Written by Marie Benner-Rhoades, Youth and Young Adult Peace Formation Director
Early in our internship program, we began lamenting when our highly skilled and committed interns left their positions after a year with us. As early as 2016, we began to dream of a fellowship opportunity to keep interns with us for a second year. In 2020, we piloted the Fellowship Program with Tiffany Byers as Communications Fellow. And now in 2021, we have a full fellowship cohort with five second year interns!
These fellows take their experience in their internships and apply what they’ve learned to help us build our capacity as an institution in work across the organization. Internships tend to be constituent facing, while fellowships support best practices and institutionalization of key commitments internal to OEP. Our five current fellows work in Communications, Development, Kingian Nonviolence, Organizing, and with our Anti-Racism Transformation Team. Here is a bit from each of them as they move from their internship into their fellowship year:
Anna Rodriguez, Kingian Nonviolence Fellow (former Environmental Justice Organizer and Kingian Nonviolence Organizer):
"I learned about Kingian Nonviolence when I started working for OEP and it opened my mind to want to develop new skills in the field. I started attending the OEP webinars where interns had the chance to learn about Kingian Nonviolence and really soon I realized it wasn’t merely a concept but a way of life…At the personal level, Kingian Nonviolence has become a new perspective for me to tackle conflicts and new method to take action and reach reconciliation."
Kharis Murphy, Communications Fellow (former Stop Recruiting Kids Organizer):
"As I reflect on my year-long internship as a Digital Organizer with Stop Recruiting Kids, the accomplishments that I am most proud of are my creativity in addressing and building up SRK’s issue sets, the collaborations with CODEPINK through both the No Draft and Divestment Campaigns, and the consistency and growth that I was able to bring to the SRK Campaign. Through these experiences, I was able to build strength in strategic thinking, goal setting for campaigns, capacity building in order to meet goals, collaboration, and creative problem solving. I believe these skills as well as skills I have developed through outside experience in the past year will equip me well as the Communications Fellow with OEP."
Tamera Shaw, Organizing Fellow (former Racial Justice Organizer):
"Given that this position is more institutionally facing than the intern organizing position, I have the opportunity to continue to work with the Column 4 & 5 committee [referring to the “Continuum on Becoming Antiracist Multicultural Organization” from Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training] as well as with the new ARTT fellow to continue making progress on OEP’s anti-racism/anti-oppression commitment. Specifically, I’m interested in asking the question of what it looks like to organize around accountability to this commitment at all levels. In addition, I’m interested in looking at the type of organizing that OEP is doing. What are the expectations? And, more importantly, what’s possible? Through my experience as an intern, I’ve learned that actual work with real people is possible! And lastly, because we are an agency of the Church of the Brethren (COB), how do we appropriately stimulate the COB in order to create a better relationship/connection with the COB as an institution?"
Skylar Rella, Anti-Racism Transformation Team Fellow (former Gender Justice Organizer):
"If given the opportunity to take on the Anti Racism Transformation Team Fellowship, my primary focus would be to push further for intersectionality. I wholeheartedly believe that anti-racism should always be central, with an acknowledgement and understanding, too, that racism at its roots is deeply tied to many other forms of oppression. The invention of gender and sex categories in particular came to be in our culture in ways that were very intentionally tied to upholding white supremacy; this reality makes it so that, in a variety of ways, gender in particular is very much part of the conversation about race. Based on the frameworks I work to center in my own life and work as well as my embodied knowledge as a trans person in the world, I believe I could bring a strong intersectional lens to this fellowship, that would not distract but instead expand our anti-racism framework to contain more complexity. I personally believe this is a necessary part of moving forward in this work in more effective, intentional, and loving ways."
Sadia Aurna, Development Fellow (former Campaign Organizer):
"Fundraising and development work is something that I am extremely passionate about. The fellowship will help me to continue my passion and help me to serve the OEP community. We have done so much as a team, but we still have a long way to go. I envision structuring our prospect research, grant research and outreach to both individuals and the congregations. I hope to build a better connection between the marketing and development department to make sure that we are putting our best selves out there to our donors. I look forward to the next year as I and the team work for peace and justice. Peace and love that come within our very core, I believe has the power to transform the world in the most positive way possible."
For more information about On Earth Peace’s paid internship program visit www.OnEarthPeace.org/internships.