414 Fellows program

A+picture+of+the+414+Fellows+on+retreat

A picture of the 414 Fellows on retreat

Marquette University’s community service program, 414 Fellows, uses Marquette’s mission-driven education to help students make a meaningful difference in the lives of Milwaukee’s youth through service.

The 414 Fellows is an AmeriCorps program offered through Marquette in partnership with Next Door, a Milwaukee-area nonprofit organization that supports the intellectual, physical and emotional development of children.

AmeriCorps is a network of local, state and national service programs that connect thousands of Americans with service opportunities to meet community needs in education, the environment, public safety, health and homeland security.

AmeriCorps defines the 414 Fellows’ mission as “to further advance the literacy acquisition and neurodevelopment of predominantly low-income youth in Milwaukee to address the achievement gap often observed after comparing socioeconomic status.”

The Fellows work to learn about and take steps to address issues in Milwaukee including educational inequality, poverty and segregation as well as to become more informed about the importance of brain development in infants.

414 Fellows serve specifically at Next Door Milwaukee in early childhood classrooms.

“It’s impossible to overestimate the value that the 414 Fellows bring to Next Door,” Tracey Sparrow, president of Next Door Milwaukee, said. “Their enthusiasm for working with our youngest learners and their fierce commitment to social justice and equity is inspiring.”

This year, there are 21 undergraduate Marquette students in the program.

To be eligible to become a Fellow, students must be 18 years or older, a U.S. citizen, a full-time undergraduate Marquette student, maintain a cumulative 2.75 GPA or higher and be in good standing, both academic and disciplinary, with the university.

This is a paid position through Marquette University student payroll and fellows also receive Segal AmeriCorps Education award of $1,250 after their completion of service.

“I initially joined the 414 Fellows because neurological and childhood development sparked my interest,” Mia Gleason, a 414 Fellow and a sophomore in the College of Education, said. “I am also an education major, so the position seemed fit for me.”

Fellows are assigned to one of two Next Door locations in Milwaukee, on either Capital Drive or 29th Street. They work in one specific classroom for the entire year with mostly the same eight children.

Fellows deliver intensive literacy and educational services working specifically with children zero to three years old in Next Door’s early Head Start program.

“I hope to make an impact on the students I serve and return with,” Gleason said. “I have made great friends within the program, and I hope that we can all generate a kind, loving and educational community for the students we interact with.”

Fellows engage in one-on-one serve-and-return interactions that are developmentally appropriate for the age of each child.

Serve-and-return is an interaction that helps shape brain architecture. The child serves by reaching out for interaction, with eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, babbling or touch and a caregiver will return the serve with an engaging response.

“I’m a strong believer that what our community wants from us and what is most educational for our students is not superficial service involvement but it’s things that are deep and relationship-based,” Kelly Walker, director of community service, said.

Fellows typically participate in activities such as book reading, narrating actions, rhyming, identifying and naming letters, writing, fine and gross motor play and musical activity.

“Our students benefit from increased one-on-one interactions with the 414 Fellows that support their development of language,” Sparrow said. “At the same time, teacher stress is reduced as they count on the Fellows to be an additional support to children in the classrooms, especially as the relationships develop.”

Fellows serve 300 hours of service over the fall and spring semesters, usually about eight to ten hours per week.

They are also required to attend mandatory meetings and trainings one to two hours per week which prepare, support and improve their effectiveness as a 414 Fellow throughout the year.

Fellows attend retreats and biweekly reflections in order to reflect on service, systemic inequity, identity, vocation and justice.

“It’s our expectation that when we’re together, we are really conscious of how we treat each other,” Walker said. “We have conversations about hard things, about our own role in the world, our identities, injustice, race, all of those things that are hard to talk about if you don’t have trust with each other.”

Fellows are required to participate in service projects as well. These may include Make a Difference Day, MLK Day of Service and Hunger Clean-Up. Fellows will also work together to coordinate and execute a day of service at Next Door.

“We are confident that the Fellows will complete their service with an increased understanding of a multitude of issues that impact children and families and that this understanding will influence their lives in the future,” Sparrow said.

This story was written by Bailey Striepling. She can be reached at bailey.striepling@marquette.edu.