Working for Educational Equity in NYC: The New York City Urban Fellows Program Experience

Apr 07, 2021
New York Urban Fellows Program
Mahbuba (standing, third from right) with members of her Urban Fellows cohort volunteering at Highland Park Community Garden

The New York City Urban Fellows Program is a highly selective, nine-month fellowship which combines work in Mayoral offices and City agencies with an intensive seminar series that explores current urban issues impacting public policy. Program participants are diverse and come from all over the country to work in New York City. After participating in an extensive interview process, NYC Urban Fellows are placed at an array of agencies across the City where they learn about public policy through a hands-on approach. Fellows receive a nine-month stipend of $30,000.

We talked to Mahbuba Hossain, a current NYC Urban Fellow working in the Office of Education and Employment Initiatives at the Administration for Children’s Services, to learn more about the program and get some application tips.  

1. What inspired you to apply for the NYC Urban Fellowship? 

I developed an interest in studying politics and the law early on when I attended Brooklyn Technical High School which had a Major system, similar to college. I majored in Law and Society and took selective courses in the discipline. At Fordham University, I continued my studies in Political Science as well as Peace and Justice Studies. I focused my academic coursework on the history of activism and political organizing as well as how inequalities of wealth, power, and prestige are institutionalized in a complex society. 

Through my studies and experience working at the NYC Department of Education and with students of various ages from kindergarten to college freshman, I quickly became passionate about education and its role in expanding access and opportunity for disadvantaged populations. I applied for the NYC Urban Fellows Program because I wanted to explore my interests and understand how I can initiate change through local government. 

2. How has the fellowship experience influenced your current work? 

Before I became an Urban Fellow, I was heavily involved on my campus in various roles all relating to educational and cultural programming. Outside of campus, I focused my interests on immigration policy where I interned at Congressman Joseph Crowley’s District Office and volunteered with the New Sanctuary Coalition. My work was especially enjoyable because I was interacting with many different people day-to-day. Through these roles, I realized I liked program coordination and wanted to combine the skills I developed with the issues I was passionate about. 

Through the NYC Urban Fellows Program, I’ve been placed at the NYC Administration for Children’s Services in the Division of Family Permanency Services. Our division helps ensure that services are provided for children in foster care. I’ve been involved in various education and employment initiatives for these foster care youth. One project I’m currently working on is the TechLink program, a STEM career pathways program for high school students in foster care. Early on in my fellowship, I completed outreach to form the program cohort. Now that we are several weeks into the program’s launch, I’ve served as a coach for these students in college and career planning. To maintain the program, I work alongside the TechLink partners at Google, New Yorkers for Children, and Hopeland on engagement strategies and program structure. 

In my fellowship, I’ve also taken part in weekly seminars as well as volunteer opportunities. I’ve heard from many speakers in different city agencies and outside of local government. While most of my experience is focused on my placement agency, the seminars I attend provide the opportunity to learn about other agencies and the work they are doing. It has also exposed me to potential places I can work in the future. The volunteer opportunities throughout the fellowship not only allow me to support my community but also get to know the other fellows in my cohort. While the pandemic has prevented much of the in-person interaction I would have had with them, I appreciate the few times we can meet other hard-working leaders. 

I went into the program believing I would pursue a Master’s in Public Policy immediately after. However, I’ve realized I want to continue working with young students personally. While I may get an MPP later on, I want to continue exploring this avenue of work and delve deeper into program management.

Urban Fellows having a picnic in Fort Greene Park

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

For those applying to the NYC Urban Fellows program, I recommend having a demonstrated interest in public service. Because the program does not have any college major requirements, diverse backgrounds of study are beneficial to forming a well-rounded cohort. It is still helpful to take some coursework, internships, or volunteer opportunities that reflect this interest. 

While I stated my experience and curiosity about immigration and education in my application, I remained broad in regard to the agencies I wanted to work at and was open to other areas of focus in public service. This is especially important for a program like Urban Fellows as a finalist cannot guarantee which agency they will work in. The program encourages fellows to go out of their comfort zones as this is the perfect opportunity to work in a new field with not as much work experience. 

In my application and interviews, I remained genuine about what my intentions were with applying for the Urban Fellows program. My career as of now is focused on supporting low-income minority public school students in New York City which can be accomplished in many different agencies in city government. Be clear about what you want out of this program while also being open to many different opportunities that come with it!  

Mahbuba Hossain graduated Summa Cum Laude from Fordham University where she majored in Political Science and minored in Peace and Justice Studies. At Fordham, she was presented the Senior Leadership Award for her ability to lead and empower fellow students in the university’s overall efforts to create a welcoming, involved, and inclusive community. Mahbuba currently works in the Office of Education and Employment Initiatives at the Administration for Children’s Services as a New York City Urban Fellow.  Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Interested in applying? Bookmark the New York City Urban Fellows Program to your ProFellow account.

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