Blog for Week 8

Well, ELI is coming to an end and it’s a sudden reminder that the fall course is looming even closer. It seems that even after all the work that we did in the summer, a lot still remains for us to do next semester. Reflecting back on the changes that had happened this summer, a member leaving, our whole mission and goals changing, it’s a wonder that we can even recognize the end result. But, that is the exciting part…it’s even better.

I really can’t wait to start working in the fall. The only regrets I have for this part of the program however, was that there really wasn’t a way for me to get as involved as I had wanted to in Walltown. However, I really enjoyed being involved towards the end and working on the documentary. But we win some, we lose some right? I have all of fall to make up for that!

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Blog for Week 7

Nigeria has been amazing! So much has happened however, that it was a little harder to focus on medi@rt. My dad threw a big party two weeks ago at a baquet hall for his birthday celebration. And since mom became otunba last year (it’s like second in line for kingship to Emuren land) we met with the present king! We also went to a wedding this weekend. It was really interesting to be part of that experience. Though parts of the traditional wedding were there because they were Catholic, it was still very different than an American wedding. I was really glad that I went.

But, Jean’s emails and her comments about my documentary being well liked that helped keep me grounded about medi@rt. I definitely hope that that, along with Jean and Bo’s poster and presentation that they have been working so hard on, will make a successful presentation.

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living in Nigeria…catching up in America! (Week 6)

So, just landed in Nigeria (but I will probably post these and the last couple ones later) and it has been non-stop moving from the beginning. I have been keeping in touch with Jean through email. Although it is not as constant as I would prefer, it is better than nothing right? The time difference I could do without though!

Since this week was cut a little short by my packing and the day-long trip, all I could manage to do was continue the list of pregnancy facts that Mr. Henderson needed for his play “Slowly”. At this point (I’ve gathered about 30), it’s gotten a little harder because the facts seem to repeat themselves, but I never cease learning about the issue, and that is a plus. If one thing is true, I am definitely learning from this experience.

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My life isn’t together, in fact at this particular moment it’s far from it.  In the final week of Duke Engage, at 2:22am having just fallen asleep at the wheel, 100 yards from the parking lot serving as my destination, I crashed into a fiberglass, high voltage lamp pole.  The pole snapped in half, landing on the rear of my car, shattering the back windshield as well as denting the trunk of the car.  Both airbags deployed.  The rest of the damage included a popped left front tire probably caused by hitting the curb, frontal cosmetic damage, and broken headlights.  I was uninjured for the most part, with only a severely sprained thumb and some scratches.  It was crazy to wake up to a nightmare instead of awaking from it.

My life isn’t together—this is the factoid I leave this Duke Engage experience with.   Somehow though, I feel as if this isn’t totally due to the accident.  This was a preexisting problem, and could even have possibly led to the crash.   Though the rest of the year had hinted to it, sometimes it takes a summer of constant reminder to make a person come to grips with their inadequacies.

I know already it will take me quite a while to absorb the full impact of my Duke Engage experience, just like it did for me to realize the full breath of the costs of those thirty seconds of sleep on the road.  Just like the mechanic will need time to sort through the wreckage for an exact estimate.  I will need time to sort through the loose ends, the moments of triumph, the moments of defeat or frustration, and those moments with much more ambiguous labels.  But already I know the biggest asset this summer has provided me with is a reality check.  I have learned about life for many around me here in Durham I didn’t understand before.  I have learned how I currently live life.  Life passes quickly.  Life more unfair than I had already thought (Why am I still alive?).  Life doesn’t go according to plan, and if I am going to succeed I must plan to deal with the wrenches life hurls.

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#08: A Few Lessons Learned

At 8:00pm, the students in the Entrepreneurial Leadership Initiative completed the summer Duke Engage experience. We had just presented our projects to different community partners (and even the mayor of Durham) complete with documentaries, posters, and presentations.

As I begin to pack my things to store for the rest of the summer, here are a few lessons that come to mind:


1. There’s always something more to do

Even though our Duke Engage experience is officially over, John and I still find ourselves with things to do for Food for Thought. We need to follow-up on those we met during our final presentations. We need to send an update newsletter to all of the people who have helped us throughout this summer. We need to make sure that the nutritionists, teachers, and administration are on the same page for when the program begins August 20th. We need to…

2. Life is like a box of chocolates

In my last post I emphasized how I had gotten used to talking with others about Food for Thought. I wrote that because I had met Kathy Higgins of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) earlier that day at a garden installation and told her briefly about our project.

Well, I received an email a few days afterward saying that Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina had donated money to Durham Nativity School for the Food for Thought program. Thank you Kathy Higgins for reaffirming how words, passion, and discipline can lead to extraordinary outcomes.

