Steve Ressler participated in the Urban Leadership Internship Program in the summer of 2000. He worked with Project Connect in Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine neighborhood. Project Connect provides summer education and enrichment programs for the city’s homeless children. When Steve graduated in 2002, he went on to the University of Pennsylvania and attained a Masters in Sociology. While there he was awarded a Homeland Security Scholarship that led to a position in Washington, DC, in Homeland Security as a research analyst. While there, Steve founded Young Government Leaders (www.younggovernmentleaaders.org), a professional association that connects more than 2000 government workers across the country.
In 2008, Steve founded GovLoop (www.govloop.com), “the ‘Knowledge Network for Government’ - the premier social network connecting over 50,000 federal, state, and local government innovators.” As full-time president he employs 10 people and contributes blogs on government worker issues to several outlets including Huffington Post and the Washington Post. They hold an annual conference and offer trainings such as “Open Source Thinking in the Cloud,” “How to Find the Right Gov Gig for You,” “Citizen Engagement Survival Guide,” and “Ways to Go Mobile, Be Secure, and Improve Performance and Collaboration.”
Reflecting on his Urban Internship experience, Steve comments that he always knew he wanted to be in public service. His internship at Project Connect was a natural fit for his passions. What he experienced however, was somewhat at odds with what he had learned about poverty and homelessness in the classroom. “I still reflect on that experience today. I really thought I knew what homelessness was, from my academic knowledge about inequality. On the internship, I learned that homelessness was different than I thought it was…more complex, dynamic and nuanced. It is more complex and hard to solve than academic study led me to believe. It's not as simple as showing up with the academic solution and knocking on a door saying ‘I’m here to help’.” He learned that no matter what kind of non-profit you are working with, you have to think about sustainability, bringing in resources, grants and fundraising. Addressing the issue was not a simple matter of helping. He also credits his work with the kids to his development of leadership skills. “It’s hard to lead a classroom. You can’t just be a buddy to the kids.” He developed close relationships with his co-workers and through those relationships learned how to be a compassionate leader to the children. “I had a blast with the people I worked with.”
Typical of Urban Internship participants, Steve wanted “meaning and impact”, as he put it. Given his current leadership position in an innovative and busy social networking site, he is clearly having an impact that has meaning for thousands of government professionals.