Alumni Help Service Members Get Oriented

National Orientation is always a flurry of activity. Each year we pack the week with getting to know one another over delicious food, showcasing a lot of terrible dance moves at the talent show, and preparing service members to make an impact and be successful. We welcomed 205 service members into the FoodCorps family this year. They’re well into their service now in 17 states plus Washington, D.C. These members started their service terms off on the right foot in part because they connected with alumni early on.

FoodCorps alumni hold a lot of wisdom and experience. No one knows that fact better than incoming service members who look to them for mentorship and guidance on how to navigate service. From national to state orientations this year, alumni helped to train, inspire, and support incoming members.

This year we were privileged to have Chloe Zelkha ’14, Kirsten Gerbatsch ’13, and Corbin Lichtinger ’13 leading sessions on community organizing, school lunch policies, and cooking with kids. In addition, we have some staff and fellows who are alums of the service programs who led sessions, including Daniel Marbury ’13, Laura Budde ’12, Leah Klaproth ’13, and Caroline Stover ’14. As our alumni community continues to grow, we have more and more great potential trainers out there! We’ll continue to tap into your wealth of knowledge each year to make our trainings more relevant for incoming members.

But National Orientation is just one small piece of the pie. State orientations this year were just as full and had even more alumni representation! Alumni came to show their support by leading sessions, hiking mountains, eating meals, and giving place-based advice. Service members love hearing from people who’ve been in their shoes and it’s obvious that the experience and insights alumni bring with them mean a lot to them.

Read below to see how your fellow alums were involved in starting the year off right for members across the country.

In Massachusetts, Erin Taylor ’12 led a session on developing curriculum and Alex Freedman ’13 and Daniel Schultz ’13 were on a panel for open Q&A with service members to discuss successes, challenges, and general tips from their service terms.

Daniel and Alex reflect on their service with new members at MA's state orientation.
Daniel and Alex reflect on their service with new members at MA’s state orientation.

In Maine, Christine Gall ’15 “led a captivating session where she talked about lesson and unit planning, and modeled one of her favorite lessons from the Project Seasons curriculum by Shelburne Farms, Tomato Planet. Service members demanded Christine be brought back for future trainings!” says current fellow Michelle Erhard. Lily Joslin ’13 and Emily Seymour ’15 also came to answer questions about service and how to make the most of a FoodCorps term.

Lily Joslin got a hike in with new members at ME's orientation!
Lily Joslin got a hike in with new members at ME’s orientation!

In Hawai’i, alumna Tasia Yamamura ’15 toured service members around the University of Hawai’i West Oahu campus garden, where she recently became their full-time mala (garden) specialist. The Hawai’i team spent a lovely afternoon visiting the garden, spaces where classes and cooking demos happen, collecting cuttings for school gardens on other islands and learning about a possible new next step in agricultural education for students on Oahu. Tasia joined reflection on the first two weeks of service and mingled with everyone over dinner, sharing her challenges from her site and offering advice. Current service member Seri Nimi-Burch reflected that “visiting Tasia at her post-Foodcorps job as a Mala (garden) Specialist at UH-West Oahu was super inspirational. To see an alum continuing to work as a leader, empowering communities to grow and prepare healthy, culturally appropriate food after Foodcorps in a beautiful bountiful garden shows Foodcorps being successful not only in changing the lives of kids in schools but also giving service members the skills and opportunities to continue serving their communities after Foodcorps.”

In Washington, DC‘s state orientation involved a bus tour of four different FoodCorps gardens around the city where Chandler Wherry ’15 and Nick Geer ’15 were present at their former service sites to give a tour of the garden and talk about best practices in their garden program. Lea Howe ’13 who is also a current site supervisor at DC Greens and her fiancé Nick Wiseman led a knife skills and cooking with kids demo for members at her fiance’s restaurant DGS Delicatessen. They also hosted a family potluck where they were joined by Lauren Nixon ’14, Bernadette Brandt ’15, Chandler Wherry ’15, and Valentina Postolache ’15.

Nick Geer at one of DC's garden visits during orientation!
Nick Geer at one of DC’s garden visits during orientation!

Georgia brought all their local alumni in for a mixer with current service members and community partners. Charles Greenlea ’15, Andrea Blanton ’15, and Sarah Dasher ’15 were all able to come.

In Iowa Tess Romanski ’15 led a tour of an urban farm where she acts as the Youth programs Coordinator to generate a discussion on integrating programs into communities.

In Montana, alums Jonathan Bruce ’15, Erin Jackson ’14, and Camille McGoven ’15 led sessions on classroom management, lesson planning, and about the Montana’s food realities. They were all joined by Andi Giddings ’15 and Demetrius Fassas ’15 for an alumni lunch.


In Oregon Amoreena Guerrero ’12, helped lead two sessions including one on Outdoor Classroom Management at Adams Elementary School Garden, in Eugene. Then, her coworker Elizabeth helped lead our 9/11 Day of Service project at Chavez Elementary, where they cleaned the garden to get it ready for fall classes, and worked with students for 30 minutes, playing a quick game and weeding.

Thanks to all the alumni who came out to support our service members and state teams! Your involvement means a lot and we’re looking forward to finding new ways to tap into your expertise and create opportunities to connect with current members as we build out future trainings and events.