With a desire to create community and support for young people, Omar Khoshafa ’17 has been named this year’s Harvard Presidential City of Boston Fellow.
Now in its second year, the three-year pilot fellowship provides funding for a recent Harvard College graduate to work as the mayor of Boston’s public-service fellow. The full-time, one-year position reports directly to the mayor’s chief of staff and is responsible for managing and executing projects on a host of issues.
“The Harvard Presidential City of Boston Fellowship is a great opportunity for recent graduates to help create and shape important city programs that will have a meaningful impact on Boston residents,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “Already, the city has benefited tremendously from the work of fellows, and I am excited to continue this program into its second year in partnership with Harvard College.”
Harvard shows its commitment to public service in many ways, such as efforts by the Center for Public Interest Careers (part of the Phillips Brooks House Center for Public Service & Engaged Scholarship) to develop a structure and early recruitment process that encourages leading public service organizations to hire Harvard College graduates.
Harvard President Drew Faust said the Harvard Presidential fellowship “creates opportunities for recent graduates to put theory learned in the classroom into practice and to connect policy with on-the-ground issues, enabling them to make real and tangible contributions to our communities and to civic life.”
“We are grateful to Mayor Walsh and the city of Boston for the opportunity to partner on this important initiative, and for his continued support in helping to further strengthen the collaborative relationships that exist between Harvard and the city,” she said.
Khoshafa, who studied government while at Harvard, said he’s particularly interested in local government because of the strong level of accountability.
“The opportunities to contribute at the local level are endless. That closeness to the ground, that sense of purpose that comes with local government, is what attracted me to this fellowship in the first place,” he said. “Cities and states are laboratories for people committed and willing to do the work.”
Khoshafa first got involved in public service while growing up in Malden, where he loved working with young people at his local mosque and at the Teen Enrichment Center.
“[I] learned about their struggles and challenges, and their hopes and dreams,” he said. “It became important to me to look at how I could create meaningful community support for young men and women — especially those who are minorities and those of color who are sometimes falling through the cracks in our system.”
Today, several months into his fellowship, Khoshafa is working on projects that include housing programs that address homelessness throughout the city. He’s also involved in programs with the Boston Public Schools to help get homeless students into housing as soon as possible.
“I’ve always had the public service bug. I love opportunities to really bring value to people where they are, and to improve educational outcomes — whether they be in the public or nonprofit or private sectors,” said Khoshafa. “I think what makes a difference for me is how accountable are you to the people you’re serving and how effective are you in improving their outcomes. That’s really what matters.”