Save The Date: October 9, 2024. Annual Gathering of Ignite Peace.

A Reflection from IJPC’s First S. Louise Akers Fellow, Naiomi Gonzalez

I cannot believe that my time at IJPC as the S. Louise Akers Fellow through Mercy Volunteer Corps (MVC) is winding down in the next month and a half. It feels like just yesterday I was waiting in the lobby at the Peaslee Neighborhood Center, anxiously anticipating the beginning of my first day. I can still feel the twinge of both nervousness and excitement coursing through me as I wondered what my time at IJPC would bring. Now almost two years later, I have the opportunity to reflect on the many ways I have grown during my time at IJPC. I spent my first year researching and developing the Strategic Nonviolence for Peace Advocacy (SNPA) program and my second year co-facilitating the certificate program, as well as facilitating the Race and Racism in Cincinnati Docuseries. I had the opportunity to participate on community planning committees for the Festival of Faiths and the Way of the Cross for Justice, as well as working on smaller projects and tasks. 

Lessons I’ve learned:

  1. My opinion matters

When I first started at IJPC, I was very worried that I would have little to offer the organization since most of my adult life, prior to joining MVC, was spent in academia. However, my colleagues at IJPC not only welcomed me with open arms but they made it clear that my opinion mattered. Additionally, learning about S. Louise Akers, SC inspired me to be more confident in voicing my opinions. While reading about her and listening to the stories told by people who knew her, what stood out to me was both her ability to listen with care to others, even those she disagreed with, and her fearlessness in voicing her deeply held beliefs. S. Louise knew and believed that her voice mattered and could make a difference and that is something I will carry with me. 

  1. I can work both independently and with others

My time at IJPC helped me realize that my colleagues were there to support me and help me succeed. Yes, I needed to be independent to get my tasks accomplished but that didn’t mean I was completely on my own.  For instance, both Bekky and Samantha were an invaluable source of advice and support as I prepared to co-facilitate the SNPA program. My time at IJPC has helped me to balance the need to accomplish work independently and the need to work with others in a collaborative environment. 

  1. It’s necessary to make mistakes

When I started at IJPC, I was extremely worried that I would make a horrible mistake and that I would get kicked out of the program. But my supervisor, Allison, gently let me know that mistakes are a necessary part of growing. She assured me that part of the reason for doing a program like MVC is to develop professional experience and the skills needed to succeed in a professional environment. Allison pointed out that if one isn’t making mistakes one isn’t taking the risks necessary to grow. She assured me that she and the other staff at IJPC supported me and would help me work through any mistakes I made. And I did make mistakes and the world did not end. Instead the mistakes provided me with opportunities to learn and improve. 

  1. I Gained interpersonal and public communication skills.

As an introvert, talking with other people can be nerve wracking. But I enjoyed having one on one interviews with various members of the community to get feedback on the SNPA certificate program. I was able to talk to people of diverse ages and backgrounds and they were more than happy to share their experiences. IJPC also helped me work on my public speaking skills. I helped facilitate the Race and Racism in Cincinnati Docuseries, and offered up prayers at the Way of the Cross for Justice. These experiences helped me gain more confidence in speaking in front of an audience, a skill that will be useful as I move onto my next step working at an ecumenical Chrisitan retreat center. 

  1. I enjoy teaching!

At first I dreaded co-facilitating the workshops for SNPA since it required me to engage in public speaking but after I started doing them, I realized I actually enjoyed it! Of course, while doing the workshops I realized some areas of improvement (less reading straight from the powerpoint), but overall, I realized that I enjoyed both the crafting of a certificate program and the research it entailed, as well as sharing what I learned with those in the workshops. I also enjoyed learning from the participants who had a lot to teach me because of their varied life experiences.

The past two years have been an exciting and challenging time. My fellowship has enabled me to do meaningful work and to learn skills that will continue to serve me well in the future. 

The IJPC S. Louise Akers Fellowship through MVC is a fantastic opportunity to gain nonprofit experience. I enjoyed my time at IJPC so much that I stayed on for two years. If you or someone you know are interested in learning about nonprofit work and in gaining skills that will serve you throughout your career, all while making a difference, apply for the S. Louise Akers Fellowship, through Mercy Volunteer Corps