Raise Your Hand If You Eat Food. Then Take Action!

We all eat food, but few of us care to think about what systems, policies, costs, and risks are associated with bringing that food to our tables. The production and consumption of food affects every aspect of our lives as individuals, as members of a local community and as agents of a global economy.

A former PP55 fellow in Boston slices fruit at a farmer's market.

In September 2010, Gordon Douglas MD ’55 and Sheila Mahoney began a conversation about food.

The Focus on Food initiative was conceived with the goal of cultivating Project 55 fellowship opportunities for recent Princeton graduates at organizations committed to food-related issues in this country. The issues range from obesity to farm factory pollution to food safety regulation to farm worker rights—all of which may be linked to our industrial food system, which is itself a product of government policies and business practices that support the production of vast quantities of low-priced, low-grade food, whatever the costs to the common good. As diverse and numerous as the issues may be, Focus on Food recognizes four broad areas of advocacy in today’s food movement: public health, environmental sustainability, social justice and animal welfare. Alumni have the opportunity to advance the issues in any one of these areas, whether by examining policy, promoting awareness or effecting change on the ground.

 

Take Action.

–   Are you an experienced professional? Put your principles into practice. Become an AlumniCorps Community Volunteer and donate your expertise to a food-related nonprofit.

–   Look at your own personal and professional networks. What organizations in your community are working on the food problem? Who might take a Project 55 Fellow or a skills-based AlumniCorps Community Volunteer?

–   Are you passionate about sustainable, healthy food? Help us to organize an educational panel or event for alumni in one of our AlumniCorps cities.

–   Are you a professional working in food and public health, social justice, the environment, or animal welfare? Contact us about speaking at an AlumniCorps seminar or panel for Project 55 fellows.

–   Join the conversation. Which of the four food system issues most concern you?  How can we start a dialogue? Click here to apply for membership in the AlumniCorps Focus on Food online discussion.

Princeton AlumniCorps Regional Updates

Boston

Boston is excited to welcome two new Project 55 fellows for the 2011-12 year: Dinah Chen’11 and Ben Stone ’11. They were formally brought into the fold with a meet and greet of current AlumniCorps area committee members, mentors, and past alumni at Scholars Bistro, a new restaurant in downtown Boston on September 13th.  We’re also pleased to announce matching our fellows with not one, but two mentors for the fellowship year to provide our new Bostonians with a rich and diverse set of knowledge and experience.

The first seminar was held September 27th at The Food Project, where fellows learned about the mission of this innovative nonprofit and also literally got their hands dirty helping out on the farm.  We’re also looking forward to a continuing partnership with Harvard’s CPIC program, alternating with seminar planning throughout the year.

Our steering committee is pleased to welcome Amy Burghardt Muehlbauer ’05 to Boston, a former NYC Fellow at Education Through Music and welcome back Jen Carpenter ’96Lizzie Harvey ’06 will be taking over as chair of the area committee after great leadership from Rebecca Nemec ’05.

Chicago

The eight Chicago Project 55 fellows are off to an excellent start this fellowship year. They all report being extremely busy at their placements and have also begun their weekly seminar series with the fellows from University of Chicago, Northwestern and this year Harvard as well. For the first seminar, John Fish ’55 spoke about the history of Chicago politics, and after becoming better acquainted with their city, the fellows introduced themselves to each other and fellows from the other programs.

Project 55 Fellowship Program Manager Sara McCord also visited Chicago in September to meet with PP55 fellows, partner organizations and alums and brainstorm how we can get more applicants interested in the Windy City.

Additionally, Aiala Levy ’07 will be succeeded as Chicago Area Coordinator for the fellowship program by Vince Anderson ’65, who has been the point of contact for organizations and fellow support in recent years.  Founder of the Chicago Project 55 program and local resident John Fish ’55 was elected as AlumniCorps’ new Board Chair on October 1st.

