Strong Women, Strong Girls is looking forward to hosting a two-year FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow in our Headquarters office in Boston, beginning this fall. Leading up to our Fellow’s start, we reached out to current Fellows to hear more about their experience in the Fellowship and any advice they have for future Fellows. Below, Lakeisha Gerald, FAO Schwarz Fellow at The Food Project, reflects on what she has learned over the past two years of her Fellowship:
The FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellowship has offered me incredible opportunities. As a Fellow at The Food Project (TFP), I have been able to both further my career and personal interests.
I first became interested in the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellowship because of the wide range of host organizations partnering with the Foundation. TFP was an organization I was a part of throughout my teenage years, and I felt a very close bond to the organization. As I grew up in the program, I left to pursue other opportunities at other youth programs. But when I saw TFP on the list, I knew I had to join to continue my journey from youth to adult staff – and what a great success story for the youth and staff at TFP to see!
Joining TFP’s Staff was indeed an amazing experience. Although I was a Fellow, my supervisor, Julien, my work group, and the staff all made me feel like I was a part of the staff family. The best memories I have always revolve around my Teenies’ (Teens) development. Watching my teens develop from shy, uncomfortable teens, who knew almost nothing about farming, grow to aware, confident leaders, sharing their experiences, leading adults and teens in the work needed on our farms – all in a span of 9 months – is the most fulfilling portion of my job.
Anyone who joins the FAO Schwarz Fellowship should come in with an open mind and not be afraid to be their authentic self. They should be ready for an incredible learning experience personally and professionally. The Direct Service work will help you understand the basics of professional development and the ground-up work necessary for all organizations. Then, the Special Project allows you to create or assist in the development of a project that will help to improve your specific host organization, along with providing you with a different type of professional development.
Both this Fellowship and TFP have solidified my future plans to work with youth. Working closely with my direct supervisor, I have decided I want to be a Youth Program Director. Following in his footsteps, I want to go to graduate school for Social Work. He and 2 of my professors wrote me recommendations to get into Simmons Graduate School of Social Work, which I am currently attending. It is simultaneously exciting and hard work. However, I know it will make me a better mentor and professional for my Teenies.