2016 was the fifth year of supporting young leaders and Brooklyn non-profits through our Summer Fellowship. We had another incredible group of Fellows, bringing our total count of Hope Fund Alumni to 24. These passionate and intelligent individuals continue to work to create a better world, and many of them stay in touch and support the Fund for future generations of Fellows. All of them have made an impact in Brooklyn and are now part of the family of activists and leaders that Hope continues to bring together. Please read on to learn more about their experiences during the Summer Fellowship!
Rachel Zhao interned at Girl Be Heard, where she worked closely with their civil rights attorney and assistant director of education on a number of projects and protests. Most notably, Rachel played a strong role in the organization’s action for the #sayhername campaign, which gave visibility to women who died in police custody. For this and other campaigns, Rachel provided the research which guided this personable and passionate team of activists and theater artists to create meaningful interventions and programs empowering women of all ages. In addition to learning more about the legal process and non-profit structure, Rachel, a sophomore at Dartmouth College, was able to put her passion for writing to good use. During the #sayhername campaign Rachel performed a very moving original poem at City Hall and other protest locations throughout the city. Click here to read Rachel’s poem.
“Hope for Brooklyn means looking out for your community, particularly for those that are not usually seen by everyone else. It means listening to their stories.”
Amanda Morales interned with Brooklyn Defender Services, where she worked directly with indicted and incarcerated youth to provide legal services and care.
“My fellowship at Brooklyn Defender Services also helped me assume a position of leadership in reducing the amount of contact kids in Brooklyn are having with the criminal justice system.”
Amanda is now a senior at Ithaca College. During her time at BDS, she gained a broad perspective on the legal system from observing the interactions between social worker, defense lawyers, clients, and judges. She witnessed several different types of courthouse proceedings, carefully observed the complexity of the criminal justice system, and took away a sense of encouragement:
“Being a constant witness to these social justice issues I felt powerless. I constantly grappled with how I could affect change on issues that seemed to progressively worsen and daily flash before my eyes. This fellowship has completely shifted my perspective on the disregard I believed others had for Brooklyn and has made me aware of stakeholders who are working on the ground to uproot injustice and help communities facilitate the change that is required for their strength and empowerment.”
Kayla Madridejos lent her talents to Brooklyn Community Services, one of the oldest service organizations in Brooklyn and one of our long-term partners. Throughout the summer she put her writing and research skills to use, studying up on BCS history for newsletters, nominating potential community leaders to be honored at the BCS 150 Year Anniversary, and representing the organization at events throughout Brooklyn. She went above and beyond as a spokesperson and team member with BCS, celebrating the organization’s rich history and widespread current programs through writing and sharing stories and information with community members.
“I’ve repeatedly witnessed the difference the incredible BCS team makes in a client’s daily life, whether it were through helping clients with disabilities apply for jobs, or simply playing basketball with elementary school students in Brownsville. I am very proud to have worked with the BCS staff.”
Rosibel Tavares is the first Fellow we have matched with UPROSE, an environmental justice organization in Sunset Park. As a rising senior at Binghamton University, Rosy applied to our Fellowship based on her interest international relations and environmental policy. By working with UPROSE she acquired a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of social justice issues, as well as the true meaning of environmental justice:
“Prior to my work at UPROSE this summer, I always associated environmental justice as primarily an environmental issue, but I discovered that environmental justice is really the right to your health no matter your race or socio-economic status”
Rosy trained some of the young leaders who join UPROSE over the summer to fight for environmental justice. She coordinated with local businesses and community members to combat displacement and increase renewable energy solutions.
We will continue to watch these individuals with interest and thank them for their contributions to their host organizations, to our Hope Fund community, and to Brooklyn as a whole.