The Department of Culture and Tourism of Nantucket works to foster the growth of the island community in order to not only promote a rich cultural environment and on-island experience, but to encourage the tourism that keeps our beloved island’s economy afloat.
Melissa Murphy, Director of Culture and Tourism, as well as Carlisle Jensen, Special Events and Film Permit Coordinator, recently put together an initiative aimed towards creating a program that would not only provide participants with necessary life skills and experience, but also allow those involved to positively contribute to the island community through volunteer service. Both Murphy and Jensen act as internship coordinators for the program, termed the ACK Ambassador Internship.
Open to Nantucket High School upperclassmen, the idea for the program originated from a desire to get those who know and love Nantucket the best involved in applying themselves to making Nantucket a more welcoming place for its visitors. Murphy, Town Manager Libby Gibson, and Assistant Town Manager Gregg Tivnan examined similar models around the country and then tailored the program to fit the island’s unique way of life.
“We wanted to find a way to engage the community in sharing their love of Nantucket and important information with our visitors,” said Murphy.
While the idea was already in place when she arrived, Jensen, the former program coordinator for the Dewey House of Community Engagement at the University of Vermont, was excited for the possibility of using her background in organizing and coordinating student volunteers in a way to positively benefit the island community; thus, the ACK Ambassador idea was born.
The program will consist of three components: seminar workshops, mentorship, and direct service. The seminar workshops will be lead by local leaders, including Jason Bridges, the owner of the Handlebar Cafe and Public Outreach Manager, and Janet Schulty, the director of the Chamber of Commerce, along with Murphy and Jensen.
“There are going to be workshops, so part seminar time and part hands on, role-playing, experiential education, really diving into the issues. It’s pretty loose right now, honestly, our speakers all have a wealth of knowledge and can talk about just about anything,” remarked Jensen about the timed seminars.
As for mentorship, Jensen and Murphy have identified mentors who are willing to spend time with the ambassadors during their volunteer hours and answer any questions; as well as deepen the lessons, skills, and experience students will receive from the program, and simply get to know them. Some of the identified mentors include Courtney Bridges, Cecil Barron Jensen, and Janet Schulte.
The direct volunteer service will come from students acting as island ambassadors for weekends and holidays when Nantucket will be at it’s busiest, including Daffodil Weekend, Memorial Day, and most recently, Stroll Weekend. Ambassadors have the option to sign up for two hour time shifts, and are then placed at the busiest spots in town, like the top of Main Street, or in front of the Whaling Museum. The idea is for interns to be easily accessible to answer any questions or give any directions that those visiting Nantucket may need.
Senior KD Tornovish volunteered this past Stroll weekend, and found her first experience as a Nantucket ambassador both exciting and intriguing. She looks forward to the opportunity to volunteering with the Department of Culture and Tourism more often.
“For the most part, I was just giving directions and handing out pamphlets that detailed all of the events for the day. It seemed like most people knew where they were going, but we talked to a lot of people who were interested in the pamphlets. I can imagine during the summer that there would be many more lost tourists who could use some direction. I look forward to being an ambassador during Fourth of July weekend,” said Tornovish.
Senior Shae Albertson also volunteered over stroll weekend, and is looking forward to what is to come in the new program from both a volunteer and educational standpoint.
“I’m excited to discuss different topics with community members and get to know them better. As a Nantucket native, I hardly know anything about the logistics of our island’s tourism. In that regard, I’m excited to enhance my knowledge and become more involved,” said Albertson.
The students’ enthusiasm and excitement for the program is mirrored in both Murphy and Jensen’s hopes for the internship. Jensen is excited to continue working and building on the program, and to foster a stronger connection between students and the Nantucket community.
“I hope that it kind of grows and it builds and that we’re able to achieve our goal, which is providing a reciprocal relationship between the Nantucket High School and the downtown Culture and Tourism department,” said Jensen. “We really want to revitalize our youth’s ability to serve and learn about our local government and our local business, and to contribute to making downtown Nantucket a more welcoming and positive place."