Highlights from the CWL Summer Community Leaders Program

Since 2007, the St. Catherine University Center for Community Work and Learning (CWL) has offered paid positions for students to work in the nonprofit sector to practice their leadership skills and make valuable contributions in our local communities. In 2014, CWL received external funding to expand the paid positions and deepen the cohort leadership support. The program now provides an average of 40 paid and supported community-based student employment positions a year, with a focus on sophomores, juniors, and seniors with financial need. 2020 IRPA data shows that 53% of Community Leaders students are Pell Grant recipients, 35% are first generation, and 50% are students of color.

Community Leaders is a way for St. Kate’s to live out our mission in collaboration with nonprofits and to build on the work we do through critical service-learning to increase our impact in local communities. - CWL Director D’Ann Urbaniak Lesch

This summer, with funding from the WCA Foundation, the Center for Community Work and Learning is able to offer a summer cohort of Community Leaders positions supported with professional development sessions and ongoing staff support for students working virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. These students are working to address pressing campus and community needs. On Thursday August 6, CWL will host a virtual summer symposium highlighting the accomplishments of the summer students and partners.

Following are some reflections on the work and learning so far this summer from three of the summer Community Leaders students: Kieu My Phi, Najat Omer, and Pasha Chang.

Kieu My Phi is a senior in public policy at St. Kate’s planning to start her first year in the Master of Public Health graduate program. She is working with St. Kate’s Welcoming the Dear Neighbor? project in partnership with Mapping Prejudice, contributing to the virtual events to map racial covenants in Ramsey County this summer. “I have learned that using your voice is so important. I continue to learn new things every day, and recognize privilege within myself, such as education, access to the internet, and financial stability. I am also learning how to amplify voices that need to be heard.” When asked about her greatest contributions to the Mapping Prejudice/ Welcoming the Dear Neighbor? project, Kieu My responded: “Gathering the data (such as reading the news and articles) to be used for projects and reading the news to feed it into the database so that the organization can create educational resources...this is something that I am proud of.”

Najat Omer is graduating from St. Kate’s this summer as a public health major with a concentration in public policy. She is working with Dress for Success Twin Cities on programs that help women with career coaching and those who are looking for a job or a career change. “My position is to call clients to see what kind of help they need and if they still have a job or if they need any type of resources so that Dress for Success can better support them.” When asked what she was proud of, Najat had this to say about her experiences: “I was helping a client that needed assistance finding a job. I was able to connect her to different resources and I felt accomplished that I was able to assist a client to develop skills and find a job and resources that the client needed.”

Pasha Chang is a senior this fall with a major in public health and a concentration in public policy, pre-Master of Public Health. Pasha has been working with Isuroon, an organization that works for health and connectedness of Somali women and girls to develop a call center for their clients. Pasha shared: “I love the connection I made at Isuroon and I have been able to use my voice and share my own cultural identity to find strength and make connections.”