What makes the FAO Fellowship experience so distinct is the balance of direct service and strategic project work.
The direct service component of your Fellowship will give you hands-on experience delivering critically needed programs and services to the community. You’ll work to address inequalities that start early in life and your service will be an integral part of achieving your host organization’s mission.
You might provide homework help and afterschool programming to students, introduce a middle-schooler who has never been to a museum to an art collection that forever changes their life, or help an overwhelmed high school student navigate the world of financial aid and become the first in their family to attend college.
Your interactions with the people you’re seeking to help will deepen your understanding of the effects of social inequality and give you the satisfaction of being part of the solution. The direct experience of positively affecting another person’s opportunities is critical to your growth as a future social impact leader because it allows you to understand the real day-to-day challenges within a community. When the student you have been advising receives a college scholarship, when you see a young person choose to vote in a local election, when a child reads to you instead of you reading to them, you’ll have an immediate sense of the value and impact of your work.
It is the kind of experience that will make you a more thoughtful and more effective leader.
Direct service is balanced by special project work. As a Fellow, you will also take on strategic projects that will give you a different perspective on the work of the organization. We work closely with each host to create a role for each Fellow on projects that advance the host’s mission and ensure that the Fellow has the opportunity to apply their creativity, planning and leadership skills.
Special projects produce lasting results for your host organization and for the communities they serve. Building an alumni engagement program, creating and implementing a social media campaign, revising curriculum, conducting background research for an advocacy effort or policy initiative—these efforts can lead to increased organizational impact and real social change.
More importantly, they help you learn to think about tackling social challenges from multiple directions with a variety of tools and approaches. Special projects promote strategic thinking about your organization’s mission and give you insight into what it takes for a nonprofit to be successful in achieving its goals.
In addition to your direct service and special project work, Fellows spend about 10 percent of their time on Fellowship professional development, cohort gatherings, and their Fellowship role. Each Fellow spends about two hours per week on Fellowship work in the area of social media, recruitment or professional development.
These experiences will help you leave a lasting mark on this program, collaborate closely with other Fellows, and acquire skills that will be valuable in your future educational and professional pursuits.
When I submitted my FAO Schwarz Fellowship application in February 2020, how could I have predicted that the world would become unrecognizable in just four