Fellow Friday: From on the Ground to Behind the Scenes

Every summer, the Frank Karel Fellowship places undergraduate students who are first-generation college students and/or represent diverse racial, ethnic and social backgrounds in an eight-week summer internship within the communications team of a carefully selected nonprofit organization. 

The Fellowship honors and advances the legacy of Frank Karel, who established, led and nurtured the field of strategic communications in philanthropy during his 30 years as chief communications officer for the Robert Wood Johnson and Rockefeller Foundations.

Karel believed that racial and ethnic minorities should be better represented in the communications field and that we should be proactive in recruiting and nurturing broader participation and leadership in the advocacy and communications fields.

Throughout their fellowship, the nonprofit offers students guidance, career advice, substantive work assignments, networking and applied experience. This year’s nonprofit hosts included Special Olympics, the Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids and DC Vote.  

In this new series, we hear from the latest cohort of students on their experience as Karel Fellows and what they learned.  This week we are sharing Kindra Nicols post on the lessons she learned during her summer fellowship at Save the Children Action Network.


All I have ever wanted to do was make a difference in the world. Honestly, I did not have a specific idea about how I wanted to make the world a better place or even create a change. When I first went to Africa and volunteered at an orphanage, I connected with the children placed there. Their families could not afford the adequate healthcare they needed. On that day and because of those moments with the children, I knew I was going to help people in the future.

My summer as a Karel fellow allowed me to witness how to make a change in the lives of others from another perspective. As I transitioned from on the ground to behind the scenes, I was not making a change for a day, but I was creating a systemic change that will help people overtime through public policy. I was able to support issues related to early childhood education and the mother and infant mortality rates for generations to come.sign

I grew up a bit this summer and dove right into advocacy. I made my desires of being an advocate a reality. I can say I worked on an early childhood education campaign that encourages presidential candidates to make early childhood education a priority. This will help ensure that every child in the United States has access to high quality early childhood education programs no matter where they live.

I can say that I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with a coalition of non-profit organizations to discuss a maternal newborn and child survival bill that made me frustrated because people were concerned with making sure that an even number of Republicans or Democrats would be able to support the bill or that there was a political figure to support and endorse the bill.

I became so passionate about this initivate because I remembered the children that I worked with in the orphanage in Tanzania. It took me some time but looking back, I realize that the only way to make a real change is to gain political support to bring awareness to the issues around the world.

I can say that I went to my first Capitol Hill drop event and became a lobbyist for a day to persuade senators and their staffers to support the “Reach Every Mother and Child” Act; a bipartisan policy that was developed to end preventable child and maternal deaths worldwide by 2035. I knew I had evolved into an advocate because I was able to communicate a message to bring awareness to a social issue that I became passionate about and I then shared the same message with others.Save the kids

When people asked me what I wanted to do in the future for my career I would say, “I want to make a change” or “I want to help people and become a social entrepreneur.” Now when people ask me that same exact question. I can say I want to be an advocate for children around the world because every child deserves to have the same and equal opportunities in life.

After completing the Frank Karel Fellowship, I now know what kind of advocate I want to be in the future. One day I am going to work on the ground with the children around the world and think of creative ways to solve their issues. I am going to work behind the scenes to create a significant systematic change through public policy. I am beyond thankful and grateful that this fellowship has made my future career aspirations a clear vision. I have realized that this is what I am here for and what I am going to do for the rest of my life. I have found my voice, and I am going to use it for all the children who do not have one and for all the voices that go unheard.


This post originally appeared on the Frank Karel Fellowship blog.

 The Karel Fellowship is made possible by the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Moriah Fund and public interest communications firms including Burness, Spitfire Strategies, Brodeur and Fenton.

Posted: November 13, 2015