Congratulations on your relatively new job as Deputy Director at Teens for Food Justice. Tell us a bit about Teens for Food Justice.
Thank you! Teens for Food Justice (TFFJ) is a nonprofit whose mission is to provide people with equitable access to healthy, fresh, and affordable food. We do that by putting hydroponic farms in Title 1 middle and high schools within food-insecure neighborhoods, giving us multiple ways to engage students and their loved ones around urban agriculture, health and nutrition, and food equity. Our school day curriculum covers everything from hydroponics to data tracking to composting; our afterschool program augments that with hands-on lessons that empower students to employ social entrepreneurship and food justice advocacy in their communities. We aim to transform students' relationship to the food they eat while helping them develop needed STEM skills for the emerging green sector economy.
What are you most looking forward to accomplishing in this role?
I'm really excited to help TFFJ build and strengthen internal systems and processes as it enters a period of rapid growth. By Fall 2019 we'll double our reach in New York City by adding three more campuses, for a total of six sites across the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. We also plan to add three more schools in Miami by the fall of 2021. That's a big expansion in a short time, especially for a young organization! (TFFJ was formed in 2013.) So it's important that we focus on scaling in ways that are externally productive while also being internally sustainable.
Why did you decide to come to the Marxe School for the Executive MPA program? How has the program been thus far?
I started considering getting an MPA a few years ago when I realized it was likely the most helpful thing I could do to be considered for senior leadership roles. Baruch felt like my best fit both as a CUNY school---I loooove New York City---and because its program emphasizes practical knowledge given by professors who are still practitioners themselves. Plus the staff was so welcoming and helpful even before I submitted my application that it felt like the right decision.
And it was! The Executive MPA program has been extremely rewarding so far. The classes are really engaging and challenging, and our cohort constantly supports each other both inside and outside of the classroom. As much as I'd love to sleep in every Saturday, I still look forward to each week's classes.
Do you remember when you first realized that social action was important to you and something you wanted to make a career out of?
Getting my undergraduate education at a private university is a major part of it. I come from a family and community where just getting to college was an accomplishment; once I arrived I was totally shocked by the level of work my classes demanded, the level of wealth my classmates had, and how much better prepared they were for the whole experience. That's when I learned about how the country's K-12 public education system is tied to property taxes and what the implications of are---for me, but also for students who grew up with fewer resources than I did. I lacked the vocabulary for it then (c'mon, it was the 90s!), but I knew I wanted social action to be some part of the work I would seek after college.