AlumniCorps Board members Tom Allison ’66 and Paula Morency ’77 are working with Kef Kasdin ’85 to gather information and ideas for a potential Community Volunteers initiative reaching alumni from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s in the Windy City.

Fellows, alumni, and affiliates at a Camden Riversharks game in Philly: Carol Rosenfield '05, Tony Rosenthal P'07 (and Camden Riversharks owner), Joe Sengoba '10, Walt Schanbacher '73 P'04 (President of the Princeton Club of Philadelphia), Katie Thaeder '09, and PICS Intern Ugochukwu Udogwu '13

 Connecticut

Harry Berkowitz ’55 recently welcomed the three Project 55 fellows for the 2011-12 fellowship year during a lunch with the directors of their organizations – two agencies which have been long-time partners of the Project 55 Fellowship Program. Julia Kearney ’11 and Michael Belmont ’11 are working at the Norwalk Community Health Center (NCHC), and Tiffany Lee ’11 is at Housing Development Fund (HDF) in Stamford.

Both programs have been expanded this year. Tiffany will be more directly involved with the families seeking loans and will help them qualify at HDF. NCHC has expanded the amount of involvement with patients, the hospital residents and programs that will expose the fellows to the nature of community health care. As always, the Connecticut fellows have also been graciously invited to participate in New York area programming.

New York

The year is off to an excellent start for the New York City area, where all 22 Project 55fellows gathered on September 10th for a local orientation. There the fellows had a productive discussion of what professionalism means in the fellowship context and how to face city life on a tight budget, and several stellar public-transit-related prizes were raffled off.  Several fellows also headed together to the Idealist.org Graduate School Fair on September 15th.

Sam Suratt ’55 and Judy Hole Suratt hosted the Welcoming Dinner on September 27th, and the first seminar will be a perennial favorite debate on the criminal justice system between a powerhouse prosecutor and a titan of the criminal justice bar, to take place October 18th. New York alumni Janice Nittoli *85 and Alejandro Perez ’10 joined the Board of Princeton AlumniCorps on October 1st.

Philadelphia 

The Philadelphia area got the 2011 – 2012 fellowship year off to a great start with a trip to a minor league baseball game featuring the Camden Riversharks. The outing was organized by the Princeton Club of Philadelphia, and Camden Riversharks owners Tony Rosenthal and Ruth Ganister P’07. There, the fellows got a chance to meet alumni in the area and socialize with the PICS summer interns. Later in the summer, fellows welcomed the Class of 2015 at the annual picnic for incoming freshman from the Philadelphia area (many of whom we hope will be future Project 55 fellows!). In September, the local AlumniCorps community got together for a potluck to welcome the Project 55 fellows. The dinner also featured a showing of Waiting for Superman and a discussion about the movie and ways to take action.

San Francisco Bay Area

10-11 San Francisco fellows at their closing dinner: Claudia Flores *05, Brandee Tate '09, Vince Kim '95, Jeff Campbell '10, Lori Bishop *06, Elisha Smith *09, Meredith Bock '10, Cameron White '09, Loe Chyi *06, Camille Logan-Wekes '95, Emily Chiswick-Paterson '05

San Francisco is home to six Project 55 fellows this year including a new placement at the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula, with Executive Director Peter Fortenbaugh ’89. In June, the fellows met at Palomino’s near the Bay Bridge for a small happy hour and will meet their regional TAN fellows of the Stanford SPIN and Harvard CPIC programs in October. The local programming continues to be led by committee, including alums Emily Chiswick-Patterson ’05, Camille Logan-Weekes ’95,

Jessie Garton Szymanski ’05, Helen Amick ’87, Erin Ebbel ’06 and welcomes new members Elisha Smith *09 and Julie Rubinger ’09. Elisha and Julie have fit right in: Elisha planned the closing dinner for the 2010-11 fellows and Julie, who spent the last two years at Education Through Music in New York, is planning the PP55 seminars and coordinating with  SPIN and CPIC. Bay Area alumna Leesy Taggart ’78 also recently joined the AlumniCorps Board of Directors in October.

