PHENND Fellows Spotlight: Misha Rodriguez
Name: Misha Rodriguez
University: Franklin and Marshall
Major(s): Anthropology Major and Asian Area Studies Minor
Where are you from? Do you have a fun fact about your hometown?
I was born in Merida, Venezuela. My family then moved to Lancaster, PA. I went through public school in Lancaster and then also ended up staying in Lancaster for college once I toured F&M and fell in love with it. My fun fact about my hometown is that, at one point, it had the longest street fair on the East Coast. I don’t know if that is still accurate, but we still have a large street fair every year. It’s such a large part of our town’s culture in fact that the school district schedules a day off each year during fair week. It typically lines up with Kiddies Day on Thursday. All rides are half priced.
How did you hear about PHENND and why did you apply?
I heard about PHENND (it was called Philly Fellows then) from the office of Post Graduate Fellowships and Opportunities at F&M. Primarily, I applied because I didn’t know specifically what the next step I wanted to take was after graduating. I also applied because it resembled another program that I was already involved in during college, F&M Works–a program that places F&M students, as paid interns, to work with area nonprofits.
Where are you working? What do you do?
I am serving at Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha. APM is a large nonprofit right off of Temple’s campus. They are a bilingual/bicultural organization, offering a variety of services to achieve their mission of helping families achieve their greatest potential. I am working on APM’s Community Economic Development (CED) Department’s Food Buying Club (FBC). In other words, I’m working on APM’s CED’s FBC. Or as most people recognize it, FBC. (Word of advice: Nonprofits use a lot of acronyms. You will get good at acronyms.)
The Food Buying Club is an awesome model (created by my supervisor, Bridget, who is actually an AmeriCorp VISTA Alum!) for increasing food access while creating community, promoting economic development and preserving the community’s right to quality, affordability and choice when making their food decisions. Very basically, the Food Buying Club follows a Buying Club model. This simply means that the community pools their money in order to access wholesale prices by buying directly from vendors in bulk, generally up to 50% cheaper than retail prices and generating huge savings for the community. (A small plug: check us out on instagram at @apmfbc!)
What is your office and daily schedule like?
My office is super cool. Apparently, it was actually a part of the nation’s first platinum LEED-Neighborhood Development Project. The walls are bright orange with tons of sunlight and we have a green roof! Ironically, I have been sitting in the dark for the past two weeks as we work on fixing a lighting problem in my office but other than that it’s a great work space. I also like it because a lot of people are always coming and going in the lobby outside of my office, and I often have little kids popping their heads into my office, wanting to play with the colorful plastic food I have sitting up on a shelf. My supervisor also left a pretty rad cat calendar in here so that keeps things interesting, even in the dark.
My daily schedule used to vary a lot more depending on whether I was collecting orders, running to one of the other APM offices or running a Food Buying Club day. However, now that things have slowed down quite a bit recently, I mostly come into my office at 9 and spend a lot of time at my desk and computer doing research, making phone calls and answering emails. I’ll often pop up to the second floor to check in with my supervisor and sometimes go for walks on Temple’s campus when I get tired of sitting at my desk.
What is your favorite memory so far during your VISTA term?
My favorite memory so far has been meeting the Community Connectors and bonding with them and also collecting orders and sharing information at my first new Food Buying Club partner site that I established a relationship with. I have also enjoyed tagging along with my supervisor to a variety of community development, economic development, and food access themed panels, talks, meetings and webinars.
Talk about a challenge and a success you have had at your position already within the first couple months:
A challenge in the first couple months was definitely finding my own footing and stride while running the Food Buying Club. I am the second VISTA at my site and the previous VISTA left big shoes to fill. It was very challenging to come in as a new person and pick up the same speed that the club was used to. Now that things have switched around a bit, it’s also been a bit of a challenge to shift paces from managing operations and volunteers to now concentrating on community engagement and resource development. I will definitely be a jack of all trades by the end of the year.
One of my successes was when volunteers started rolling in and I started having repeat volunteers. For a while it felt like my volunteer recruitment hadn’t gained any traction, but by the most recent Food Buying Club, we almost had too many volunteers which was a good problem to have.
What do you hope to get out of the year?
I hope to gain a variety of professional skills, experience in food access programs and an idea about what next steps I want to take professionally! I also hope to build great relationships with my coworkers, supervisor and fellow PHENND Fellows.
Which of the seven dwarfs is most like you?
I don’t know the seven dwarves that well but according to a quiz I just took online, I would be Doc. It doesn’t sound entirely accurate but maybe because we both need glasses?
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