Week One: Done

June 10, 2019
Sherell Farmer

So, this week we survived. I'd thus like to start this post by saying congratulations to us. Through a new metro system and, for many us, a city we've never been to or explored, congrats—we made it. This week has in this way been akin to O-Week, but rather than getting lost trying to find Ives, we got lost trying to get home from our (very spread out) jobs.

Moving on from patting ourselves on the back, I'd have to say what surprised me the most was the city itself. I had heard from so many people that I'd be bored here, and that "Buffalo is dead”. I expected my days to be only lit up by the public good we are working towards, not the city itself. Yet these statements, these rumors about Buffalo are so far from the truth. This city has so much life in it. It reminds me of my native NYC but also of Washington, D.C. which I frequented a lot as a child. I look out and see people hustling to work, clean streets, lots of stores and options and new places I am eager to explore. This city is so lively and clearly has so much to give. I hope to savor as much of it as I possibly can.  There's so much to do and I want to make the most of our short time here.

I was also surprised by the community. I had largely thought that Buffalo lacked the diversity that I am accustomed to in Brooklyn and that it would, as stereotypes dictate, have little to no people of color. I was again wrong and felt at home as we sat on the bus tour and passed so many black and brown people, black hair salons, corner stores and beauty supply stores. Seeing these people and these things reminded me of home and reassured me that my participation in the High Road Fellowship will prove to be enjoyable and beneficial for my personal development and for my personal goal of getting to know myself better. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of the employees in my office are black. This makes me especially happy because in so many other internships I have had, there have been few people of color. It also makes me happy because the majority of the participants that we serve are people of color, and I am a strong believer of communities of color supporting each other. The staff here serving their own communities makes program participants feel more at home as they are served by people who look like them and can relate to their background, identity and lived experiences. Representation is so important, in service, in advocacy, in politics, and in life. 

I am looking forward to make an impact on my organization, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). CEO does great work by providing immediate, comprehensive, and effective employment services for individuals on parole or probation. While my project, Addressing Barriers to Reentry, will have a great impact by helping CEO retain clients and become more accessible for the populations it services, I want to discover the ways in which CEO has involved itself in local policy, advocacy and organizing. This week I learned that CEO is a member of the Erie County (New York) Reentry Coalition. I am interested in hearing more about the work CEO does with this coalition and how I can become involved. CEO is currently applying for a grant as a member of this coalition and I am quite excited to watch the developments on this grant proposal. One of my supervisors, Krystal, does the majority of the grant writing for CEO. I asked her to teach me to write grants and am very excited to learn. Grant writing is a valuable skill to have in the world of nonprofits and community organizing, which are areas in which I plan to focus my future career. I have worked in many organizations that talked about grants they have applied for or received, but I have never been exposed to actually writing these grants before. I am excited to finally be a part of that.

Outside of work, I am excited to continue to build bonds with other High Road Fellows. It's only been a week but we've already had so much fun together. Staying up late to talk about Louisiana politics, watching the Bachelorette, playing BitLife, and taking car rides to an international supermarket have been just some of our adventures. I am sure that there will be plenty more to come. 

In terms of obstacles, I - after talking to an employee here who had previously tried to undertake work similar to my project - realized how meticulous the collection of this data will actually be. It will be time consuming and feel straining sometimes. I will have to stay focused on the good that the product of my research will hopefully bring. Another obstacle I foresee is that I am interested in learning more about CEO's policy and advocacy work but it doesn't seem like much of that work is taking place in the Buffalo office. I have to think of a concrete way I can explore this interest. Lastly, I think that some of my work thus far has been more administrative. I am hoping that this is because it's my first week. I am excited to do things like learn to hold job readiness workshops and edit participant resumes.

This experience is only eight weeks and I can already tell they'll go by quickly. Yet, I am already immensely thankful for each minute, hour, day, and week we have here. See you all soon.