Emily Skelton turned a summer internship into a career as the new digital media specialist with the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce and Pequot Lakes city, school district and chamber of commerce.
Skelton, 20, graduated in spring of 2018 with a diploma in videography from Central Lakes College in Brainerd. Upon graduation, she spent the summer focused on tourism with the Brainerd Lakes Chamber creating short videos promoting local businesses and the qualities that make them unique.
Since November when she began her full-time position, her role has expanded significantly. The Brainerd Lakes Chamber split funding responsibility with the Pequot Lakes Chamber, city and school district to create a position for Skelton to keep her projects going.
"I think they saw a bigger need than just an intern," said Skelton. "We're kind of building the position from the ground up."
The main goal of the digital media specialist is to tell stories on a multimedia platform that show the relationship between school, city and business. Social media management, photography and video creation work together to promote the best aspects of the region.
Skelton said she knew she wanted to be a digital storyteller in high school. She is a self-described creator, enjoying other artistic endeavors such as painting and drawing, so a visual medium seemed to fit.
"Camera work really caught my attention and I fell in love with it," she said. "It's really about storytelling, so I enjoy visual, using imagery to portray information and create that understanding."
Skelton is the youngest of those she works with, which she said can be intimidating coming right out of college. However, she also sees the generational difference as an asset to her position.
"I can help them see what's trending and give direction to what our generation is interested in," she said.
While Skelton didn't grow up in the Brainerd lakes area, she spent many vacations here. Her family lives in Clear Lake, just south of St. Cloud, and would take camping trips to Crosslake or take a day to visit Pequot.
Because of this, Skelton said, the area already felt like a second home.
The videography program at CLC was the first thing that drew her to the area, but when it came time to decide her next move, she said she had fallen in love with the area and had no desire to leave.
"I like getting to know the area as a resident and not so much as a tourist or visitor, really getting in touch with the community and the people involved in it," said Skelton. "This place was my vacation-ville when I was younger, and now it's my home."
Skelton has one older brother, but he didn't leave home until just recently, meaning Skelton was both the youngest in the family and the first to branch out on her own.
"I love being independent," she said. "I feel like I'm creating my own life."
Of course, with her family only an hour's drive away, Skelton still gets down to visit them every other weekend or so.
When she isn't creating digital content to help the Brainerd lakes area grow, Skelton loves to spend time outdoors. She goes fishing and hunting, and often takes her hammock to new places to "just soak it all in."
During the winter months, Skelton focuses more on creating art, especially painting landscapes.
These days, Skelton has been creating a video interviewing the new Pequot Lakes city workers to introduce them to the residents. She also is preparing a joint city, school and chamber promotional video to ring in the new year.
If there's one thing she wants to tell residents of the Brainerd lakes area, Skelton said it's that her work is serving the people who live in these cities.
"People are so camera shy - I want people to know that there's so much good behind the video or photo I'm taking," she said. "Everybody wants to see Pequot grow, everyone wants to show what a great place it is to live."