A late goodbye

I know the 10-week Fellowship Program ended just a little over a week ago, but to me it feels so long ago. I left the closing luncheon early to immediately drive to State College, PA in order to start graduate school. This past week has been a whirlwind of orientation and adjusting to new people and new environments, and I feel like I have not yet had a chance to reflect on the ending of my time at Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services (ETSS).

My last day at ETSS was the Wednesday of week 10 of the Fellowship, and they surprised me with a going away reception. I was given a framed picture of all the kids at the Youth Summit, and the matting was signed with sweet messages from many people from the office. It is now hanging in my apartment at Penn State. Additionally, I was given a scarf woven in Ethiopia that has the Pan-African colors of red, gold, black, and green. The reception was so sweet, and I am truly grateful to have worked at such a welcoming, inclusive organization this summer.

At Penn State, advisors are helping me figure out how to take courses and conduct research that marry my personal, scholastic interests with that of potentially finding a job in the non-profit sector post-graduation. It was suggested to me to take cartography/GIS classes in order to gain knowledge in visually portraying data and to take courses on different kinds of research methods — survey design, quantitative methods, demography. I have very basic, limited knowledge of these topics, and while I am afraid to take classes that fall outside of my comfort zone, I know that to be competitive and acquire skills that set me apart from other job applicants, I must be willing to take risks and learn new things.

Thank you to the Columbus Foundation and Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services for making this summer possible. I have learned so much in 10 short weeks, and it has helped guide my choices in my lifetime of learning.

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Ending Surprise

Transitions are gonna get easier… right?

That is the question I kept asking myself (to the tune of The Five Stairsteps “Ooh Child”) this week as I pondered why the last week of any involvement for me always seems to be the most hectic. Even so, I think I have an answer for myself. Yes, transitions are gonna get easier if you continue to improve the way you prepare for and handle them. And preparing for transitions is best done long before they will occur. Strategically-minded organizations use succession planning for that very reason.

While I saw some personal progress this past week with managing the end of a commitment, I started the week with a sizeable to-do list and only four full days to complete it. I worked hard reviewing my supervisor’s feedback on my edits of the last sections of legal statute descriptions that apply to Ohio’s crime victims. I also decided to combine all the notes I had made on Toolkit sections throughout the summer into one, more organized report. That way all of my work would be documented in one place and easy to refer to when considering future updates to the toolkit. At the least, others would be able to see my methods and why certain changes were made.

In some ways, the week was a bit anticlimactic. The attorney with whom I shared an office was out the first two days, and I did not see my supervisor until Thursday, so I kept to myself even more at work to start the week. I also did not know when any of my recommendations would ultimately be implemented for the toolkit. Then our closing Fellowship luncheon on Friday at The Columbus Foundation ended without the feeling of a formal goodbye. However, the week had its share of satisfying and triumphant moments as well.

At the luncheon, I gave my first PechaKucha presentation to recap the summer. The format involves talking for twenty seconds each about twenty different slides, which typically contain a photo and little to no text. Since I can be wordy, the presentation style challenged me to pick the most important points to make about the summer and to convey them concisely. Photo selection was also difficult. For one, I had deemed few moments of my toolkit review throughout the summer as photo worthy. (The main changes in the image of me sitting at my computer were the color and pattern of my shirts.) Jokes aside, a PechaKucha requires careful thought about what picture best displays each twenty second segment of the presentation’s message. As I planned what to say, I realized that writing a PechaKucha script ultimately involves crafting a coherent story, subdivided into twenty parts that each include a visual element. That line of thinking, though perhaps often overlooked without the constraints of a format like PechaKucha, will help me in preparing for all types of presentations going forward.

The convening of Fellows and their organization hosts for the luncheon was also special. I felt well supported and thankful to have my supervisor and the Volunteer Coordinator for Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center join me, and it was neat to learn more about the programs and missions of the participating nonprofits, as told by the other Fellows. All summer, we had shared bits of information with each other, but the PechaKucha presentations connected a lot of dots and made me smile to hear the way the Fellowship experience had impacted my peers. I even got to reconnect with a high school classmate who was there as staff for one of the other nonprofits that hosted a Fellow.

At Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center, I got to talk more extensively than I ever have with the Founder and Executive Director, Cathy Harper Lee. She was pleased to see some of my report on Toolkit recommendations, and I learned more about her passion and ideas for the organization. By now I know first-hand that the Toolkit is a great resource within Ohio, but Cathy said it even could become a model for other states interested to have a toolkit for crime victims’ rights. The possibility that my work could be part of something to that scale was humbling, but an even bigger surprise was coming.

Talking to Cathy at OCVJC

Talking to Cathy about the Toolkit

Before leaving for the week, I had agreed to continue with the organization in a consulting role through the end of September. As part of another grant, I will now work to promote the Toolkit and increase its use around the state. The work had seemed a natural next step from my summer project.

