Raised in small town Lexington, Missouri, Northwest emergency disaster management sophomore Marisa Alvares initially looked for internships close to home in places such as in Warrensburg, Missouri. However, by a stroke of boldness and luck, Alvares landed an internship in Johnson County, Kansas, an hour and a half away.
“I’d been calling a few places,” Alvares said. “I tried to stick close, and there aren’t very many emergency management areas around Lexington. So I started thinking of the closest place, which would be Warrensburg. So I tried there and got a wrong email from them. So then I tried Johnson County, Missouri. So I went to look it up and got Johnson County, Kansas. It’s really big and I thought, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ and I called them.”
Alvares worked at the Emergency Management Center, which oversees 190 tornado sirens. She didn’t expect to get a call back and was the first student from Northwest to intern with them.
There, her duties varied day to day.
“Some days would be really busy, and then there would be days where there would be nothing to do,” Alvares said.
However, she said she would go around and help other people with their work to stay busy. She documented every day in a notebook, which included notes from meetings and a page full of acronyms and their meanings.
“I worked a lot with the public relations officer and I did analytics for their social media,” Alvares said. “So I gathered information and figured out which Twitter and Facebook posts got the most feedback. Then I put those into forms and turned those forms into power points and presented those power points in front of the deputy director. It was pretty simple stuff like that. Other days I would go around the office and go to the director of operations and get work for myself.”
Sometimes she would travel out of office for meetings and workshops in downtown Kansas City.
“At one meeting, I got to meet a meteorologist from NBC 41 Action News,” Alvares said.
Alvares said the internship was an amazing opportunity and those around her noticed a difference.
“I think Marisa’s internship made her more confident in her unique gifting and talents,” emergency disaster management senior Madison Atwell said. “Marisa has a ton of knowledge and can quickly adapt to any situation. Her internship this summer helped develop her voice as an experienced individual.”
Atwell met Alvares in a shared class since the two have the same major. The duo also worked on projects together in the past.
“Marisa and I have gone to a couple of emergency management trainings together,” Atwell said. “This past spring we were able to travel to Florida for an international humanitarian aid training. We had a blast flying to Florida, pretend saving the world and navigating Orlando together.”
However, emergency disaster management wasn’t Alvares first choice for a major. She originally planned to go into meteorology.
“There are only two colleges in Missouri that offer that major,” Alvares said. “One was really expensive and the other had a really low acceptance rate. It just wasn’t a very plausible, feasible plan. I was actually talking to my high school band director one day and he said ‘Check out Northwest’ and ‘Check out this major,’ and I did. It was everything disaster. It was technical disaster and potential disasters and everything else. It’s weather and then some. I went to career day and witnessed MO Hope.”
Alvares plans on being involved in Missouri Hope, the emergency disaster simulation which happens out at Mozingo lake this year.
“This will be my fourth exercise,” Alvares said. “I’ll be the E/C for the Country Office lane which will be located in Garrett-Strong. There, participants are coordinating with other teams on the ground, while also using their negotiation and information sharing skills.”
Alvares has also participated in other state Hope projects including, Atlantic Hope in Florida and New York Hope.
Alvares said working at the Emergency Management Center helped her decide if she wanted to work as an emergency manager.
“I took this internship because with MO Hope and other Hopes, I saw what it was like to be in a mass casualty incident, but not really what a normal day would look like at an emergency operations center,” Alvares said. “I wanted to see if this is what I wanted to be my job. I made that very clear at the start.”
Alvares chose her major based on wanting to help others.
“She has helped me see the world more openly and see people as a whole,” Atwell said. “She is also one of my few friends that understands the world of emergency management. We can talk about earthquakes and hurricanes for hours, something others may not understand. She’s not afraid to dig to get to know someone. She’s the friend you don’t deserve to have.”