The Cleveland native admits she was always passionate about grammar and writing, even in elementary school, but never gave much thought to pursuing it as a career. Yet, thanks to her family and listening to advice from her instructors, Buckner landed an internship with one of the most prestigious organizations in her hometown.
Using her networking skills and taking some initiative, Buckner said she sent a professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga an email about her desire to work as a spring intern and she was given a contact at the Museum Center in Cleveland. Buckner took it from there.
“I talked with Tracy O’Connell over the phone and we hit it off because we both live in Cleveland and drove to UTC for the same major,” Buckner said. “I told her I was passionate about Cleveland and its history. I said I enjoyed writing and event planning and wanted to have hands-on experience doing that. A few weeks later, I called again and she told me I got the position. It has been a perfect fit here and I really couldn’t have asked to intern anywhere better!”
As part of an academic service scholarship, Buckner also works at UTC’s Challenger Center where she perform office duties while assisting elementary school students during their space science education. The 21-year-old said she understands the importance of inspiration with education since that is what helped launched her interest in the field of communications as a child.
“My love of writing started in elementary school,” Buckner said. “I was always the nerdy person in class. I loved to read. My mom, Carmen Buckner, always read to me. Also, my grandmother, Lanelle Romines, read to me and my brother. My other grandmother, JoAnn Buckner, always encouraged me to stay in school and inspired me to excel. I also loved spelling and grammar, but I didn’t know you could make a career out of writing and that it could be fun.”
It was so much fun, in fact, that Buckner said as a teenager in high school she worked on the Sunshine Banner — a monthly news letter for her church.
“I would interview members of the church, but I still wasn’t thinking about it as a career — it was just for fun,” she said. “I thought I wanted to go into nursing the entire time I was in high school. Then I took a nursing class and realized it was not for me.”
After giving up on entering the medical field, Buckner said she decided to do something different with her life after graduating from Bradley Central High School in 2009. She immediately enrolled at Cleveland State Community College.
“I took a public speaking course and my professor was really passionate about communications,” she recalled. “He told me about public relations and I thought that sounded perfect. He definitely guided me in the right steps. In 2011, I graduated from Cleveland State and transferred to UTC in the fall semester.”
It turned out to be the best decision Buckner made careerwise. She admits, “I love communications — I love everything about it — broadcast, the videos. It’s like the best field ever.”
As public relations coordinator, Buckner said she is responsible for writing press releases, updating the museum’s blog page online, and helping edit the museum’s monthly newsletter. Meeting local authors, artists and crafters at the Museum Center is what she calls one of her high points as well as attending MainStreet Cleveland luncheons and learning what’s going on in the community.
The industrious young lady says she enjoys staying busy. So in addition to working at UTC, Buckner has a part-time job on the weekends in Cleveland in addition to interning at the Museum Center.
“It’s all good,” she said. “I meet a lot of really cool people. I love the people at the Challenger Center and the people at the Museum Center are awesome. I’m a people person and if you’re going to be in communications you have to have good social skills.”
Tracy McClain, museum membership coordinator, said, “We are enjoying having Sarah here at the museum this semester. Volunteers and interns are invaluable to the museum’s success. While the intern is getting real experience and able to network in their field, the museum is able to take advantage of a fresh, young pair of eyes and harness their enthusiasm for the work.
“We learn as much as they do when we are able to look at projects and events from a new perspective. Bringing in new interns regularly lets us keep things fresh and has even led to new events and programs suggested by these creative young people.”
Since an increasing number of college students worry about their job prospects and unemployment, Buckner, who is as diligent as ever, offered a piece of advice which has helped her stay busy and focused so far.
“I would say be wise in your electives. If you are passionate about something don’t be afraid to take that elective. Broaden your education and knowledge, but also meet lots of people. That is definitely the best skill — to network and talk to people. The old saying is true, ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know.’ I think it’s a combination of both. You can’t just go to school and expect the day after graduation to get a job if you don’t know anyone.
“Especially in your junior and senior year of high school you should be meeting professional people. Go to the career fairs and network. Get your name out there. You should make a job out of getting a job. You have to be smart. I think dress and decorum are important. You should be yourself, but look the part too. Make a good first impression. Make eye contact and shake hands. All those basic things still apply today when you’re trying to get a job.”
While Buckner said she believes in following one’s passion as a career, she also encouraged students seeking employment in a specific profession to first do the research, seek out others who majored in the same field and see if they found a job.
“If there is absolutely nothing available, you could still choose to minor in it instead of majoring in it, because it’s still important,” she said. “If it’s something you’re passionate about, I’m sure you can use it in any field.”
Having faith in God, support from family and a plan of success has put Buckner on track to finding the promising career of her dreams. She also has a new source of support in boyfriend Mark Boring, whom she describes as her “best friend” and very supportive of her career choices. Still, it takes effort and intellect to bring someone to the brink of success where they can find themselves and achieve their personal objective, according to Buckner, who offered her peers and high school graduates this advice in today’s economy.
“Going to college during a recession has been one of the things that has made me a stronger person because I was forced to completely shut out every negative comment about being able to find or keep a job in this economy. Honestly, it sounds cliché, but I would say to follow your passion, but be wise about it. Just because I like to go hiking on the weekends doesn’t mean I can make a career out of it.
“You have to meet people. Be smart about it and stick with it. Don’t take semesters off. Don’t listen to discouraging comments. If it’s something you’re passionate about, stick with it and it will work out. My family, my faith and my motivation brought me through these last four years as well as through high school. Success for me is being happy and doing what I went to school for — to use what I learned and just be happy — that’s my goal.”