Change Happens, a Houston-based nonprofit, is hosting Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellow Lindsey Earl for her professional practice. This is the first year that Change Happens is partnering with the Stevenson Center, providing an invaluable opportunity for Earl to refine skills while helping Change Happens fulfill its mission.
Peace Corps Fellows and ACED Fellows like Earl complete 11 months of paid professional practice with host organizations, after one year of interdisciplinary graduate work. Host organizations help fellows gain relevant practical experience in communities across the United States.
Change Happens provides resources for underserved populations in Houston, including the Third Ward. Through 18 different programs, Change Happens offers a broad range of services. For example, Rescue Youth is a mentoring program designed to stop self-destructive behavior in kids, such as drug and alcohol abuse. Community health workers teach life skills and sex education in public schools to further educate and empower Houston youth. Young Fathers C.A.N. helps fathers who have been in the criminal justice system make a fresh start.
“We have programs for housing the chronically homeless with a diagnosed disability, and HIV prevention and testing,” Earl said.
Earl is involved in many areas of Change Happens, but her primary focus is securing funds. She recently helped obtain rapid rehousing funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide temporary support for people experiencing homelessness.
“Lindsey’s commitment to putting forth her best effort every day is something that is truly commendable,” said Imarogbe Stokes, program support services coordinator for Change Happens. “She is a true reflection of the investment that Illinois State places in their students’ educations.”
Prior to coming to Illinois State University, Earl served with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps as both a member and team leader, receiving disaster relief training along the way. This training allowed Earl to aid in relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey. Three days after Earl began her professional practice at Change Happens, Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston. Earl spearheaded the Change Happens disaster response to meet emergency needs. Change Happens raised over $70,000 and was able to distribute $500 to each family suffering losses from the hurricane.
“It’s not a lot, but I think it was enough to help people get to the next step. Some people lost everything. And so, when you lose everything, you need at least $500 to get everything else you need,” Earl said.
This is the first year Change Happens has been directly involved in disaster relief, and so Earl’s skills were an important asset.
Having never lived in a city or in the southern U.S. before, Earl enjoys exploring all Houston has to offer.
“It’s just been a phenomenal experience, meeting people from all different backgrounds and across the world,” Earl said.
Earl believes that the professional practice component of her master’s program is immensely valuable.
“I think that’s essential, and it should be in every master’s program,” Earl said. “You can learn stuff in a classroom, but if you don’t apply it, you’re going to forget it. If you don’t apply it, it doesn’t mean anything.”
Through the professional practice, Fellows gain hands-on experience in the field and earn a stipend while doing so. They submit work samples and reports to the Stevenson Center, and their supervisors evaluate their performance. Depending on their degree program, they may concurrently complete a capstone project or a thesis. Earl is finishing her master’s degree in anthropology, and she is the university’s first Newman Civic Fellow. In this podcast episode, Earl discusses her research related to homelessness.
“That’s why I picked the Stevenson Center, partially, is because I knew I would have a chance to apply what I’m learning,” Earl said.
Stokes is appreciative of the work that has resulted from collaborating with the Stevenson Center.
“We would like to thank Illinois State University for offering us an opportunity to be a host organization; it has been the perfect partnership,” Stokes said.
Sarah Aten is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.