Kathleen O’Brien

Kathleen and her son, Al
       I have lived in Everett MA for most of my life, and continue to live there now with my loving family, which consists of my wonderful husband, my beautiful 1 year old son, 2 cats and 6 chickens.  I have also worked in Everett for the past three years as the Coordinator of Energize Everett, a community health initiative aimed at increasing healthy eating and active living through policy, systems and environmental change strategies.
       I received my undergraduate degree in 2008 from UMass Boston in Anthropology and Social Psychology, with a minor in Environmental Studies.  I am also a graduate of UMass Boston’s Program for Women in Politics and Public Policy.  While at UMass Boston I was thoroughly involved in many on-campus clubs, such as the Sustainability Club, Anthropology Club, and the Native American Student Society.  Through my coursework I discovered the field of environmental justice, and used my internship requirement to work at Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) as a Development and Communications intern, and ended up staying on for close to two years.   At ACE I learned a great deal about community building and organizing, which I took along to my new job in Everett.
       As the Coordinator of Energize Everett, I have lead many projects to “make the healthy choice the easy choice” for all who live, work, play or pray in Everett.  Some projects Energize Everett has worked on under my leadership include ensuring EBT/SNAP access and incentives at our farmers market, creating schoolyard and community gardens, instituting Safe Routes to School and Walk/Ride Day activities at all K-8 schools and City Hall, creating a walking routes map, ensuring the completion of the Northern Strand Community Trail and beginning work on a Walk to the River route, and drafting a Complete Streets Resolution and accompanying Healthy Design Guidelines for all new transportation and development projects in the City.
       Through all stages of these projects and activities, from idea to implementation (including the creation of Energize Everett itself), I have had to work with various City departments, agencies, community and faith based organizations, and community members to attempt to have participation from all sectors of the community.  However, it has not always been feasible or easy to ensure this participation, due to lack of resources (time, money and/or staff), grant-funding constraints, or the political constraints that come along with running community projects out of a City department.  I hope that taking part in this workshop will help me learn better strategies and tools for genuine community building, and I look forward to working with all of the fantastic organizations involved!