Insights > National Volunteer Month Spotlight: River Bend's Natalie Wood
National Volunteer Month Spotlight: River Bend's Natalie Wood
As an engineer, I’m predisposed to fix problems I see around me. I think that’s why volunteering is so fulfilling to me - it allows me to be a part of the solution.
To make the biggest impact, I’ve focused my attention on organizations that truly benefit from my skill set. The two organizations I’m very involved in at the moment allow me to make a significant impact locally and a nationally.
I am a founding member and first chair of the Capital Area United Way Emerging Leaders. Volunteering as a member of the Emerging Leaders group provides the opportunity to not only serve, but also connect with other young professionals who are passionate about improving our community.
Our group focuses on improving childhood literacy to positively impact several big issues like high school dropout rates and incarceration rates. These seem like impossible problems to tackle and yet studies have shown that children who are ready for kindergarten and are reading on level by third grade are less likely to drop out of school or to end up in prison. We started our efforts by adopting a preschool class at DuFroq Elementary. We have also installed our first Little Free Library in the Baton Rouge City Park to help place books in children’s hands by increasing accessibility.
On April 15, we, along with help from Entergy River Bend Station employees, installed a Born Learning Trail at the West Feliciana Parish Library. The concept behind the trail is to provide tips and tools to help parents and caregivers play an active role in preparing their children for kindergarten.
Another volunteer effort I am involved in and very passionate about is actually tied to my career in nuclear power. The country’s energy future is a major problem that needs a viable solution, and nuclear power is definitely a part of it. In 2008, I helped start the North American Young Generation in Nuclear chapter at River Bend to help develop the next generation of leaders in nuclear and advocates for nuclear power. Since 2008, our chapter has won Best Chapter in the Southeast, Best Chapter in North America and has logged more than 9,000 hours of professional development, public outreach and community service. Our chapter has created and implemented some truly inventive and amazing activities and I am very proud to be a part of this amazing group.
A few of these innovative activities include a recycled fashion show for local elementary through high school students. The show is in its fourth year and acts as a catalyst to inspire others to preserve and protect the environment by rethinking recycling.
The chapter also renovated and reopened the River Bend Energy Center, which has been closed to the public for over a decade. The Energy Center educates the community on how power is produced using different forms of energy and also provides an in-depth look at nuclear power.
With such an amazing experience with NAYGN on a local level, I saw an opportunity to evolve my role. Last year, I became the organization’s vice president on a national level, serving more than 100 chapters across the U.S. NAYGN has become a strong voice for young professionals in the nuclear industry since its inception in 1999 and has grown to over 10,000 members. The nuclear industry faces regulatory, economic and knowledge retention challenges and I believe NAYGN can contribute sound solutions. As vice president, my goal is to position NAYGN as part of the solution. One specific project we’ve implemented is The Hub - an industry-wide knowledge transfer platform that provides video tutorials, message forums, interactive operating experience and image galleries to help fill the knowledge, skill and experience gap of new nuclear industry employees. This initiative was the 2014 NAYGN Innovation Competition winner and an idea generated by the River Bend chapter.
Since volunteering is an integral part of my life, it probably isn’t a surprise that my children have participated every step of the way. They have taken part in the recycled fashion shows, played with the Energy Center new exhibits and helped me select books to read to children. I feel confident that the legacy I leave for my children is that everyone can make a difference and it’s easy to make volunteering an everyday part of life.