Volunteer Spotlight – Jessica Johnson ’98

By Treva Nolen
Communications Consultant, Princeton Project 55
November 6, 2007

Jessica Johnson '98
Jessica Johnson '98

Jessica Johnson ’98 joined the Princeton Project 55 community as an summer intern at the Community Media Workshop and then as a fellow at The Chicago Foundation for Education through the Public Interest Program (PIP) after graduating in 1998.

When she completed her fellowship, Jessica volunteered to mentor other PP55 fellows. Since then she has continued to be a solid source of support for the organization. Her experience came full circle this year when she joined Project 55’s Board of Directors, agreed to co-chair the PIP alumni annual campaign for the second year in a row, and also answered the call to become the next New York Area Coordinator for PP55’s Public Interest Program. And she does all this while working full time as the Development Officer at the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)!

Jessica will be carrying on the great work of Board member and former New York Coordinator, Chet Safian ’55, who has coordinated the New York program since 1989. Chet Safian has seen first hand the impact Jessica has had on this organization since her fellowship 9 years ago. As a member of the founding class of 1955, Safian is happy to see younger alumni fulfilling Project 55’s mission of engaging alumni in the public interest. “The future of PP55 is secure thanks to former fellows like Jessica. We are all justifiably proud of what she has accomplished and will continue to accomplish,” said Safian.

Jessica will serve as the alumni contact person for fellows, organizations, mentors, and Princeton Project 55 staff in the New York City region. Along with the members of the New York steering committee, Jessica will spend a great deal of time and effort helping to organize events, recruit applicants, and support fellows and partners throughout the fellowship year.

Fellowship Offers Firsthand Exposure to Public Health

By Stephanie Mirkin
Program Manager, Princeton Project 55
November 6, 2007

Ruby Greywoode
Ruby Greywoode

Like many Princeton Project 55 fellows, Ruby Greywoode ’07 graduated from Princeton and immediately jumped into her Public Health Fellowship at Norwalk Community Health Center. From the very beginning, she was inundated with the daily tasks and responsibilities of operating the health center, which provides high quality, comprehensive primary health care to the uninsured and underinsured residents of Norwalk, Connecticut and the surrounding towns.

After only four months into her fellowship, Ruby has already “learned and experienced a great deal” through her interactions with patients, doctors, and other community members. Thus far the position has allowed her the opportunity to work on numerous projects and experience many different aspects of the clinic.

Ruby has helped to organize community outreach programs to raise health awareness, to assist the nurses with basic clinical tasks, and to compile reports on clinical outcomes for the Department of Health. Working in the clinic also enables her intellectual growth in medicine by encouraging her to observe patient visits and attend lectures with the residents.

Ruby said these unique opportunities have given her, “a much better sense of how the clinic operates and some places in need of improvement.” With Ruby’s career aspirations in medicine, the chance to work in the clinical environment and get hands-on experience in health care will prove incredibly valuable to her future.

Lawrence Cross, Executive Director of Norwalk Community Health Center, comments that, “having this kind of brain power for nominal money enables cash-poor health centers to undertake projects that would otherwise be out of reach.” In fact, although the clinic is already involved in many programs on-site and in the community, it is looking to expand and enrich its services, which should make for an exciting fellowship year for Ruby and an exciting future in Norwalk.

A Fellow for Life: Thomas Atwater ’06, Fellow at The Food Project

By Thomas Atwater ’06
2006 PIP Fellow
May 18, 2007

My fellowship at The Food Project began a few days after taking the MCAT.

In my new job, I foresaw that I would be learning about topics that were unfamiliar to me, such as food systems and agriculture.

What I failed to predict, however, was the collision of my career path with the principles of social justice that underpin The Food Project’s work.

The Food Project’s Niche

The Food Project occupies a unique niche of promoting sustainable food systems as a solution to social inequalities.

Many people would agree that the right to healthy food is a concept that is fundamental and to be taken for granted. But I have seen over and again the gratitude in the eyes of low-income men and women when they are able to use their food stamps to purchase fresh vegetables and fruits.

