Heller ’21 Named 2020 Newman Fellow
March 25, 2020
By Elsa Wenzel
The Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes and supports students who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country.
“I feel really lucky,” says Heller. “This is such a great opportunity for me not only to expand on what I’m doing with the League of Women Voters and voter suppression—working on creating more inclusive and diverse democratic elections—but also for my future as a leader in this space.”
The one-year fellowship, named for noted education-reform advocate Frank Newman, provides training and resources to help students develop strategies to achieve social change. Newman Civic Fellows also receive a $1,000 scholarship from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute to participate in the organization’s Leadership and the American Presidency program. The goal is to nurture students’ passions to help them develop strategies to achieve social change, preparing them for the long-term work of public problem-solving and building equitable communities.
Newman Civic Fellows are nominated by college and university presidents and chancellors to acknowledge motivation and potential in public leadership.
“Eliane Heller has a gift for lifting up young people who are facing adversity,” wrote Rollins President Grant Cornwell in his nomination letter. “Her dedication to service extends well beyond the academic year. It is clear that Eliane will continue her great work in the community beyond her time at Rollins College. She epitomizes public service and the legacy of Frank Newman.”
From working with children with disabilities in Peru to interning at the League of Women Voters, Eliane Heller ’21 is always looking for ways to help communities both in our backyard and around the world.
Heller has accumulated numerous accomplishments in service in her several years at Rollins, including ongoing service in the four-year Bonner Leaders Program, through which she is currently interning with the League of Women Voters. She’s also co-president of the student-led Student Support Foundation, which manages a confidential food pantry, of which Heller is the coordinator.
Heller expanded her focus on community service as a second-year student in the Bonner Leaders Program Summer of Service, teaching English and vocational skills to children with disabilities near Cusco, Peru. With the Bonner scholarship she has worked with an array of local nonprofits as well, including volunteering in the day care at the Coalition for the Homeless; tutoring and mentoring children at the Foundation for Foster Children, and providing teaching and administrative support to other organizations serving underprivileged youth.
Heller has also sought to pay it forward as a peer mentor at Rollins, advising first-year students on their individual academic paths through college, with guidance from art history professors MacKenzie Moon Ryan and Kimberly Dennis.
As one of the 2019 recipients of the Millennium Fellowship—a highly selective leadership development program backed by the United Nations—Heller concentrated on advancing the Sustainable Development Goal of Quality Education by continuing her Bonner Leaders work in which she launched and executed a project around language learning in Peru.
As a first-year student, Heller secured a high-level internship as a congressional nonprofit engagement coordinator at the Office of U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy. She wrote briefings for the congresswoman, researched new legislation and policy related to immigration, specifically related to Puerto Rico and the devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and kept track of local nonprofits to help serve constituents.
Whether it’s assisting with voter registration efforts, researching legislation, or mentoring children and peers, Heller’s consistent No. 1 goal is to give back to the community and help lift up those around her. She credits her mentors, including English professor Jana Matthews and political science professor Don Davison, for pushing her toward life-changing and career-defining opportunities.
“Through my time at Rollins, I’ve been able to patch together all these unique endeavors and experiences and see where I’m the most needed,” says Heller. “Rollins has really given me the tools to figure out the best way I can serve people that’s advantageous both for them and for my learning experience. The emphasis on service and community engagement was one of the biggest reasons I chose Rollins, and I’ve had the unique opportunity to delve into my community and use those experiences to help further my career.”
After graduation, Heller dreams of working for a political nonprofit after serving in a program such as the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. Longer term, she’s considering law school in order to pursue work in advocacy or nonprofit law.
Heller is the seventh Rollins student to earn a Newman Civic Fellowship. Previous winners include Meghan Oxford ’20, Skylar Knight ’19, Meredith Ewen ’19, Arden Baxter ’18, Raul Carril ’14 ’16MBA, and Brock Monroe ’14.
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