Looking to the future; Teen helping Vision 2020 transition to new director of vision creation
Published 10:17 am Tuesday, October 20, 2015
An Austin teen and Vision 2020 are in the same place right now: Both are looking toward the future.
That’s perhaps why it’s fitting that Quin Brunner, 17, is serving as the interim coordinator for Vision 2020 as leaders for the community betterment group search for a new full-time director of vision creation after Laure Helle left to take a job at Riverland Community College last month.
“When I got this opportunity, it wasn’t something that I was going to pass up on, because it was a chance to be involved in a really positive thing,” Brunner said.
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As Vision 2020 looks for the man or woman to lead it into its future, Brunner is taking a gap year after graduating from Austin High School in June as he decides what he wants to pursue with his own future. That left him available when Helle decided to transition to Riverland. Helle recommend Brunner as someone who could help keep the Vision 2020 office staffed and help provide consistency to ease the transition.
“Quin’s a pretty extraordinary kid,” she said.
Helle met Brunner as an eighth-grader when he applied for an Access Scholarship, and he made an impression. He completed an internship with Vision 2020 in the summer of 2013, where he did a lot of research for Helle, and he later volunteered for a while with the Bike/Walk Trail Committee.
Helle praised his ability to take in and process information, as she remembers him summarizing things like state and federal broadband policies.
She immediately pegged Brunner as someone who was available and could help keep the office going. She spent a few weeks training him in and remembers his enthusiasm as he read up on some of the projects, noting he’d look up every 15 minutes and say, “This is so cool.”
Brunner has kept that excitement. He said many people get caught up in the negatives, but there are many good things going on, which he sees in the work being done by groups like the Community Home Improvement Project (CHIP), Gig Austin, the Bike/Walk initiatives like Red Bike, the rec center project and more.
“It’s a great job,�� Brunn said. “There are so many positive projects that we’re working on. Being involved and watching them unfold and being able to play a part in it is such a phenomenal experience.”
Brunner is not taking on all of Helle’s duties. His main role will be to keep the office open in the Town Center building, such as answering phones, answering questions and helping provide consistency during the hiring process.
“A lot of these are long term projects, and my goal is to keep everything functioning at a very high level,” Brunner said. “I want to make the transition as smooth as possible.”
Brunner wants everything organized when the new director starts.
“I’m trying to do everything I can to make this work and to continue to advance the process,” he said.
The job is temporary and will cease once a full-time director is hired, which Brunner is OK with because it’s still an opportunity for him to gain experience.
“It’s a great opportunity, because I don’t think I’m ready to commit to doing anything for any real amount of time, so being able to come in here knowing it’s only going to be for a few months and being able to do the best job that I can and learn and be involved in these sort of things really gives me an opportunity to develop skills and develop my understanding and interests.”
Thus far, Brunner said everyone has been accepting of him and his youth, and he equates that with the fact that he and Vision 2020 volunteers are looking to do what’s best for the community.
“I’m not going to say this job is easy and I don’t face challenges, but I think age-wise everyone’s been very, very accommodating,” Brunner said.
Helle said no one questioned Brunner as a good fit for the temporary position, and she said anyone with doubts about his age can just go and talk with him.
As Brunner moves ahead, he noted it’s a great job to put on a resume, and he said being in the environment and seeing the office and city politics has been educational already.
“It’s been a great learning experience,” he said.
Brunner was born in Norfolk, Virginia, and his family moved to Austin when he was 5 years old. Brunner’s dad, Mike, is the clinical director at Fountain Centers in Albert Lea. His mother, Julie, is a counselor in Austin and does coaching and consulting with women’s groups.
He also works at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, helping out in the summer mentorship program and he rents skis in the winter. He also works with Community Education in Albert Lea. He enjoys politics, running, rock climbing and canoeing.
In the last few years, Brunner said he’s been seeking new experiences as he plans for his future.
Brunner isn’t sure if he’ll stay involved in Vision 2020 once a director of vision creation is hired, but he said he’ll take the experiences with him.
“I’m sure this will play a part in whatever I do next in how it’s changed me as a person, but I don’t know what the next step is going to be,” he said.