Washington DC 

The AlumniCorps DC Area Committee officially greeted our fourteen 2011-12 fellows on July 21st, with a welcome dinner at Zorba’s Café in Dupont Circle.  Several weeks later, a group of current and former fellows spent the morning of Saturday August 20th volunteering together at Stuart-Hobson Middle School through the DC Public Schools Beautification Day initiative.  In preparation for the first day of school on Monday, our group helped distribute textbooks to classrooms, cleaned the blacktop playground, and swept the sidewalks in front of the building.  It was a great way not only for us to become acquainted with one another, but to spend time in the community and meet Stuart-Hobson students and parents working alongside us.

Lisa Lazarus ’02 and Elizabeth Pillion ’05, Mentoring Chair and Vice-Chair, led a successful training session for all new and returning mentors in August. With the help of our mentors, DC AlumniCorps will look to expand the mentors-at-large program this year as well.

The DC Area Committee will be chaired this year by Ari Altman ’97, after a successful year under the leadership of Kate Lewis-LaMonica ’08. Local alumni and a significant number of 2010-11 fellows will be assisting in the leadership effort.

Our pilot year of the AlumniCorps Emerging Leaders Program for professional development continues to be a success!

Calling All Nonprofit Organizations!

Are you connected to any organizations doing innovative public interest work in Boston, Chicago, Connecticut, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, or Washington, DC?

If you think they may be a good fit for a fellow for the 2012-13 fellowship year, please contact Sara McCord Princeton Project 55 Fellowship Program Manager at project55@alumnicorps.org to learn more and be connected with a local program. Remember the partner organization deadline is Friday, December 2, 2011.

For over 20 years, PP55 fellowships have given recent Princeton graduates opportunities to work in the public interest and be connected with a supportive like-minded community. The program continues to grow under the direction of Program Leader Maria Orozco ’03.

 

A Video Message from John Fish ’55 and Chet Safian ’55

John Fish '55 and Chet Safian '55

We recently spoke with John Fish ’55 and Chet Safian ’55 about the impact and growth of the Project 55 Fellowship Program, and their hopes for the future of Princeton AlumniCorps. Click here to view a short video message from Chet and John!

John Fish is the founder of what is now called the Princeton Project 55 Fellowship Program (it began as the Public Interest Program). John still lives in Chicago, where more than 300 interns and fellows have been placed. John has served on the Board many times throughout the years, and he was just elected as Board Chair on October 1.

Chet Safian expanded and led the Project 55 Fellowship Program in New York City, where more than 350 interns and fellows have been placed. Chet also founded The Alumni Network, which helps to create and support alumni-driven organizations modeled on ours. There are currently 28 TAN affiliates, and they have placed more than 700 interns and fellows this year.

This year, 54 Project 55 fellows are serving at 44 public interest organizations in seven U.S. cities. They join a growing cadre of more than 1,300 alumni of the program.  In addition to the Project 55 Fellowship Program, AlumniCorps’ two new programs – Emerging Leaders and Community Volunteers – provide opportunities for alumni of all ages to put their passions to work in the public interest. To learn more about each of these programs, please visit www.alumnicorps.org.

Regional Updates

-Bay Area-

   The Bay Area is continuing its efforts to grow its program. Two new partner organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula, where Peter Fortenbaugh ’89 is the Executive Director, are currently interviewing applicants for fellowship positions next year. The local committee has also begun brainstorming possible seminars for 2011-12 fellows, and looks forward to continuing its partnership with Stanford’s SPIN and Harvard’s CPIC program for these events.

