Spitfire Strategies

Spitfire Spotlight: Sydney McKenney

Where were you before Spitfire?bio-pic-template

I was trying to gain as much experience working with different nonprofits and issues as possible – the most exciting of which was probably the year I spent as a program director with Manna Project International in Ecuador. This holistic, service-based nonprofit taught me a lot about expanding an organization by focusing on how to define our objectives and our role in the community. As a director, I was able to do everything from international public relations to teaching nutrition to children. During my time in Ecuador, some of my favorite things were coordinating our volunteers, teaching English, salsa dancing (with very little grace) and eating copious amounts of fresh avocado.

As an intern at Spitfire, you went through our Communications Bootcamp. What “Friend of Spitfire” did you work with? 

Bootcamp is definitely the appropriate term. During Bootcamp, I worked with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) to develop a communication plan designed to reconstruct their messaging in target states. Wind energy was a completely new issue to me but it was great to learn so much about the debate and players in this space.

When developing a messaging platform, we wanted to hone in on the many positive benefits of wind energy for local communications and the environment as a whole. Bootcamp was also a powerful learning experience in developing a communication plan all the way from the initial researching stage to the final messaging platform.

What issues motivate you to spark change?

One thing I have loved about working at Spitfire is that I am constantly finding new issues I am passionate about! Just this week I discovered the importance of creating and maintaining wetlands along the coast of Louisiana. A few months ago I was introduced to the many aspects of internet freedom and how important they will be in shaping communication and privacy rights for the future.

After graduating from James Madison University in 2013, I was very focused on international human rights and international law, but when I was working in South America I learned a great deal about the importance of access to quality education, access to health care and gender equality. Since beginning with Spitfire, I have loved continuing my work on many of these issues while also expanding my knowledge on environmental issues, education standards and more.

Favorite Movie:

While I’m tempted to say the “Princess Bride,” “Back to the Future” and, of course, “Titanic,” I will go with: “Good Will Hunting.” My favorite line? “Your move, chief.”  

“This is a truly transformative program and there is no question that it is preparing leaders to be courageous communicators.”

- Colleen Bailey, Executive Director, The National Steinbeck Center

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