Since I was young, building community has been not...
The direct service component of your Fellowship will give you hands-on experience delivering critically needed programs and services to the community. You’ll work to address inequalities that start early in life and your service will be an integral part of achieving your host organization’s mission.
You might bring the joy of recess playtime to students who do not have it, introduce a middle schooler who has never been to a museum to an art collection that forever changes her life, or help an overwhelmed high school student navigate the world of financial aid and become the first in his family to attend college.
Your interactions with the people you’re seeking to help will deepen your understanding of the effects of social inequality and give you the satisfaction of being part of the solution. The direct experience of positively affecting another person’s opportunities is critical to your growth as a future social impact leader because it allows you to understand the real day-to-day challenges within a community. When the student you have been advising receives a college scholarship, when you see a young person choose to vote in a local election, when a struggling child reads to you instead of you reading to them, you’ll have an immediate sense of the value and impact of such work.
It is the kind of experience that will make you a more thoughtful and more effective leader.
Fellows also take on special or strategic projects for their host organizations. We work closely with each host to create a role for each Fellow on projects that will advance the host’s mission and ensure that the Fellow has the opportunity to apply their creativity, planning and leadership skills.
Special projects produce lasting results for your host organization and for the communities they serve. Projects such as building an alumni database, creating and implementing a social media campaign, revising curriculum, conducting background research for an advocacy effort or policy initiative—these efforts ultimately lead to increased organizational impact.
More importantly, they help you learn to think about tackling social challenges from multiple directions with a variety of tools. Special projects promote strategic thinking about your organization’s mission and give you insight into what it takes for a nonprofit to be successful in achieving its goals.
In addition to your direct service and special project work, Fellows spend about 10 percent of their time on professional development, cohort gatherings and Fellowship-related activities such as social media, recruiting and Alumni Fellow communications. Every Fellow plays a role in work of the Fellowship itself. These experiences will help you leave a lasting mark on this program, collaborate closely with other Fellows and acquire skills that will be valuable in your future educational and professional pursuits.
Not only do I have a direct impact on youth and their perception of healthy living, but I also work with various communities to promote access to healthy foods. This approach allows me to have a full circle view of what it takes to make a program work.
Deshaun Parris | Youth Leadership Dept., Food Trust, Philadelphia | FAO Schwarz Fellow at The Food Trust in Philadelphia | 2015