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How I found unexpected transformation as a Community Impact Fellow

Photo courtesy of Voices of Tomorrow

By Hana Gregory, RVC Community Impact Fellow

Hana Gregory

Hi, my name is Hana Gregory, and I am a Korean adoptee who has grown up in Seattle. I graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s in Early Childhood and Family Studies — and then I went to work in the nonprofit field because that’s where my heart wanted to be.

I spent some time in a job that I didn’t love. I was in a position where I didn’t feel like I was in a place to grow, learn new skills, or explore different areas of nonprofit work that I was interested in. 

So when I learned about RVC from my friend who was involved in supporting RVC, something compelled me to apply for the Community Impact Fellowship. RVC attracted me because there, it was not only about being able to explore my interests, but I was also able to see that my values aligned with RVC’s. They valued the work that I previously had been doing and also what I was interested in pursuing. 

First impressions and personal hardship

My first time talking with Abesha, RVC’s Fellowships Program Director, felt like a breath of fresh air. I felt like Abesha heard me and acknowledged what I wanted to get out of the Community Impact Fellowship Program. I could tell that Abesha was working hard with me to place me in an organization that needed the skills that I was looking to build. My first impression of RVC was that they are compassionate, understanding, and devoted to their employees and communities. 

Soon after I started with RVC, my brother passed away. 

I received the kind of support and kindness that I never had before in a workplace. The people at RVC went out of their way to make sure was taking care of myself along with my family. 

This gave me time and space to heal. 

Being a Community Impact Fellow

Being part of the 2017–2019 fellowship cohort has been a life-changing experience for me. I have bonded with the other fellows on a stronger level than just mere friends — we all have connected with each other deeply on a personal level. We truly care about each other’s well-being. I love the way we support each other when we have challenges and how we celebrate each other when we have successes. A real bond has been made between me and the other fellows.  

The learning-first focus of RVC was a huge help in getting me into the mindset of how much of an impact I could make at the community-based organization (CBO) I was placed at. The first bit of training we received was during the RVC learning institute, which gave us fellows the foundation for the work that we would be doing in our respective CBOs. 

We learned everything, from why nonprofits exist to what it takes to make a successful nonprofit organization. I was able to bring a new and different lens to Voices of Tomorrow, my CBO. Voices of Tomorrow mission is to: preserve Immigrant and Refugee children’s identity through culturally responsive child-focused programs.

At first I thought I wanted to help with development and operations, but it soon turned into operations and human resources. The transition in focus was so smooth because I had the knowledge that I learned from the initial training institute as well as the continuing trainings we received on a monthly basis. 

Because I learned about what it takes to make a successful nonprofit organization, I was able to implement new systems and HR practices to Voices of Tomorrow. I learned what makes an effective HR system and now VOT has an effective and efficient system of hiring staff. This has led to VOT growing from 5 staff to 20 staff, all of whom benefit from the system. Staff now have clear expectations and onboarding process

Lessons learned

My experience with RVC has been very positive. When looking at job opportunities and picking a fellowship program, I had a fear that my job could just be as a glorified intern. 

The good news is, is that I had autonomy over my job and I got to learn that I am good at systems. And not only did I find out that I was good at systems, I got to explore and refine my skills in operations and HR systems — I got to learn and hone my skills, I was hired at a salary higher than comparable roles at other nonprofits, I met and developed lifelong friendships, and I learned to speak my needs and become more confident in my technical abilities. 

RVC is a great place for people to learn, grow, and become the leader they want to be. 

If I had one piece of advice to give, now that my fellowship is winding down (we’re graduating this week!), I would like to urge the incoming fellows to always try new things! Fail and then try different things and fail again! 

I found that by figuring out what I wasn’t the best helped define what I am really good at. When you know that, you can really focus on your strengths.