An Immersive Experience in the Public Sector: The Coro Fellows Experience

Feb 10, 2021
Kara (far right) with Coro Fellows in the Mayor of Pittsburgh’s conference room with members of his staff

The Coro Pittsburgh Fellowship Program seeks to engage the next generation of diverse leaders who have a passion for working across sectors to build a stronger democracy. The Coro Fellowship is a 9-month, full-time intensive training program designed for young leaders (age 21-35). Pittsburgh Fellows are placed for 6 to 30 weeks in local nonprofit, government, labor, business, and community-based organizations. All applicants selected into the Pittsburgh program receive a full-tuition scholarship and a monthly living stipend of $1,300.

We talked to Kara Lowry, a 2019-2020 Coro Fellow, to learn more about the program and get some application tips. 

1. What inspired you to apply for the Coro Fellowship?

Entering my undergraduate studies, I thought I wanted to go to medical school. I majored in Biology, but I started off minoring in Political Science because I had always been involved in youth government programs and had a passion for those programs. My junior year of college, I realized that my passion was not in medicine, so I decided not to go to medical school and to add a major in Political Science. At this point, I had spent so much time planning on going to medical school that I had no clue what I would do in the public sector, so I asked my advisor if there were any fellowships or programs that would expose me to the field more. She brought up Coro, and I decided to apply because I could gain experience in public affairs by completing multiple different placements. This would allow me to be exposed to multiple different sectors that I could potentially have a career in, which was what I needed. I came to Coro to find out where my skills and interests could be best utilized to help people in the public sector.

Kara (front row, second from left) with Coro Fellows with Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor during their week learning about water policy

2. What are the benefits of the fellowship? 

Because of Coro, I was able to gain experience in local government and in nonprofits. I worked for the Office of the County Manager for Allegheny County and compiled a process improvement training curriculum for the county employees. I worked for Remake Learning, an education networking organization, and helped plan events for educators to come together and learn from each other regarding topics of climate change, technology, and race. I finished my program off at Computer Reach, a nonprofit dedicated to ending the digital divide. I started this placement right as the pandemic began, so my work of getting free desktops to students in the area who were now completing school online and did not have access to a device at home was imperative. Through these placements, I gained so many skills that I would not have been able to develop without the opportunity to take nine months and be immersed in the field. I was able to gain the confidence that the public sector is the field I want to be in and where I believe I can make the biggest impact.

The Coro program also has a partnership with multiple universities to give scholarships to alumni of the program. I am now able to get my Masters of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University thanks to a scholarship due to my participation in Coro.

 I think another thing that Coro gave me was just the opportunity to live and explore Pittsburgh. I have loved living here, and it is a city that I never would have thought to move to.

Kara (front row, left) with Coro Fellows and State Senator Wayne Fontana during their week learning about water policy in the Western Pennsylvania region

3. What tips would you give others applying to the Coro Fellowship? 

When you are applying to Coro, I think it is important to demonstrate your passion and your willingness to grow. Coro is all about growth and developing your skills, so demonstrating what you want to improve on and your willingness to work hard to improve is important. They are also looking for people who are passionate about the public sector and making change. I would express what you are passionate about and what you have done in the past to work on that passion.

For the Selection Day interviews, I think when people hear Coro is a leadership development program, they think that means they need to be the most outspoken, in-charge type of leader in order to be accepted, but that is not the case. I am definitely more of a listener and less of a talker, and Coro is looking for people who have differing leadership styles, so I would say be yourself. The group dynamic wouldn’t work if everyone had to share their opinions all the time, so it is important that if you are someone who is quieter and more reserved, do not feel discouraged or not apply because you think you are not a leader. Leadership comes in many different forms, and they are all beneficial.

I think something that made my application stand out is that I was not originally planning on pursuing a career in the public sector, but that I had a clear interest in the field. Coro is looking for a diversity of experience and interests, so even if you haven’t studied Political Science or Public Affairs, it is definitely worth exploring the fellowship because you can use your experience and background in new and unique ways.

Kara (front row, second from left) with Coro Fellows with Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross during their week learning about water policy

Kara Lowry is originally from outside of Louisville, Kentucky. She attended Western Kentucky University for her undergraduate degrees in Biology and Political Science. After graduating, she moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs where she worked in local government and nonprofits. She is currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University. She is interested in using policy to create a more equitable society for the most underserved of our communities. In her free time, she loves to read, cook new recipes, and play with her two kittens.

Interested in applying? Bookmark the Coro Fellows Program to your ProFellow account.

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