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 blog series, hear from members of the 2017-18 Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellowship cohort about their year-long experience working and living in Cleveland. We’re currently accepting applications for the 2019-2020 fellowship. Learn more and apply here.
College: University of Southern California
Hometown: South Elgin, Illinois
Fellowship Host Site: City of Cleveland Department of Economic Development
Why did you initially decide to participate in this fellowship?
I originally decided to participate in the fellowship because I was offered a placement with the City of Cleveland’s Department of Economic Development. The job description was very exciting because it was exactly the kind of work I wanted to do coming out of college. Now that I’ve gone through the fellowship, I also recognize there are many reasons to participate beyond just a fellow’s host agency.
What has been the most valuable aspect of your fellowship experience?
This fellowship is so interwoven with my work at the city and navigating my first year out of school, that it’s hard to separate just one key takeaway from this experience. I think what I appreciated most from this year are:
1.) The wonderful people I’ve met—friends, mentors, coworkers, and so many others who have shared this experience with me.
2.) The really powerful support system this experience offers as I’m trying to kickstart a career and find my place in the world.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your fellowship experience?
I think my biggest challenges in this experience have boiled down to change management and setting realistic expectations. It’s crazy to think that a year ago I was in a completely different place, totally immersed in school and studying for finals. And now every day I wear dress shoes and a tie while handling legal contracts that dictate how large sums of money are given to the public. I feel like a very different person than I was a year ago. So, as part of this transition, I’ve had to adapt to a completely different work context, with different organizational and personal goals, and different metrics for success. What is so powerful about this experience, though, is that as a fellow I was paired with four other incredibly talented peers in my cohort who are in the same position. Hearing how they navigate their challenges helps me put my situation into context.
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing around Cleveland?
I love cities. If “learning about cities” counts as a socially acceptable response to “what’s your hobby?” then that’s my response. So I’ve done as much as I can to really immerse myself in Cleveland and to learn about this city’s story. I’ve explored restaurants and bars in assorted neighborhoods—some of my favorites are the Happy Dog (the original one on Detroit Ave.) and Porco’s Lounge & Tiki Room in Duck Island. And Cleveland has public spaces, parks, and squares that are just so charming—Edgewater Park’s beloved reputation is well-deserved (but I also recommend Euclid Beach Park for a quieter but still scenic lakeside experience). Gordon Square’s architecture is really stunning, but I also encourage visitors to check out the Broadway/E. 55th area of Slavic Village. A walk along Waterloo in North Collinwood will reveal a tucked-away neighborhood brimming with artistic energy. East Boulevard in Glenville has beautiful homes and a rich history unlike any other place.
How has this fellowship affected your career plans?
This fellowship has provided a priceless experience to peek at what my industry is like beyond just a superficial, entry-level position. And I definitely would not have gotten such an opportunity elsewhere at this stage in my career. What does this mean for my five-year plan? I think I’m still working that out. I know this experience has deepened my love for the planning and development industry while giving me some very valuable hard skills. Thanks to this fellowship, I’m confident that public service is still going to be a guiding star when mapping out what’s next for me.
Why would you recommend this fellowship program to others?
This was an incredible learning experience for me, so if someone is even remotely interested in a career in public service, I certainly would recommend the fellowship. I’ve been so humbled by the realization that I have an entire team of people who are in my corner, who just want to see me grow and succeed. Each month, I go to the foundation for two days and have so much at my disposal—numerous programs devoted to my personal and professional development, introductions to key stakeholders in Cleveland’s civic sector, and mentorship from talented and experienced public servants. The fellowship offers such a versatile toolbox for tackling a career in public service.
Want to learn more about the Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellowship? Sign up to receive email updates about the fellowship program here.