Deadline to apply for Obama Fellows program is Sept. 18

With the rigors of overseeing the country for eight years behind him, Barack Obama is carving out time to oversee his foundation’s fellows program, and Mahoning and Shenango Valley residents have a chance to apply and get accepted.

The Obama Foundation’s website – – has all the details, but I will highlight for you some of the program’s key components.

The Obama Foundation Fellowship supports civic innovators – leaders who are working with their communities to create transformational change, addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems.

“The program selects 20 community-minded rising stars from around the world for a two-year, nonresidential program, designed to amplify the impact of their work and inspire a wave of civic innovation,” according to the website.

The fellowship offers hands-on training, resources and leadership development to help fellows scale the impact of their work.

They participate in four multi-day gatherings where they collaborate with each other, connect with potential partners, and collectively push their work forward. Throughout the program, each fellow pursues a personalized plan to leverage the experience to take their work to the next level.

The foundation is “searching for candidates who are civic innovators, discipline-diverse, at a tipping point in their work, not yet connected to the networks they need to advance their work and motivated by the powerful desire to help others,” the website adds.

Those in the program are expected to live out the foundation’s values of imagination and fearlessness. This is what is included in the fellowship:

Guidance in developing a personalized fellowship road map to help you get the most out of the program.

Ongoing skill-building and training courses tailored to your particular needs.

Individual coaching and mentoring to help you move your work forward.

Participation in a global cohort of leaders poised to change the civic engagement landscape.

Exposure to opportunities provided by other foundation programming, such as mentorship roles and speaking engagements.

Fellows are not paid a stipend and are not asked to move anywhere to participate in the program.

There will be four occasions, however, where you will be asked to travel for in-person gatherings. The foundation will cover transportation and lodging costs and all meals for those gatherings.

To apply for the next fellows class, you must be older than 18. You have to submit your application, found on the website, by Sept. 18. The 20 members of the class of 2019 will be announced early next year.

The website gives these two tips in the application process. First, keep your application brief and real. The foundation is “looking for writing that distills what’s important to you.”

Second, don’t be afraid to brag. “We need to know why you are the right candidate for the fellowship. We want to hear about your work, your impact and your personal connection to your community.”

If interested, I strongly urge you to apply as soon as possible. The website says that for the 2018 fellows program, more than 20,000 people applied from 191 countries.

One of 20 fellows selected for this year’s program was Navdeep Kang, head of behavioral health operations for Mercy Health in Cincinnati. His desire: Building a collaborative, community-based approach to the opioid crisis, changing how addiction is treated in Ohio.

I know it appears the chance of being selected for such a prestigious program is small, but you lose nothing by applying.

And if you are selected, think of the impact you could have on our community by networking with 19 other talented people from around the world.

The former president and his wife, Michelle, started the foundation in 2014 in Chicago. The foundation had its inaugural summit in 2017, and is overseeing the creation of the Barack Obama Presidential Center in the Jackson Park neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.

The foundation also includes Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance that was launched in 2015. The former president announced the My Brother’s Keeper initiative in 2014.

According to the foundation website, the alliance “focuses on building safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color where they feel valued and have clear pathways to opportunity.”

Again, go to to get more information on the foundation, and to try to become an Obama Fellow.

Thank you Kenneth “Brother K” King for emailing me about the program so I could share the information with our readers.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at