or in the medians. These trees also have secret powers. Not only do the trees provide shade to pedestrians or parked cars, prevent water pollution, and reduce the urban heat island effect, they also alleviate stress and make your commute more pleasant. Planning and design is all around us, and after I learned about urban planning I have seen my favorite places in a new way. There are small details about every place that makes each space special.

My love for Disney has gone beyond childhood nostalgia, and has even inspired my career as an urban planner.

Placemaking at Disneyland allows even the most apathetic Disney goer to have a poignant association and familiarity with my happy place. The way that each flower or building is carefully placed and picked by the Planning and Urban Design team at Disneyland inspired me to pursue a field where I can create a sense of belonging and comfort for community members. As a planner, I will have the opportunity to shape how communities are constructed, maintained, and changed. I will be able to listen to community members and assist in the creation of places that may become their refuge from reality. If I can be a part of creating a place that one person feels connected to, I will feel as though I accomplished my career goal. Disneyland taught me that planning can bring a sense of belonging, and now I aspire to plan for inclusion.

To me, Kapstone’s motto of “Planning as a Lifestyle” is as simple as appreciating what is around you and paying attention to the small details that make places great (or not-so-great). I became a city planner in order to have an impact on people’s lives. Whether it be helping a residential developer meet the City’s code or ensuring that a parking lot is designed in an efficient and well-landscaped manner, each planning project is an opportunity to change a person’s perception and relationship to a place. I am inspired by the strategic and thoughtful design features of Disneyland, and I aim to be a planner that uses creativity to shape how people understand and relate to their communities. If you are ever in need of inspiration, look around your community and think about all the thought and consideration that inspired the design of your neighborhood.






Strengthsfinder: A Shift in Perspective

Strengthsfinder: A Shift in Perspective

I am a total perfectionist. I love to work. I love precision. I love to make people happy. I can't help myself!

This combination pushes me towards constant improvement and challenges me to create work I can be truly proud of. But it can also be a somewhat toxic mixture. Because sometimes, instead of focusing on what I’m able to do well or allowing myself to relish in a recent success, I pore over the details of what went wrong. This tendency to re-review and overanalyze in excruciating detail can turn sour when it leads me to dwell on my weaknesses, instead of appreciating and further building up my strengths.

I imagine this is probably a pretty common tendency. So often, we produce work that anyone but ourselves can acknowledge as exemplary. 

There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best from ourselves. And of course, this means we have to review ourselves and even receive constructive criticism. But too often, when we analyze our work and the work of others, our attention is drawn immediately to weak spots instead of strong suits. Why do we do this?

A glimpse into my journey discovering the wonders of the Strengths Finder assessment.

I had never heard of StrengthsFinder before coming to Kapstone. But Trevor Lottes – Kapstone’s founder – is obsessed with it. During one of our first meetings after I was hired as an intern, he suddenly exclaimed, “StrengthsFinder! Ah, have I told you about StrengthsFinder yet? I love it!”  He proceeded to tell me about the book and its personality test that identifies five of your core strengths and helps you pinpoint how to use them in your professional development and personal life.

The idea behind StrengthsFinder is this: our capacity to grow in our areas of strength far exceeds that of our weaknesses. Exponentially so. Yet our culture loves to focus on weakness despite the fact that improving our weaknesses can only take us so far –that is to say, in all likelihood, we will never be 100% strong in them. By focusing mainly on improving our weak spots, we are diverting energy away from fully developing our strengths –  effectively keeping ourselves from reaching our fullest potential. What would the world be like if we instead focused the lion’s share of our energy on developing things we naturally excel in? If we developed these strengths to truly expert degrees, without wasting their potential?

This is not to say we should never seek to improve our weaknesses – on the contrary, we should be investing significant time in enhancing our strengths and also improving our weaknesses. It is to say, however, that we need to be more intentional in directing our precious time and resources to fostering the growth of the best things in us. Our natural gifts and talents are waiting to be unleashed! 

