#FellowFriday: Roberta Duarte’s Fellowship Experience

Collage of images of Cleveland scenes

The Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellowship offers emerging young leaders the skills and networks needed to create the community they envision and jumpstart a career in public service. In our #FellowFriday weekly blog series, hear from members of the 2016-17 Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellowship cohort about their year-long experience working and living in Cleveland.

Roberta Duarte

College: Mount Holyoke College

Hometown: Luque, Paraguay

Fellowship Host Site: The MetroHealth System

Why did you initially decide to participate in the fellowship?

Besides the amazing opportunity to experience first-class leadership coaching and mentoring, I decided to participate in the fellowship because I wanted to contribute to Cleveland’s comeback quest. I find Cleveland’s innovative history quite fascinating! I also consider it my new hometown, after Paraguay, where I grew up.

What has been the most valuable aspect of your fellowship experience?

I could write a book on the most valuable aspects of my fellowship experience. To keep things short and sweet, I’ll say learning about my strengths and weaknesses as a young trailblazer in various workplace environments. Through my host site, I was exposed to the community, and I grew through meeting city leaders who continuously challenged [and inspired] me to develop sustainable solutions to a broad array of problems.

How has this fellowship affected your career plans?

A couple of months into the fellowship, I decided to design a project. This new project was a little “outside the box” for some of my supervisors. After several meetings, and being challenged, I came to realize that I was truly a changemaker. In the past, I thought this type of behavior was more common with me exclusively in the academic environment. Several proposals and meetings later, my supervisors’ feedback proved to me that I am most suited for projects that require the team to innovate and connect with new parties. Ideally, I see myself growing into public service coordination and leadership roles.

Roberta and another woman stand in front of Cleveland's Statue of Eternal Life fountain When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing around Cleveland?

Cleveland is a charming and intimate city, so when I am not working, I like to explore the cultural gardens, museums and vintage shops in neighborhoods like Larchmere, Glenville and AsiaTown. Living downtown makes things easier; I usually walk, take public transportation or catch a Lyft or Uber to one of these areas. It is absolutely fascinating the things you can learn in the first three to five minutes you spend in a neighborhood. I highly recommend “neighborhood hopping” in Cleveland!

What’s your favorite public space in Cleveland?

My favorite public space in Cleveland is the Titanic-like Arcade Cleveland. Besides the exquisite interior space, The Arcade is testament to both the grand vision of Cleveland’s leaders back when the city was one of the fastest growing and richest outside of New York, and to those who have invested time and resources to preserve the magnificent structure. No matter the time of the day or season, you will occasionally find me taking a coffee break at The Arcade.

Why would you recommend this fellowship program to others?

From my experience, I would recommend this fellowship to anyone who is seeking intellectual and leadership challenges, along with a community focus. As a Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellow you will be a resource to the community, expected to advocate for initiatives that you find important and policies that will have a lasting impact. Apply for the fellowship if you want to have a profound impact on the lives of others through osmosis, observation and engagement.

What advice would you give to someone considering applying for the Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellowship?

My advice to someone considering applying for the fellowship is to do it! Don’t think twice. Don’t get discouraged. It is very competitive, but feel free to reach out if you’re on the fence. Seriously! You can email me here. Throughout the fellowship, I found it really hard to name another organization that is giving this INCREDIBLE opportunity to young adults who are starting their careers in the public sector. This fellowship will be the stepping stone to moving outside of your comfort zone, and establishing your path.

Want to learn more about the Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellowship? Find details about the program and application process here, and sign up to receive email updates about the fellowship program here.