Sewickley-based Fellows program marries integrity, business
By Joanne Barron
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Amanda Griffith Yarger said it seems everywhere she goes, she finds a fellow Fellow.
Yarger, 28, of Sewickley, said that since the Pittsburgh Fellows at St. Stephen's Church in Sewickley began 10 years ago, 94 Fellows have graduated from the nine-month Christian leadership development work initiative. Of that number, more than half still are working and volunteering in the Pittsburgh area.
The program recruits and trains college graduates to be values-driven, ethical business leaders who integrate their Christian faith into their jobs and community with hopes that they stay in the Pittsburgh region.
Yarger said one of the goals of the program is to get Fellows to care about people “in the board room and under the bridge.”
Founder and director Becca Chapman, 59, of Sewickley agreed.
“Our hope is that Pittsburgh Fellows fall in love with our city and set down roots with the long-term vision of blessing our region through giving and leading with integrity,” Chapman said.
Pittsburgh Fellows is run through donations from church members, businesses, foundations and individuals, said Yarger, the program's assistant director and a former Fellow.
During the current session, 11 students are staying in Sewickley and seven in Pittsburgh in homes provided through the program.
They have been placed with companies in the area that pay them for nine months to work Monday through Thursday, and many companies donate funds to help with their living expenses. Yarger said many times, the companies hire them on a permanent basis.
Fellows take classes at St. Stephen's and Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, and volunteer and attend church services at St. Stephen's and program partner Church of the Ascension on Ellsworth Avenue in Pittsburgh. They volunteer in the community with alumni and participate in round-table discussions each week with area business leaders.
Chapman said this session marks the largest class, with 18 Fellows, and the incoming class will be the 10th.
To celebrate the 10th class of students, a dinner will be held Nov. 8 in honor of the late Fred Fetterolf, formerly of Sewickley, former chief operating officer of Alcoa and one of Pittsburgh Fellows' founding board advisers.
Leading the event will be board chairman Ralph Martin of Edgeworth, CEO of Trib Total Media, and Leslie Braksick of Bell Acres, co-founder and chairman of Moon-based Continuous Learning Group, or CLG.
Fellow Andrew Edwards, 22, of Hopewell, said the program taught him things he never knew about the city and has made him love Pittsburgh more than ever after visiting and learning about significant city enterprises and historical locations.
He said he believes “that we were placed on this earth to make a difference, and that is what I plan to do one day.”
Fellow Brittany Goodwillie, 22, of South Lyon, Mich., said she has learned the “importance of not just living in a city but understanding where you live and how to invest in the community around you as much as possible to make a difference.”
For Yarger, a former missionary, her experience with Pittsburgh Fellows has been life changing, she said.
“I felt God was calling me to bring that to the business world. I had to figure out how I could get a job that allows me to learn about how the economy works and impact the economy in a good way using my faith,” she said.
“Pittsburgh Fellows matches up beautifully with what I was trying to do with my life.”
The program began in the Washington, D.C., area and now has 21 programs across the United States. Pittsburgh Fellows is the only one in Pennsylvania.
Chapman, who has six grown children, got involved with the program after she saw what an impact it had on her son Timothy 12 years ago when he was a Fellow with the founding program — Falls Church Fellows — based at a church near Washington.
She and Peter Moore, former dean/president of Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, began the national Fellows Initiative Program and planted 15 programs across the country, including Pittsburgh Fellows.
Chapman became part-time director for Pittsburgh Fellows while continuing her role as national director. Four years later, she concentrated her efforts on Pittsburgh because of the “incredible promise of growth for business Fellows in the city and region of Pittsburgh,” she said.
“The entire 10 years has been a gift to us, as well as to the Fellows, to many companies and to the wider community and the city,” she said.
“We hoped from the start that it would be a win-win-win, and it seems, by God's grace, to have become just that.”
Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or email@example.com.
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