The Teach For America Graduate Fellows Program at Delta State University hosted “Ballot & Brunch” Nov. 11 at the Delta Meat Market in Cleveland.
Guests were invited to become active participants in re-imagining Mississippi with the TFA Graduate Fellows.
The program is a collaboration between Delta State and TFA. The fellowship’s role is to retain TFA alumni in Mississippi by offering the opportunity to continue their education in graduate school at DSU and to nurture their passion for enhancing the state.
The fellowship is a two-year program that currently has two cohorts for a total of 19 TFA alumni. Each fellow is pursuing their individualized social entrepreneurship project (SE) that addresses local issues.
“These folks are actively using their unique skills and passion, and applying it to the betterment of Mississippi through their social entrepreneurship projects,” said Harrison Wood, program coordinator for the fellowship.
Each fellow had the opportunity to invite individuals to the Ballot & Brunch who they consider to be mentors, collaborators or stakeholders in their SE project. TFA staff, DSU coordinators and potential future TFA fellows were also in attendance.
“It was a powerful event to experience,” Wood said. “Everyone in the space was invited because our fellowship believes that they are actively using their passions and work to better our wonderful Mississippi. In the room, we had people who were responsible for the creation of this opportunity. There were many folks representing TFA and DSU, and many were considered to be mentors and stakeholders to our TFA Fellows.”
The brunch was a brainstorming opportunity for attendees to propose ideas for advancing Mississippi followed by a pitch/networking competition among the fellows and their projects.
After brunch, each fellow presented a powerful one-minute pitch about their SE project. During the pitch, they addressed the Mississippi community that is being served, the need the project is meeting, and how they plan to execute their project. Participants then provided visuals of their projects set up in the space.
Once guests were able to network with the fellows, everyone had the opportunity to vote on the SE project they would support and like to see come to fruition.
The top-three presenters received a scholarship stipend to bring their projects to reality:
1st Place ($500)– Jeremiah Smith, Rosedale with Rosedale Freedom Project
2nd Place ($400) – Charlotte Arrowsmith, Greenwood with Open Minds
3rd Place ($300) – Lucas Rapisarda, Rosedale with Rosedale Freedom Project Outdoor Program
In addition to the Ballot & Brunch winners, the program able to award nine fellows with the Supply Stipend Award. The fellows were given the opportunity to apply for up to $3,000 of awards that will be dedicated to the advancement of their project.
“The TFA Graduate Fellows Program is thrilled to be able to support the TFA Fellows social entrepreneurship projects outside of providing university resources, formal mentorship, cohort collaboration, and community service opportunities,” said Wood. “Supporting them financially with the Supply Stipend Award is evidence that the fellowship actively supports the changemaking efforts they are working towards in a real tangible way.”
The project is funded through a grant from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation. The principal goal of the foundation is to contribute to the overall economic advancement of the state of Mississippi by making funds available to four-year colleges and universities and graduate professional schools located in the state.
For more information on the program, visit www.tfafellows.com.