The Kapstone team supports each other in all our endeavors. Here, they all show their support at my final presentation for my Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program at UCI.

When I took the StrengthsFinder test, I found that I am really good at things that involve other people. I may not be a master mathematician, but I can recognize the needs and talents of others and help them achieve more of their true potential. I love meeting new people, finding out what they’re good at and what they like and what motivates them, encouraging them, helping them take their creative projects to new heights…I love connecting with and learning more about others. Turns out these are the top qualities of a good community manager, and that's exactly what I do now!

My StrengthsFinder assessment showed me that my love for others is actually a skill. It's not just a frivolous distraction or emotion, but something I have potential to excel in, in a way that brings value to others both at work and in daily life. 

No matter what work we do, it's important to see that our strengths are valued and refined - by ourselves as well as by those we work for and work with. The result will be a happier, healthier, more fulfilled team at work. And more than that, it will provide the opportunity to build a strong culture of supportive community.



Toastmasters and Me

Toastmasters and Me

Everyone's looking at you. Waiting for you to say something. You stare down at your notes and begin to open your mouth to speak...but nothing comes out. You’ve got sweaty palms, sweaty forehead, sweaty in places that you didn't think could sweat. You have succumbed to the fear of public speaking...and it's real.

This was me...until Toastmasters happened. I became a Toastmasters member when I started working for Kapstone. I had no idea what it was. Being a huge foodie, I had high hopes it involved buttered toast... but nope. It’s actually an organization dedicated to improving people’s public speaking skills.

Now I'm somewhat of a washed up theatre geek - I performed in plays and musicals throughout high school, so you can say I'm comfortable in front of an audience. My biggest downfall, however, was doing presentations. It's one thing to act like a different character and read a playwright’s words. It's a whole other thing to be yourself and read your own words in front of a group of people. Do you know how vulnerable that is?! I felt like people were judging me and so I would stumble through my presentation...praying it would end soon.

Toastmasters changed that. I couldn't believe it but surprisingly within just a few months of joining Toastmasters, I noticed the difference. My confidence grew so much that I actually signed up for the Fall speech contest. 

Twice a year, Toastmasters holds a public speaking contest: one in the Fall and one in the Spring. I’ll be honest - I had never imagined I would compete in a speech contest. That sounded intimidating. But I did it anyway. I had been in Toastmasters for only 6 months at that point, but I figured I was pretty good at making wise cracks so it would be fun give it a try.

I my boss. Hey, somebody's gotta try to stick it to the man!

But I’m glad he won, because I went to see him compete at the next level of the speech contest in our Toastmasters district. I was blown away by how good all the speakers were. Each speaker had different speaking styles and techniques they used to craft their speech. I walked away inspired. I wanted to be just as good as those speakers AND compete at this level too. I just needed a game plan that included setting goals, finding a mentor and keeping my eyes on the prize. 

My main goal was to keep improving my speaking skills and competing in as many contests as I could. I worked with a few mentors who I would meet with occasionally. They helped me practice my speeches and gave me tips on how to improve. 

Me with my glorious trophy after winning the District Tall Tales Contest.

Come spring time, I signed up for the Tall Tales Spring Speech Contest at our club. And this time, I won! After that my meetings with my mentors doubled because I was keeping my eyes on the prize. I worked hard to perfect my speech, which included writing multiple versions of the speech and practicing at other Toastmasters clubs on Saturday mornings at 8am...I sacrificed beauty sleep for public speaking glory! It was all worth it because I moved on to the next speech level and the next until I ended up winning the finals! I became the Toastmasters Spring 2016 Founder’s District Tall Tales first place winner. I immediately celebrated with a chicken dinner because...winner, winner - chicken dinner. 

I thought the prize was winning a shiny trophy. It turns out the real prizes were my new found speaking skills and the confidence that I CAN accomplish my goals and be the speaker I knew I could be. Yes, it was hard work but you get what you put in. I put my effort into my goal of winning public speaking glory and I didn't let myself slack off. Believe me, there were times I didn't want to practice and would rather watch re-runs of Parks and Rec on TV while snuggling with Mochi (my dog). But I knew I needed to put in a genuine effort if I was serious. Besides, Parks and Rec is always on Netflix.

