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Community Fellows Build Skills & Connections

Program celebrates 10-year anniversary of service in Walla Walla

Three panel members.
Community Fellow Devon Player ’23 led a panel discussion at Together23, a trauma-informed recovery event on the Whitman campus on March 9, 2023. The event featured an educational panel, a large multimedia exhibition of visual artwork and spoken word poetry. Also pictured: Whitman graduate Tatiyanna Wells ’22 and Patrick Spencer, the Grace F. Phillips Professor of Geology. Player’s fellowship was with the Walla Walla Community Change Team, an organization supporting people living with substance use disorders.

The Whitman College Community Fellow Program is celebrating 10 years of serving the Walla Walla community and helping students gain valuable professional and life experience.

Over the years, the program has brought together more than 100 students and 60 organizational partners, many of whom gathered on campus this spring for a reunion.

The Community Fellow Program was the first initiative of the Whitman Career and Community Engagement Center (CCEC), created in 2012 to connect students with out-of-the-classroom experiences that enhance their learning—formerly known as the Student Engagement Center.

Noah Leavitt, CCEC Director, says while Whitman students have always been active in Walla Walla-based internships and volunteer projects, community partners wanted to build longer-term and deeper connections that would give students more time to learn about the organizations’ missions and see the results of their service in action. 

It’s truly a win-win for students, says Leavitt. Working on projects that went beyond a quarter or semester gives students more on-the-job experience and time to reflect.

“We wanted something where students could be metacognitive about what they’re involved with,” Leavitt says. “They can understand not only the particulars of their project, but what it means for their own insights, their own growth, their own ability to have self-awareness when they’re in different settings.”

It’s About Walla Walla’s Needs 

The fellow program is community-driven—local nonprofits, schools and government organizations propose projects, and a CCEC committee selects up to 10 partner initiatives each year. All junior and senior Whitman students are invited to apply. 

Students receive stipends to work with their community partners for a full academic year. The program is primarily funded by the Donald and Virginia Sherwood Internship Endowment, which was established in 2012 thanks to a grant from the Sherwood Trust. 

The partners help students understand the depth and complexities in the Walla Walla community, says Abby Juhasz, who leads the program as the CCEC Director for Community Engagement.

“We see our community partners as really instrumental in helping that learning process happen,” Juhasz says. “Having a year to develop that relationship deepens the connection that a student has with the community partner, but it also deepens the connection that a student has with Walla Walla.”

Published on May 19, 2023
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