Vitamin Cottage Natural Grocers, now a wide spread health food chain, was founded by Margaret and Phillip Isely in 1955. They were inspired to start this company by Margaret’s own personal health story of healing her chronic illness through nutrition when conventional medicine failed her. They started small by going door-to-door in their community, offering books on nutrition and alternative healing to their neighbors, and then returning to take orders for dietary supplements. Since then the company has flourished, with stores across the United States and in Canada offering a large selection of dietary supplements as well as grocery, body care products, and free nutrition education. Although the company is now publicly owned, they have managed to maintain their founding principles, which are to offer nutrition education to their communities, affordable pricing on their products, and the highest quality of products. The story of the company’s origins is still an integral part of the company and a driving force for maintaining their founding principles. It is still referred to in countless employee trainings and classes.
As an intern I work within the Nutrition Education Department (NED), Marketing, and Multimedia Departments. So my schedule and responsibilities varies day-to-day. Within the NED, I work with their recipes, reformatting recipe handouts, creating new recipe handouts, auditing recipes, condensing feedback on recipes, and adding tested recipes to the company’s website. I assist with the department’s administrative work, sending out store mailings and preparing for the department’s monthly meetings. During my time at the company the admin for the NED quit and I was able to cover many of her responsibilities in her absence. I was asked to train the replacement for the admin position on several of the jobs responsibilities. This was a great learning experience for me, both having to take on more responsibilities within the department and in turn pacing them on and training a new hire.
In the marketing department I worked on a few assigned research projects and also assisted other co-workers with their projects as need arose. This often consisted of mailing tents, branded table clothes, or store coupons to various stores to assist them with their individual outreach efforts. My research projects were mainly focused on competitor’s pricing and outreach opportunities with public schools for each store location.
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the company’s multimedia department. The majority of my work with this department consisted of editing videos, often for in store employee trainings, assisting with photo or video shots, attending meetings on upcoming projects, and setting up microphones for large meetings. Although I did not spend as much time working in the multimedia department the experience was great for expanding my own skills in this field and getting a taste of possible carriers in media arts.
I enjoyed the diversity of responsibilities and projects my position afforded me, as well as the autonomy to manage my time as I saw fit to accomplish my work within the company. My schedule was always flexible allowing me to assist with any events or special projects that arose, from setting up for the annual stockholders meeting to cooking a healthy lunch for high school students to enjoy on their carrier day field trip to one of the store locations in Denver. Aspects of my position such as the office and computer work could become tedious, but I greatly appreciate the work experience I gained and the opportunity to learn from my intelligent co-workers about nutrition, nutrition education, media arts, and marketing research.
The Initiative: A Vermont Waldorf High School is an independent high school nestled on the Goddard Campus in Plainfield, Vermont. The Initiative opened in 2013 to 9th and 10th grade classes, and will be graduating its first senior class this coming spring. Its mission is to offer economically accessible Waldorf education which integrates community service learning, hands on and skills based courses, global citizenship, and the arts into a curriculum based on anthroposophical philosophies. The students at the Initiative chose their school because of the Waldorf curriculum, many of them having a background of Waldorf or alternative education, the hands on skills based learning, the one-on-one time with and support from faculty, and the agency to influence their school’s development. The Initiative, while small, is vibrant in the midst of its development. The faculty and students are still working together, problem solving, with the support of families and a caring community to build this school from the foundation up, actualizing their goals.
As the intern and teaching assistant at such a vibrant and young school, my responsibilities vary exceedingly and frequently. I am doing everything from administering a test, to helping prepare a community lunch, to writing a press release for the local paper, to teaching volleyball for PE, to making spread sheet schedules of the curriculum. I enjoy the variance of my work, and my fluidity is necessary. I help the faculty with whatever is needed, often I am there to handle the unexpected tasks, to take attendance, and to answer the phone on behalf of the school.
I am learning invaluable skills such as flexibility, taking initiative, problem solving, and adapting quickly to new developments and situations in the work place. Most of all I am enjoying connecting with the students at the Initiative, all of whom are very bright, artistic, and unique. I am discovering how, with my personal experiences and skills, I can give back to this community and help this burgeoning school flourish.