Get to Know the Sojourners Fellowship Program: Cycle 38 | Sojourners

Get to Know the Sojourners Fellowship Program: Cycle 38

Interested in applying for the 2022-2023 Sojourners Fellowship Program? Click here to start your application. Applications are due Feb. 15, 2022.

As all of us settle into calling the Sojourners fellows’ house our home, we are grateful for the opportunity to establish new rhythms in our community, our work, and our spiritual lives. We are embracing the lingering summer weather and discovering the best of Washington, D.C.’s parks, ice cream shops, and rich history, especially in the Columbia Heights neighborhood.

To our fellowship year, the 38th cycle of Sojourners fellows bring our passion for justice, love for storytelling, commitment to radical welcome, and the desire to put our faith in action as members of the body of Christ. We are bringing ourselves and our experiences to the work of Sojourners while allowing the community and work of Sojourners to shape us.

During our first couple months in our new home, we have found joy in sharing homecooked meals (favorites include: southern-style barbecue chicken and cornbread, Korean bibimbap, tahdig, and Japanese curry), fanatically watching every episode of Ted Lasso, and having spontaneous jam sessions in the kitchen.

We are so grateful for your generous support as Sojourners seeks to inspire hope and build a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world. Thank you for participating in the biblical call to justice.

Please continue reading below to learn more about this year’s fellow class, including what brought each of us to Sojourners.

Grace and peace,

Cycle 38

Olivia Bardo, online editorial assistant

Olivia Bardo is a poet and baker of bread. She was born and raised along the fringes of the Appalachian Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania, instilling in her a love for painting and storytelling. Olivia studied English, politics, and gender studies at Messiah University and had the opportunity to study abroad at Oxford University. Her senior thesis investigated the intersections of self-advocacy and poetic voice within early 20th century women’s magazines.

Olivia served as editor-in-chief of her campus literary journal and as a student fellow in the Center for Public Humanities, a humanities-based social justice initiative. During her time with the center, Olivia advocated for voting rights and researched the rich history of Harrisburg, Penn., and its residents. She also volunteered at Poetry-in-Place workshops, assisting middle school students as they composed poems. She realized her calling to pursue social justice through reading the works of Edwidge Danticat.

Olivia learned of Sojourners through many thoughtful conversations with professors and community leaders dedicated to the common good. In joining Sojourners, Olivia is thrilled to continue carrying out conversations and action that lead to social change.

In her spare time, you may find Olivia with a cup of tea visiting art museums, wandering poetry stacks, and foraging fields of blueberries and wildflowers.

Liz Bierly, editorial assistant

Liz Bierly (she/her) is excited to spend the next year as one of the editorial assistants at Sojourners and is most looking forward to fact-checking and uploading content for the magazine.

An Ithaca College alum, Liz studied journalism, counseling, and politics while copy editing her school paper and writing opinion pieces for her hometown newspaper. She was also deeply involved in a nondenominational ministry group on campus where she was passionate about fostering intentional and inclusive community. She discovered Sojourners after extensively Googling “jobs with ministry, advocacy, and communications” and is thrilled to be working at an organization that allows her to connect these core interests while pursuing justice.

Liz was born and raised in Lancaster, Penn., where she developed a deep appreciation for rolling hills, farm fields, and the outdoors. She most recently fell in love with the Green Mountains while thru hiking the Long Trail in Vermont and looks forward to tackling more outdoor adventures in the future. Outside of the office, you can find her jamming to Spotify, color-coding her planner, running, rock climbing, and reading anything she can get her hands on.

Gerald-Olufemi Lamar Darling Jr., campaigns and mobilizing assistant

A self-proclaimed Florida man and child of the South, I — Gerald Olufemi-Lamar Darling Jr. (he/him/they/them), or “G” — am the campaigns and mobilizing assistant for SojoAction and a proud member of this year’s Sojourners Fellowship Program.

I have been active in grassroots mobilization, campaigns, and faith-based humanitarian work since childhood, and have done so professionally for the past several years, holding space for our beloved communities across the nation and the world.

