Astrid Berger at Urban Roots

By Emma Salomon ’24

Each year, a group of Chuck Green Fellows breaks the mold of what it means to have a summer internship. Over the course of a six-month fellowship, students complete a spring seminar where they study democratic engagement and ethical participation in social and organizational change. Then they partner with local non-profits for a ten-week paid fellowship where they put their ideas for change into action. 

Longtime political science professor Chuck Green believed that liberal arts students are uniquely equipped to work with social change organizations because of their skill sets and passion. The fellowship, created and supported by Green’s former students, enables current students to follow in that philosophy. 

We asked three students to tell us about their experience this summer.

Astrid Berger ’23
Psychology and educational studies majors; community and global health concentration
Partner organization: Urban Roots

At first, Astrid Berger ’23 (Minneapolis) nearly overlooked the Chuck Green Fellowship because she thought the program was restricted to political science majors. Then Professor Vanessa Voller, Berger’s CGH advisor, gave her a nudge.

“She always tells me that women and people of color should always apply for things they don’t feel qualified for,” Berger says. “And so I took that advice to heart and applied that day.”

For her summer fellowship, Berger wanted to work with outdoor education and found a perfect fit with Urban Roots, a well-established nonprofit on the east side of St. Paul that supports and aims to create sustainable communities by hiring and creating programming for paid youth interns.

There, Berger worked on a project started by Nethmi Bathige ’22, who had begun compiling a cookbook by community members, staff members, and youth interns. Berger was given creative control of the project and chose to pair recipes with personal stories, to shine light on the food’s significance to each contributor. “I wanted to get the most authentic version of the stories and so I collected their words in informal interviews,” Berger says. “This way I was able to get their own words on the page and not just my watered-down retellings, really bringing their voices and imagery alive.”

She also collected stories through youth interns  to work on her project. Berger held open hours where youth could come in and work with her on a range of tasks, including cooking meals with guest chefs during which they all traded stories about food.

Although summer’s end also marked the fellowship’s conclusion, Berger’s work with the organization will continue: she’s joining Urban Roots as a full-time staff member.

Hufsa Ahmed at Ignite Afterschool

Hufsa Ahmed ’24
St. Paul
Political science and economics
Partner organization: Ignite Afterschool

“I got to learn something new every day, and talk with so many people making a difference in after-school programs in Minnesota.” 

Hufsa Ahmed ’24 (Minneapolis) has been deeply involved in local politics since high school. This summer through the fellowship, she pushed her knowledge and learned what it takes to run a nonprofit as she shaped her role at Ignite Afterschool, an organization that works to increase funding for after-school programs across Minnesota. 

“What really excited me about Ignite was how open they were to working with a student and giving me independence and flexibility,”  Ahmed says. “They seem to value my input as a young person.”

At Ignite, her projects included developing an advocacy toolkit for proposed legislation to increase funding and access to after-school programs. She created a new section of Ignite’s website with resources focused on legislative engagement, social media, and background information. Collectively, the toolkit empowers people to engage with their legislators, from writing op-eds to getting in touch via letters and email.

Ahmed built the toolkit after conversations with community members and partners to find out exactly what was needed. “Talking to people was my favorite part of the experience,” she says. “I ran a feedback session for all of the afterschool policy coordinating councils, and it was such a cool role reversal—I, the intern, was running the meeting and getting incredibly valuable feedback from these important executive directors who were listening to me and giving me so much respect.”

Through her experience, she developed a clear sense of how a nonprofit like Ignite works, and how to effectively work within one. “I got to learn something new every day, and talk with so many people making a difference in after-school programs in Minnesota,” she says.

Dipakshi Sarma (middle front row) meets with people during a listening tour in Worthington, Minnesota.

Dipakshi Sarma ’24
Assam, India
International studies major; political science minor
Partner organization: The Coalition of Asian American Leaders 

“I’m even more sure now that community organizing will be part of my future.”

Civic engagement has been a key part of Dipakshi Sarma’s Macalester experience so far, including the college’s Lives of Commitment program and off-campus student employment program. For Sarma, the Chuck Green Fellowship was a natural next step: to focus a whole class on civic engagement, and then immerse herself in a summer of full-time work.

Sarma spent ten weeks working with the Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL), where she supported the organization’s civic engagement efforts and planning of the elections and youth programming. That included working closely with CAAL’s network weaving team to map out and develop materials for a listening tour throughout Minnesota. “Through the tour, we connected with Asian Americans in several regional hubs,” Sarma says. “We listened to their concerns and worked with them to help combat hate and support Asian American leadership.”

For Sarma, her focus on community healing and learning was woven into the experience. “I saw the power of not only organizing, but also love and kindness,” she says. “I’m even more sure now that community organizing will be part of my future.”


September 19 2022

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