COQUILLE — Although she's still new to the community, the city of Coquille's AmeriCorps volunteer keeps busy researching the town and surrounding area as she helps prepare for larger projects.
Anne Duquennois (pronounced "duke-n-nois") volunteers as part of the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments AmeriCorps.
According to the University of Oregon website, RARE is an AmeriCorps program administered through the university's Community Service Center.
"RARE AmeriCorps has been supported over the years by grants from the Corporation for National & Community Service (AmeriCorps), The Ford Family Foundation, the University of Oregon, the Oregon Food Bank, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and other agencies. In addition, each participating community provides $22,000 of approximately $29,600 needed to place, train, and support a full-time RARE member," the site statement reads.
"Now I'm doing a lot of background research on the area as a whole and doing background research on the Coquille River Valley and how Coquille fits into the region," Duquennois said.
"I'm also exploring the park system here to see how parks could fit into the larger area," Duquennois added.
Additionally, the AmeriCorps volunteer will handle some administrative work at the Coquille Community Center. Currently, Fran Capehart manages the office and "she's doing a great job," Duquennois said. The idea is for Duquennois to also help. Capehart, who serves on the council, works at the center in the morning and the AmeriCorps volunteer will help in the afternoons.
"I don't want to get into too many specifics because we're not sure yet," she said. "At this point, I'm still developing my work plan."
Duquennois will also focus on downtown redevelopment, including with business owners and on parks planning.
Public Works/Planning Director Kevin Urban outlined the volunteer selection process.
City employees have to feel comfortable with their candidate, but likewise the prospective volunteer needs to make sure it's a good fit for her too.
Duquennois said she felt fine at the prospect of working with the city.
About eight individuals applied.
The first round consisted of five candidates and the second round of three. Urban said city staff had two candidates in mind within the first group, but those two didn't pick Coquille. Duquennois came from the second tier of candidates, and "we picked her and she picked us."
He praised her.
"From what I've seen so far, she's been a great asset," Urban said. "And hopefully we'll get a lot done in the next 10 and a half months."
City Councilor Susan Heaton previously served on the planning commission primarily in 2011 and some of 2012.
Heaton has met Duquennois.
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Councilor Heaton met her at a River Walk meeting and added that "those RARE folks are usually very good — able to see problems and solutions and things like that."
"She is mainly in observer mode," the councilor added. "So it's a little unfair to tell my observation as well because she's really only attended meetings (thus far)."
Duquennois lives in Coquille.
"I really like the area," said the volunteer, who was born and raised in Les Ulis, a suburb of Paris. The volunteer considers Colorado in some ways her home state.
"Geographically speaking, it's enchanting," she added of Coquille.
She said Coquille has a "lot of great things going for it," particularly with the "few resources that it has."
Although she's only been with the city for a few weeks, Duquennois has felt quite welcome in Coquille.
"I have a very open mind, and I like hearing what people have thoughts on," she added.
Duquennois earned two bachelor's degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of which is a fine arts degree in film production. She received her other degree in urban planning.
In May, she received her master's degree in design and urban ecologies from Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. Urban ecologies refers to "reinserting social science methodology into urban planning" and "using design as a tool for research."
Parsons The New School for Design is strong in architecture, fashion, technology and business management.
Duquennois also discussed AmeriCorps, which former President Bill Clinton started as a means for college students to help pay their way through school while giving back to society. He based it on President John F. Kennedy's Peace Corps.
She encouraged other Coquille Valley youth to consider applying to AmeriCorps and "gain experience in the professional world." The volunteer said the program will put "you in places where you can have an impact."
"It gives you experience that would be really hard to gain on an entry-level job," Duquennois added.
Her parents still are overseas.
"My parents live in France and my sister lives in Berkeley," Duquennois said. "She just started the Ph.D. program. She's in what she's calling math hell."
Her sister is studying economics.
"I mean, we've always lived one foot in one continent and one foot in another, so I mostly stay in touch with Skype. I think they're (her parents) coming here in the spring," Duquennois said.