What really helped me grow as a speaker - more than anything - were all of the honest tips, suggestions and advice from all of the Toastmasters members I met through the practicing at other clubs or at the contests. It is surprising how quickly I improved my public speaking but what's more surprising about Toastmasters is the sense of community you feel. I just love the fact that everyone is there to help you be the incredible speaker you can be. Everyone is all there to improve their speaking skills too. It becomes safe place to fail and of course to celebrate your successes. It's awesome to be a part of a community that cares and really wants to see you succeed. Some of these people may be complete strangers that I might never meet again but when you're part of Toastmasters, it's like you're family!

Winning was only possible with the support of my Kapstone and Toastmasters family.

I know I sound a little obsessed… Toastmasters is real though. It isn’t any ordinary club. It's an international organization, meaning there are clubs everywhere with thousands and thousands of members. It works and has worked for over 100 years. So Google your local Toastmasters and you can thank me later! 

*mic drop

2016 APA Conference: A Desert Gem

2016 APA Conference: A Desert Gem

At first, I was pretty anxious about spending so much time in Phoenix, but the City surprised me!

The American Planning Association (APA) is the largest professional planning organization, and I am honored to say that I have played an active role in the organization over the past two years. Each year, APA hosts a National Planning Conference where planners and students from across the United States participate in workshops, network at events, share stories/experiences and explore new ideas and technologies in the planning sphere.

This year, the conference was held in Phoenix. Hot. Dry. Phoenix.

My opinion of Phoenix had been largely shaped by what I’ve heard from my mom (who traveled there frequently for business): sprawl, ugly, hot, miserable. Why would APA hold a planning conference in a city that, from an outsider’s view, does not represent the high density, mixed-use trends of the field?

I found out that Phoenix is the 6th most populated city in the United States (860,000 more people than last year’s vibrant host city Seattle), but it’s the city’s small gems that emphasize why people love to live there. As I walked around downtown during my breaks from workshops, I discovered some of these gems. For example, the lizard motif on a building, the native landscape strategically placed to provide shade for pedestrians, and the tan/brown buildings that emphasized “YOU’RE IN THE DESERT!”, all of which created a sense of place that demonstrated appreciation for the environment.

Members of my cohort and I had so much fun meeting with all sorts of planning experts!

The conference itself was inspiring. I met planners from rural South Carolina, New York City, and Alabama. I attended workshops about Urbanization in Mexico, Women in Planning, and electronic plan review software. The people I spoke with and the workshops I attended all had a running theme: planning is for the people. Community engagement and interaction has always been my personal inspiration for planning, and it seemed to be the theme of the conference as well. Jane Jacobs’ ideas of the importance of genuine local collaboration prevailed over purely top-down Robert Moses. The shifts in the field are towards sustainable development, not just in an environmental sense, but also in an economic and community sense.

As an urban planning student who is graduating in June, my experiences at professional events have cultivated my sense of confidence in the field. Planners discussing their stories and challenges ultimately compel me to get out there and make things happen in my community. I have recently accepted a full-time position at Kapstone as an Assistant Planner (to begin after my graduation), and I am so excited to start my career with a company that understands the importance of community and giving back.

Not only did the 2016 National Planning Conference help me become more open-minded about a new place, it also showed me how the little things can bring out the vibrancy and beauty in any environment. Even the desert! I also walked away with a further appreciation for urban planning and for the people who make change happen. As I move forward in my career now, I look forward to learning, growing, and making my own impact along the way.  For now, the sunny weather of Southern California will do just fine!




Latino Health Access: Making a Difference

Latino Health Access: Making a Difference

While I am finishing up my last year in UC Irvine’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning program, I hope to be a lifelong student of planning and engage with community groups to learn what the needs of the people are. Meeting with the people who come together to make change happen through voice and action is something that inspires me to pursue a career in planning.