Parker Foundation Grant Also Provides Grant-Writing Training to Nonprofit

UML psychology major Kiley McNeil with Bopha Malone, executive director of Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell Image by K. Webster
Psychology major Kiley McNeil has already written a successful grant for Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell, with help from Executive Director Bopha Malone.

By Katharine Webster

When senior psychology major Kiley McNeil applied for a paid internship with Girls Inc. of Greater Lowell, she expected to do research into grants for which the nonprofit could apply.

By mid-semester, McNeil had done much more. She took the lead on writing an application for a $50,000 grant toward the organization’s operating budget – still pending – and wrote a $15,000 grant proposal to expand Girls Inc.’s programs at public schools and community organizations, which the TJX Foundation agreed to fund.

McNeil is also reporting back to previous funders on the results of grants they provided, working with Girls Inc. Executive Director Bopha Malone, her supervisor. McNeil says it’s valuable professional experience, since she expects to spend at least part of her career working for nonprofits.

“That I was given the opportunity to do this was just incredible,” says McNeil, who as a child attended a summer program run by Girls Inc. of New Hampshire in Nashua. “The staff and my supervisor are so ready and open to giving me as many opportunities as possible.”

McNeil, who has minors in English and criminal justice, is one of 10 UMass Lowell students who are being paid to assist 10 Lowell nonprofits with grant research and support this semester under a three-year, $140,000 grant from the Theodore Edson Parker Foundation.

Biology major Naomi Okeke at the Brush Art Gallery and Studios Image by K. Webster
Biology major Naomi Okeke, who has minors in art and English, is interning at the nonprofit Brush Art Gallery and Studios.

The Parker Foundation grant is also paying for one staff member from each of the 10 nonprofits to take an intensive, eight-hour course on grant-writing co-taught by English Prof. Diana Archibald and Robin Toof, director of the university’s Center for Community Research and Engagement.

The grant arose out of a meeting between UML Chancellor Julie Chen, who is working to make sure all students can get paid, career-connected experiences, and Parker Foundation President Karen Carpenter. The main mission of the foundation is to support charitable and educational efforts in Lowell, and Carpenter proposed the grant-writing internship program to do both.

The Parker Foundation is fully funding the program this year, for $75,000, and providing $40,000 and $25,000 toward it in the second and third years. As many as 72 student interns will earn $2,500 each while gaining work experience, while 60 nonprofit staff members will get a crash course in grant-writing.

Gayle Jervis, a retired paralegal who works part time keeping accounts for the Brush Art Gallery and Studios, says she gained a lot from the grant-writing workshop. Over four weeks, she learned how to research potential funding sources and how to structure the grant application, from concisely explaining the gallery’s objectives to describing how the outcomes will be evaluated, she says.

Philosphy major Barnard Krouch on UML's South Campus, with the gazebo and Coburn Hall in the background Image by K. Webster
Philosophy major Barnard Krouch is interning at the ACE Center for New Americans.

“The instruction and the materials were excellent,” Jervis says, as were her “diverse and dynamic” classmates, who worked for a range of nonprofits and had different levels of grant-writing experience.

Now, Jervis is working with UML intern Naomi Okeke on a $5,000 grant to pay some of the gallery’s member artists to teach free, after-school art classes to middle and high school students.

Okeke, a biology major with minors in English and art, has been finding studies on the benefits of art education for underserved youth to support the grant application. She is also researching potential funders using the GrantForward database, to which the university subscribes while most smaller nonprofits do not. She is starting to draft some text for the grant application, too.

“I wanted to get more experience with professional writing, and I thought this internship would be an opportunity to learn, observe and maybe give back to the Lowell community that’s been so gracious to me,” says Okeke, who is interested in a career in art restoration.

Before working for the nonprofits, the student interns took some assigned LinkedIn Learning courses (free through a university-wide subscription), and Toof and Archibald gave them a crash course in GrantForward.

Archibald says that, in addition to being paid, nearly all of the UML students are receiving course credit through the English Department’s internship program, which features a course that provides support and guidance as the students gain professional experience through community engagement.

UML public health major Marcus Whitlow, center, with Shawn Bries and Gianna Sandelli '19, '22 at Lowell House Inc. Image by K. Webster
Public health major Marcus Whitlow, is assisting Shawn Bries, left, and Gianna Sandelli '19, '22 on grants for Lowell House Inc.

“They’re getting training in how to write a résumé, how to do a LinkedIn profile, work communication and life skills that translate into student and career success,” says Archibald, who runs the internship program and class. “They also write lots of reflection pieces about what they’re learning, how this experience fits with their career and personal growth, their understanding of the world and their connection to the community.”

Barnard Krouch, a senior philosophy major with an English minor, says he’s learning “crazy” research skills through his internship at the ACE Center for New Americans, which provides an after-school child care program and other services for recent immigrants.

Krouch, a Cambodian American from Lowell, is working on grant funding to improve the child care program, but he also hopes to help the ACE Center pursue grants for expanded services for immigrant children and teens, including assistance with the college application process and SAT prep.

“That was so important to me when I was in high school,” he says. “When you’re just coming here, it’s even more stressful because you aren’t a part of the community conversation. For immigrant children, it’s more likely you’ll be closed off and just not know about opportunities.”

Marcus Whitlow, a senior public health major with an English minor who plans to become a physician assistant, already works in the nonprofit world as an overnight residential counselor at a Community Teamwork family shelter. Previously, he worked at Lowell Community Health Center.

“Grant-writing is the blood of all the nonprofits in Lowell,” he says.

Now, Whitlow is learning about services for people with substance use disorders through his Parker Foundation internship at Lowell House Inc., where he’s working on two grants: one for supplies for the street outreach team and another to support the nonprofit’s facilities.

Whitlow says he’s learning more about the network of nonprofits in Lowell – and seeing the potential for more collaborations among them.

“I feel like my leadership is needed in the city of Lowell,” he says, “and I didn’t feel that way before.”