The Fellowship is over, but my time at Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center is not. That means I have another transition coming in several weeks’ time, and I’m going to start getting ready for that new ending right away. I’ll also keep in mind two of my biggest takeaways from the ten weeks with OCVJC and the Columbus Foundation:

  • The need for clear and effective communication for sharing information, including across languages and other barriers, and
  • The importance of capacity building for both individuals and groups.

Communication and capacity building will be two of my priorities over the coming month and beyond.

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Some Things Old, Some Things New

Week 9 was my second to last week of the Fellowship, and it felt fitting in a number of ways. While I again spent most of my time working independently and quietly on my review of the Crime Victims Rights Toolkit, the week was bookended by out-of-the-ordinary afternoons on Monday and Friday. On Monday, our Fellows group had our longest and in my mind, most rewarding, professional development session yet – this time a consideration of leadership that included intriguing Ted Talks, insights from Dr. Lomax, II, and our most extensive full-group discussion to date. While Dr. Lomax intentionally ended the session without a firm conclusion, a few themes have remained in mind.

Building Capacity

We spent a good deal of time discussing power, starting with the premise that we, as humans, are innately powerful but need to understand and own that, especially to lead others. Dr. Lomax shared the Four Agreements from Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. The first few agreements (“Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions.”) resonated with the individual growth I have sought this summer. I came to see that preparing oneself to best use one’s own power is another way to view the concept of personal development.


Among the components of leadership Dr. Lomax mentioned, he also emphasized trust in three forms: Internal (trusting oneself), External (trusting others), and Active (using “the power of trust in community to create change”).

The discussion made me think of an example from Dayton Civic Scholars, a program I was involved in at the University of Dayton, in which a group of other students and I were working on a capstone project in a local neighborhood and had partnered with an established church in the area. Both the neighborhood and church leaders were greatly enthused to have our help, especially because we could potentially bring newer, innovative ideas to share. Ultimately, though, we committed to helping the church start a community garden, something that had previously existed but did not last. My student cohort knew almost nothing about agriculture, yet we talked to area experts, pulled together the resources we needed to (including with the help of other community organizations) and got a garden going again. The biggest challenge came when we were about to graduate and had not been able to find another group to sustain the project. However, at that point, the church community assured us they were ready to keep the garden going and even expand it. I, for one, had felt pressure for my cohort to find a solution for the church, but after all the trust they had placed in us, it made sense that the only way for the garden to have longevity was to return that trust. I had just overlooked that. The experience showed me both the challenge and the necessity of utilizing each type of trust Dr. Lomax described.

Then, at the end of week 9, I was summoned at work to provide my thoughts on a difficult press release a couple of the attorneys were writing. Everyone in the office at that point had been asked to help, but I was initially surprised they wanted a Fellow, still a bit unfamiliar with the legal workings and programs of the organization to give input on such an important matter. I was forced to remember that my perspective would be like others outside the organization who would see the statement, and for that, it was valuable. The collaborative nature of the press release-writing effort felt like a minor demonstration of Active Trust and solidified that lesson from Monday’s Fellows session.

Looking Back Ahead

Another theme from the conversation about leadership was the approach of simultaneously learning from the past and keeping the future in mind. Fields Wicker-Miurin presents in her Ted Talk about Benki, the leader of an Amazon nation who stewards the knowledge of previous generations for his people and ponders how coming generations will answer the question he asks himself – essentially, what is he doing to protect the livelihood of his people? Later another Fellow shared the advice she had heard to think back to three generations in the past and think ahead to three generations in the future when acting in the present. Dr. Lomax said the notion of sankofa, a Ghanian word, is similar. He summarized the ideas through the idea of “looking back ahead,” or gaining insight from the past to apply in preparing for a better future.

On a smaller scale, the Fellows session had helped me to look back ahead on the summer itself, with one personal insight standing out. My Fellowship project has made me more confident in my ability to thrive in an individual, self-directed environment. At the same time, the leadership session was the first one of our professional development meetings that allowed significant time for us to exchange ideas with each other about concepts, rather than our personal experiences of the Fellowship alone, and that was a refreshing change. It reminded me how much I appreciate spaces and conversations for learning within a group. In fact, a number of Dr. Lomax’s points about leadership echoed the importance of the combination of personal capability and working as a community.

As Part of a Community

Indeed, Dr. Lomax’s definition of leadership includes the idea of community multiple times. To him, a leader must “see themselves as part of a community whether they are from it or not.” From my reflection on my Dayton Civic Scholars capstone to the joint effort on the press release at work and the group discussion on leadership, in which each person provided wisdom, the week rejuvenated me to build capacity and seek change in community.

