Online Internship to Online MTC

PROVO, Utah – Nov 14, 2020 – In a year where many plans and events have been postponed or canceled altogether, Alexa Elliott is cautiously and optimistically moving forward. Despite a variety of challenges faced, Elliott, a junior from Gaithersburg, Maryland studying journalism at BYU, recently decided now was the right time to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

One unexpected way Elliott feels she has been prepared to serve a mission came from her experience with the Ballard Center for Social Impact at the BYU Marriott School of Business. As Elliot began her mission on September 30, she looked back at her Social Innovation Project (SIP) internship with the Salt Lake Tribune as an experience that will help her in listening to a community of diverse voices while serving her upcoming mission.

Elliott’s path to serving a mission required a bit of patience on her part. “For me, deciding to serve was something that took a little bit longer. In my experience, most sister missionaries serve when they turn nineteen, whereas I'm almost twenty-one. During my freshman year, a lot of my friends and people I knew were getting their mission calls. I finally decided that I wanted to serve a mission and asked God if serving was something He wanted me to do,” she recalls. “At that time, I felt I received a prompting that said, ‘Not yet.’” Elliott remembered feeling frustrated and wondered if she would have to wait six months or sixty years to serve her mission.

She continued to attend school and, during the Fall 2019 semester—after a lot of thought, prayer, and hard work—Elliot felt she had finally received her answer. “I finally got this feeling of ‘Hey, it's time to start looking into serving again,’” she says. Despite challenges related to the global coronavirus pandemic, Elliot pressed forward and submitted her application paperwork and was eventually assigned to learn Spanish and serve in the Fresno, California, area. “I am currently attending my missionary training online while I stay at home, preparing to leave 11 November. I am excited to meet and serve the many different people from unique walks of life in California.”

While serving a mission, Elliott and other missionaries will interact with people from different backgrounds, something she is no stranger to. During spring and summer 2020, Elliott completed an internship through the Ballard Center’s Social Innovation Projects, which pairs students with award-winning organizations around the world to make a difference in local communities.

While at BYU, Elliott worked toward earning a minor in international development, which helped her become familiar with the Ballard Center and its work. Because of her class schedule, she wasn’t able to participate in the Ballard Center as much as she wanted to until Spring 2020. “I had a spring term and summer term that I didn't quite know what to do with,” Elliott says. “Luckily for me, the Ballard Center decided to hold a spring and summer SIP program for the first time, which finally gave me the opportunity to get involved and make a positive impact in the world.”

When Elliott signed up for the Ballard Center’s SIP program, she was assigned to work on a team with other BYU students to work with the Tribune to diversify the voices of the newspaper’s opinion section writers. “The Tribune realized its op-ed section wasn’t as diverse as they would have liked, feeling that the paper was not representative of the demographics in Utah. The Tribune wanted to better represent all of Utah through the voices in their opinion pages,” Elliott says. “The paper saw a need to also focus on young people, who are the future of Utah.”

After some discussion, Elliott’s team focused on three specific tactics to accomplish its goal of diversifying voices: first, research and create a pilot program that provides local high school seniors with a free subscription to the Tribune; second, conduct a survey to explore Utah college students' perception and participation in journalism; and finally, third, create an in-depth referral base of diverse and underrepresented voices in Utah for the paper to draw from.

Though Elliott’s time at the Salt Lake Tribune has ended, the project is still moving forward, and she feels proud of the work she accomplished during her time with the paper. Elliott explained that her project with the Tribune expanded her understanding of the importance of listening to diverse voices.

“During my time at the Tribune, we focused on how others communicate and create new dialogue during a polarizing time, like today, when people often have different views than their neighbors,” Elliott says. “On my mission, my companions, peers, and those I work with will think and act differently than me. Instead of seeing these differences as a barrier, I want to approach a situation with the mindset of, ‘What can I learn from this? What can I share with them? What can I gain from them and their experiences?’”

Elliott’s experience with the Ballard Center deepened her appreciation and understanding that every voice is worth listening to. “Something I learned from my experience with the Ballard Center and the Salt Lake Tribune, and something I want to take with me on my mission, is that each person has a story. Everybody has value, especially in the eyes of God,” she says.

Alexa Elliott
Alexa Elliott

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Madi Wickham