As I opened my acceptance email for the Frank Karel Public Interest Communications Fellowship, little did I know that I was about to experience a transformative period that would forever shape my perspective on communication, community and social impact. From community-centered lessons to strategic communications, from a supportive cohort to a sense of belonging, this fellowship has been a revelation in every sense. 

One of the aspects that immediately struck me was the emphasis on community-centered lessons offered by the communications press team at my host organization,  Human Rights Watch. Communication, I learned, isn’t just about delivering a message; it’s about understanding the pulse of the community and fostering genuine connections. These lessons made me realize that true communication is a bridge that connects hearts and minds, moving past mere information exchange. 

Learning the strategy of releasing research from an international non-profit that values a decolonial mindset was an eye-opening experience. HRW’s commitment to supporting local journalists with accurate and reliable information resonated deeply with me. It was empowering to be a part of an organization that valued diverse perspectives and sought to amplify marginalized voices. I found myself armed with a newfound sense of responsibility to challenge dominant narratives and to ensure that every story, no matter how unheard, had a chance to be told. 

However, it wasn’t just the lessons that left a lasting impact. It was the incredible cohort that surrounded me – a group that was both supportive and challenging. Rarely have I found myself in a space where individuals from various walks of life came together with a shared passion for communication and social change. Our interactions were a catalyst for growth, as we collectively honed our skills, refined our ideas and pushed each other to reach new heights. The camaraderie we shared made even the most complex challenges feel conquerable. Between homecooked meals to traditional Jamaican and Venezuelan dinners, our cohort always made it a point to highlight our cultures.  

Being a part of a cohort that included fellow Latinos was particularly meaningful for me. Growing up, I often felt that my experiences were different, my heritage set me apart. However, in the fellowship, being among fellow Latinos made me feel truly seen and understood. It was as if our shared cultural background formed an unspoken bond, reminding me that our unique stories contribute to the rich tapestry of humanity. 

The sense of pride and community fostered by key sponsors of the fellowship, such as Allyn LaSure Brooks, further heightened the experience. Their involvement spoke volumes about the fellowship’s impact and purpose. It was evident that they believed in the power of communication for positive change and were invested in our journeys as communicators. 

As I reflect on my time with the Frank Karel Fellowship, I’m filled with gratitude for the growth, connections, and experiences it has brought into my life. This journey has instilled in me a deeper understanding of the role communication plays in shaping perceptions and creating change. It has reinforced my commitment to amplifying voices that are often marginalized and to using communication as a tool to bridge gaps and foster understanding. 

The Frank Karel Public Interest Communications Fellowship isn’t just a program; it’s a transformative experience that propels us towards a future where communication is a force for justice, equity, and compassion. With a heart full of gratitude and a mind brimming with newfound wisdom and excitement, I step forward, ready to continue this journey of impact and change.