New York Looks to Albany to Fund  “Fellowship Year” Program for CLP Students

Classrooms are a great place to become inspired by and learn about efforts to change the world—but the streets are where this hard work actually happens.

For this reason, every program affiliated with the Community Learning Partnership (CLP) includes a hands-on internship—each semester, our students put their newfound leadership and organizing skills into action alongside professional advocates and change makers at organizations across the country. Our students frequently tell us this experiential learning component is what sets the CLP program apart from others; often, they tell us, it is the highlight of their entire college experience.

Still, many of our students also tell us how difficult it can be, at times, to fit an internship into their schedule, among other important responsibilities—attending other classes, raising families, and working full time jobs. This is why many CLP programs are looking for ways to make balancing these competing interests easier by finding and securing funding to pay students while they complete their internships.

This fall, coordinators of the CLP in New York are gearing up to take this effort statewide—by attempting to secure state funding through the appropriations process. “New York is already doing so much with other industries in the state, but one group that doesn’t get much attention is the non-profit sector,” said Irma Rodriguez, coordinator of the New York CLP. “The goal is to get state funding to provide paid internships at a meaningful level, like $15 an hour at minimum.”

Their hope, Irma said, is to secure this funding through a full year—not just to cover the short summer months—so that students have the opportunity to become fully immersed in the experience of paid community change work. “Most of our students have to work while in school,” Irma said. “If that’s the case, we want students working in community change jobs, not just any job, while they complete the program.”

Irma and Andy Mott, CLP’s co-founder and Senior Adviser, have wasted no time laying the groundwork for this effort. For the last several months, they have been busily meeting with state legislators, community partners, and others to sell them on the plan for paid internships for community change work—and soon, they hope to hand the reins over to students themselves, who will be able to approach the challenge as an opportunity to put their organizing skills into action.

Irma hopes the program will be able to extend even beyond graduation, as a way to provide a transitional moment between students’ CLP classwork and finding a full time job as an organizer or at a non-profit. “Once students graduate, they can be jazzed up to do community change stuff, but then struggle to find work, so are often forced to take the first thing they can get,” Irma said. By providing a transitional period of six months to a year following graduation— something the New York team is calling a “fellowship year”—“students can continue to get a stipend to work in the community until they find a full time job.”

We’ll be sure to keep the CLP network up to date as this effort speeds up in the fall. And for more information, reach out to Irma Rodriguez directly at: