Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City’s Leadership Tomorrow program recently wrapped up its sixth year. Eleven Jewish college students spent the summer working with non-profit organizations across Kansas City, gaining real-world work experience, personal and professional development, and valuable mentorship and networking.
Leadership Tomorrow is a nine-week, paid internship program offered to Jewish college students through Jewish Federation. It was founded in 2013 by a group led by Irv Robinson to expose students to different ideas around entrepreneurship, leadership, and philanthropy, and to encourage strong Jewish leadership in future generations.
“I’ve been working for the past six years, but I didn’t have any professional work experience. Now, because of Leadership Tomorrow, I feel more prepared to enter the workforce after college,” said Alexander Worth, who interned at Mid-American Regional Council.
Leadership Tomorrow isn’t just any ordinary internship: It is a multifaceted program consisting of an internship at a local non-profit organization, weekly leadership development sessions, a mentorship program with an accomplished member of the Jewish community, and a grant writing competition.
Each Friday, interns met at the Jewish Community Center to discuss important career and life skills with notable guest speakers, led by Andi Milens, Federation’s Director of Engagement and Leadership Development.
“Through these development days, interns are able to explore personal questions such as what values motivate them and how they present themselves to others,” said Milens.
Interns also met regularly with their individual mentors throughout the program’s duration, networking with valuable contacts and receiving guidance and advice.
“Having a mentor and the opportunity to form a relationship with them is a big advantage, because your mentor can connect you to notable professionals in your field that could lead to future internships and jobs,” said Worth.
In addition to their internship placements, the interns were split into groups to research, construct, and present a grant proposal for a selected Kansas City non-profit. Each Friday, the groups were given time to work on the grant and visit with their non-profits.
The program culminated with a luncheon – attended by supervisors, mentors, funders and advisors – where the interns presented their grant proposals. Generous donors provided $15,000 to be distributed to the three non-profits; the amount of money received by each was influenced by the quality of the presentations. This year, $4,000 was given to Safehome; $5,000 to The Grooming Project; and $6,000 to The Farmer’s House.
Sarah Unterhalter, who interned with the Jewish Community Center, was impressed that Leadership Tomorrow provides the unique experience of grant writing.
“This component of the program really stood out to me because we were given the opportunity to improve local lives with the grants,” she said. “Not many 19-year-olds get to write a grant and see the impact they have in the community and the organization they’ve been working for.”
“My favorite part of the program is the grant presentations at the end of the summer,” said Robinson. “I am amazed by the brainpower of the students, the quality of the research, and the strength of the presentations. It inspires me and gives me faith in the future leaders of our community and of our world.”
Leadership Tomorrow has also inspired confidence in the students who participated in the program, leaving them feeling better prepared for their future careers.
“I now know that the world beyond college isn’t as much of a scary place as I feared. You’ll work with friendly and fantastic people who want you to succeed,” said Matthew Kaplan, who interned at Menorah Heritage Foundation. “I couldn’t have asked for a better internship experience this summer.”
Know someone who would be interested in getting involved with this program? Applications for Leadership Tomorrow 2020 will open in November of this year. For more information, visit jewishkansascity.org/leadershiptomorrow or contact Andi Milens, firstname.lastname@example.org, 913.327.8108.