Fellowship lets Kennesaw State students, service agencies do more

KENNESAW, Ga. | Apr 3, 2024

Deja Boney
Deja Boney
Kennesaw State students are doing good deeds every day, fulfilling needs in the wider community through the University’s Office of Volunteerism and Service.

But some students want to make a bigger difference than a one-time volunteer opportunity, which led to the creation of a new program that is allowing 11 KSU students to have an outsized impact on 10 local nonprofit social service agencies.

Last spring, the Office of Student Volunteerism and Service (SVS) announced the groundbreaking Service Fellowship program, which began in August with participants working for local social service agencies. Spearheaded by Michael Almond, program coordinator in the volunteerism office, the fellowship aims to not only enrich the lives of participating students, but also make a lasting impact on the organizations they serve.

“We wanted to create a program that goes beyond traditional volunteering. The fellowship is an immersive experience where students work with various organizations, tackling real-world issues and gaining valuable skills that will serve them well in their future endeavors,” he said.

How It Works

The Service Fellowship spans fall and spring semesters, during which students commit to working 10 to 20 hours a week with a nonprofit agency. To ensure a meaningful experience, participants are matched with organizations based on their interests, skills, and career goals. This tailored approach not only benefits the students but also maximizes the impact they can make in their assigned organizations.

Throughout the fellowship, students attend workshops and reflection sessions to deepen their understanding of the issues they’re addressing and refine their skills.

“We want our students to not only contribute actively but also understand the complexities of the challenges they're addressing. This program is about creating informed and empathetic change-makers,” Almond said.

The students are able to provide operational services that nonprofits need, such as help with marketing, fundraising, data analysis and more, Almond said. By the end of the academic year, the fellowship participants will have put in more than 3,000 hours of work for the participating agencies.

Through the Office of Financial Aid and the Division of Student Affairs, the Service Fellowship participants are paid for their work through federal work study funds. Students also work with their academic advisers to receive class credit for participating in the fellowship.

Voices from the Fellowship

Deja Boney, an information systems major from Conley, Georgia, found her calling in the Service Fellowship. Assigned to Circles Cobb, a local nonprofit focused on lifting individuals and families out of poverty, Boney spent much of fall semester working in an operational support role for the organization, analyzing data and researching grant opportunities. She also worked to provide service and support directly to client families.

Angeline Forestal
Angeline Forestal
“The executive director made a presentation to those of us in the fellowship program. Circles Cobb became my No. 1 choice because I loved their mission,” Boney said.

Clients of Circles Cobb work with volunteers, who help them learn effective time and money-management skills and to set goals that can help them to permanently escape poverty.

“As someone who likes to give back, this fellowship has already taught me about career opportunities that I never knew existed in the nonprofit sector,” she said. Boney said she would like to continue to work with Circles Cobb throughout her KSU career.

Angeline Forestal, a marketing major from Roswell, Georgia, is working with YELLS, Inc., which stands for Youth Empowerment through Learning, Leading and Serving. The nonprofit teaches the value of community involvement and being kind to others to students from kindergarten through high school.

“I wanted to work with the youth, so I thought YELLS would be an ideal organization to volunteer for. At YELLS, I’ve done a lot of administrative tasks in helping to support the staff,” Forestal said. 

YELLS offers three programs that include mentorship, leadership development, academic achievement, community involvement and service learning.

There is an afterschool program for elementary students. There is a community action café program for the teens. Finally, there is a mentoring program where the Bigs (high schooler students) mentor the Littles (elementary students).

Chelsea Holness, a senior exercise science major from McDonough, Georgia, was impressed with the work being done by the Center for Family Resources and was eager to work with the group during her fellowship.

“Learning that CFR not only focuses on people who are homeless, but on families with kids that are homeless, touched me very much,” said Holness, whose mother serves on the board of another nonprofit that helps the unhoused. With that background, she was eager to help and jumped right in.

“I do a lot of things at CFR – creating Excel spreadsheets, making phone calls, creating Amazon wish lists, sending emails, assisting with event planning, helping track food donations in the pantry, searching for auction items for the upcoming gala, etc.,” Holness said.

Simran Mohanty
Simran Mohanty
In addition to helping others, Holness said the fellowship is preparing her for a career as a physician assistant because she is learning to communicate with a wide range of people with different backgrounds and needs.

For Simran Mohanty, a sociology major from Lilburn, the fellowship became a platform to address issues of civic involvement through working with the Cobb County Democracy Center, a non-partisan group that encourages voting and civic engagement.

“I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a lot of different things,” Mohanty said of her fellowship work. “We just finished up with the municipal elections, which have been much of our focus. We had a long day yesterday – I didn’t finish until 10 p.m.”

Mohanty has done canvassing on campus and in the community to encourage people to vote or register to vote. She has also helped the organization create and execute social media campaigns.

“The fellowship is giving me the chance to actively contribute to a cause I’m passionate about and witness the positive changes we can achieve when we work together,” she said.

The Service Fellowship extends far beyond individual experiences, Almond said. By placing students in diverse settings and roles, KSU is fostering a culture of civic responsibility and instilling a sense of purpose in the next generation of leaders.

“The goal is not just to produce graduates with degrees but to cultivate citizens who actively contribute to the well-being of society,” Almond said.

This article also appears in the current issue of Kennesaw State’s Summit Magazine.

- Gary Tanner

Photos by Matthew Yung and Darnell Wilburn

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.