-Boston-

   Fellows, AlumniCorps supporters, alumni and local members of the class of 1955 recently attended a seminar at The Food Project, where they visited the organization’s greenhouse. Looking ahead, AlumniCorps and the Harvard Center for Public Interest Careers will be volunteering at CitySprouts’ school gardens in Cambridge, MA for a half day of service. Boston is always looking for new Project 55 partner organizations to increase the number of placements!  If interested, visit the Boston area page on the AlumniCorps website.   —submitted by Rebecca Nemec ’05

-Chicago-

   Over the last few months, the Chicago Area Committee has continued to stay busy, organizing weekly seminars with the Northwestern and University of Chicago Public Interest Programs as well as regular events for fellows. In February, fellows explored the city’s emerging arts scene as part of the Chicago Arts District Gallery Night. On March 5, PP55 Fellows, mentors, and Area Committee members gathered at the home of Amanda Peluse ’02 to discuss, over wine and cheese, fellows’ experiences thus far. Finally, we’re excited to announce our upcoming joint AlumniCorps/Princeton Club of Chicago precept on “The Future of Education Reform in Chicago”, organized by Committee members Erica Jones ’06 and Stacy McAuliffe ’98. The precept will take place on May 17 and will feature a panel of local Princeton alumni active in the education sector. Executive Director Kathleen Reilly will be attending. —submitted by Aiala Levy ’07

-Connecticut-

   Two fellows have already signed on to be a part of the 2011-12 fellowship year in Connecticut, both at Norwalk Community Health Center. Two other organizations are currently interviewing applicants and Harry Berkowitz ’55 is hopeful that we’ll be able to continue to grow the program.

-New York-

   On March 23, Dr. R. Gordon Douglas ’55 moderated our seminar on Sustainable Food and Public Health. Panelists included Nancy Easton ’88, CoFounder/Executive Director of Wellness in the Schools. We also invited fellows from Harvard, Stanford and Dartmouth to participate in the seminar. On April 3, Mike and Lois Robbins ’55 hosted the first ever Princeton AlumniCorps Alumni Fundraising Phone-a-thon during which 136 successful calls were made. We are also looking forward to welcoming more fellows to New York and participating in our annual “Politics and the Press” seminar which will be moderated by the First Lady of Princeton AlumniCorps in New York, Judy Hole Suratt. —submitted by Kristen Smith ’03

-Philadelphia-

   Carol Rosenfeld ’05 and Katie Thaeder ’09 have teamed up to strengthen the Philadelphia program. They met with the Princeton Club of Philadelphia in February and Carol has led a successful effort to recruit new partner organizations for the 2011-12 fellowship year. If you’re interested in volunteering in Philadelphia, visit the Philadelphia area page on the AlumniCorps website. 

-Washington, DC-

   After a workshop on “Career Next Steps” in January, the DC program is wrapping up its seminar programming with a string of content-based sessions, covering education reform, federal government service, and health care reform. In February, AlumniCorps Board Member and Managing Director of the National Council for Teacher Quality, Arthur McKee ’90,  joined Shantelle Wright of Achievement Prep Academy to discuss the challenges and promise of DC public education. In  March, fellows heard from a panel of alumni working across the federal government, and  in April, they’ll be joining a health economist at the Department of Health and Human Services and one of President Obama’s senior policy analysts at the Office of Health Reform to understand how the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is fairing one year after its passage. For our fellows, it’s like they never left Princeton precept!  —submitted by Kate Lewis-LaMonica ’08

Find out who our newest fellows are! Click here to see the list.

The Princetern Point of View: Two Undergraduates Explore PP55 Fellowships in Chicago

The Princeternship Program is a career exploration program that offers Princeton undergraduates the unique opportunity to start investigating a career field of interest and make professional connections by spending time with alumni in their workplaces. Both Sophie Huber ’12 and Meicen Sun ’12 share below about their experience shadowing PP55 fellows in Chicago this winter.