I have always had a passion for fighting in the intersections of faith, justice, and advocacy. And after college, I knew I wanted to work alongside historically marginalized groups, especially those within similar historically marginalized identities as me, to empower folks with the God-given agency and dignity they deserve. In this time with Sojourners, I hope to further expand on those gifts and skills so I can be able to equip others to be a part of the collective liberation and reconciliation of all people made in the image of God.

When I’m not deep in some form of theology, justice, and advocacy-related thing, you can probably find me: talking (obnoxiously) about how much I love Florida, specifically Miami, and the South; reminiscing about my formative years overseas (Tokyo, Japan, and South Africa will forever have a special place in my heart); reading the latest GQ magazine, because I love a good pleated trouser and loafer combo; researching and developing a recipe (I was a chef in a past life); working on my newsletter; writing fiction; or to be honest, doing none of the above and choosing to sleep — which in this sacred work, is necessary. Glad to be here with y’all.

Aleja Hertzler-McCain, editorial assistant

Before becoming an editorial assistant at Sojourners, Aleja graduated from Pomona College, where she studied anthropology and music. When she wasn’t playing violin or enjoying the Southern California sunshine, Aleja cofounded a disability peer mentoring program and participated in intersectional disability organizing. She was also proud to serve as a mentor for Residence Life and MERGE (Multi-Ethnic and Multi-Racial Group Exchange).

Her first languages are Spanish and English, and she has enthusiastically learned French and Portuguese to strengthen her global understanding and relationships. She developed her love of Latin America through her Puerto Rican family and through attending elementary school in Guatemala and Bolivia as a child. As a college student, she took a semester of classes at la Universidad de la Habana in Cuba.

Aleja is dedicated to learning people’s stories and to doing nitty-gritty policy research. In college, she investigated Cuba’s agricultural and food policy, and she wrote her senior thesis on urban Mennonite identity formation. At Sojourners, she hopes to continue to ask questions in pursuit of a more just world.

Aleja grew up in Mount Rainier, a crunchy city in Prince George’s County, Md. Her Catholic mother and Mennonite father raised her at Community House Church, an anti-denominational, lay-led community that will always be her home base. She is a big fan of fountains and goats.

Jules Park, advertising assistant

Hi! My name is Jules and I am so honored to be this year’s advertising assistant. I grew up in Silver Spring, Md., and was raised in the United Methodist tradition; I have fond memories of going to church throughout my childhood and adolescent years. If there is one thing that I took away from my upbringing, it is God’s enduring love and light for all creatures and beings. I believe that it is my job as a follower of Christ to embody his messages of hope and peace to make this world a better place.

I recently graduated from a small Quaker school called Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., with a degree in human development and social relations (Don't feel bad if you haven't heard of either one). For my senior research, I participated in an ethnographic field study at a local nonprofit organization and studied the importance of amplifying the voices and lived experiences of disenfranchised communities in the fight for racial and economic justice. This project confirmed my strong interest in grassroots organizing and I hope to explore this more after my time at Sojourners.

When I wasn’t analyzing theory in college, I fell in love with the student-run dance program and volunteered at the student-run coffee cooperative. During my sophomore year, I lived in an intentional community centered around mindfulness and Buddhist philosophies. Living in an intentional spiritual community is one of my favorite components of the Sojourners Fellowship Program, and I am so thrilled to be among such fun-loving and wise people for a year!

In my free time, I can be found trying to manifest having lunch with Taylor Swift someday, scrounging the kitchen for sugar, or strolling to the Trader Joe’s on 14th Street whenever I can.

Anna Potter, events and administration assistant

Hi there! My name is Anna, and I am from a small town in Western Pennsylvania where people say “yinz.” I grew up in a literature-loving family that fostered a delight in words, creativity, and beauty. At an early age, I fell in love with stories and witnessed their power to deepen my understanding of the Creator, creation, others, and myself.

After high school, I spent a year living and serving in an international community in Amsterdam, where I developed a love for intentional community and cross-cultural communication. I recently graduated from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania with an undergraduate degree in creative writing and art history. I had the incredible opportunity this past summer to spend six weeks backpacking through the Wind River Range of Wyoming, where I became a Certified Outdoor Leader with the Wilderness Education Association.

