About The Work First Fellowship

The Work First Fellowship connects young professionals with the opportunity to have a direct impact on urban poverty. Fellows work one-on-one with individuals living below the poverty level to help them find employment and get back on their feet, while also conducting policy research on effective job placement programs.

This service year combines direct support to the needy while also reviewing public policy that shapes the lives of their clients.




Fellows roll up their sleeves and make meaningful change to the lives of the unemployed.

  • Fellows give adult learners the ability to reshape their future by teaching High School Equivalency, Computer Literacy, and English as a Second Language courses, all while utilizing their creativity to influence the curricula
  • Fellows learn the strengths and shortcomings of their adult students and act as mentors to meet educational and professional goals
  • Fellows provide an energy and enthusiasm to adult education and encourage individuals to earn a degree or certificate that will open doors to employment


Fellows obtain a unique perspective through a combination of direct service and policy research

  • Fellows utilize their relationships with students to overcome systemic and personal obstacles
  • Fellows coordinate and collaborate with experts in various fields of policy, education and government to guide their research
  • Fellows meet with policy makers, educators and influential leaders to expand their resources

Read more about the 2016-2017 Fellowship Class's Research Topics!

Fellows meet with professors to learn how they can make a difference moving forward

Fellows meet with professors to learn how they can make a difference moving forward

the fellowship network

The program welcomes young adults of all backgrounds and interests, creating a group of diverse, intelligent, energetic, and caring professionals. Program alumni have gone on to become Lawyers, Public Policy Experts, Civil Servants, Business Leaders and Educators.  Alumni support transitioning fellows in the next step of their promising careers.

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Urban Visionary Award

The Work First Urban Visionary Award goes to a fellow who's curiosity, compassion and commitment to urban poverty leads to extraordinary impact on the clients he or she serves. The recipient makes tremendous strides in public policy, research or in the classroom.  

Fellows Lead in Education and Training 


High School Equivalency

The job application ends for many students when they come across "High School Diploma Required." A decision made many years ago bars their entrance into the workforce today. Work First Fellows help welfare recipients prepare for the TASC or GED exam and earn their high school equivalency diploma. 


Soft Skills

Fellows lead soft skill training! Students are coached in resume & cover letter writing, job searching & research, interviewing, and networking. More broadly, fellows host lectures on financial literacy, social capital, social media, and employee rights. Students participate in workshops guiding leadership, teamwork and communication. 

English as a Second Language

Non-English speakers are invited to practice and improve their english skills at the beginner or advanced level. Students are tested on the first day they enter the course and their progress is tracked throughout the process. Fellows help ESL students close the language gap and help them find work.


Computer Literacy

Computer illiteracy creates a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to job attainment in the modern application process. Fellows coach less experienced computer users in typing and exploring the internet. More experienced users practice Microsoft Word, Excel. At the summation of class those students are encouraged to take a work entry test on those applications. Linked is a website fellows made to guide their courses

Creative Solutions to Complex Problems


The Work First FellowS Identify Resources that help clients Defy the odds

Habitat for Humanity ReStore Internship Program 

Lack of diverse or recent experience presents major obstacles for unemployed adults seeking employment, so two Fellows looked to help Public Assistance Recipients (PAR) find internships. They found the low-pay and limited-hours decreased their benefit access beyond a worth while level. The fellows promoted internships that provided alternate payment subsidies for PAR's to gain necessary experience without hurting their ability to support their families. The Work First Foundation partnered with America Works of New York to connect PAR's with beneficial customer service experience with the nationally recognized non-profit Habitat for Humanity ReStore. 

Check out this article on these fellows other project connecting PAR's to employment in the food industry! https://www.goodfoodjobs.com/blog/nicole-carroll-sarah-riley-literacy-fellows-the-work-first-foundation/

Computer Literacy Training 

Fellows investigated the computer literacy level of adults out of work. The numbers were staggering. Not only are many out of work adults unfamiliar with the most important computer functions, but their anxiety discourages them to try to improve their skills. Many adults that live in poor communities do not have internet access at home, and for those who do, most prefer their smartphones.


Related to employment our Fellows question America Works job developers about how important computer capabilities are when placing clients in jobs. The job developers recognized that computer skills frequently appear on job orders and that many clients are then under qualified. Our fellows created a computer literacy training course and connected students with Microsoft training programs.

The fellows created a computer literacy blog for students to reference and practice when they are home.

College Connections

Fellows identified that some adults on public assistance are eager to get a secondary education degree. Fellows identified the financial and practical obstacles faced by the welfare recipients at America Works. They recommended methods that assist clients in affording college and managing time after getting back to work. 

English as a Second Language

Fellows studied the many languages spoken by New Yorkers and how these languages affect employment. They found clients who speak dozens of different languages and created a curriculum to address their needs. Students, regardless of language of origin, see improvements after the beginner and advanced level courses.  

Green is the Pre-Test Scores and white is the Post test scores for beginner level ESL students.

Green is the Pre-Test Scores and white is the Post test scores for beginner level ESL students.