#FellowFriday: Tabitha Gillombardo’s Fellowship Experience

Tabitha and her brother jump and high-five in front of a Cleveland Indians mural

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.

Tabitha Gillombardo

College: Wesleyan University

Hometown: Cleveland Heights, OH

Fellowship Host Site: Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency

Why did you initially decide to participate in this fellowship?

I initially decided to participate in this fellowship because I wanted to come back home to Cleveland! This fellowship offered a wonderful transitional opportunity from college to the workforce.

What was the most valuable aspect of your fellowship experience?

The most valuable aspect of my fellowship experience was embracing a career field that was completely new to me, dedicating myself to this work, and now envisioning a career in urban planning! This fellowship experience demonstrated the importance of trying new things and keeping an open mind.

What was the most challenging aspect of your fellowship experience?

The most challenging aspect of my fellowship was my placement at a transportation planning organization without having any experience in transportation planning. I am naturally curious and love to learn! So, although I was new to the urban planning – specifically transportation planning – world, I discovered how the field resonates with my passion for studying how people access basic human needs. Transportation is at the core of the accessibility/quality of life conversation! NOACA uses a lot of acronyms (our name being a prime example), but when I finally mastered the lingo, I felt such a sense of accomplishment.

Tabitha and a friend at an Indians game

One of my favorite memories from this fellowship year is going to Game 1 of the World Series! The Tribe won that night too!! It was a night I will always remember and was only possible because I was working here in Cleveland.

Where would you take a friend who is visiting Cleveland for the first time?

I would definitely take a first-time-Clevelander to an Indians game because our stadium is absolutely gorgeous. I would force my friend to get a hotdog with the Cleveland Famous Ball Park Bertman’s Mustard. Hopefully, there would be a fireworks show.

We would go to W. 25th, which I call Brewery Row. If this visit were somehow simultaneously in the summer and winter, then I would insist on getting my favorite Christmas beer (shockingly not the Christmas Ale – email me if you want my recommendation!!).

The view from the Downtown Hilton’s Bar 32 is unbelievably gorgeous. Lake Erie looks like an ocean. Another fantastic view is from the Detroit-Superior Bridge. I would probably rollerblade the bridge and watch the sunset over downtown.

I would want to go to E.4th in hopes of spotting either Jonathon Sawyer or Michael Symon because they are rad and create delicious food. My heart leaps with pride whenever I hear them talk about Cleveland on their culinary adventures.

Lastly, everyone who visits Cleveland must go to Malley’s. I do not usually like chocolate, but the Easter Bunny fills my basket with Malley’s and I eat it all every year. Dark chocolate pecan billybobs are my favorite!

How has this fellowship affected your career plans?

Prior to this fellowship, I had not considered a career in urban planning. The wonderful staff at NOACA taught me the interdisciplinary nature of urban planning: economics, public health, social equity, art, and STEM. My study of workforce mobility and transportation as an economic driver have made me interested in economic development—a new passion of mine!

Why would you recommend this fellowship program to others?

Fellowship programs are a tremendous opportunity to tactfully learn, which I believe is the best way to discover which things excite you and which things do not. The Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellowship is unique from other fellowship programs because of its timing and professional development. The Cleveland Foundation’s program targets recent undergraduates. Participants in the program are given an accelerated, yet nurturing, year of work experience that equips them with work responsibilities, skills, and networks that would normally require years to acquire.

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.