Woman speaking to an audience with a microphone, surrounded by seated peers
Program Director Harrison Wood addressing "Ballot and Brunch" attendees (photo courtesy of the TFA Graduate Fellows Program)

Teach For America Graduate Fellows Reimagine Mississippi

Earlier this month, the TFA Graduate Fellows program hosted an event at Delta Meat Market in Cleveland, Mississippi, encouraging TFA Alumni to work toward expanding opportunity in Mississippi.
Friday, December 8, 2017

Teach For America (TFA) Graduate Fellows Program hosted a ‘Ballot & Brunch’ event on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at the Delta Meat Market in Cleveland, Mississippi. At this event, guests were active participants in “reimagining” Mississippi with the TFA Graduate Fellows enjoying brunch together and then voting on prize-winning projects started and run by program participants. Cohorts in the fellowship program were challenged to develop social entrepreneur pitches geared toward expanding educational and wellness options for students in the Mississippi Delta.  Projects ranged from after-school programs to college preparedness resources, and even health and wellness centers.

A two year post-graduate program, The TFA Graduate Fellows Program (the TFA Fellows) is a collaboration between Delta State University (DSU) and Teach For America-Mississippi that works to retain TFA alumni in-state by offering the opportunity to continue their education in graduate school at DSU and support their passion for enhancing the state of Mississippi.

The program, launched in 2014, has two active cohorts with a combined participation of 19 TFA Fellows. Each fellow pursues an individual social entrepreneurship project that addresses unique opportunities for growth in our communities and the state.

The brunch brought people that work towards advancing Mississippi together to listen to and judge a pitch competition among the TFA Fellows for their respective social entrepreneurship projects. 

“It was a powerful event to experience, because of the people in the room.  There were representatives from TFA and DSU, and many are considered mentors and stakeholders by our TFA Fellows,” said Harrison Wood, coordinator of the Fellows Program.

Each one-minute pitch noted the Mississippi community served, the need the project meets, and a plan to execute. Guests were then invited to vote for the projects they felt would have the biggest positive impact on our state. The top three vote-getters won  cash prizes which fellows may use toward funding their projects. Awards were granted to the following Teach For America alumni:

1st Place ($500) – Jeremiah Smith (TFA-Mississippi ’12), Rosedale, Mississippi with Rosedale Freedom Project

2nd Place ($400) – Charlotte Arrowsmith (TFA-Mississippi ’15), Greenwood, Mississippi with Open Minds

3rd Place ($300) – Lucas Rapisarda (TFA-Mississippi ’15), Rosedale, Mississippi with Rosedale Freedom Project Outdoor Program

In addition to the ‘Ballot & Brunch’ winners, the TFA Graduate Fellows Program also awarded nine TFA Fellows with an additional, smaller stipend, as TFA Fellows were given the opportunity to apply for up to $3,000 in awards dedicated to the advancement of their social entrepreneurial project.

“The TFA Graduate Fellows Program is thrilled to be able to financially support these social entrepreneurship projects financially,” said Wood. “It’s a goal to actively support the change-making efforts of our fellows in a real, tangible way.”

The TFA Graduate Fellows Program, including monetary awards coming out of this event, is fully funded through a grant from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation. The principal goal of the foundation is to contribute to the overall economic advancement of the state of Mississippi by making funds available to four-year colleges and universities and graduate professional schools located in the state. The grant encompasses the fellows program as well as the project awards. 

'Ballot and Brunch' Highlights

About the TFA Graduates Fellows Program

Teach For America-Mississippi and Delta State University have joined forces in order to reimagine what is possible for Mississippi by cultivating next generation change-makers and social entrepreneurs.  A hand-selected cohort of 10 scholars regularly convenes to take courses with Delta State professors while sharing experiences in a collaborative, think-tank like environment offering fellows an opportunity to develop goals and accountability partnerships. Each fellow is also paired, through the program, with social entrepreneurs throughout the United States who have pursued a similar project. Through social entrepreneurship projects, each Fellow addresses the obstacles that are holding Mississippi back from progress and confront the issue in a ground-breaking approach, fostering impactful social innovation that can lead to creating the future they envision for Mississippi, their community and themselves.  Delta State University’s graduate school provides Fellows with new skills and knowledge through tailored mentoring and course options that improves their ability to successfully reimagine Mississippi and better position themselves to be surrounded with experts in their chosen field.  For more information on the TFA Graduate Fellows Program, visit www.tfafellows.com.