St. Louis Fellows partner with local nonprofits, civic organizations to improve region

Gephardt Institute provides mentorship, $6,000 stipends to students who want to learn from, contribute to St. Louis

Grace Kahler, a Mosbacher St. Louis Fellow, helped develop a marketing plan for St. Louis Story Stitchers, an artists collective that offers youth arts and violence prevention programs. She presented her work at the St. Louis Fellows Showcase Oct. 18 at Stix House. (Photo courtesy of the Gephardt Institute)

Dressing bullet wounds for the Bullet Related Injury Clinic. Analyzing biosolids for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. Developing LGBTQ outreach plans for the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Missouri Chapter. 

This summer, Washington University in St. Louis undergraduate students performed these valuable services, and more, as part of the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement’s St. Louis Fellows Program, which provides career and civic leadership training to students as well as a $6,000 stipend to intern at a St. Louis nonprofit. On Oct. 18, the fellows and their community partners gathered with supporters at Stix House to celebrate their accomplishments.

For Adam Flores, manager of community engagement and education at the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, that meant another successful Shakespeare in the Streets. Intern Nitzia Davalos Reyes, a senior studying communication design at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, helped stage this year’s production of “The Game’s Afoot” near Citypark and met with residents of East St. Louis, Ill., which will host next year’s play.

Gephardt Institute’s St. Louis Fellows studied St. Louis history and culture and developed career skills before starting their summer internships with St. Louis-area organizations. Claire Ku was one of several interns to support the work of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Missouri Chapter. (Photo: Whitney Curtis/Washington University)

“The fellows allow us to do the work faster, but also deeper,” Flores said. “They bring their WashU educations and individual experiences to the table. And because of the support from the Gephardt Institute, they are ready to go on day one. For a nonprofit organization like ours, that matters.”

The Gephardt Institute currently funds 32 St. Louis Fellows and plans to expand the program to 100 fellows in the future, said Stephanie Kurtzman, the Peter G. Sortino Executive Director of the Gephardt Institute. 

Throughout the six-month fellowship, the fellows receive structured supervision and mentoring, attend weekly seminars and meet with local leaders to learn St. Louis’ history, culture and politics. They also earn a $6,000 summer stipend and an additional $250 grant for transportation, meals at local restaurants and tickets to local events. This fall, the Gephardt Institute awarded new partnership extension grants to seven fellows who are continuing their internships into the school year. 

“What makes the St. Louis Fellows Program so meaningful is that it is mutually beneficial to both the fellows and the community partners,” Kurtzman said. “Our students come away from the experience with important civic leadership and career skills and a deeper understanding of and commitment to St. Louis. Equally important, they are trained to help our community partners move forward with mission-critical work that is making a positive impact for the St. Louis region.”

April Springer, a junior majoring in global studies in Arts & Sciences, said her summer internship with CG Immigration Law has inspired her to pursue a career in public interest law. 

“I discovered every role counts,” Springer said. “I spent a lot of time behind a desk, studying case law and organizing the details of a case. Some people might find that tedious. But every time I opened a piece of mail about someone’s citizenship status, I understood the real-life impact of our work for people in the St. Louis community.”

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