The Prospective Applicant’s Guide to being a PHENND Fellow

Posted by PHENND on January 12, 2018

By: Misha Rodriguez, PHENND Fellow

In light of the upcoming PHENND Fellows application opening in late January, the current Fellows were asked to offer some words of advice to prospective applicants. Since most Fellows are typically recently graduated, we figured that the best way to make PHENND Fellows relatable and help prospective applicants decide whether it’s the right program for them or not is to compare it to a recently shared experience– college. Here are 8 of our best comparisons:

1) The first month of being a PHENND Fellow felt like freshman year again but on steroids. Think club and activities sign-up fair. Ready to take our year of service to new heights and fired up by the flames of our AmeriCorps oath of service, we signed up for almost everything community/volunteer related we could–on top of our full time service positions. Here are some of our top experiences thus far: picking up trash for 4 hours at the Food Trust’s Night Market, serving beer for Blocktober Fest to support SOSNA (our neighborhood organization), playing broken Public School Instruments for the Broken Orchestra, and walking 7 miles with the Mayor during Philly Free Streets. We joke that, only 6 months in and we have already gained the right to type on our resumes the illustrious title of “Professional Volunteers”.

2) Your year as a PHENND Fellow is also like college in that they lure you to events with food. However, it is typically better than pizza. For example, once a month PHENND Fellows have dinner with a civic leader. Our line-up thus far has been Deborah Diamond from Campus Philly (Chinese take out), Mike O’Bryan from Village Arts (burritos), Arati Kasturirangan from Bread and Roses (Middle Eastern catered) and Hillary Kane from PHENND herself (tacos). As you can tell, due to our luminary guests, the dinners would be worth it even without the food, upholding the theory that these meals primarily exist in order to ensure that we don’t pass out in front of Philadelphia’s best and brightest civic leaders.

3) Like college, being a PHENND Fellow is also a lot of work and, while having a rigorous college background will give you a good foundation for the keeping up with the demands, being a Fellow will bend you in ways that college never did. Did you learn in college how to “manage up”? Were you ever taught how to break bad news to over 900 people? Do you know how to budget, fix a refrigerator and call the electrician all at the same time? Not only do you have to adjust to functioning within a professional culture, you are also learning how to “adult” and it’s not always glamorous. Luckily, all of us current Fellows have found support through our own supervisors, staff at PHENND and/or fellow PHENNDies.

4) You will make amazing friends and connections with people who are all going through the same thing as you and interested in similar ideas. In fact, you will make such good friends that you can still have college friendsgiving but call it PHENNDSgiving instead.

5) You will have many opportunities to learn all kinds of professional development skills, along with opportunities to network. Even though many of these opportunities were offered in college, when you start actually needing those skills, the workshops seem more applicable and relevant.

6) Here’s a comparison that is exactly like college: You will have opportunities to take MPA level classes at La Salle Nonprofit Center along with VISTA college courses like Resource Development and Volunteer Management. You can use many of these course credits towards future degrees if you so wish.

7) Just like when you went into college with a plan to become a pediatrician and instead realized your true love is writing ethnographies about the history of co-ops in Columbian coffee making, being a PHENND Fellow might change that entire career course that you’ve so carefully hatched out in your head. On the flipside, it might also help you narrow down from a very general “ I want to do something to make the world a better place” to something a little more specific.

8) Your network will expand exponentially. Just as college granted you a network of alums and other affiliations, being an AmeriCorp VISTA and PHENND Fellow will not only expose you to others within that network but also introduce you to many nonprofit leaders and community members all doing wild, amazing things to better their communities.

If you have any additional questions about PHENND or any of the fellow’s experiences, feel free to reach out to Eden Kainer, the VISTA project manager at [email protected]

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