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MAFista Spotlight: Samhita Collur

Samhita Collur has held many roles during her nearly three years at MAF. Officially, she’s been a Partner Success Manager and Communications Manager, but she’s also been a storyteller, a mobile app content developer, a community advocate, a strategist for new programs, a co-chair for an advisory council, and a friend to many MAFistas. Now, she’s off to law school to learn to advocate for community members in new ways. We asked her to impart her wisdom before her last day at MAF.

How would you characterize your experience at MAF?

First of all, my experience at MAF has really shaped the way I now think about working with a community. I was originally drawn to MAF for the values of the organization: meet, build, and respect. Throughout my experience being on the programs team, I’ve seen those values carried out. I’ve seen it in who MAF hires. I think we hire people who are true community leaders. You see how important it is to see those community leaders at the forefront of the work. What’s made my experience so special is seeing the relationships that staff build with community and the way those values are implemented. I want to take these values with me in law school, where I’ll be in a more academic setting, and the community may feel distant at times.

You mentioned seeing MAF’s values in action. Do you have an example of this?

One of the things built into our values is trust. We need to earn the trust of our community. One example that comes to mind is these three blog posts I wrote about MAF clients: Connie, Boni, and Rosa. These three people were actually hesitant to tell their stories. But they had trust in MAF. Boni had trust with Diana, a Financial Coach. Connie had trust with Doris, a Client Success Manager. With Rosa the trust she had with MAF was built through the DACA grant program. These are just a few illustrations of how MAF engages and interacts with the community. You never want to assume that someone is willing to tell their story. People’s stories are complicated — they’re filled with ups and downs. People want to tell an accurate story that shows resilience and lessons learned. Not one that’s super fluffy. I found that there is a way to write someone else’s story, and do it on their terms.

What are you proud of?

Even playing a small role in the DACA campaign is something I’m very proud of. That really made me reflect on what I wanted to do next. It inspired me to pursue law school as a next step. Seeing this small team really shift gears and work so well together to implement this large scale initiative. During this time, I observed what it means for MAF to be at the intersection of financial services and immigration. We end up being an entry point or gateway to other issues. Observing that and seeing how MAF continued to respond to the injunctions that were issued after the initial rescission allowed me to reflect on, how various approaches fit together. That was a big learning. MAF allowed me to see how different organizations can work together to do something really great. It can’t just be one organization. I saw that evidenced through our partnership model, the DACA campaign, and partnering with legal service organizations for referrals.

I’m also proud of being a part of the programs team. I’ve really appreciated the relationships I’ve built with partner organizations. It’s really special to see how they tailor the program to their unique community. Partners like Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement (HCCI) that really embody what it means to be a community organization. And every organization we partner with is so rooted in the community.

What’s next for you?

This fall, I’ll be going to law school. Something I realized that I really do enjoy here is communicating and writing. This idea of communicating with different audiences and taking information and finding ways to tell a compelling story. I hope to build on that skillset. I want to use this legal knowledge as another toolset to continue telling stories that support and uplift a wide range of communities. The law, at the end of the day, is a really powerful tool that can be used in the right or wrong way depending on who is telling the story. I want to pair love of communications with that knowledge set to continue doing this work in a slightly different arena.

What will you miss?

I want to give a shout out to MAF staff. The programs team is the best team I’ve ever worked with. Just seeing the way that we have a diverse set up of perspectives, and seeing how that plays out in the conversations we have as a team. When we’re brainstorming, seeing different view points adds a really unique element. This is something I hope I continue to get in law school. I’ll miss the dedication on the part of the staff. The way everyone understands the work, and how to work respectfully with the community.