As Mai Segawa’s first year at Case Western Reserve University ended, she questioned what to do with her summer.
Like other undergraduates, she wanted something meaningful and unique and a chance to make a difference. In Segawa’s search, she found the Civic Engagement Summer Fellows Program, applied and became one of five undergrads on campus selected to intern with a Cleveland nonprofit organization this summer.
Segawa, a second-year student from Bethesda, Md., has spent the summer with the Catholic Charities’s Office of Migration and Refugee Services.
Joining her for the eight-week service internship are fourth-year students and Fellows Joseph Baum of Dalton, Ohio, at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH); Mitchell Delaney of Albuquerque, N.M., at The Intergenerational School (TIS); Melissa Fenn of Doylestown, Ohio, at the Burten, Bell, Carr Development Corporation, Inc (BBC); and Jasmine Jordan of Cleveland, at Esperanza, Inc.
Segawa returned to the classroom to teach English to 28 adult refugees from Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Afghanistan with the Catholic Charities Refugee and Migration Services. She helps assimilate refugees into U.S life by leading discussions about American culture and etiquette, providing instructions on how to fill out job applications and editing refugee resumes.
“I want to make sure the resumes truly reflect how wonderful and hard-working the refugees are in this very competitive job market. It’s remarkable how eager the adult refugees are to learn English, get a job and support their families,” Segawa said.
Aside from teaching, Segawa mentors eight children from Burundi, Africa, enrolled in the Summer Educational Camp at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. She also assists a refugee victim of domestic violence who is seeking a divorce.
Jordan also woks in an educational project at, Esperanza, Inc., a nonprofit on Cleveland’s Westside dedicated to enriching the lives of the Latino community through economic and educational services.
“I found this opportunity to be a perfect match because education is very important to me,” said Jordan, who is a Spanish and sociology double major. “I wish to impact the lives of Hispanic and African Americans in the future.”
Jordan works with students from Lincoln West, Brooklyn and Lakewood High Schools and Garret Morgan School of Science through a pre-college program. She is a counselor and has accompanied students on various college tours throughout Northeast Ohio.
She also teaches college-bound youth some managing money lessons. Through financial literacy workshops, she advises students on how to write a check, use checking and savings accounts, spend money wisely and know the difference between a debit and credit card.
Her main goal is to teach students to save and avoid the financial pitfalls of getting into credit card debt.
Being a counselor, Jordan said, “has motivated me to become an excellent role model.”
The fellowship benefits undergraduate business students like Fenn, a management major with a concentration in finance. After graduation, Fenn said she hopes to become an AmeriCorps VISTA and eventually obtain a master’s degree in nonprofit management.
As Fenn immersed herself in the activities of the Burten, Bell, Carr Development Corporation, Inc (BBC), she has gained experience in leading, organizing and fundraising for communities.
She coordinated volunteers for BBC’s KaBOOM! Playground Project and handled applications for a rain barrel project. She also drafted letters to inspire others to volunteer or donate funds for the projects.
“This experience has been very rewarding, because everyone at BBC is eager to help me learn and answer my questions about nonprofit organizations,” Fenn said. “It has given me a better idea of what I want to do in the future.”
Delaney has learned a few lessons this summer in how nonprofits work, charter schools operate and the potential benefits offered by intergenerational learning through his service project at The Intergenerational School (TIS).
According to Delaney, the “nonprofit” tag is a misnomer. A better descriptor for nonprofit organizations would be “mission driven” or “program and service” since it better explains what the organizations do, he said.
“This fellowship has given me an opportunity to explore some new sides to the nonprofit sector, while looking at some key issues in community development, funding for services, and ideas about who to help, involve and/or participate with,” Delaney said.
This experience has prepared the political science and international studies major for entering the Peace Corps as a volunteer and future work with gay advocacy and social justice issues in the U.S. and Latin America.
Being homeless can present problems in connecting to services. Through a summer experience at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), Baum works to solve the dilemma the homeless face in finding services.
The political science and international studies major worked on a project called “Street Card” that targets the individual or families. An 8 x 14 paper provides contact information on the front and back to help the homeless find shelter, food and health care in Cuyahoga County.
He actively researched information for the street cards and sought funding sources to make this available to the homeless.
“It’s amazing to see the impact that people can make when they are committed,” Baum said. “The passion I’ve seen from everyone at NEOCH has, in turn, inspired me to be more passionate about my desire to be involved in this work.”
“Unfortunately, with the increase in foreclosures and evictions, more and more families are facing the reality of life on the streets—making the services provided by NEOCH even more necessary and important,” Baum said.
The fellows program is made possible by support from the John P. Murphy Foundation.
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