As I sit in my kitchen finishing a scholarship application for a sustainable food conference in Vermont, I reflect on my past year with FoodCorps and all that this program has allowed me to do. In addition to the standard set of work skills acquired over my year and a half of service so far, I have gotten to explore where my career interests lie. When I graduated from UConn, I was terrified of being boxed into one career choice. I was 22, had no idea what type of job I wanted, if I wanted to go to graduate school, or what I would even go to graduate school for.
I chose to serve with FoodCorps because it would allow me to dip into a variety of careers. I could be an educator in the classroom teaching nutrition. I could be a farmer out in the school garden, tending to plants and teaching kids how to grow. I could be a savvy committee leader and community organizer. I could even be a grant writer and learn how to hone my writing skills. What I didn’t realize is that I could also be the master of my own professional development ship. One of FoodCorps’ goals is to develop leaders, and so we’re allowed up to 20% of our time to be dedicated to professional development and training, which breaks down to about eight hours a week.
I can claim that I used it to my full advantage. Having hours of service dedicated to finding careers that will help you turn the mission of your organization into a job is unique to FoodCorps. In addition to just searching for careers, I’m connected to a vast network of food systems leaders in Connecticut, the surrounding states, and nationally. I was able to secure a few informational interviews with people I really admire, learn about their paths, and what I can do after FoodCorps to get me where I want to be. Serving with FoodCorps in Connecticut specifically enhanced my network since there is a lot of overlap in the great work being done in our state. More times than not, the connections I made helped me in my service and had a great impact on the programming I ran.
One of my favorite aspects of our professional development is the ability to seek out and attend conferences. Last year, I was able to attend a two-day Visions diversity and inclusion training, the School Nutrition Association’s Food Show, and the Yale Sustainable Food Summit.
Having this time to develop professionally has given me more direction as to where my interests lie. I am confident that I would not have had these opportunities if I had chosen a different path post-graduation.