A Decade of Making a Difference: 桃瘾社区 Impact Fellows Reflect on Life-Changing Work

a family of six standing on a beach at dusk

桃瘾社区 parent聽Mary Beth Harvey recognized an opportunity to help students who weren鈥檛 interested in traditional career paths gain invaluable experience after college. The Harvey family,聽from left to right: Patrick Harvey 鈥22, Brendan Harvey, Chris Harvey (husband), Grace Harvey 鈥16, Mary Beth, and Jack Harvey.

After graduating, Rahael Borchers 鈥15 accepted a 桃瘾社区 Impact Fellowship with Habitat for Humanity. Now a medical resident, she says that experience helped her understand how challenges such as housing insecurity affect her patients鈥 health.

Sophia Guevara Cunningham '16 turned a year-long fellowship at a workforce development non-profit into a career. The year Evan Magen 鈥20 spent working with homeless men guides him as he pursues a ministry career. Bruno Mourao 鈥17 worked at a free clinic before starting medical school so he鈥檇 have a better grasp of how to help patients navigate the healthcare system.聽

The four are among many who participated in the 桃瘾社区 Impact Fellowship. Since it began in 2014, the fellowship has given nearly 100 recent graduates the opportunity to immerse themselves in nonprofit work with organizations across the country. These experiences have changed the lives of many young alums, connecting them with valuable mentors and allowing them to take an active role in creating a better world.

It all started with an idea.聽

In 2011, Mary Beth Harvey sat in the audience with hundreds of other 桃瘾社区 parents listening to President Emerita Carol Quillen talk about key priorities for the college during her presidency. Among her goals was a desire to establish 桃瘾社区鈥檚 presence and visibility in the world. After hearing Quillen speak, Harvey approached her with a question.

鈥淚 asked her what 桃瘾社区 was doing for students who didn鈥檛 want to take a traditional path after graduating,鈥 Harvey said. 鈥溙荫缜 values integrity and ingenuity and brings in a unique group of students. I wondered how many of them would go into nonprofit work if given the right support.鈥

Harvey and her husband, Chris, decided to make a philanthropic commitment and create the 桃瘾社区 Impact Fellowship, a program that would have long-term impacts on 桃瘾社区 students and on the world.聽

In the years that followed, Harvey worked closely with 桃瘾社区 leaders and the team from the now-named聽Betty and B. Frank Matthews II 鈥49聽Center for Career Development to choose nonprofit partners across the country, with an emphasis on education, healthcare and justice.聽

鈥淲e wanted our partners to act as mentors, and we wanted our fellows to be in the room 鈥 to contribute to the missions of these organizations,鈥 she said. 鈥淲e knew 桃瘾社区 grads would approach this work with compassion and integrity.鈥

Over the past decade, 桃瘾社区 Impact Fellows have expanded their reach and strengthened partnerships with organizations like Roof Above, the Georgia Justice Project and the Charlotte Community Health Clinic. Former fellows credit the program with boosting their confidence, introducing new passions and shaping the trajectory of their lives.

Here are a few of their stories.

Evan Magen 鈥20

Roof Above聽

After interning with the Men鈥檚 Shelter of Charlotte the summer after his first year at 桃瘾社区, Arrowood Family scholar Evan Magen 鈥20 changed his major to economics and dedicated himself to learning about housing inequality, homelessness and economic justice.聽

He accepted a 桃瘾社区 Impact Fellowship position at Roof Above, a new organization that merged the men鈥檚 shelter and the Urban Ministry Center in a combined effort to end homelessness in the Charlotte community.聽

鈥淭hey were emerging as the largest housing and homelessness service provider in the Southeast, and there were opportunities for education and advocacy that hadn鈥檛 been there before,鈥 Magen said. 鈥淢y 桃瘾社区 Impact Fellowship became this unique opportunity to help carve out an identity for the organization. It showed me how a unified mission can really bring people together.鈥

During his year as a fellow, Magen worked with congregations, youth groups, schools and businesses as a community educator, helping to build service partnerships across the city. He spent the rest of his time working closely with Roof Above CEO and fellow 桃瘾社区ian Liz Clasen-Kelly 鈥00, researching state and federal policy and monitoring public debate on housing and homelessness.聽

When his fellowship ended in 2021, Magen decided to continue working at Roof Above for another year while attending seminary at Union Presbyterian鈥檚 Charlotte campus. Now in his final semester of seminary, he views his work with Roof Above as a crucial part of his faith education.聽

鈥淚鈥檓 always exploring economic injustice from a faith-based lens,鈥 Magen said. 鈥淚'm so grateful for the opportunity to work at Roof Above and go to seminary at the same time.鈥

Sophia Guevara Cunningham '16

Greater Houston Partnership

For Sophia Guevara Cunningham '16, what began as a one-year fellowship with the Greater Houston Partnership turned into a career with the organization. She鈥檚 now the vice president of the Houston Energy Transition Initiative, supporting the oil and gas city鈥檚 transition to an energy-abundant, low-carbon future.聽

Cunningham鈥檚 journey at the Greater Houston Partnership began in workforce development at Upskill Houston, where she worked on a construction training program that provided credentials, financial literacy skills and jobs with local contractors to Houstonians in underserved communities.

