Lea Elton ’24 (she/her/hers)

Family Health Centers at NYU Langone, Brooklyn, NY

This summer, I worked at the Family Health Centers (FHC) at NYU Langone. The FHCs were established in 1967 and adopted into the NYU Langone network in the early 2010s. From a food pantry to an adult education program to individual social workers, FHC has an abundance of social service programs to help South Brooklyn communities, and it was a privilege to work with them.

My last day of work at the Food Bank.

I worked on several projects this summer. My first task was to screen clients in their Adult Education High School Equivalency program. It was difficult asking questions like “Do you struggle to pay the rent?” and I had trouble completing the assigned list. I think the difficulty lay in establishing boundaries between professionalism and care in these calls.

My second task was helping at The Table, FHC’s food pantry. We would prepare food boxes on Thursdays and open for clients by appointment on Fridays. I really enjoyed this part of the job, particularly because The Table is primarily staffed by young, friendly AmeriCorps members; it felt like a community. Additionally, the results of our work were tangible—we served almost 300 mainly Latinx and Chinese families every week. I was even able to practice some of my Mandarin during distribution days.

One of the most interesting parts of my internship was participating in the Sunset Park Food Security Coalition, established just two weeks before I began. I compiled a list of organizations working to combat food insecurity and researched community fridges around the area, a model I am very familiar with. And when a partnership was formed through the coalition between an urban rooftop farm, a community-based organization, and The Table to deliver 75 portions of produce to a local elementary school for food-insecure families, I helped unload and package the vegetables.

I learned so much this summer about how to work with a community. The discourse in the coalition meetings taught me different frames of thinking on the most effective, efficient, and beneficial strategies in tackling food insecurity. Working at the Health Center with their numerous programs similarly illuminated the varying methods to helping a community.

I previously believed social work was the best professional fit for me. Consulting with case workers and administrators at FHC, I began to see that other options may make more sense with my skillset. Social work requires one to be somewhat emotionally removed from clients’ difficulties. I do not believe I currently have that ability; perhaps that will change in the future.

This summer, I learned about other areas of public health and social services, and I am excited to continue learning at Williams. Without the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and the support of the Class of 1974, I would not have been able to realize the professional possibilities that the FHC exemplifies. I am truly grateful to have had this experience.