Julie Okoniewski, Oakwood Friends School’s Associate Director of Development and Alumni Affairs, and alumna Julia Wilson ’92, a chiropractor from Kingston, NY, recently graduated from The Good Work Institute’s (GWI) six-month fellowship program. GWI's mission is to educate and connect a network of local community members and actively support their collaborative efforts to impact regenerative change in their towns.
Founded in mid-2015, The Good Work Institute runs educational programs and enterprise support services that aim to assist local community members and their organizations as they turn their aspirations for a better tomorrow into specific actions taken on behalf of the people and places of the Hudson Valley. Over the course of the six-month experiential education program, almost 40 local fellows co-developed and piloted creative solutions to pressing challenges and opportunities in the Hudson Valley.
Julie was based in the City of Poughkeepsie for her project where she collaborated with four other fellows on a project to connect the “unheard voices” of residents of the City with decision makers through an evening workshop held at the Mid-Hudson Heritage Center designed to address issues of gentrification and inclusive change. In attendance were Assistant County Executive Ron Hicks, County Legislator Barbara Jeter Jones, Common Council Members Sarah Salem, Sarah Brannen and Chris Petsas, City Planner Natalie Quinn, developers Jim and Gina Sullivan of the James J. Sullivan Corporation, and Maffy Malaver the Director of ABC Latino, as well as City residents ranging in age from middle schoolers to senior citizens. Julie and her group plan to incorporate the positive outcomes of the discussion at their event and continue the conversation through activities at this year’s O+ Festival in Poughkeepsie this summer.
Julia’s project brought together fellows in Kingston, NY who organized an activity at a Winter Community Dinner designed to bring members of the community together to break bread, share stories, and support local nonprofits working to alleviate hunger in our region. The free dinner that served close to 400 people, was held on February 23rd at the Old Dutch Church in Kingston, and was hosted by Family of Woodstock, Kingston YMCA Farm Project, UlsterCorps, Hudson Valley Current, and Bread Alone. Julia and her fellowship team used “Big Talk” questions written on every table to encourage guests to have conversations to foster a deeper connection.
Social justice and community engagement are integral to Oakwood Friends School, whether it be for current students, employees or alumni, as is evidenced through Julie and Julia's participation in and connection through the Good Work Institute's fellowship program.