April 10, 2024

Off the hill and into the community: fellows demonstrate the Beloit impact

Launched in fall 2023, the Impact Beloit Community Fellows program is helping develop the next generation of community leaders, says Tim Leslie’89, Impact Beloit executive director and vice president, career & professional development.

The year-long program pairs high-achieving seniors with a community partner organization to give them hands-on experience and an opportunity to learn more about the city and being an engaged citizen.

The college worked with Hendricks CareerTek, the Beloit International Film Festival, Community Action, Family Promise of Greater Beloit, Kerry Group, Stateline Boys and Girls Clubs, and Todd Elementary School to ensure the greatest impact for students and the community. “We’re training well-rounded humanistic leaders who embody the ethos of the liberal arts,” Leslie says, “interdisciplinary learning, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration.” The program links to the college’s other community-based learning and career-readiness programs — Career Works, Community Connections, and Alumni Connections.

The reel deal

Nico Doret'24 at a booth for the Beloit International Film Festival BIFF rep Nico Doret’24 keeps it “reel” at the Local to Global Career Fair at the Powerhouse.Two years ago, Nicolas “Nico” Doret’24, a media studies major from Libertyville, Illinois, took Leslie’s Art of Leading course in which students created the blueprint for Impact Beloit. The following summer in a work-study position, Doret worked with Leslie to build the program. “Tim came up with the idea for a Duffy-like program, and my job was to envision what form it could take,” Doret said.

With his early involvement, and his interests in film, photography, and entrepreneurship, Doret’s fellowship with the Beloit International Film Festival (BIFF) was a perfect fit. “It’s been a great experience meeting people in Beloit,” he says, noting that one of the strengths of the program is that it lasts a full academic year. “I couldn’t imagine this being only one semester long.”

Greg Gerard, BIFF executive director, has been impressed by Doret’s professionalism in filling the roles of personal assistant, liaison, partner, and sounding board. “Nico has helped BIFF become more integrated with the campus. He’s eliminated red tape, opened lines of communication, and helped me craft programs that pair BIFF and the campus in meaningful ways.”

Doret spent the first semester learning project management and this spring is working on ticketing and logistics for the April film festival. “I’m practicing skills I’ve gained, such as communication etiquette, project management, and collaboration, and it’s helping me transition from the classroom to the workplace,” he says.

Gerard looks forward to another semester working with Doret as well. “He’s among the best of the new wave of young people soon to be heading into the executive workforce.”

Bringing energy and positivity

Shakira Wilson'24 supervises a craft project with children at Merrill Community Center. Shakira Wilson’24 supervises a craft project with children at Merrill Community Center.

Shakira Wilson’24, a double major in dance and sociology from Chicago, has become a role model in her Merrill Community Center internship. The center provides programs and resources for low-income youth in Beloit’s Merrill neighborhood, which has the city’s highest rates of both unemployment and percentage of minority residents.

“It’s been great for the young people in our neighborhood to see a bright, intelligent young woman who looks like them who’s a college student and excelling, to see all that as a possibility for them,” says Marc Perry, Merrill’s executive director.

Wilson’s internship involves working as a youth program teacher, providing homework assistance in the after-school program, teaching dance classes, and organizing arts and crafts activities. “I love working with the kids,” she says with a smile, and it’s clear that the kids look up to her.

Wilson found Beloit College through Chicago Scholars, a program for first-generation college students, and once at the college, she began working with Black Citizens of Beloit through the Duffy Partnerships. Her advisor, Professor of Sociology Kate Linnenberg, came to her with what she called “a perfect opportunity.”

Wilson is making an impact at Merrill, and gaining a better understanding of herself. “I’ve learned how to manage kids and to take leadership. Kids feel your energy, so it’s important to be positive when you go into the room. I now know I’d like to continue to work with kids,” she says.

Perry has high praise for the work Wilson is doing. “Shakira is a fantastic young woman with a bright future,” he says, “and I appreciate the role model she presents for the kids here.”

Though she’s from the big city, Wilson says she feels right at home in the small town of Beloit.

Touching all the bases

Matt O'Leary'23 Matt O'Leary’23 is living the dream behind the scenes with the Beloit Sky Carp baseball club.Since the Beloit Sky Carp’s ABC Supply Stadium opened in 2021, the Buccaneers baseball team has played one series there each season. For Matt O’Leary’23, an economics major from Clarendon Hills, Illinois, and a Buccaneers infielder, the Sky Carp internship introduced him to another side of the stadium: the game’s sports marketing and entertainment aspects.

O’Leary, an All-American second baseman, is working with team president Zach Brockman on projects that include pricing and ballpark experience research and analysis. “It’s been rewarding to see behind the scenes of a game and everything that goes into creating a wonderful fan experience,” O’Leary says, looking out at the stadium’s pristine playing field. “This work has forced me to think in different ways than inside the classroom. I’ve had to think creatively, solve problems as they arise, and compile data and findings efficiently. My time with the Sky Carp is teaching me what it takes to run a successful small business.”

This spring, O’Leary will attend a sales seminar to learn how to make sales calls, and work on ballpark promotions at the college and in the surrounding area.

“Matt’s been phenomenal,” says Brockman. “A prerequisite for this business is a love of the sport, and obviously he has that. Combine that with his passion for business, and it’s been a great partnership.”

For O’Leary, working for the Sky Carp — the Miami Marlins’ minor league High-A affiliate — has opened his eyes to the possibility of combining his interest in business with his love of baseball. “I feel like I’ve come full circle, having played here and now working behind the scenes,” he says. “I came to Beloit to play baseball, and it has opened doors for me — made connections that I don’t think would have been possible at a larger school.”

Off the hill

The Impact Beloit Fellowship program is bringing students and the college off the hill and into the community, and the college’s new experiential learning initiative is already benefiting the city, and the students who call it home.


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