A Last Salute: Reflections from the Fellowship Program

August 17, 2018

Now that our final class — Alpha 2018 — of fellows have completed their term of service, we’d like to reflect on the legacy of fellows throughout the program’s 11 years. Here are a few fellow alumni from across the country on where they are now and what the fellowship meant to their personal growth and professional leadership.

Getting a Career (Hydro)Boost

Nesky Hernandez
Nesky Hernandez serving at the Center for Change and Sustainability in Miami.

Nesky Hernandez, Alpha Class 2016, was hired after his fellowship in a director position at the Center for Change and Sustainability in Miami. Despite experiencing adversity that made his fellowship all the more of an accomplishment, it’s needless to say that his host site was impressed.

Nesky is passionate about hydroponic agriculture and societal sustainability. When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Nesky went to help hurricane victims.

His fellowship experience let him be “able to do what I feel is simply right for my life with the career path I now have. The connections made through my experiences have helped put me where I am professionally without question,” he said.

Another big part of the fellowship was the one-on-one coaching. “I hadn’t received any help like that. It was pretty hardcore. Felt like people cared if I succeeded.”

Igniting a Leadership Shockwave

Andrew Jones serving at his host site, The Ripple Effect.

Andrew Jones, Delta Class 2016, was already volunteering at a nonprofit when he heard about The Mission Continues Fellowship Program. Enticed by what the program could offer him, Andrew decided to apply.

Andrew said, “It didn’t take long after arriving at Orientation in San Antonio for me to realize how amazing of an opportunity this was. I was immediately inspired by the teamwork, leadership and camaraderie of The Mission Continues Team and I knew I was part of an incredible family.”

He developed a veteran mentorship program with his host site, The Ripple Effect, and continued to hone it and further develop its curriculum after his fellowship ended, eventually implementing the program through his own nonprofit, Operation Shockwave.

“My fellowship absolutely influenced me to take this step to start my own nonprofit. Through my service with my host organization, I was able to create relationships in my community and gain knowledge on the in’s and out’s of running an organization.”

Finding an Ally as a Student Veteran

Venol Raymond serving at his host site, Alliance for Multicultural Community Services in Houston, Texas.

From Charlie Class of 2014, Venol Raymond joined the fellowship program while earning his bachelor’s degree in international studies.

Like many of the part-time or full-time student veterans that passed through our doors, the fellowship’s schedule and benefits aligned with this exploratory stage in his career. “By doing volunteering work, not only did I find my purpose, but also I gained various skills that facilitated my academic experience.”

“My coach Jeremy Bailey taught me to ‘always find my ally.’ I have used that a lot in everything I do, either at my internships or on/off campus. This enables me to build a strong network wherever I go.”

Growing Through the Structure of Service

Leonard Kennedy serving with youth at his host site, the Sycamore Recreation Center.

Leonard Kennedy’s military service was cut short when he sustained injuries during a deployment to Afghanistan. He had graduated from West Point, and hoped to have a long military career.

“I was not able to have the military career I had planned, so the fellowship provided another way to serve my country by serving my community,” Len explained.

For years Len volunteered in his community, but sought the structure of the fellowship program to push him to grow. “Be comfortable being uncomfortable. There will be situations that will push you and challenge you, but that is where you find real growth.”

Finding a community of like-minded veterans in the Alpha Class of 2016 helped bolster Len’s aspirations to be a service leader. For Len, “Personally, the fellowship allowed me to take a step back and look at what is important in my life. I believe that surrounding myself with positive, like-minded people encourages me to continue to strive for excellence in my own life.”

Learning to Embrace Ambiguity

Michael Meehan serving at his host site, Knights of Heroes.

Michael Meehan, also Alpha Class of 2016 fellow, said, “I decided to do the fellowship because I missed being part of something bigger than myself. During my search for my new career, I felt very unfulfilled and empty. The idea of working for a nonprofit sounded like the perfect route to help me find direction and passion again.”

Michael served with Knights of Heroes, a nonprofit that brings together children who have lost parents in the military in a wilderness adventure camp experience. “My fellowship was the sole reason I know exactly what I want to do in life. It showed me the power the outdoors have to change lives.”

One lesson Michael learned from his experience was, “Don’t fear ambiguity – embrace the opportunity to carve your own path.”

A photo Michael took of camp activities with youth at Knights of Heroes