My name is Natalie (Powell) Siston. I was born and raised in Republic, Ohio, a small farming community with a population of 600 people. My view of life started out very small. I thought there were a finite number of jobs to pursue and places to live. I thought your high school clique had some bearing on future success. After I moved away from this small town, I gradually moved beyond my comfort zone. I understood that my professional choices were broader than being a lawyer or a teacher. I learned that diversity was more than the color of your skin or country of origin. More than anything, I realized that being from a small town was one of the greatest advantages I had. Being from a small town meant I understood what it meant to get to know people, to have meaningful 1:1 interactions, and to trust and count on people in my community. It was the place where I succeeded and failed on a small stage, in order to prepare me for a bigger stage.
That is how Small Town Leadership was born. I had a vision to share stories of my small town upbringing. As a way to tell high school students that there is a big world waiting for you outside of your town. To encourage first generation students that you can succeed at college and beyond. To motivate corporate employees to make your workplace a welcoming community.
Here are some of the things about me that I will expand on in this blog:
- I am a first generation college student and later went on to earn an MBA.
- I was in 4-H for 10 years, but I never raised an animal. It’s where I learned to love public speaking and where I understood that youth have an important voice in the community.
- I have been working in some form since I was 12 years old. I’ve done things as unglamorous as cleaning college dorm rooms after the students left for the summer to as glamorous as taking a private jet to a black tie dinner where the Vice President spoke.
- I was the only girl to be cut from the volleyball team my freshman year of high school. Fifteen years later, I’m a veteran endurance athlete who has completed numerous triathlons, half marathons, and one full marathon.
- The only job I have ever been fired from was at a church. It didn’t stop me from asking for the job back 2 years later – and getting it.
- By the time I was in high school I had been to nearly 40 states, but I had never flown in an airplane. Now I am a frequent flier for my job.
- When I was a high school senior, I played Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, where my solo was “Far from the home I love.” Four years later I lived my own version of that when I moved across the country after marrying my husband.
- My dad told me never to date an engineer. I ended up marrying one (so did my sister).
- I was never on Homecoming Court at my high school, but I stood on the 50 yard line of Ohio Stadium as a member of the Ohio State Homecoming Court.
- I wanted to be elected president of my senior class in high school so I could give the graduation speech. I lost. Ten years later, I was elected president of the graduate student body during my MBA program and addressed the graduating class.
- Being a small town girl is a badge of honor I’ll wear my whole life.
You’ll learn about my triumphs, failures, fun times, and hard times. Each of these stories will link to a leadership lesson. I want readers to connect with these Small Town Leadership lessons so that you can reminisce about your own experience in a small town, or to foster a small town feeling in your community or workplace.
Above all, I hope these Big Stories from a Small Town help make our BIG world feel like a smaller place!