A Heart for Service, A Call to Action

November 22, 2016

IMG950574Shelby Yates has had a “heart for service” since eighth grade. As a student at the  University of Northern Iowa (UNI), she has given back to her campus through active membership with the Service and Leadership Council, the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance, and Dance Marathon.

Dance Marathon is more than an extracurricular activity for Yates – she considers it “part of her family’s story,” because it raises money for the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Yates’ younger sister has received treatment at the hospital since being diagnosed with a rare genetic disease.

IMG9516311Last year, Yates was nominated as a Newman Civic Fellow through National Campus Compact, and in mid-November she attended a gathering for fellows in Boston.

“I learned how important it is to be informed and to have an opinion,” said Yates, who is majoring in Leisure, Youth, and Human Services specializing in Nonprofit Management at UNI. “I might have issues I’m passionate about, but I don’t care enough if I don’t think through how we could create policy to resolve problems.”

The gathering was the first-ever in-person gathering of the Newman Civic Fellows. While campuses have nominated students for this fellowship for many years, it has recently been revamped to offer more learning and networking opportunities. Held at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, the weekend event brought together over 100 fellows from across the country and included a simulation of negotiations and voting on the Farm Bill that had participants playing the role of U.S. Senators.

Yates didn’t know what to expect when she signed up to attend the event and was amazed at the wide variety of perspectives and backgrounds represented.

“It was interesting to be with people who are like-minded, but also very different,” said Yates. “What keeps them up at night is so different than me, but it was great to be around people who get it.”

What Yates thinks the students “get” is that there are problems to be solved and they can be part of the solution. In addition to the Senate simulation, students participated in a training on sustained dialogue.

Yates was particularly impressed by the insight of another fellow who said that learning takes place when we are uncomfortable.

“Sometimes, when I feel that way, I try to avoid the conversation instead of listening and creating a relationship,” said Yates. She said she is reflecting on how to change that and open up to conversation rather than closing herself off in moments of tension.

Overall, Yates would recommend future Newman Civic Fellows students take advantage of similar opportunities. She felt she gained a new understanding of what it takes to make social change, an understanding that she had begun to learn through her past service experiences.

“You need to rely on other people and bring people along with you in the charge,” said Yates. “There are people hurting all around us and we need to open our eyes.”

Nominations for the 2017 Newman Civic Fellows program are due March 3, 2017. Learn more.