In just one short week, the 2018 cohort of seventeen Rochester Urban Fellows will begin their ten weeks of service with organizations across the city. Fellows come from near and far to spend their summer learning about the Rochester community and how different organizations work to create positive change. Fortunately, the Fellows have someone to help them navigate this new, challenging experience. Kavya Bana served as an Urban Fellow in 2016 and is this year’s program leader, helping to both manage logistics of the program and provide guidance and support to the Fellows. Learn more about Kavya and her experience with Urban Fellows below!
Hometown: Simsbury, CT
Class year: 2019
Major: Microbiology and Political Science
What is a typical day/week like as a fellow?: For four days out of the week, fellows work at their host sites throughout the city of Rochester. These sites range from Foodlink to the 19th Ward Community Association. Each day fellows work at their organization doing both indirect and direct service. Indirect service entails working to build capacity at an organization whereas direct service involved working directly with the community members your organization serves. On Wednesday’s, the fellows attend Urban Issue Seminars in the morning and apply what they have learned by visiting or serving at an organization in the community tackling that urban issue. Urban issues covered include urban education, urban planning, an mass incarceration.
Where was your site and what did you do?: My site was at the Rochester Public Market and I mostly worked at the SNAP/Token desk each day where I would interact with community members and exchange SNAP benefits for tokens to use at the Market. I also performed outreach at churches and youth recreation centers to make community members more aware of the SNAP program at farmers markets in Rochester. Finally, I also led some tours for students and staffed the taste the market food table where I would hand out samples of food made using market ingredients.
What did you love the most about Urban Fellows?: Urban Fellows broadened my horizons because it not only changed my perception of Rochester but also of community engagement in general. Before the program, while I was passionate about my community, I felt largely unaware of how to actually address the issues that I cared about the most. I truly loved feeling like I was actually a citizen of Rochester by connecting with all of the community stakeholders and members I met throughout the summer.
What are you most excited about this year as the student leader for Urban Fellows?: I am most excited to see how much closer the fellows will be from slightly quiet and awkward interactions at orientation to their final presentations when they are all one tightly knit group.
What are you nervous about the most?: I am most nervous about fostering a sense of community with all of the fellows early on especially when some live off campus while others live on campus.
What would you say to anyone looking to apply?: Apply even if you think you don’t necessarily have a lot of work experience as long as you have a passion for learning more about the community. Also, keep an open mind throughout the summer because this program will definitely change your perspective!