Throughout my journey as a follower of Jesus, I have found that it is the story of the gospel that pulls me back into the arms of Christ each time my attention is drawn away by some ephemeral thing. I was drawn to the work of Sojourners because of their commitment to storytelling. As Sojourners seeks transformation in the world, it is through storytelling that they herald the new reality of the gospel — a reality of justice, hope, and equity.

When I’m not working, you can find me pretending to be Mary Oliver, discovering new ways to eat sweet potatoes, and overreacting to every single dog I see.

Jackie Resh, circulation assistant

Jackie Resh (she/her) is the circulation assistant at Sojourners. This fellowship year moved her out of her home state of Minnesota, where she studied justice and peace, general business management, and sustainability at the University of St. Thomas.

She deeply cares about and is interested in the intersectionality of justice issues. She believes that how we interact with each other and the earth we call home matters—and that Jesus gives us the framework to do this well. As one of her favorite authors, Robin Wall Kimmerer, writes: “All flourishing is mutual.” Jackie is grateful the Sojourners Fellowship Program allows her to integrate her faith and wide span of interests to seek this collective flourishing.

The pandemic has taught Jackie how to cut her roommates’ hair in the kitchen, given her a love/hate relationship with running, and made the outdoors an even more treasured space. She’s perfected the art of making stovetop popcorn, perhaps spends too much time on Spotify, and could happily spend all day at a farmer’s market.

Katie Smart, communications assistant

My name is Katie Smart (she/her), and I am excited to join the Sojourners Fellowship Program as this year’s communications assistant. I grew up in the Greater Los Angeles area and have a bachelor’s degree in international studies from American University, as well as a certificate in paralegal studies from Boston University.

While in college, I chose to focus on the topics of human rights and conflict resolution. I spent my junior year studying abroad in the Middle East. During my first semester, I spent my time outside of class volunteering for the African Refugee Development Center in Tel Aviv, where I served as an English tutor and assisted with a project raising awareness of issues impacting women seeking asylum. The following semester, I lived in Amman while interning for Squash Dreamers, an organization that provides sports coaching and English lessons to young Syrian refugee girls. I have also advocated on Capitol Hill and hope to pursue a career in international human rights law in the future.

As someone whose faith strongly influences my commitment to justice and human rights, the mission of Sojourners resonates very deeply with me. I was drawn to the Sojourners Fellowship Program because it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to work toward social justice from a faith-based perspective.

In my free time, I enjoy reading and also have a strong love for music. I have been playing viola since elementary school and minored in music performance in college. I also enjoy hiking and board games, and I’m always happy to start new adventures and try new things.

Chloe Specht, donor services assistant

Chloe Specht (she/they) is the donor services assistant at Sojourners. Chloe is a writer and advocate of inclusive and liberative faith. She has been passionate about justice work since her growing up years in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.

In her life, education, and career, Chloe has sought to integrate faith and justice. She studied Christian ministry and theology during undergrad, and she holds a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary. In 2020, Chloe was a fellow with The Center for Public Justice. Chloe is currently pursuing pastoral ordination in The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and plans to equip local churches to participate in activism and justice work in their communities.

Chloe enjoys podcasts, folk music, nurturing her houseplants, and rewatching The Office.

Leslie Williston, digital mobilizing and president’s office assistant

Leslie Williston (she/her) is this year’s digital mobilizing and president’s office assistant. She graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in community psychology and health promotion. Since graduating, she has participated in an AmeriCorps program and worked at a nonprofit in Minnesota.

She found a copy of Sojourners magazine while shopping in a local bookstore and has been following the organization ever since. She was drawn to the Sojourner’s Fellowship Program because her passions intersect with the mission and values of the organization, and she hopes to pursue a career within the realm of social change. Her interests lie most in environmental and climate issues and their intersection with other justice issues. She is excited to integrate her passions within her work and to be able to serve a few different departments within the organization.

Outside of work, Leslie enjoys spending time outdoors in the sunshine but equally loves being stuck inside on a rainy day with a good book. She is an avid runner, a bicycle commuter, a long walker, and big chatter who never seems to run out of questions. In the pandemic, she has discovered the simple joys of exploring state parks, doing crossword puzzles, and eating ridiculous amounts of cookie dough and ice cream.

This program is made possible by the generous support of sojourners like you across the country. Learn more about the Sojourners Fellowship Program and how you can invest in the next generation of leaders.