Pay it Forward: My return to Brainfood
Submitted by guest blogger Khadijah Daniels, summer staff Intern....
Khadijah Daniels, center, as a Brainfood Summer Institute participant in 2007
If someone would have told me 5 years ago that I would be back as an intern for this very program, I would probably have laughed at them. I can't even begin to explain how honored and lucky I feel to have been a part of the Brainfood team this summer. Brainfood holds a special place in heart -- it’s the common contributor to the periods in my life where I feel I grew the most as a person. This program has done so much for me, so I made up my mind that I was going to give back in some way one day. When I found out I got the position, it was a huge deal for me because I had my heart set on working here. I felt like my life had come full circle -- my very first internship would be at a program that has been in my life since middle school.
When I attended Brainfood, I saw it as simply a class that taught me how to cook, but after having the wonderful opportunity to serve as an intern, I've realized that Brainfood teaches so much more than cooking skills. It teaches students how to work in a team with people you may not know very well, and communicate with others effectively. It helps students better convey their likes/dislikes and create thoughtful assessments of others’ talents. One of the many reasons I enjoyed working here so much is because I never felt like I was “just an intern”. I feel like I had a hand in running the summer class and I really felt like I was part of the team. The staff gave me the freedom to challenge myself and grow, which gave me so much more confidence in my leadership skills. I am so grateful for the many skills I have learned and built upon here, and this experience has not only made me a better leader, but a better person.
Khadijah, left, as a Summer Institute intern in 2012. She is a rising senior at Rutgers University, majoring in food science.
When I first started here, my ultimate goal was to serve as an example to young high school students whose shoes I’d once been in. I wanted to make an impact on someone, just as the Brainfood staff made on me when I was young. However, each and every person I worked with this summer ended up touching me in some way. I feel like I left a small part of myself with each of them, but who I what I will miss the most is working with the students. I had such a blast working with all of them, and I miss them dearly. I hope that I brought them at least half the joy they brought me this summer. From this experience, I learned that I absolutely love teaching, but I wouldn’t want to become a teacher because I would get so attached to my students as I did this special group. This was such a fun, fulfilling summer and I know I have this program to thank for that.
Amy Daly, former Program Director once said, “The great part about working at Brainfood is that no matter where you are, you always have the coolest job in the room.” I can't even begin to explain how true that statement is. Some of my college peers have interned at places like MTV and NBC, but what could be cooler than a daily schedule of cooking eating, watching the most amazing young adults grow, and working with the most awesome staff?
As an alum, I can say firsthand that this program has a huge impact on its students and it really does make a difference in young people’s lives. Brainfood is such a rock for D.C. youth in an ever-changing city and it is so worth investing in, whether you’re a participant or a community supporter. I will always support Brainfood in any way I can, and as I told one of the participants on graduation day, I’ll always be around, Brainfood will never get rid of me. Its really hard to say goodbye to one of the most incredible experiences of my life, but the memories I received this summer will always be in my heart. Until next time, Brainfood!