Erness Wright Irvin was an active ToP Network member, facilitator and trainer in New Orleans beginning in the 2000's. Her smile was infectious, her spirit open and eager to support others in moving forward. She provided leadership as local host to the ToP Network Gathering in 2018. She died in November, 2020. The Erness Wright Irvin Fellowship Program of ToP Network is created to enhance the opportunity for community-minded individuals who are Black, brown, indigenous or persons of color to advance themselves as ToP trainers.


To expand the representation of individuals who are Black, brown, indigenous or persons of color to more accurately reflect the demographics of our country and enrich the faculty of ToP trainers in the USA.  The Erness Wright Irvin ToP Trainer Fellowship Program will support costs associated with an individual’s Apprentice Trainer journey in collaboration with ToP Mentor Trainers. 

Congratulations to the 2023 Fellows:

Ronda Alexander                                     Librada Estrada


Who is the target candidate for the Fellowship Program:

  • CTF (Certified ToP Facilitator) BBIPOC individuals or dual-track CTF and AT (Apprentice Trainer) individuals.
  • An individual who has completed the ToP Facilitation Methods course and is interested in becoming a ToP Trainer.
  • An individual who has volunteer experience within the past two years.
  • Is presently a ToP Network active member.
  • Has facilitation, consulting, and/or community organizing experience.

What is included in the fellowship?

  • Mastery course to serve as a path to Certification and Training Journey
  • Apprenticeship opportunities with dedicated mentor trainer(s)
  • Any fees associated with the ToP training journey up to $10,000, over a period not to exceed two years, including CTF fee, MToP registration, one other advanced ToP course, ToP Network membership, virtual CTF cohort, and travel while on the apprenticeship journey

Criteria for selection:

  • Community focus
  • Commitment to ToP philosophy and values
  • Being Black, brown, indigenous or a person of color
  • Engaged in the trainer journey - committed to achieving CTF status and continuing as an active ToP trainer for at least 2 years after becoming a Qualified ToP Trainer

To apply for this fellowship, a candidate must:

  • Have completed The ToP Facilitation Methods course.
  • Be committed to become a Qualified ToP Trainer.
  • Have volunteer experience within the past two years.
  • Be a ToP Network active member.
  • Have facilitation, consulting, and/or community organizing experience.
  • Complete an application and include a short essay explaining how this Fellowship will make a difference for the candidate, what they value about ToP Methods and how they envision involvement in the ToP community after qualification. APPLICATION FOR 2023 IS NOW CLOSED

Who manages the fellowship program?

  • Erness Wright Irvin ToP Trainer Fellowship Fund is housed with the ToP Network (ToP Network Board oversight)
  • Fellowship Program Team (3-5 people) is responsible for selection of candidates & announcement of opportunity for application, as well annual funding drives. Members are encouraged to serve 2 years.
    1. The Fellowship Program Team consists of ToP trainers representing diverse perspectives: different groups/ geographies/ cultures/ age/ gender/ history with ICA & ToP or other diverse perspectives.
    2. The fellowship program team will select the fellowship recipient/s (subject to the approval of the ToP Network Board). No member of the Fellowship Program Team, ToP Network Board, ICA Board or their immediate family shall be eligible for fellowship support during their tenure on the team or the board.
    3. The Fellowship Program Team retains the right to withhold grants in any year if no candidate is determined to be qualified. The Fellowship Program Team shall notify the chosen fellowship recipient(s) of its decision.
    4. The Fellowship Program Team will lead annual fundraising efforts for the EWI Fellowship sustainability.

Trainer Commitments:

Adopt a Fellow as an apprentice trainer

  • Action plan with the apprentice to establish clear tasks and timeline to become a CTF. Work in partnership, be a thought partner.
  • Invite to opportunities or work with fellow to create opportunities to get the training pieces done
  • Regular check ins and support, mentoring and coaching
  • Be available and make the time to support the apprentice. Serve as an accountability partner (prep, plan, debrief, offer feedback).

The Bottom Line:

This program will move us to action on the commitment to equity & inclusion the ToP Network Board so beautifully articulated in its Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter (2020). It has the potential to change the way of thinking that starts with us, acknowledging our differences, and moves us to change.  An aspiration is that this program will be transformational. This is an opportunity to change how we operate as a network. It can be a key piece for ToP to move forward, to lead, and to be a catalyst for social change starting with ourselves.

Sustainability is in our hands:

This program has been made possible through the generous support of our ToP Network Board, several Trainer Families, and people like YOU, committed to ensuring that ToP methods are provided by trainers who reflect the rich diversity of those we train. THANK you to all who have made the program possible. And, know that your continued support will be critical to the future of this program. If you have not yet invested in the future of this program, you can do so today by clicking below.  Note: donations are made to the ToP Network and these are not tax deductible as the ToP Network is a 501c6 organization.