Lauren Johnson Has the Floor

Jazz in July intern reflects on her summer

Lauren Johnson Has the Floor

When I get back to college and friends ask me about my summer internship with Polk County Housing Trust Fund, I’ll tell them I got to enjoy some the area’s best jazz musicians in some of our wonderful neighborhoods. For the past two months, I helped coordinate the Trust Fund’s Jazz in July passport program. Being a jazz performance major, I knew all about the music, but this summer certainly opened my mind to the importance of affordable housing.

Affordable housing creates opportunities for neighborhoods to define themselves, or possibly redefine themselves. While setting up for a concert at the Sixth Avenue Corridor, I was stopped in my tracks when I saw a blackboard sign that said, “What can we do better?” I took a moment to look around and saw hundreds of friends, families, and neighbors coming together to eat, drink, and celebrate their community. The streets were lined with vendors, creating a unique and eclectic environment that was enjoyed by all. This neighborhood exemplifies the fact that once a community is integrated there is nowhere to go but up! If we take the time to build a foundation for community in every neighborhood through affordable housing, we can only get better as a county, and as a state!  

Affordable housing gives neighborhoods the opportunity to enrich and expand their communities. After experiencing this through the sun and sweat of Jazz in July, I now know what it takes to develop a community. The work that Metro Arts has done through its Jazz In July programming during the past 33 years to bring live music to Des Moines neighborhoods has set down a foundation to bring these communities together in celebration. As the Polk County Housing Trust Fund continues to be a part of this fantastic celebration, I hope that residents throughout the county will continue to learn about what affordable housing can do for their community. In turn, I hope that we continue to see the positive and direct impact of this community development at Jazz in July events in the many many years to come!  

Though the mosquito bites will soon fade, the lessons that I have learned in working as an intern at the Polk County Housing Trust Fund will stay with me throughout my life. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have had to learn, grow, and develop this summer.

Lauren Johnson is an intern at PCHTF managing the Can I Be Your Neighbor Campaign's presence at Metro Arts Jazz in July. She is a graduate of Valley High School and a sophomore at College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, where she is studying arts management.