The Work First Foundation recently said hello to its 7th cohort of Work First Fellows when they arrived in New York City for a 3-day orientation. The 2019-2020 cohort, which includes high-achieving recent graduates from colleges and universities across the country and young professionals who advocated for various causes both in the US and abroad, is brought together by the common goal to make a direct impact in the lives of underserved individuals living in poverty by helping them gain meaningful employment.
The 16 Work First Fellows kicked off their year of direct service and research in poverty alleviation by traveling to New York City, where they had a chance to meet each other for the first time and learn more about the Work First Foundation story and mission. Speaking to Dirrane Cove, Executive Director of the Work First Foundation, the Fellows learned about the history of the Fellowship program and its journey from a small New York-based cohort to a far-reaching program that impacts communities not only in the five New York boroughs but also in San Francisco and Los Angeles, CA; Milwaukee, WI; Memphis, TN; Washington, D.C.; and Baltimore, MD.
The next day, the Fellows had a chance to meet the founders of the Work First Foundation, Mr. Peter Cove and Dr. Lee Bowes, who spoke with them about the history of the Work First Foundation and its collaborative partner, America Works. The orientation itself was hosted in the America Works of New York offices in Brooklyn and Manhattan (45th Street Office).
In the Brooklyn office, the Fellows were introduced to the positive psychology approach that America Works incorporates in its casework and teaching, specifically the VIA Survey of Character Strengths developed by Dr. Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania, and had an opportunity to learn about their own unique character strengths and practice translating them into success in the workplace.
At the Manhattan site, the Fellows dived into a discussion about public policy and research. After reading and discussing articles on topics such as workforce development, welfare benefits, and domestic poverty, written from a variety of perspectives, they began to think about their own research interests. One of the hallmarks of the Work First Fellowship is the opportunity for Fellows to research creative ways to alleviate urban poverty and advance workforce development strategies for an ever-changing world. At the end of their fellowship year, they will present the results of their research. Until then, the Fellows will spend time getting to know the impact of current policy at a grassroots level, teaching and engaging with current and future America Works clients.
As orientation came to an end, the Fellows said their goodbyes and prepared to head to their respective locations to undertake more site-specific training. To receive updates on our 2019-2020 Fellows and the crucial work they do in helping clients and conducting research, follow the Work First Foundation on Twitter (@theworkfirst) and on Facebook (@theworkfirstfoundation).