With a Little Help From Your Friend

For many people, integrating into a new community can pose several roadblocks, as well as a lot of hard work. Although that is not always the case, it has taken some people time to create relationships, and develop a sense of trust with their surrounding community and its members. The Trainsong neighborhood located in northwest Eugene has its constant reputation for being a place where you’re constantly looking over your shoulder. However, after spending some time within its small parameters, you are able to see all the potential, and tight knit involvements the neighbors share. Known for being full of crime and violence, the Trainsong community has had a hard road to travel to turn its reputation around, and at the forefront of its efforts is Eugene’s Parks and Open Spaces program. This program pumps life into the centrally located Trainsong Park, and gives people a safe and fun place to spend the days.

Fun For All has been an active program bringing the community’s youngsters, and future minds to a wonderful new development, and allowing for activity filled days away from televisions and computers. The head of the Trainsong neighborhood’s chapter of Fun For All is lively and vivacious leader Dawn Sorenson. “I’ve only worked for Parks and Open Spaces since March, but I feel like it’s the job I’ve always searched for, and a perfect fit for my personality,” says Sorenson, which comes as a huge understatement. Sorenson can often be found at the park getting kids to reach outside of their comfort levels, and put their tough kid attitudes to the side, as the engage in numerous activities, and spontaneous dance breaks. Because there is such a stigmata around the neighborhood for being dodgy and tough, many of the locals appear to put up an initial barrier to outsiders. “I feel like some people get the wrong impression about the [Trainsong] neighborhood that I’m working in presently—I know I did at first,” remarks Sorenson. But reflecting on then and now, she has noticed, “as time has gone by, [she sees] it for what it is.” Just like any other neighborhood, things take time, and as time moves forward, you can become more of an accepted figure within.

Sorenson moved with her parents from Alaska in 1979 as her father wanted to take advantage of the city’s job opportunities as a lineman. Her ambition since that time has been to get involved in the process’s necessary to build communities, and enhance the surroundings and hardships people face in their everyday lives. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to turn some things around, but Sorenson’s dedication and effervescent personality has had a large role in uniting Eugene’s public spaces. As she thinks about her role within the community, she can’t help but express her enthusiasm and “possibilities of a great future with the city.” Stating “there’s plenty of upward mobility for [her] here to be a coordinator and run programs for kids efficiently.” Which is her main goal as a team leader. Working in specific neighborhoods has always been something fun, and challenging, but hopes of being a figure higher up in the planning processes and leadership for the city is a true aspiration for the young spirited director.

Minds are so malleable at the young ages, and providing a good example and being a prominent role model is an incredibly huge part of helping kids get on the right path. “I love knowing that I can help kids be empowered to live the life they want, and change their lives if they need to,” says Sorenson. A huge part of communities is having pride for your surroundings and what Sorenson has come to find over the past several months is that Trainsong as a community thrives on that notion as well. After intertwining in the community, Sorenson has found that “the children here have become a family. They all look out for each other and care about their community, and my hope is that I’ve impacted the kids enough so that they believe in themselves enough to be whatever they want to be in life and just go for it.” Which is often times a reality that some kids don’t entirely grasp until later in life when they’ve already missed out on so many years of personal exploration.

Sorenson’s mentality and role within the Trainsong community has been strong and positive in giving these young minds an additional escape from their typical everyday lives, and her positive attitude has allowed for the community’s youth to feel that “anything is possible if you want it bad enough and are willing to work hard to achieve it.” The fact of the matter that Sorenson drives home regarding her work as a mentor, leader, and friend is that “nobody hands us the life we want—we make it on our own.”

By Tucker Leverton

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