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Antioch College students Kelsey Pierson, left, and Khalil Nasar, far right, chopped wood with Glen Helen Nature Preserve Land Manager George Bieri, center, on a recent chilly afternoon in the Glen. Pierson and Nasar are two of 16 Antioch students working this year at local nonprofits as Miller Fellows. (Photo by Megan Bachman)

Antioch College students Kelsey Pierson, left, and Khalil Nasar, far right, chopped wood with Glen Helen Nature Preserve Land Manager George Bieri, center, on a recent chilly afternoon in the Glen. Pierson and Nasar are two of 16 Antioch students working this year at local nonprofits as Miller Fellows. (Photo by Megan Bachman)

Antioch College’s Miller Fellows boost local nonprofits

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For Antioch College student Megan Miller, a yearlong job at the Yellow Springs Arts Council sparked a love of art galleries that has since led her to co-ops at the Santa Fe Art Institute and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Fellow student Kijin Higashibaba turned a job last year at Antioch radio station WYSO-FM into an internship for a Sacramento television station, where she now covers the California state house.

The early careers of both students were launched by their Miller Fellowships, during which they worked at local nonprofit organizations. In the program’s third year, 16 Antioch students are working 10 hours per week at one of 11 nonprofits. Students are paid $10 per hour from a grant, while the cost to the nonprofit is minimal.

“It’s just been fantastic for us,” WYSO General Manager Neena Ellis said of the four Miller Fellows who have worked at the radio station. At WYSO, students have learned interviewing, recording and radio editing and have all been on the air, while WYSO has benefited from the technical skills of “digital natives” who have chipped in to create original content for its website, Ellis said.

“We’re a small radio station and we all wear many hats, so when someone walks in the door who has skills already, we give them responsibility and everyone steps up,” Ellis said.

The Antioch Miller Fellowships were created when longtime villagers and brothers Nolan and Richard Miller bequeathed $3 million to the Yellow Springs Community Foundation. Nolan, who died in 2006 and was an associate editor of The Antioch Review and a writing teacher at Antioch College, and Richard, an artist who died in 2009, asked that the endowment funds be used to strengthen the town-gown relationship. The foundation came up with the idea of using the money to pay Antioch students to work for local nonprofits. Fellowships began in 2011.

“It’s such a positive thing for our students, and I hope the community is benefiting from it,” said Beth Bridgeman, an Antioch instructor of cooperative education. “I think people love to see great Antioch students out in the community doing interesting things.”

This year students are working at WYSO, Glen Helen Ecology Institute, the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions, the Tecumseh Land Trust, the Yellow Springs Senior Center, the Yellow Springs Arts Council, Yellow Springs Schools, Community Access Channel 5, the Antioch School, Yellow Springs Kids Playhouse and Home, Inc.

Nonprofits can become host organizations by applying to the Yellow Springs Community Foundation each summer. At a job fair on the Antioch campus in the fall, students and organizations interview each other to find the best fit. Students typically work for the organization for an entire year.

Jerome Borchers, president of the Arts Council, said Miller Fellows there have “multiplied the influence of the small staff” of the organization and students helped with public relations, gallery work, membership and youth outreach. Krista Magaw, executive director of the Tecumseh Land Trust, added that its Miller Fellows have energized her organization by thinking of new ways to reach people about conservation and increase membership.

“The [Miller Fellows] dream up ways to get people out on the land, or to experience nature or learn something about local food production,” Magaw said, adding that the students have contributed their technological savvy and “even tweet sometimes.”

Students said they have gained from the experience too.

An Antioch psychology major, Ryann Patrus of Cincinnati wants to someday work with people with disabilities. During a Miller Fellowship at the Mills Lawn Elementary School reading center, she said she has learned a lot about helping struggling students, among other career skills.

“I definitely learned a lot about working with kids and how to focus children,” Patrus said. “I’ve also learned how to be flexible and how to self-initiate — a good skill.”

First-year student Khalil Nasar, 18, of northern Virginia, has enjoyed working with his hands to clear invasive species and downed trees at the Glen Helen Nature Preserve. Working with land steward George Bieri, Nasar has wielded chainsaws and chippers, last week felling three trees killed by the Emerald Ash Borer.

“It’s very intellectual work in the classroom, so it’s nice to go out and apply it,” Nasar said, adding that he also has learned how to work under a boss and with a team to “get something done as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Alex Klug, 26, of Cincinnati, is learning the “difficult” and “intense” work of grant writing at local nonprofit Home, Inc., which she sees as an important skill to have as she hopes to someday work in youth housing and education. She also finds the flexibility at a small community organization empowering.

“I enjoy how it’s really from the ground up and we learn as we go,” Klug said.

Jay Rudibaugh, 19, of East Liverpool, Ohio, is busy as a ”jack of all trades” at the Senior Center, where he is helping people figure out electronic devices of all kinds. With a flexible work schedule, he has learned a lot about the importance of time management during his fellowship, he said.

First-year student Evan Schieber, of Columbus, has learned how to talk about environmental issues at the Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions, where he is helping the organization make documentaries about energy topics. Schieber, who prefers cycling to driving, is exploring his own life philosophy while advancing his studies in human ecology through the fellowship, he said.

Kate Harrison, 20, of Hillsboro, Ohio, is also working on video production. The second-year student is documenting the transition to a problem-based learning curriculum at Yellow Springs Schools and will begin by producing a short 30-minute video using interviews with students, faculty and administrators.

And 19-year-old Alexandra Scott, of Columbus, in her second year at Antioch, is pursuing her lifelong dream to open a coffee shop “even though there’s no major for it” at Antioch, by working at the Arts Council, she said.

“One of the reasons I wanted to open a coffee shop is to bring arts to people, with open mics, poetry readings, music, art on the walls,” Scott said of the connection between her fellowship and career aspiration. The Miller Fellowship also gave her a chance to get more invovled in the Yellow Springs community, she said.

“I love Yellow Springs — it seems like a safe space, there’s a lot of art and wonderful people,” Scott said. As for her favorite local coffee shop inspiration: “I hang out at Spirited Goat Coffeehouse all the time.”

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