3. Teammates are Blessings

One thing that John and I are excited for is Alex and Claire rejoining the Food for Thought action here in Durham. As much as we are proud of what we have done during this summer, John and I know that they will bring knowledge, skills, and expertise to take Food for Thought to even higher heights.

That being said, having John as a partner throughout this summer experience has been an enormous blessing. I recall a business adage that more or less says that a good boss will hire employees better than him. After being both John’s teammate and roommate during this summer, I can begin to see the kernel of truth in why a boss would do such a thing.

John has had a great diligence throughout this program that I admire and have tried to emulate. From waking up early to the ways that he prepares for meetings, John has challenged me to be a better teammate. He has been incredible professional.

And of course, I’ve had fun. I’ve enjoyed learning about his musical tastes (“Be True to Your School” and “Springtime for Hitler” being some outstanding car tunes), his love for soccer (through IM games, the World Cup, and the FIFA video game), and his penchant for Chipotle burritos.

Thanks for being inspiring dude.


As this is the last “official” post, I do want to thank the ELI staff for all of their help and support: Professor Christopher Gergen, Liz Linzer, and Christina Bortey.

I also want to thank the ELI students who made this both a challenging and uplifting summer. Y’all get some rest now, y’hear? =)

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Following child policy, pumped about Food for Thought

On Thursday, my supervisor was travelling on business and I got to go to an event called the Children’s Budget Summit, where all of the foremost child advocacy organizations meet to discuss how federal funds are (or are not) being spent on children.

Among the speakers at the event were three senators and Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Ms. Higginbottom spoke about the Administration’s various children’s initiatives and spent a great deal of time talking about childhood obesity programs. She spoke about the Task Force on Childhood Obesity established by President Obama “to develop and implement an interagency plan that details a coordinated strategy, identifies key benchmarks, and outlines an action plan to end the problem of childhood obesity within a generation”. In May, the Task Force released a report detailing 70 policy recommendations, one of which is very relevant to our program:

“Providing healthy food in schools, through improvements in federally-supported school lunches and breakfasts; upgrading the nutritional quality of other foods sold in schools; and improving nutrition education and the overall health of the school environment.”

Among the other speakers were Dr. Drew Westen, author of The Political Brain, and Kristen Grimm, founder/president of Spitfire Strategies. Both speakers delivered thought-provoking presentations detailing communications strategies for advocacy organizations. I had expected the conference to be very policy- and budget-focused, so I found it very telling that nearly half of the day’s events were related to communications, which I’m learning is a big part of the work that goes on here in DC.

These past few weeks I’ve learned a lot on the policy side of things. I’ve learned about the recent freeze on federal discretionary spending. Since much of the spending related to children is traditionally discretionary spending, this freeze could become very troubling for youth. I also did quite a bit of research into a House amendment to an appropriations bill that proposes to offset increased funding for teachers by cutting from the Administration’s key education reform initiatives. My research helped inform APA’s statement on the issue released last week. In the coming months, I’ll be closely following the reauthorization/retooling of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

I’ve really enjoyed spending time with the other interns in the office (check out the photo from a Washington Nationals game below). Other happenings this week included a Sanford School event on the Hill, touring the monuments at night (best time to see them), and having my mind blown by the new DiCaprio movie – Inception.

I am so proud of Food for Thought for scoring a $1,000 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield! John and Tim have put our team in a great position for the fall – I’m so pumped for our program. Also, Tim’s documentary was incredible! As everything winds down in Durham, I hope you all travel safe and have a great time over the next few weeks. Can’t wait to see everyone soon.

APA interns at a Nationals game.

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Week 8 Blog

We had been warned before, but I still was surprised.  8 weeks really does fly by.   As I reflect on my DukeEngage experience, I will look back very fondly on my summer as a whole.  Food for Thought is where we hoped we would be at the end of the summer.  We are ready to run a program at DNS this fall.  All of the pieces are in place to make it a success as well.

Looking forward, there are so many ideas swirling in our heads of where we can go.  For example, what additional programming can we have at DNS?  Are we going to be able to move forward with the garden?  How can we involve the students outside of Friday classes?  How can we actively involve the parents?  From an internal perspective, how can we be as resourceful as possible?  We will talk to restaurants and see what they can do for us.

Figuring out this stuff will require thoughtful planning, but also we must keep our eyes and ears open for potential opportunities and partnerships.  I am looking forward to when Claire and Alex will rejoin the team.  I have no doubt that they will bring new energy and ideas to Food for Thought.  It should be interesting to see how they impact the progression of Food for Thought.

It will be exciting to finally be able to see the fruits of our labor at the cooking class.  I cannot wait to get back in Durham to make it happen!

Thanks Liz and Christina for all your help this summer!

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