My Word: Connecting to Community
By Erica Hopkins as told to Tamara White Hutchinson
Almost a decade ago, I arrived at Northrop Grumman’s Huntsville, Alabama, site as a Southern California transplant. It was hard leaving Long Beach, California, the city I grew up in, and saying goodbye to our adult children and other family members; however, my husband and I agreed to give it a try.
At the time, I had about 10 years under my belt working in operations, and I had the opportunity to move from California to Alabama. On top of my day job supporting the operations leadership team, I volunteered to serve as Huntsville’s point of contact for community relations, partnering with employee resource group (ERG) leaders and global corporate responsibility staff to develop and execute the site’s philanthropy strategy.
Fortunately, giving back to the community is in my blood. One of my passions is supporting underrepresented students — especially girls and people of color — and ensuring they are exposed to STEM early on.
By talking to people and trying to understand their needs, I got to know the local community and my fellow Huntsville employees. I quickly discovered our team craved opportunities to roll up their sleeves, so I began organizing these types of hands-on volunteer services.
A milestone moment came when a local middle school invited Northrop Grumman to join the Green Power Car program. We not only provided funding for the school to purchase an electric race car kit for their students, but our engineers used their mechanical, software and electrical engineering skills to support the students as they built their first car.
After standing up that partnership, I decided to immerse myself further in Northrop Grumman’s philanthropic work and joined the community relations team full-time. Now responsible for Northrop Grumman’s community relations across the entire Southern United States, I went on what I called the “Southern Swing Tour,” touring each site and building relationships with employees, ERGs and community partners.