Working with Community Partners: A Fellow for Life View

Recent Fellows for Life Andres Tovar and Leandra Durham provide thoughts on choosing and working with Community Partners. Andres Community Partner was Lee County Youth Development Center and Leandra worked with the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) and the Lakeshore Foundation. 

Connecting with the right Community Partner takes time.

Andres: I was beginning to feel discouraged as no matter how well my elevator pitch had gone, previous efforts were not fruitful. When I met with Lee County Youth Development Center, the first thing the director mentioned after the pitch was how much she appreciated ASF. Hearing that told me I was in the right place.

Leandra: Finding my CP was a bit of a journey. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t get an immediate yes and be open to the opportunities around you because you certainly can’t do this alone.

Serving effectively means being willing to learn first.

Andres: Learning about the specific needs and desires of the children and how their early experiences may predict adult outcomes was key to knowing how to best serve this population.

Leandra: I learned A LOT from my CP because they serve a population I had not worked with previously-I came in knowing I had a lot to learn about the community. I think sometimes we can feel as though we need to come in as the expert and while we do offer a particular expertise, there is no reason that we can’t learn from each other. 

Being flexible is Important.

Andres: I wish I would’ve known how long it would take to be able to be with the kids, although I understand the need for the redtape. I also wish I would’ve known that each child’s stay in the program would differ. Had I known this beforehand I would’ve tried to implement something different.

Leandra: There will always be unknowns and what’s most important is that you can adapt and communicate effectively when these unknowns arise.

Listening is Essential.

Andres: Listen to your Site Mentors-they are amazing resources. Direct your questions to assist in your desire to help your clients.

Leandra: Don’t be afraid to communicate and ask questions. More communication upfront may lead to better outcomes down the road. The partner also knows their community well so trust them and try not to get too tunnel visioned in your own expectations or ideas. While the overarching goal is to have an impact with your project over the course of the year, remember to celebrate the small or big “wins” with your mentors along the way.