Before the Tzedek Fellowship
I came into the fellowship not knowing really at all what I was getting myself into. I had spent the previous year and a half working in wilderness education with NCOBS and wilderness therapy with SUWS of the Carolinas. In both of those positions, I learned more than I think I can fully unpack in this blog post. I also learned that wilderness therapy is hard fucking work. My work as an instructor at SUWS of the Carolinas was deep and powerful and impactful and wholly not sustainable, for my body, my psyche, and my spirit. I applied for my position at UNCA Center for Diversity Education looking for a way to step out of the wilderness for a while.
On the outside, my position at UNCA seemed like a fantastic opportunity. I enjoyed working with college students and working in university settings. I would still get to do the popular education style programming that I did in wilderness, but I was far less likely to get spit on by the people I worked with and I got to sleep in my own bed. I had little idea just how much I would thrive in my position and my work.
These reflections on my work at the Center for Diversity Education are divided into five parts: Programming, Management, Development, Extra Curricular, and Post-Tzedek.
Work on Programming
Programming at a university is heavily influenced by the semester cycles, slowly building in intensity from the first month to the last. To program successfully at a university, you must be deeply aware of these semester cycles.
In total, I coordinated approximately 20 programs during my fellowship (8-10 each semester). In both the fall and spring semesters I facilitated ten workshops on structural oppression. This workshop, which we called “Check Your Privilege,” was an hour-long, fully interactive, popular education style workshop, demonstrating structural disadvantage and oppression. The program was adapted from several sources and was developed to replace the Centers’ “Diversity 101” training.
During the fall semester, I coordinated a four-part video and lecture series on the history of racial justice in our country from Abolition to Freedom summer. Each video series had an attendance of 50+ students which exceeded expectations each time. I also coordinated and facilitated a film screening of the documentary “Ferguson: Report from Occupied Territory.” This was done in conjunction with Democracy NC and after the screening, a conversation about voting and civil action was facilitated.
During the Spring Semester, I aided in coordinating our Holocaust Day of Remembrance, Yom HaShoa in the mountains. It took place on April 19th, the day of the Warsong Ghetto uprising. I organized a lecture by one of our student programmers on the history of HIV/AIDs in America. I also helped take two students and our Executive Director to the Creating Change conference in Chicago.
I coordinated the MLK Day youth action summit at the YMI, a program that brought local high school and middle school students from Asheville to the YMI for a half-day of group discussions on social issues directly affecting them.
My final big programming Project was the Me2We 2016 youth conference. I took point on coordinating and writing the curriculum for the entire two-day conference. This event was the 5th installment of the conference starting during the 50th anniversary of ASCORE, and the desegregation of Asheville. The conference was a two-day event with 81 middle and high school students from, CAYLA, MANOS, the Asheville JCC, and the AVID summer bridge. Over the two days, the students participated in workshops and activities teaching them about both intersectionality and environmental justice. Me2We was by all accounts a massive success!
While programming, I also worked to manage, recruit, hire, train, and develop our 6-8 Undergraduate student employees. Our student employees worked 5 to 10 hours a week on various aspects of the center. These included: managing social media and marketing, coordinating our traveling exhibits on equity and inclusion, developing our visual media including posters and videos, coordinating our “Check Your Privilege” trainings, developing curriculum for Youth Outright, developing “disability is diversity” curriculum for the UNCA Office of Academic Accessibility, and coordinating our Peace Studies programming.
Work on Management
I worked with the Center’s Executive Director on the student’s weekly task lists. I also coordinated twice weekly group meetings during which they received professional development related to aspects of equity and inclusion work. I also worked on hiring and recruitment for the positions for next semester. As part of my job, I also helped to coordinate the Center for Diversity Education Alumni group (a group for all previous employees of the Center).
Work on Development
Though development was not expressly a part of my job description I was given the space to try it and I did it to great success. Over my year I raised approximately $20,000 for the Center:$5,500 came from the Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA) in the form of grants, $1,500 to take two students and our ED to Create Change, the largest LGBT+ conference in the Nation, and $4,000 for our Me2We conference. $14,500 dollars were raised through internal university money. I applied and received the $14,500 dollars from a University pot of money designated for job creation in University departments. With the money, I was able to expand our student’s pay and hours from $8.00 an hour, 5 hours a week to $10.00 an hour at 10 hours a week.
I also created three new student positions at the Center. One position was created in partnership with Youth OUTright, in which our center worked to develop a curriculum that could be used in YO’s Sunday groups and remain a part of their regular curriculum. The second position was created with the UNCA Office of Academic Accessibility to develop “disability is diversity” workshops and curriculum to be used by the office. The final position I created was for a student to work on the visual media of the center. This student’s main project was working on a 10-minute video of local Holocaust survivors and witnesses that could be posted on YouTube and used as supplemental material for NC public school teachers.
In addition, I worked on marketing for the Center. The Center’s website was hacked extensively a few months before I entered into my position. I spent the majority of the fall semester helping to get the new website up and running. I also helped pick up the projects that were beyond the hours of our Marketing Coordinator. During the months of October and November, I created a successful campaign to build energy for the 20th anniversary of the Center.
I did a series of photos of the Students of ASCORE who still live in Asheville. ASCORE (Asheville Student Committee on Racial Equality) was a group of high school students of color who, from 1960-1965, worked peacefully to desegregate Asheville. My campaign took photos of ASCORE members at the sites that they desegregated, with a sign saying “I desegregated this.”
Extracurricular Activities while a Fellow
Outside of my work at the Center, I also did several extracurricular activities connected to my fellowship. I participated in the Fall 2015 Building Bridges session and was invited back to facilitate the Fall 2016 building bridges session. I helped CAYLA facilitate the IRL middle school program called “Life After Middle School”. I attended six conferences including Creating Change, the Victory Fund, LGBT in the South, Holocaust Educators Conference, Equity in Action, and the White Privilege Conference.
I gave a lecture and a workshop at the Appalachian State Equity in Action Conference on modalities of Activism, and a workshop on structural oppression, and presented a talk at the Appalachian State Recreation Management Symposium on the implications of the Green Insider’s Club report on the recreation industry.
My fellowship ends on July 29th, 2016. Post-Fellowship I will be spending the month of August Instructing Sea Kayaking courses with North Carolina Outward Bound, on the southern Outer Banks.
After Tzedek Fellowship
In September I will be attending the University of Chicago’s school of social work, and will be starting on a Master of Social Work program. I am beyond honored to be starting the next phase of my life at the University of Chicago. I know without a doubt that I was accepted into University of Chicago due to my work at the Center for Diversity Education and the opportunities given to me by the fellowship.
My work during this fellowship was a perfect mixture of all of my favorite things: popular education, social justice, deep conversations, hard conversations, self-reflection, working with youth, and curriculum development. I made even deeper connections to my home community and bonded with five other incredible people working in my fellowship cohort. I am deeply humbled and gracious towards my fellowship cohort. They are astounding people with deep knowledge and skill. I am sad that they won’t be a regular part of my life at the end of this year.
This Fellowship was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. The FellowshipHaving has experienced dramatic growth over just four years from 2 residents fellows to 6. In the fellowship, I suffered through endless miscommunications, disagreements, ageism, programming changes, staff changes, and overstretched schedules on both sides. However, I entered this year-long fellowship knowing that it was going to be a sprint, a focused year of hyper-powerful achievement, and challenge. I am immensely grateful for this year.