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ILSI Social Impact Fellowship - A Journey of Discovery for Jenn Thorpe with Hands On Atlanta

 A new initiative of the Institute for Leadership and Social Impact (ILSI) is connecting Georgia Tech students with community organizations (nonprofits and civic start-ups) for long-term engagements. ‘The collaboration is driven by the community partner: they bring us the project; are actively involved in the selection, onboarding, and mentoring of the student who then receives a stipend from ILSI in support of their work on the project.’ explains ILSI Managing Director, Dori Pap. ‘The pandemic left many of our students without internship plans, and at the same time, the non-profit sector offers a wide variety of amazing opportunities for learning and exercising leadership that our students are eager to commit to. ILSI’s Social Impact Fellowship creates that bridge between Atlanta’s nonprofit and civic community and our talented, and passionate Tech students.``

The Fellowship program launched this summer and has two ongoing partnerships (Hands On Atlanta, and Global Growers) with several more in the works (Plywood People, Center for Civic Innovation, and others).

The inaugural Social Impact Fellow, Jenn Thorpe, a third-year Business Administration student in the Scheller College of Business, shared about her journey as a virtual Business Development intern with Hands On Atlanta (HOA), an organization that connects nonprofits and schools with socially responsible companies to help make a difference in the community through volunteer projects.

Jenn was first exposed to HOA in the summer of 2019 when she participated in the 

Leadership for Social Good Study Abroad Program organized by ILSI at Georgia Tech. HOA was one of the several Atlanta nonprofits students had the opportunity to learn from before departing for the Central European leg of the program. ‘Listening to CEO, Jay Cranman, talk about the amazing work HOA does was my first exposure to the nonprofit sector in Atlanta.” remembers Jenn.

“So fast forward to summer 2020 - my planned internship had gotten canceled for the summer as a result of COVID-19. I was brainstorming ideas of what I could do instead when I learned about ILSI’s new fellowship program. So I reached out to Dori and expressed my strong interest in the  Hands On Atlanta internship as a part of the ILSI Social Impact Fellowship program. I saw it as a really cool opportunity to have another taste of nonprofits, but this time in less of a ‘textbook-based experience’ and instead in more of a ‘hands-on experience’ - no pun intended there!” 

Dori connected Jenn with Caroline and the Business Development Team at Hands On Atlanta and after a round of interviews, Jenn was selected as the inaugural Social Impact Fellow to intern with HOA. 

“I have loved this experience so far. The team is awesome. There's so much enthusiasm. And even though I've been working virtually since about halfway through August, I feel like I know people really well and the work I'm doing is really impactful”.

Reflecting on her time at Hands on Atlanta as a virtual Business Development Intern, Jenn has seen first hand the power of public-private partnerships working to successfully and sustainably drive change. Hands On Atlanta serves as a matchmaker and provides a platform for Atlanta-based corporations to volunteer with local nonprofits. This enables companies in Atlanta to engage, support, and drive impact in our city and community by way of their partnership with Hands on Atlanta. Jenn’s day-to-day work comprises a myriad of tasks including payment processing, donor relations, and impact reporting; overall, this experience has helped solidify her interest in Corporate Social Responsibility work as she continues to grow in her career. 

And on the other side, the organizations that ILSI partners with for these Social Impact Fellowship positions also benefit. Ashley Collier, the Hands On Atlanta Director of Development, says the following “Being a small nonprofit, our team is grateful for the ISLI Social Impact Fellows program, which enables us to engage talented Georgia Tech students in internships, while also allowing interns the opportunity to be compensated for their incredible work and valuable time. As Jenn began her internship, she immediately played a vital role with Hands On Atlanta, especially as we are spread thin to support COVID-19 relief work across the city. Jenn’s talent, drive, and attention to detail make her a valuable addition to our team – she’s not only doing the work of an intern, but rather a coordinator level position. We are grateful to the ISLI Social Impact Fellowship program for allowing this opportunity, not only to best support Hands On Atlanta but also the greater Atlanta community.”

Jenn was inspired by the Georgia Tech community, which is full of passionate and smart people who have the power and ambition to make a long-term impact in this world. But specifically, Jenn believes that being a student right now is such a unique opportunity since students are the ones who are losing the internships and are reflecting on their careers in order to meaningfully emerge as young professionals through this unprecedented time. Jenn’s experiences and heart for work in the social impact space have equipped her to craft a mission-driven career. Her advice to other students at Georgia Tech is to embrace the diversity of thought that interning at a nonprofit or social enterprise can offer to you and your career development. “I think it's a really great application to take the hard skills you've learned in the classroom and not only gain more but to also have the opportunity to develop soft skills in communication and your work ethic. And who knows - you might find something you are passionate about also!” 

Upon completing her internship with HOA, Jenn made sure that she left her HOA team in good hands as she led the recruitment efforts for the next Social Impact Fellow to work with them. ILSI commits to a minimum of one-year engagement with each partner, and we are excited to announce that another Scheller undergrad, Lyle Hodge, will continue in that role starting January 2021.

We wish you all the best in your career trajectory Jenn and have no doubt that you will continue to drive meaningful impact for the communities and organizations with whom you work.

The Institute for Leadership and Social Impact is an interdisciplinary institute that promotes servant leadership and organizational practices that contribute to a more just, caring, and equitable world. Learn more about our work!

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Nicole Little
Assistant Director of Operations