Sam Wilson, an Atlanta QVS Fellow, is serving with an education nonprofit called the Southern Education Foundation (SEF) as a communications fellow. SEF is an Atlanta based nonprofit with a 150+ year history in advocating for education equity in the southern states. As a communications fellow, Sam has a wide range of responsibilities, such as creating social media posts, helping with news releases, and even writing a blog post for their website.
In November 2021, Sam wrote a blog post about lead poisoning as an issue of education equity.
“[The] unfortunate reality is that lead exposure is nothing new, and not confined to just one city or area. Lead exposure occurs much too often all around this country, including in schools. A significant number of American public schools still have lead in their water. This is particularly alarming because of the deleterious impact lead exposure has on children’s health and development…”
– Sam Wilson
Sam shared some insights about the experience of working with SEF, and as a communications fellow in particular.
“Working in communications involves working with many of the other parts of the organization, which has given me a chance to gain a wide variety of experience and learn more about how a nonprofit operates. This experience has offered me a chance to improve my writing skills in particular, as well as being a wonderful learning opportunity. It’s been very interesting for me to learn about what this organization advocates for and some of the issues today in education equity, as well as how education is tied to other important equity concerns.”
“I learned how a factor which might seem to be unrelated of education, like lead exposure, can effect how well children are able to learn and their opportunities later in life. This is especially alarming considering how this exposure is inequitably distributed, further compounding existing inequalities. This is a very important issue in the US today, and I hope that I can continue to learn about other topics like this during my site placement at SEF. I’m thankful for the ways this placement has helped me learn and grow so far, and I look forward to continuing to see where it will lead.”
“While the actual process of ensuring equitable access to education is far from simple and involves work across many areas, ensuring that children have access to clean, lead-free water is an important and necessary step forward. When children have healthy growth and development, they do better in school. Removing that hurdle to achieving equity in education allows us to focus with greater intensity on other barriers and challenges students face.”
More about Sam
Sam (he/him) grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, and attended school at Indiana University Bloomington, where he majored in International Studies with minors in Religious Studies and East Asian Languages and Cultures. He studied Chinese for three years, including one semester abroad his junior year in Nanjing, China. He also had the opportunity to travel to Taiwan twice as part of the Taiwan America Student Conference (TASC). Sam’s experience learning about Taiwan and working with students from across both countries in this student-led, multidisciplinary conference proved to be one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. He also participated in a variety of student activities throughout his college career, including orchestra, Taekwondo club, and Oxfam Club, and was able to explore a wide range of classes as well, including art classes such as photography. After graduating, he tried various opportunities, including staying at an organic farm in Florida, before eventually moving to Thailand to teach English, where he lived for over a year and a half. He enjoyed the opportunity to see a new part of the world and learn from new experiences. Other interests and hobbies of his include spending time in nature, sustainability, biking, meditating, drawing, photography, learning foreign languages, and talking with friends.
Sam grew up attending a Quaker church and going to Quaker summer camps, but only in the past few years or so did he become more interested in Quakerism. He is looking forward to more deeply exploring Quakerism and spirituality during his year at QVS. Additionally, he hopes that QVS will help him develop a more in depth understanding of important modern-day issues, such as inequality, and how we can address them.
Why participate in QVS instead of applying for a job directly with a nonprofit?
QVS partners with organizations that otherwise might not be able to hire someone to help build up their capacity (perhaps adding a new role or helping spearhead a new campaign).
QVS Fellows are also offered greater wrap-around support in their QVS city (housing and intentional community, training in conflict resolution and anti-oppression work, spiritual accompaniment) to help them engage in service long term and avoid burnout.
One QVS Alum from 2016-2017 shared:
“QVS gave me a sense of direction — I learned at the end of the year that I needed more education, and more critical thinking around the best space for me to make long-term impact in a community. I found out what my strengths and weaknesses were, and gained clarity towards my next steps…
In my year-long position, I did a lot of typical first-job-out-of-college evaluation, but in my community I think I arrived at those conclusions faster because I had folks at home I could talk to about my experiences and feelings. It also unprogrammed the definition of success I maintained for myself before QVS; now, success is more than work, but also about how I am able to care for myself and listen to my feelings. I owe QVS thanks for more holistic visioning.”
More Quaker Service Stories
Each summer — as the program year winds down — we invite Fellows to reflect on their experience and write a testimonial to share with Friends. Rebecca Rubenstein, a young adult Fellow who served in Atlanta during the 2021-2022 year, reflects on the spiritual...
Ella Quainton, a Minneapolis QVS Fellow, is serving with Friends School of Minnesota, a Quaker progressive education school in St.Paul, MN. As a Communications Assistant, Ella is instrumental in developing creative ways to tell FSMN’s story, including using animation,...
MaryGrace Menner served at Metrowest Worker Center – Casa del Trabajador during the 2017-2018 QVS year. Check out the following QVS Alumni Spotlight to learn about MaryGrace’s vocational path and how the key pieces of a QVS year stayed with her.