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Week 8

This past week, I had the opportunity to go on a home visit to hear the story of Isabelle, a widow who had some repairs done to her house. The Helping Hometown Heroes program, in partnership with Meals on Wheels America and The Home Depot Foundation, helps veterans and their spouses improve their homes to address mobility challenges and avoid unnecessary injuries, hospitalization and homelessness. The improvements included the installation of motion-activated outdoor lighting, a small wheelchair ramp, a new security door, a window with a locking device, and drywall in her bedroom. All of these improvements would not have been possible without the help of LifeCare Alliance. The improvements will allow Isabelle to stay safe and independent in her home, where she wants to be.


As an aspiring physician, I have gained an incredible appreciation for the extraordinary work that non-profits do. If Isabelle’s home was not properly repaired, her health could take a toll; feeling safe in your own home is incredibly important for proper mental health. Throughout the course of this fellowship, I have become thoroughly convinced that in order to most effectively reach the underserved patient population that I am looking to serve, I should work with a health-related nonprofit. This will allow my treatment to encompass the social determinants of health that profoundly affect health outcomes.

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Wrap Up

Well, today is the last day. These 10 weeks went by in a blink of an eye. Some days were slower than others, and some days I don’t even think I remembered to eat. I am extremely grateful for my fellowship at Huckleberry House. It has been an amazing summer to work amongst people who are passionate and have a deep appreciation and value for our community. As I touched on in my final presentation, this summer has been an impactful one. My efforts this summer with Safe Place will continue on and grow, youth in crisis will be able to be connected to Huckleberry House. So for a few things I’ve learned, Huck House has taught me that everything revolves around relationships. When we truly take the time to foster relationships and connect, projects and programs are much more successful. Huckleberry House shows what it means to care and make a real impact. In a meeting, our Executive Director, Becky Westerfelt, said, “we deliver, what we tell them we will deliver.” This is simple, but that line caught me. It is one thing to say you’re going to do it. But it is another to be committed to your goals, and do the thing you said you were going to do. It’s important, people are counting on you. Finally the most important piece of information, it is not all about the numbers. If there are less youth in the shelter, is that really a good thing? Are more youth safe or do they not know about us or Safe Place? Even if the numbers are low, someone is being helped. It’s about continuing to extend our front porch to all corners of the city to keep our youth safe. 

I want to thank The Columbus Foundation for making this all possible. The experience of being a Columbus Foundation Fellow is like no other. Being able to hear professionals, ask questions, and absorb as much information as possible is a privilege. I am deeply appreciative for all of the other fellows who are wicked smart and empowering. This is a bittersweet end, but if you want to talk about Safe Place, Huck House, youth homelessness, the Foundation and their fellows, you know where to find me. I’ll be right here in the Columbus community.IMG_7495

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Final Week

I just wanted to articulate my appreciation for being able to participate in this program.  I have met some amazing folks at the Boys and Girls Club and have also developed some friendships.  I plan on continuing to stay involved with the BGCC into the school year.

The Chief Strategy Officer of Columbus sent a message to Boys and Girls Club of America (BGCA) the central office acknowledging the study we conducted.  BGCA wants to read the results once the manuscript is prepared for publication.  Although we are in our initial data analysis, we have found some significant findings when it comes to community partner-led service-learning programs.  I believe this will have major impacts as BGCC continues to improve their summer program.

This summer experience has been a combination of all my interests: conducting research, serving marginalized communities, educating people passionate about youth development, program evaluation, and student engagement.  I do not know where I will end up moving forward.  However, the lessons of community strength are what will drive my future endeavors.  Again, thank you to all people who made this experience possible.

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The Final Leg

It’s hard to believe that my 10 weeks with CXC and The Columbus Foundation are coming to a close tomorrow. I feel so lucky to have had this experience, and my simultaneous feeling of accomplishment and there’s more to do makes this a bittersweet ending.

My final week has been a very busy one. I have primarily been finishing up my work with the CRM Salesforce and writing up packets on how to continue the work I’ve done. I had a few meetings with various members of the nonprofit’s executive committee to determine who will be taking up what tasks. It’s very important for my time here to continue to be valuable to Cartoon Crossroads Columbus even after I’ve gone.

While preparing to leave, I’ve come to understand the stark differences between being a fellow and being an intern. I am leaving behind a legitimate impact on this small nonprofit and it feels much more rewarding than prior internships where I’ve walked out of the door and that’s that. I know that my work at CXC has been valued, which is why I’m making such a stark effort to ensure its continuation and longevity after my departure.

Working with the Columbus Foundation has been such a wonderful opportunity, not only because of my time at CXC, but also because of our learning sessions and outings as fellows. I have made life-long friends through this program and expanded my professional network. Through one of the learning sessions, I had the opportunity to later connect with a CEO of a social enterprise and now have a potential job lined up for this fall. Through this program, I have learned so much about the workings of the nonprofit sector and feel so much more confident now about working in the field. A 9-5 job is barely a job when you’re working towards something you love.

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