Sophie Huber ’12

During my three-day Princeternship, I had the chance to visit Chicago, a major hub of Project 55’s AlumniCorps fellowship program, where I shadowed recent fellows Kristen Molloy ’08 and Whitney Spalding ’07 at the Chicago Public Schools Office of New Schools. ONS authorizes and oversees all charter, contract, and performance schools in Chicago. Kristen and Whitney were hired by ONS after completing Project 55 fellowships there, and they had a lot of knowledge to share about charter schools and their role in Chicago education.

When my co-Princetern (Destiny Ortega ’12) and I arrived for our first day at the office, Kristen gave us a presentation on new schools and the nature of ONS’s work. We learned about Renaissance 2010, an initiative by Mayor Daley to open 100 new schools between 2005 and 2010, and heard about some of the challenges ONS has been facing since its recent budget cuts. We then spent some time helping Kristen with her research projects. In Kristen’s work as Compliance Manager, she is responsible for evaluating schools and keeping them accountable for performance and adherence to protocol. We got started on a compliance data project, where our task was to create spreadsheets of compliance rates by school type and grade level. We also got a chance to meet with some of Kristen’s co-workers to discuss their roles in ONS’s work.

We spent most of our second day away from the office, beginning with our visit to two charter schools in the North Lawndale community. The first was the Catalyst Howland Elementary School, one of two schools in Chicago’s Catalyst network. The Catalyst schools emphasize respect, values, and character-building in combination with a rigorous curriculum. We began our visit with an informational meeting, where we met the principal and other school leaders. After the meeting we took a tour of the school. Since college matriculation is a huge focus at Catalyst (as is the case at many charters), Destiny and I said some words to the older students about our Princeton experiences and encouraged them to apply.

The second school we visited was North Lawndale College Prep, which shares a building with Catalyst. NLCP had the day off school when we came, so we didn’t see many students there, but we got a chance to talk to President John Horan about the school’s philosophy and approach. NLCP is also highly college-focused, sending almost 90% of their students to postsecondary institutions (they rank #1 for college graduation among Chicago’s non-selective public high schools). The school emphasizes non-violence, replacing security guards and metal detectors with a special “peace” curriculum. After speaking with President Horan, we toured the school; it was mostly empty, but we did get to see some great murals by the students.

We spent the afternoon learning about charter-related nonprofits in meetings with Stacy McAuliffe ’98, of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS), and Rachel Ksenyak, of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). Stacy is herself a former P55 fellow; when we met her, she had just started a new job as the Chief Operating Officer of INCS. INCS is committed to supporting and advocating for charter schools, whether by facilitating the establishment of new schools, offering education and assistance to managers of existing schools, or lobbying for charter-friendly public policy. Stacy told us all about INCS’s roles and described her own journey to her current work in the charter movement. She gave us lots of useful information about charter-related organizations and opportunities in Chicago and beyond. It was great to learn about INCS from such a well-connected fellow Princetonian.

I started Day Three working more on Kristen’s compliance data project; this time I was able to look at how several other factors correlated with compliance, including school type and the years schools were founded. Then I had coffee with former P55 fellow Colleen Poynton ’09, who had a lot of great advice and knowledge about post-college work in nonprofit and social enterprise. After graduating from Princeton, she did a Project 55 fellowship at Bethel New Life, a community development corporation in Chicago’s West Side. Now she is undertaking a second P55 fellowship at a local social enterprise called Investing in Communities. Colleen explained how IIC endeavors to drive market-based philanthropy by connecting socially-minded merchants with customers.

In the afternoon I had the opportunity to talk more with our second Princeton host, Whitney Spalding ’07. Whitney is singlehandedly in charge of determining which new charter proposals will be recommended for authorization. When she described the process to me, it became clear that Whitney actually has to balance lots of outside opinions in making her decisions, from consultants’ advice to community preferences. Her job is very demanding, but essential to ONS’s work.

I had a wonderful time at my Princeternship, and I’m so grateful to have had this chance. I was able to explore the Windy City, experience work at a nonprofit, and learn firsthand about a great Princeton fellowship opportunity. I’ll definitely be keeping Project 55 in mind as I consider options for after graduation!