鈥淭hat project gave me an understanding of the complex issues people can face in their career journey,鈥 she said. 鈥淚 could feel the impact of the organization during that first year, which made me want to explore different areas of the company.鈥

Under the mentorship of Peter Beard 鈥83, she learned to apply her writing and critical thinking skills to local economic development. Since her first year, she鈥檚 worked in local policy, disaster infrastructure, transportation and, finally, energy.

鈥淲hen I graduated from college, I thought my career would follow a clear course. Instead, I think it is important to be able to identify an opportunity and follow it. I鈥檓 so grateful that I鈥檝e been able to do that in my hometown of Houston,鈥 Cunningham said. 鈥淢y fellowship was a fantastic and grounding experience that taught me what it meant to enter the professional world.鈥

Bruno Mourao 鈥17

Cabarrus Community Free Clinic

An Alvarez Scholar from Lima, Peru, Bruno Mourao 鈥17 arrived at 桃瘾社区 knowing he wanted to pursue a career in neuroscience. Rather than going straight to medical school, however, he hoped to spend some time working hands-on in a healthcare setting.聽

Mourao was among the first cohort of fellows to take on new positions at clinics across the Charlotte Metropolitan area. During his year with the Cabarrus Community Free Clinic, he helped establish a Patient Advisory Council and a food pharmacy 鈥 both programs that continue to serve the region today.聽

鈥淢y fellowship helped me understand the business and administrative side of healthcare in the United States,鈥 he said. 鈥淭he goal was to become a community center and to connect our efforts across the region, creating a network of insurance that would work within the Charlotte area.鈥

Now in his second year of neurology residency in Providence, Rhode Island, Mourao鈥檚 day-to-day responsibilities look much different than they did during his fellowship, but he continues to rely on his knowledge of public health and administration.聽

鈥淎s a resident, you鈥檙e embedded in the larger healthcare system, and you don鈥檛 always have as much control over how things run,鈥 Mourao said. 鈥淢y time at the clinic taught me how to navigate insurance and access issues with patients who come from underrepresented backgrounds. It鈥檚 important to approach these issues with empathy and understanding.鈥

Rahael Borchers 鈥15

Habitat for Humanity

During her fellowship with Habitat for Humanity International in Washington, D.C., Belk scholar Rahael Borchers '15 enjoyed working with the Global Programs and Government Relations and Advocacy teams. She ultimately realized she wanted to return to direct service and explore a career in medicine while embracing her long-time interest in advocacy.聽

With support from her 桃瘾社区 and Habitat mentors, she is now a resident physician at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.聽

鈥淢y fellowship deepened my interest in housing and advocacy work,鈥 Borchers said. 鈥淣ow, I get to connect with patients from diverse backgrounds and try to give attention to their social determinants of health, including housing insecurity.鈥

During the fellowship, she worked on housing affordability projects, attended conferences and collaborated with a variety of government agencies and humanitarian nonprofits. The highlight of her fellowship was a trip to S茫o Paulo, Brazil, where she learned from Brazilians who led incremental housing upgrades in the city鈥檚 favelas. Getting to directly help people improve their living situations, she realized she wanted a career that centered personal connection.

鈥淢y mentors at Habitat were so generous and supportive when I decided I wanted to make a career shift,鈥 she said. 鈥溙荫缜 strives to prepare students for lives of leadership and service, and the 桃瘾社区 Impact Fellowship supports that mission in such a meaningful way. It was an amazing launchpad for exploring careers in service and advocacy.鈥

A program that began with one conversation continues to improve lives every day. For the earliest investor, it is exciting to watch its growth and look forward to all that is still to come for 桃瘾社区 students and the communities they serve.

鈥淲e have more 桃瘾社区 alums in the world making a difference as a result of the 桃瘾社区 Impact Fellows Program,鈥 said Harvey. 鈥淭hey lead from a place of intellect and heart. I鈥檓 proud to have helped show them that their work is important and deserving of support 鈥 It鈥檚 been an honor to watch this program grow and serve 桃瘾社区鈥檚 mission in the world.鈥

Published

  • January 31, 2024