“I have to take three bus transfers to get food half this fresh,” one woman said.

“Now I don’t have to worry about my children having the same health problems I have.”

That first encounter resonated deeply within me. Since then I have begun to realize that residents of the inner-city need a model such as a community food system just as much as they need prescriptions for blood thinners.

Lessons Learned

I view my work with The Food Project as a stimulating and thought-provoking experience that is opening my eyes to innovative forms of social justice.

The particular niche of sustainable food systems in the inner city my not be my life passion, but such a model has made me think deeply about the causes of inequality instead of its conventional fixes.

More specifically, in the context of health disparities, I have had a first-hand opportunity to look at the social and economic causes of poor health instead of solely pharmaceutical or medical solutions.

I work intimately with communities of few resources, and I see that the only way to cause a systemic change is to address the root of the problem.

For the communities of Roxbury and Dorchester in inner-city Boston, the answer to healthy diets is not only fresh food.

Education to inform people of how diet affects health is paramount, as is policy that advocates for better food options in schools.

Similarly, I think that the answer to sickness and poor health is not just medicine.

Widespread improvement of health will also require education about preventative practices and creation of health policy councils to voice concerns to the local government.

Looking to the Future

This is not to say that I have found the answer to all health issues in the world—although that would be nice.

I have found, however, a focus for my passion for medicine through observing how a problem can be solved by community organizing and education.

Some in the medical field are more inclined to carve wide-sweeping policy or cure epidemics that affect millions.

I have realized that my place is on a smaller scale where I can reach out to communities and affect social change in a way that is inextricably linked to personal change.

If this has a grassroots-y feel to it, then it is warranted because I cannot begin to describe the gratification that I feel in serving individuals and singular communities.

The result is so tangible and the relationship becomes strong and sustainable.

This article is derived from Atwater’s remarks at the Princeton Project 55 Board of Directors meeting in Boston on April 21.

PIP Fellow Takes PP55 Message Internationally

By Kyle Meng
Project 55 Fellow, Environmental Defense, NY
February 1, 200

PP55 Fellow Kyle Meng
PP55 Fellow Kyle Meng

There could not be a more apt description of the issue that I work on than the title of this publication. Climate change is fundamentally a global issue; finding a solution to a problem of this magnitude and pervasiveness will undoubtedly require the shared efforts of not only the world’s governments, but also that of its industries, businesses, and individuals.

That characterization also describes my work thus far at my Project 55 fellowship with Environmental Defense, an environmental non-profit with a long history of climate change involvement. My responsibilities at Environmental Defense fall predominantly in our China program where I provide research support for our projects in that country. As an outgrowth of my climate change interests in China, I have also joined Environmental Defense’s international team, which works toward creating strong international agreements that will avoid the onset of dangerous climate change.

It was as a member of the international team that I attended last year’s United Nations climate negotiations held in Nairobi, Kenya. My week spent at this conference was both edifying and overwhelming. Every year, several thousand diplomats, researchers, and advocates from over 190 nations convene to advance the goals of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, under which rests the Kyoto Protocol. The meeting, held at a different location every year, serves as a decision-making body to implement the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol and to negotiate future agreements. As the first of these meetings to be held in sub-Saharan Africa, a region that has been predicted to suffer some of the worst effects of climate change, the motto at Nairobi was “harambee,” a Swahili word which means “pulling together.”

This notion of a shared effort is evident as well in my everyday work. One of the most rewarding aspects of being at Environmental Defense is the diversity of knowledge and background of its staff members. In my projects, I interact constantly with scientists, economists, engineers, and lawyers—talented and experienced individuals that bring with them different perspectives on how best to combat climate change. In my brief time thus far at Environmental Defense, I have come to believe that a problem as enormous and complicated as global climate change can only be adequately addressed through such a shared effort and commitment by experts from different disciplines. I am looking forward to more such enriching opportunities during the remainder of my Project 55 fellowship.