By Rainier Valley Corps
On Thursday, July 18, we celebrated the graduation of our 2017-2019 Community Impact Fellows with “The Brightest Stars,” a community celebration and dinner at New Holly Gathering Hall in Seattle.
During the event, we heard from representatives from our partner community-based organizations (CBO) about the impact the Fellows made at their organizations. We also heard from two keynote speakers, Fellows Mohamed Shidane and Miko Pugal.
The Brightest Stars event was emceed by Community Impact Fellowship alumni SuYoung Yun and Lourdez Velasco. One highlight of the night was when the duo led attendees in a sing-along to an original song, “Nonprofit Unicornz.”
In addition to the entertainment provided by our energetic and joyful emcees, we were also graced by performances from local Totem Star artists CobbFrom38 and Ana Walker (Totem Star is one of our partners!), along with beats from DJ Flip D’Skript.
The evening ended with an epic (and delicious) dessert dash. The funds raised from this event will go toward monthly lunches that we host to help our upcoming Fellows build professional skills.
RVC’s Fellowship Programs Director, Abesha Shiferaw, has worked closely with all of the Fellows over the last two years. She told us, “Our Fellows have pushed themselves in really real and difficult ways so they can show up for their communities and those they serve. They have pushed their organizations towards healthier work and organizational culture, made systems better or created new systems that are sustainable and make the work of the organization easier, wrote grants and raised money in order to allocate it to most impact members of our communities, and most importantly, showed up everyday working twice as hard because they are committed to a vision of a healthier and stronger community.”
Our partner CBOs echoed the same sentiments. Many members of the organizations talked about the growth that they’ve experienced as a direct result of our Fellow’s contributions. All of them told us about how invaluable the Fellows had been to their organizations’ everyday operations.
Whether it’s growing a team from 5 to 20 employees, building an effective communications plan, fundraising, event organization or implementing new HR policies and systems, each of our Fellows made a meaningful and lasting impact on the organization they were placed at.
Miko Pugal, who was placed at AGE UP for his Fellowship, was a keynote speaker at the event. He talked about how he was a crossroad in life — stay in community work and nonprofit, or go back to school to do something that he didn’t love but was more ‘sensible.’
Of course Miko landed at RVC and became one of our Fellows, a decision that he does not regret. He talked about how his experience in the past two years has cemented his purpose in life.
“This is my ask to everyone in this room, including myself,” said Miko. “Are we building the world we want to live in? Are we creating spaces and tending to relationships that not only meet our needs, but also the needs of the people we are in community with? Are we taking time to carve space to let ourselves feel our feelings? Are we taking time everyday to remind ourselves that we are more than enough?”
“This work is long — this work is hard,” he added. “And we will get bogged down, from the grant reporting, to receipt filing, to the logistics of onboarding new employees, and all the messages around us saying we aren’t enough — but we are not alone. We have this whole room here rooting for us, and doing the work with us.”
Mohamed Shidane, who was placed at Somali Health Board for his Fellowship, was the other keynote speaker of the evening.
A major theme of Mohamed’s speech was the special bond that the fellows share and the ways in which they’ve supported each other both personally and professionally. This bond was evident throughout the evening in the Fellows’ interactions and the enthusiasm with which they celebrated each other’s accomplishments.
Mohamed closed his speech by addressing his fellow Fellows directly. “Relentless sisters and brothers with unmatched love and more than enough flame to start a wildfire — you are brilliant individuals and I have learned from you! We grew into each other and debated issues affecting our communities and the limits of our work … Your love and genuine care for one another is unmatched … We might still be a minority to the world, but together we are a united force for all that’s good and have the tremendous energy and ability to tackle anything the world throws at us.”
We look forward to following the journeys of these 13 incredible leaders of color as they continue to grow and create change for the communities they serve.