Melbourne’s Diller Teen Fellows Impact

December 18, 2016 by Hayley Hadassin
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T.S. Eliot said; “Do I dare Disturb the universe?” For the very first Australian graduates of the Diller Teen Fellows program, they worked for over a year to do just that and last month they had the opportunity to present their final impact projects to a panel of professionals.

Diller Teen Fellows and the panelist

The Diller Teen Fellows program is a world renowned leadership development initiative that creates an international network of Jewish teenagers to serve as effective leaders. It is a program that the Zionist Federation of Australia is proud to have brought to Australia.

The talented Melbourne Diller Teen Fellows that made up Cohort 1 have developed projects to engage with varying issues in society. These have ranged from a fund raiser to support Israeli soldiers with Post-Traumatic-Stress disorder, to arranging a group trip to meet Indigenous teens and a cook book that gives teens tools to cook for their families in the unfortunate event that their parents are unwell.

“I felt confused with my surroundings and wanted to help my family and make things easier but did not know what roles I could take upon myself in our house as a young teen.” Amy Gilbert, 15 explained her rationale behind creating a cookbook for teens whose parents are unable to provide for their families due to illness. Amy’s mother is a breast cancer survivor.

The final presentation of the Impact Projects gave the Fellows an opportunity to present the rationale behind their projects, why they feel their project is necessary and how they intend to implement them. They pitched to entrepreneurs, community leaders and social activists including David Southwick, Gary Samowitz, Dean Cohen, Lillian Kline and ZFA Executive Director, Ginette Searle all of whom remarked how inspired they were by the ideas, the motivation and the passion of the Diller Teen Fellows. Samowitz: – “We should be proud of what these young people have achieved.”

The Diller Teen Fellows program was established in San Francisco in 1997 by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. The first cohort of the program began its activity in San Francisco in January 1998. Since then, the program has expanded to include 32 participating communities across the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Australia, South America, Europe and Israel.

This program aims to upskill Jewish leaders of the future and give them the tools and mentorship to truly make a difference

“The progression of the Diller Teen Fellows Programming, which has been tried and tested over the past 20 years, gives the fellows the framework to test their skills throughout the year, giving them experience in organisational leadership, preparing them properly for the challenge of planning and implementing a community impact project.” Ellie Golvan, Diller Teen Fellow Coordinator, ZFA

Throughout the year of programming, the group have undergone various tasks in order to improve their leadership skills. Their two major tasks; (i) to self-manage a Shabbaton and (ii) planning and implementing Community Week for the combined cohort in the Golan, gave them experience in taking a project from concept to delivery to evaluation – skills they’ve now taken and applied to their own ideas.

The 18 fellows planned and ran a Shabbaton, including the logistics and the education content. Community Week in the Golan took place during the group’s three week trip to Israel. The Australian fellows, together with their counterparts in Israel, planned a full week of programming for themselves in the Golan.

It is not every day that you can actually see and hear the impact you’ve made on a person’s life, but this program impacts not only those in the cohort, but those they meet and affect in the future. “It is only recently that I realised how lucky and fortunate I’ve been all my life. Since that realisation, I feel the obligation to help those who are less fortunate.” Drew Feiglin, 15, Yavneh Leibler College

For further information contact Ellie Golvan


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