One of Fahe’s charges is providing leadership within the region. In a previous article, I discussed the difficulties of staying in Appalachia and highlighted why this call to leadership is important. Today, I want to bring insight to the professional development that is available, not only to interns, but to mentors and supervisors as well. This is just as important in developing a more sustainable and economically diverse region, as weak leadership breeds failing establishments, which would cause more harm than good. Even seasoned professionals can further their skillset through the intake of an intern, especially if they take advantage of the internship to become a hands-on mentor. This mutually beneficial relationship provides important advantages to both the intern and the organization.

Angela (left) Tina (right)

Angela (left) Tina (right)

The Fahe-based leaders of the CHEF Program, Tina Parker and Angela Stephens, are both from Appalachia. Tina is a native of Bristol, Virginia, and has served in her professional life as a journalist, a teacher, and now serves Appalachia as Research & Development Specialist. In contrast, Angela has served in a variety of office settings, but has found her niche at Fahe as the Executive Assistant to Pam Johnson, EVP of Business Development and Outreach. They experienced excellent mentorship as young professionals, both coming from small colleges with one-on-one interaction with professors, and want to share that same impact with young professionals. Working at Fahe and providing guidance for the CHEF internship is a great utilization of their skillsets. Now, with the assistance of crucial funding from Rural LISC, they are able to realize a cultivation of their talents in the form of the CHEF Program.

The idea behind the CHEF Program is that it would be a way for Fahe to connect their Members to young talent in the region. “We heard from Members that they were looking for future leaders, which prompted us to research leadership programs across the nation. We were then prepared when we saw the opportunity from Rural LISC to propose a pilot that would place students from the region with our Members.” explained Tina.

“Many of Fahe’s Members don’t have the bandwidth to manage the program level details often involved in bringing interns to their organization, so it made sense for Fahe to administer the pilot and invite their Members to participate,” Angela added.

How have these ladies contributed to the CHEF Program since implementation began? Tina is a program mentor, and her position came from careful research and planning. “Tina was very much a cohort in the planning process. We wanted to have a better understanding of interns, such as how they can be brought into the fold at Fahe and what we can do to mentor them,” Angela said.

Tina then continued, “I did a lot of the research into national leadership and intern programs and found that a strong recommendation was to have to have a mentor that wasn’t the interns’ direct supervisor. My role was to then be that mentor.”

And am I thankful that she is! The insight that I’ve gained from working with Tina has been very valuable, from checking my drafts to providing helpful advice. Her background in journalism and teaching is very evident, as she displays patience and feedback that is constructive in ways that I have only seen from refined professionals in my time as an undergrad.

Angela is very helpful also, with her position being based in upholding the structure of the program. “My role as the CHEF Program coordinator means that I make sure things keep moving and that all of the required stuff is done. I make sure that there are no hiccups,” she said. “My goal as CHEF coordinator has been to find a good balance between being able to be supportive and to help supervisors without micromanaging.”

Full disclosure: she’s doing a good job. I came into this internship at a turbulent time for my team; they’re relocating and have had to sort out all of the logistics of a move while keeping up with their jobs and tracking their intern’s progress. Angela has been instrumental in getting my time tracked easily, so that my supervisor doesn’t have to, and coordinated with my supervisor to determine the logistics of my place in a move.

As an Appalachian, I see only potential benefit in this pilot program. I’ve seen firsthand that the leadership within is high quality, and those working around you only wish to see you succeed. Furthermore, the pilot has placed eight interns at five internship sites for the duration of the summer. If funding allows this program to continue, Fahe has 50+ Members that could benefit, which would add up to a lot of opportunities in the region for young people. This gives students in Appalachian communities a feasible way to return home and the potential to create their own paths while enriching the lives of community members who benefit from Fahe’s Network. The CHEF Program can provide a valuable boost to nonprofit organizations with great leadership development both within their organizations and within the Appalachian region.