Ana Fochesatto, an Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellow in anthropology, is helping Up2Us Sports assess its impact through her 11-month professional practice.
Fochesatto completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She wanted to have a deeper understanding of the power structures and social concepts that guide our lives as humans as well as ways to address social issues. This desire and her longer-term career interests related to transnational political processes and cultural and linguistic barriers lead her to double major in anthropology and political science. Shortly after graduating as her university’s Outstanding Undergraduate of the Year in both disciplines in May 2015, she joined the AmeriCorps VISTA program as a teen and volunteer outreach coordinator for the local Boys & Girls Club.
“My service there taught me a lot about the nonprofit sector, and the network I made in AmeriCorps exposed me to the Stevenson Center at Illinois State. Because I wanted to continue to work on social justice issues and wanted to learn more about social and economic development with people who also share this passion, I applied,” she explained.
Fochesatto has volunteered with nonprofits since she was a teenager, and those experiences influenced her work today. “I’ve always found passionate like-minded people working hard to make their communities a better place. I’ve learned tremendously from being an ESL volunteer, an elementary school tutor, an environmental activist, mediator, a camp counselor, etc. I’ve also worked with many nonprofits in Alaska, Denmark, and Argentina,” Fochesatto added. Working with different nonprofits has boosted her community involvement and helped her grow and learn new skills.
Fochesatto is currently completing her 11-month professional practice with Up2Us Sports in Chicago. Up2Us Sports pioneered the approach of engaging AmeriCorps coaches to deliver daily physical activity programs to youth in some of our nation’s most vulnerable places. Up2Us Sports is also the nationwide leader in attracting, teaching, and supporting coaches to serve as role models and mentors to kids in underserved U.S. communities. These trained coaches can inspire youth to become better students, deal with conflict constructively, make healthy decisions, and work together as a team. The organization’s core principles include: develop the coach in everyone, foster positive relationships, focus on results, and be accountable to supporters.
Having completed a year of interdisciplinary graduate coursework on campus, Fochesatto is now serving as part of the Up2Us Sports national monitoring and evaluation team. She is leading the 2018-2019 evaluation of the extent to which the organization contributes to improved health and socio-emotional learning for youth. The assessment will inform best practices in the sports-based youth development field, assist Up2Us Sports in making programmatic changes, and help secure future funding.
Fochesatto also anticipates benefits for her own understanding and career development. “I think that scholars have made a lot of great advancements in our understanding of youth development and food access, but it is difficult to translate these findings into our social services and governmental structures. Leading an external evaluation with Up2Us that will inform organizational learning is key to analyzing how programs are implementing evidence-based strategies and what should be done to improve outcomes,” she described.
From her year on campus to her current internship and concurrent thesis work, the Stevenson Center has enabled Fochesatto to dive deeper into the social issues that interest her while acquiring hands-on experience. “I am especially thankful for the great partnership between the Stevenson Center and the ISU Department of [Sociology and] Anthropology that has exposed me to the amazing anthropologists working on crucial issues of food, nationalism, environmentalism, and education,” she said. Fochesatto also credits her classmates and their wealth of knowledge from working in different fields and having divergent experiences that add important perspectives to issues discussed in class and in the professional practice.
Ana Fochesatto has learned much from her time with the Stevenson Center, placement at Up2Us Sports, and the overall education she is receiving as an ACED Fellow at Illinois State. She has grown over the months and wants to share advice with future students and her classmates: “It’s sometimes difficult to stay motivated and to know if you’re making a difference. I think that we should draw strength from each other in communities like AmeriCorps and the Stevenson Center to build each other up, to reflect on our own privileges and complicity, and to find spaces and connections of decolonization and inclusion. These are difficult tasks, but it’s always easier when you know that you’re not alone.”
Want to learn more about becoming or hosting a Stevenson Center Fellow? Contact us at StevensonCenter@IllinoisState.edu or (309)-438-7090.
Megan Birk is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.