Alaska native spends summer in Jasper

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Editor's note: The following is the first in a four-part series that will feature University of Alabama students who are interning in Jasper this summer.

A University of Alabama student who hails from Alaska has spent his summer as an intern in Jasper.

Rising junior Vaughn Gingerich has interned this summer with the City of Jasper and Jasper Main Street through UA's New College program. Unlike some of his peers who are also interning in Jasper, Gingerich is not enrolled in New College for interdisciplinary studies students; rather, he was allowed to participate in a New College internship opportunity. 

The political science and economics major made the over 4,000-mile journey to UA because he wanted an opportunity to travel and see the rest of the United States.

"The funding for universities in Alaska has been cut pretty dramatically. The state budget isn't balanced," he said. "Going to college in-state wasn't much of an option."

Gingerich secured a full-tuition scholarship to UA and decided to make the journey to Alabama. As expected, it has taken him some time to acclimate to the state's sometimes scorching climate.  

"Humidity was definitely something new. I had never experienced it like I did when I stepped off the plane at the airport," Gingerich said.

Traveling to Jasper this summer also took some adjustment for Gingerich, because he wasn't used to small-town life.

"I really like the small-town feel that it has — coming to Jasper and seeing what it's really like when people know each other and recognize people so frequently," he said.

Gingerich has helped the City of Jasper this summer to make business license phone calls, and he has also worked to craft a vacant building ordinance. 

Gingerich has had Brent McCarver of the City of Jasper and Jasper Mayor David O'Mary as mentors, and he has worked with Jasper Main Street Executive Director Mike Putman to write grants that could benefit downtown Jasper. 

The experience has helped drive his desire to do nonprofit work or to have a career in public administration. He's also considering putting down roots in Alabama.    

"Here in Jasper, I really like it a lot, and I never thought I would consider working or staying in Alabama before, but now I am," he said.

Gingerich is one of four students interning in Jasper this summer through New College. The Walker Area Community Foundation has sponsored dozens of UA students to come to the city for nearly ten years.