Dreaming Big: Part 1

Foster Burgess Impact Updates

The Fellows for the 11th Class of the Children and Family Fellowship have just recently been announced! We are absolutely thrilled to share that Covenant House Alaska’s very own CEO, Alison E. Kear, has been selected as a Children and Family Fellow by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. When Alison nonchalantly walked down the hall to share the news with her team that she was one of the selected 15, she played it cool—typical Alison!—but she is over the moon now that she has digested that this is actually real and she can’t stop talking about it (heck, she can barely sleep)! She is the second person in Alaska who has ever been selected—the first being Gloria O’ Neill, CEO of Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC), in the 8th Class.

The mission of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, based in Baltimore, is building a brighter future for children, families, and communities, which they work toward, in part, through the Children and Family Fellowship. The Fellowship is an executive leadership program designed to give professionals the confidence and competence to lead major system reforms and community change initiatives. Every couple of years, they select 15 individuals across the United States to become a Fellow, in recognition of their hard work to advocate for children and families in their communities.

This fellowship is a two-year commitment and will demand a lot of work in identifying exactly what Covenant House Alaska (CHA) and the Anchorage community needs in order to continue lowering the number of homeless individuals and eradicating youth homelessness in our city. The Fellowship is fast-paced, has long seminar hours, and requires mental and emotional stamina. Alison will use the 21-month fellowship to work within her agency, organization, and community toward specific, measurable improvements for large numbers of young people and families:

“My passion has always been learning – and taking what I’ve learned to then apply it to systems that help empower at-risk youth. Right now, I’m working hard to create a culture at CHA that includes youth voice, in an environment that used to live only by rules established by adults who weren’t living the same experience of the youth. Years ago, we thought we knew what was best to give homeless and at-risk youth; now we know they must be included in the conversation. I thrive to connect funders to the most amazing mission and our kids to ensure that organizations like Covenant House Alaska exist. I want to be in a position to help young leaders manage sustainable careers and to help organizations realize what resources they need so they can make the most difference for young people who face significant obstacles. I want to be in a position to influence policies and support organizations in their funding, and to create systems change, so that each case worker ultimately touches the life of a young person in the most powerful way possible.”

While this work will involve many active meetings full of thoughtful brainstorming, collaboration, and a careful analysis of the issues and trends surrounding homelessness in Anchorage, Alison is up to the task and ready to face these issues head-on with the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This fellowship will benefit Alison, pushing her closer to her personal goals, and in turn, will simultaneously benefit the whole of Covenant House Alaska, the Anchorage community, and the youth whom she tirelessly serves. “We are extremely proud of Alison for being selected for this fellowship,” said Judith Crotty, Covenant House Alaska Board Chair. “She already has a strong record of achievement and through this fellowship she will be able to set her sights even higher to improve the lives of youths in Alaska.”

We all want to whole-heartedly congratulate Alison on her award and are pleased that her dedication to young people and our community has been recognized. She deserves it. Alison’s mom — Mary Whittemore (pictured with her above) — who she credits for her boldness and lack of fear of failure, always told her to dream big, and this is one of those big dreams come true. We are so excited about everything she’s going to learn on this two-year journey as a Children and Family Fellow and the countless dreams she will make come true for youth in Anchorage. Now it’s time for her to get to work! Check back for updates as we follow her on her journey.

To make a gift to Covenant House Alaska, please visit our donation page.