Coordinator of the Month: Caileigh Feldman
Name: Caileigh Feldman
Hometown: I grew up in Annapolis, MD but, over the past few years, I have also lived in Cape Town, South Africa, Philadelphia, PA and Rockland, ME.
College Attended / Major: I attended Haverford College and graduated with honors in Anthropology.
HealthCorps School Placement: New Design High School in NYC
Fun Fact: I did not eat my first salad until I was in 11th grade so, now, I am making up for lost time! I like to share this fact with my students to let them know that it is never too late to make healthy changes.
Jeffrey Hartinger: How did you become involved with HealthCorps?
Caileigh Feldman: Throughout my time in college, I became passionate about improving healthful and affordable food access in urban areas and developing hands-on nutrition education opportunities for youth. To pursue this passion, during my junior and seniors years, I interned with the Urban Nutrition Initiative and the Food Trust in Philadelphia. Through these organizations, I was able to volunteer with a healthy cooking club at a middle school in West Philly and I wrote my senior thesis about this program. During college, I also taught a vegetarian cooking class for my peers. All these experiences affirmed my belief that hands-on nutrition education can positively impact people’s food habits! When I found out about the Coordinator position at HealthCorps, I was ecstatic—I had found my dream job! I immediately applied for the job and I haven’t looked back since. Every day, I feel lucky to be surrounded by the incredibly supportive and vibrant communities at New Design and HealthCorps.
JH: What has been the highlight of your placement so far?
CF: In addition to working to empower students at New Design to make healthy choices, I also make sure to promote healthy living to New Design’s hard-working staff members! To help our staff members de-stress, in the fall, I organized a Staff Spa Day—complete with complimentary massages from a massage therapist, dark chocolate, and homemade spa treatments. This event was a big hit with the staff and afterwards the Dean of Student Life told me: “Thank you SO much. That was exactly what I needed. The homemade spa treatments, the massage, the chocolate, this is all so amazing. I feel so relaxed now.”
This winter, to encourage our staff members to become more active, I organized a six-week Staff Pedometer Competition. Over 50% of our staff members are participating in the competition, which has even garnered support from the surrounding community! Our local 24-Hour Fitness gym donated free six-week gym memberships to all of our staff members in the competition and our local coffee shop, Roasting Plant, has generously donated gift cards to the competition winners! We are now in our fourth week of the competition and collectively our staff has walked 3,211,426 steps, which is equivalent to 1,605 miles—the distance from NYC to Denver, CO! The competition is positively impacting our staff’s behavior and the Assistant Principal told me that, as a result of the competition, he has already lost seven pounds and has started eating healthy, balanced meals every day. We still have two weeks left in the competition and hopefully we can get enough steps to “walk” all the way across the country!
JH: Outside of the classroom, what are some of the activities that you are involved with?
CF: At New Design, I (Caileigh Feldman) have also started a Cooking Club and School Wellness Council, which are both thriving! In the Cooking Club, I aim to introduce New Design students to a variety of different cultures and cuisines such as Caribbean, Italian, French, Greek and Mexican food. I do this by inviting staff members to participate as guest chefs with the Cooking Club. So far, two of the guest chefs have been the school Principal and the Social Worker, who taught the students how to make a classic Italian meal and traditional Greek appetizers, respectively. The Cooking Club also took a trip to the Union Square Farmers Market to learn how to shop for fresh, local ingredients for our dishes. Every single week after we have cooking club, my students show me photos of the cooking club recipes that they have prepared at home for their families. To promote healthy eating during the holiday season, I organized a “Healthy Sides of Thanksgiving” event for the Cooking Club. For this event, students invited their family members to attend and we prepared eight different healthy Thanksgiving side dishes, such as maple roasted sweet potatoes, vegetarian mushroom gravy, baked mac n’ cheese with whole wheat noodles and panko bread crumbs and lemon-dill green beans! After Thanksgiving break, many of my students told me that they prepared these dishes for their families for Thanksgiving.
The School Wellness Council (SWC) has also been an incredible success at New Design and, in our weekly meetings, we plan healthy events for the school. In addition to having 15 students from grades 9-12 on our SWC, we also have four staff members, who actively support our students in organizing healthy events. The council successfully planned and hosted a Salsa-Salsa Café O’Yea event, where SWC members taught students how to dance salsa and how to prepare fresh, mango salsa during lunchtime. The SWC has also been integral in planning the renovation of the school weight room, which will hopefully be completed by the end of February. The SWC also secured a donation from the company MultiPure for a water filter, which will be installed in February and provide our 420 students and 40 staff members with clean water on a daily basis. Now, the SWC is focused on planning the 1st Annual New Design March into Paradise Health Fair, which will take place on Monday March 23rd from 12:20-3 PM in the school gym. We have already garnered donations and support from Target, Chipotle, Plant Therapy, Party City and Whole Foods for our Health Fair, which is very exciting.
JH: What do you plan to pursue after your service to HealthCorps is complete?
CF: After my time with HealthCorps, I want to continue working with youth. I am also passionate about documentary filmmaking and believe it is an extremely effective mode of expression and a powerful tool to implement social change. Further, I am a people-person and documentary film allows me to interact and form relationships with a wide range of people and communities. I want to educate youth about how confront inequality and social justice issues within their own communities through filmmaking. In a few years, I plan to go to graduate school and get my Masters in Public Health or Masters in Social Work.
JH: What is one thing you have learned from your placement that you will be able to carry with you as you move forward in life?
CF: Maya Angelou’s wise words really encapsulate my experience thus far with HealthCorps and New Design: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Building relationships is a key component of a HealthCorps Coordinator’s job and, even when I am extremely busy with work, I have learned that it is crucial to make time to support and listen to the students and staff around me and that, in return, they will provide me with their support and encouragement.
We want to thank Caileigh Feldman for her exceptional work and congratulate her for being this month’s coordinator of the month.