Meicen Sun ’12

My first day as a Princetern started off with the weekly Princeton Project 55 seminar in downtown Chicago, which was attended by other PP55 fellows and staff. The seminars were intended to be educational, informative, and at the same time a means to keep everyone in PP55 connected as a group. This week’s seminar featured guest speaker, activist Bill Ayers, who gave us a talk on public service in today’s U.S., especially with regard to the role of the individual in a democratic society. After the talk, I followed my coworker Andrew Kinaci, a PP55 fellow at NLEN, to take the blue subway line which would take us to the neighborhood of North Lawndale—one of the most poverty-stricken and crime-infested areas of Chicago. The office of NLEN was a small and compact house that stood alone in a fairly deserted and worn down district. It also served as the factory and workshop of Sweet Beginnings, LLC—a social enterprise under NLEN that employed the formerly incarcerated to manufacture its unique beeline® skincare products with locally produced organic materials. My direct supervisor, a Princeton alumnus Michael Malecek, proceeded to show me around the office and acquainted me with staff members and clients. He also gave me a tour of the office’s backyard where beehives were kept. Michael then introduced me to Ms. Brenda Palms Barber—Executive Director of NLEN and CEO of Sweet Beginnings. Before long, I began working on my main project as a Princetern—drafting a policy paper addressed to Chicago government, to appeal for a revision of a recent ordinance that would restrict urban agriculture in Chicago, and to explain the advantages of urban agriculture which provided the basis for many small-scale social enterprises like Sweet Beginnings. The day culminated into my making a closing announcement through the general paging system at the end of the day, as Michael suggested. Andrew jokingly said that I was now officially an NLEN employee.

Today, my first task was to help our clients with their resumes. I stayed in the computer lab where they worked on their resumes and took any questions they might have. It was a delight to see that my limited knowledge nonetheless proved helpful to them. Since the clients’ employment with Sweet Beginnings was only transitional, another big part of NLEN’s work was to impart essential job search and interview skills to the clients to facilitate them in their long-term career plan and reentry into society. In the afternoon, I continued working on the policy paper in Michael’s office, where he would patiently take any questions I had regarding the history and background of NLEN. Later in the afternoon, I had a very pleasant and inspiring talk with NLEN Executive Director and Sweet Beginnings CEO Brenda, who shared with me her mission and vision of Sweet Beginnings, and basically anything and everything on social service in today’s world. Both Brenda and Michael pointed to me the immediate dangers that surrounded our office—drug-dealing and violence that happened literally right next-door. Yet in the middle of this there was Sweet Beginnings which served as a shelter and more: Even some patrons would not have imagined that the beeline® products they used were manufactured in this tiny office building, by people who, if not for this employment opportunity, might be (re-)exposed to the dangers of drugs and violence any moment. I was thrilled to know that Michael and Brenda would forward the edited version of my policy paper to be presented at an upcoming Chicago Zoning Committee meeting. It was an incredibly fulfilling two days that I spent at NLEN as a PP55 Princetern but more importantly, it touches my heart to know that however little I have done, it is having an impact. I am very glad and grateful for this invaluable opportunity to have worked with such amazing people for such an admirable cause.

The merely two-day experience with PP55 was well-planned and well-tailored for students like us who long to gain an idea of how public service works on a daily basis. Despite the relatively short duration, we were each allowed to have deep exploration of the particular sector, and to have meaningful contact with the professional personnel. The unsparing willingness of the PP55 fellows to share with us their professional experience and insight, as well as their exemplary work ethic both made our Princeternships an eye-opening and rewarding journey.

To learn more about the Princetern program, please visit http://www.princeton.edu/career/undergrads/special/princeternship/ . Please contact Helen Yu ’08 at fan.yu@alumni.princeton.edu for questions regarding the PP55 Princeternships initiative in Chicago.