Ever wonder what it’s like to be a member of Philly Fellows? In the ‘Meet Our Fellows’ series, we’ll introduce you to our current fellows, their projects, and how they are benefiting from the Philly Fellows program. This post features Sabrina Bernadel, who is serving as the Admissions Specialist at Year Up.

Name: Sabrina Bernadel

Hometown: Freeport, New York

University: Villanova University

Major: Psychology and French & Francophone Studies


How did you decide to become a Philly Fellow?

I originally heard about Philly Fellows from Villanova’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. I was really looking for opportunities after graduation that would expose me to hands-on work experience but would also help me grow personally. I knew I wanted a career in public service and that this ground-level work would only solidify my goal. I also knew I wanted to pursue a secondary degree soon, so I wasn’t looking for a permanent full-time job just yet. What really attracted me to Philly Fellows was its unique focus on the nonprofit sector. There aren’t many fellowships out there that help you break into this industry, especially with such a tight-knit nonprofit community like Philly’s.

Let’s talk about your project. What’s your site like? What are you working on? 

My placement is called Year Up Greater Philadelphia. Year Up is a one-year workforce development program for young adults, ages 18-24, aimed at closing the opportunity divide. We provide professional skills training and internships to urban young adults who are looking to break into and succeed in Corporate America. As the Admissions Specialist, I coordinate recruitment strategies to diversify and grow the program in Philadelphia. I also work on streamlining admissions processes to ensure a smooth transition from application to enrollment for prospective students. Honestly, it’s hard to describe my experience at Year Up, so far. It has been nothing short of amazing. The staff welcomed me with open arms and made me part of the Year Up family. Some days in the office can be a little hectic, which can be exhausting at times, but the work is rewarding and worth it. I love having input on and ownership of my project. It feels like I am actually contributing to the organization and developing skills that will help me later in my career.

Community living is one of the most important aspects of the Philly Fellows program. What’s this like? How have you benefited?

Community living was a big draw for me when applying to Philly Fellows. The nonprofit industry can be emotionally taxing at times, based on the kind of work you’re doing. I knew that living with other fellows would provide me with an outlet for both the success and challenges of working at a nonprofit. My housemates and I are very close. We go out together. We have meals together. It’s pretty fun. Honestly, I would hate living alone. My favorite part is just having people to come home to and decompress with. I also think it was a great transition coming right out of college. It’s a weird cross between dorm living and “adulting.”

What’s your favorite part about being a Philly Fellow so far?

My favorite part about being a Philly Fellow has been working at Year Up, but I already went into some detail about that. My other favorite part has been falling in love with Philadelphia. I really didn’t get to know it while I was at Villanova, so I felt like this was my second chance to really discover Philly. There is so much to do as a young person in the city, especially because of all the colleges around. If you’re as into brunch as I am, you will love Philadelphia. I’m a little biased, but Sabrina’s Cafe is a must-go!

Is it difficult to live on an AmeriCorps VISTA stipend? How do you manage?

I wasn’t particularly worried about the stipend coming into the program, but I knew I had to be prepared. I worked a good amount over the summer and saved whatever I could. While living in Philly, having housing covered by Philly Fellows has been a lifesaver. I also walk to work, so I save on transportation. Another big money saver for me this year has been packing a lunch most days for work. Philly is a pretty affordable city to live in, so it’s definitely doable to save money but still have fun.

The question everyone’s probably asking: any idea what’s next? What do you hope to do after Philly Fellows?

I have officially decided that I’m attending the Georgetown University Law Center next year! There, I will be specializing in public interest law and education law, more specifically. It’s a little bittersweet because I would love to stay at Year Up. However, going to law school next year will help me on the way to a career in education policy.

If you had to describe yourself as an animal, which one would it be and why?

See, this question is basically asking what my spirit animal is. I always struggle with the answer to this. I haven’t figured out what animal exactly describes me, but I do love giraffes. So, I usually try to make it fit. Giraffes are laid back and friendly, which I can identify with.