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Gabi Bello Discusses “The Climb is Our Story,” Zaniya Lewis’ 2019-2020 Knapp Fellowship, and her Civic Engagement

““The Climb Is Our Story” will provide college and career readiness skills to School Without Walls high school students who participate in the Multicultural Student Services Center student internship program.  GW students will facilitate college and career readiness workshops with the assistance of the MSSC from September 2019 - May 2020.” For more information about The Climb is Our Story, please click here. 

From recent events, Gabi and Zaniya are adapting The Climb is Our Story to the circumstances. Gabi and Zaniya have been “hosting virtual internship sessions and lectures.” In the spring, Gabi noted that “we organized the “Climb tour” where “we would have taken students to different companies around DC.” There was also “a trip planned to NY, so students could hear how these companies started and see how the business world works.” Gabi and Zaniya were “going to do college tours in the spring and visit schools in New York, Maryland, and Virginia.” Next year, Gabi “will continue the internship program.”  

“We are still dedicated to seeing through everything through.”

Over the course of the semester, Gabi and Zaniya experienced scholarship displacement; “when you receive outside scholarships and the institution reduces financial aid.” From this, Zaniya and Gabi organized a rally on Capitol Hill and “had to shift things a little bit,” with regards to the fellowship. To read their article in The GW Hatchet, please click here. As strong co-leaders and friends, Zaniya and Gabi practice “open communication” to expand the size and scope of their work. 

“Working at issues from both standpoints to evoke sustainable change.”

Gabi, a sophomore, is majoring in Human Services and Social Justice (HSSJ) and minoring in Law and Society. After college, she hopes to become a “civil rights lawyer and work for a non-profit.” “There are so many different communities in DC, especially communities that don’t get a lot of attention.” By being in the “Foggy-Bottom bubble, GW students don’t see what DC community members experience day to day.” While at GW, Gabi noted that she “can’t just soak up the resources and then leave.” 


Zaniya, a senior, is majoring in Political Science and minoring in HSSJ. In the future, Zaniya hopes to implement her program at other schools throughout the United States with college and career readiness. She will do this by partnering with more businesses, and her non-profit organization, the YesSheCanCampaign.” To learn more about Zaniya's fellowship, please click here. 

“I want to create a meaningful experience for others.”

Gabi discussed how her leadership has “grown tremendously.” While serving as the Operations Director for the YesSheCanCampaign, Gabi also serves as a GWupstart Commissioner, the engageDC leader at Miriam’s Kitchen, and as an Alternative Break trip leader. In all her service commitments, Gabi hopes that volunteers will cultivate “lasting relationships.” With her “engageDC cohort,” Gabi “went to Mayor Bowser’s forum to see how policy works in DC works” and to expose volunteers to “advocacy,” another pathway of service. Gabi’s success as a leader stems from her self-awareness, she’s “really good at reading a room.” 

“If I attended a different university, I wouldn’t have had the same experience. GWU is the only university I know of that has HSSJ major.” 

Gabi noted that “there are a lot of organizations that are doing similar things” to the YesSheCanCampaign. By “creating another organization that is similar to an existing one,” we are able to “bring communities together and strengthen community building.” “Bridging of ideas and fostering ally-ship across student organizations are very important.” The YesSheCanCampaign “began on Instagram and then became a social media campaign.” From “having dedicated followers,” Zaniya and Gabi continue to use “social media marketing” as a way “to engage followers and reach new followers.” When the YesSheCanCampaign “won the Princess Diana Award, being interviewed on different platforms helped raise awareness.” 

“It’s really important to be invested in the community you are serving with.”

To future Knapp Fellows, Gabi encourages applicants to “look for mutual benefits” and to have an asset-based approach to civic engagement. Having “built and nourished community ties,” fellows should feel that “the community and I are going to work together to solve the issue.” Also, “it’s really important to have members of the team that can relate to the community; without community support will not be able to move the project forward.” 


  • To learn more about the Knapp Fellowship, please click here.
  • To learn more about the Knapp Fellow’s application process, please click here. 

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