Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer Fellow Experience

As soon as I received the notification that I would be invited to the 2010 Roots of Hope Fellowship in the new office I knew I would be in for a great experience but I had no idea what it would entail. Looking back at my accomplishments and experiences as well as those of the other fellows, I can honestly say I made the best decision I possibly could have coming to work for Riaces. Not only did I add some value to the organization with my accomplishments, but I learned a great deal about myself in the process. The fellowship was a wonderful combination of learning, working, and socializing. Although there were some kinks and bumps along the way, considering it was the first fellowship in the history of the organization, I saw the potential Raices has to attract young, bright, and passionate minds to act.

I was originally assigned to work with the Programming Team, specifically working on the Cell Phones for Cuba project. I did commit the majority of my time to C4C but, as the other fellows would probably agree, we all would help each other with our respective tasks and projects. One of my tasks was to create a new phone collection box to meet the needs of the Gavina Coffee Company from California. So while I would be working with Karla on the design, she and I would help out Sasha with the organization of the Summer Blast including the wording of messages and the appearance of the invitation. Teamwork was a very important part of the fellowship and we relied on it considering it was only the 4 of us in the office most of the time. In addition to the box design, I organized a gathering of Raices members to help organize, catalog, and package used cell phones that had been collected in the last few months. This shipment of over 250 phones ended up giving us about $500 dollars for the C4C project. Throughout the summer I stayed in contact and helped set up pick up dates for individual donations which resulted in about 50 phones from mostly individual donations. Towards the end of the summer I was able to bring together 8 student leaders from Miami representing 6 different universities from across the country. We were able to speak with experienced members of the Raices team to formulate a list of potential projects to increase the C4C collection effort. We left the meeting with a plan to keep in contact and create a C4C resource package that would go to any university requesting the resources RDE has to offer.

During the last few weeks of the summer I inherited two new tasks both involving updating Student Network materials. The Student Network contact sheet needed renovation and reorganization to focus on students currently in college. This small project was begun in coordination with a few interns. It has yet to be completed but it is on its way. In addition, the Student Network Toolkit appeared very outdated and I was asked to begin researching other non-profit/human-rights groups for ideas on how to update the toolkit. I was able to design a rough outline of a potential new toolkit but the actual editing and input of information has not been started.

The experience as a whole was an awesome one but I definitely can point out favorite parts from the fellowship, two specifically. Probably the best and most valuable part of the fellowship was the leadership series I attended during the summer. Through this fellowship I was able to meet some of the most impressive and influential people in this community and in some cases, the world. I was able to listen to personal accounts of triumph despite uncertainty, making the American Dream a reality, and the reality of sacrifice. RDE has given me access to an incredible number of quality leaders who I would not hesitate to contact for advice.

My other favorite part of this experience was making friends with the rest of the wonderful group of fellows, as well as member of the Roots team. Rafa, Karla, and Sasha were able to contribute to the fellowship with their diverse perspectives and backgrounds. Not only did I learn from their stories and come to appreciate their input, but I gained three new friends by the end of the summer. I know we will keep in touch as we go our separate ways and it will make this summer experience even more of a lasting one.

After attending the Cornell Cuba Conference this April I was incredibly impressed with the organization’s accomplishments and plans for the future. I was amazed by their organization, how smooth the conference ran, and the number of valuable panelists they were able to bring to the conference. Leaving the fellowship this summer I remain impressed with the passionate people within the organization, the interesting supporters from all walks of life, and the huge goals Raices has. I also see the great amount of work that has to be done to keep up the awesome record. For this reason I plan to stay involved with Raices in whatever capacity I can while in college. Though I did not apply to the Student Network Director position, I will remain involved with the students at my school and those within our network outside helping to spread our influence across the country.

Thanks to all the Roots of Hope members that made this Summer Fellowship possible!

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