Fellows Spotlight!

The blog this week is our first edition of the Fellow’s Interview Series. Three Fellows from the cohort share their answers to questions regarding who they are!



Name: Ariel Bernstein

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Host Organization: National Farm to School Network

Question #1: What is one word to describe your fellowship so far?


Question #2: What is something that you have accomplished in your Fellowship that you are proud of? Helping to run a month long national media campaign! Check out October’s National Farm to School Month here!


What’s something about yourself that you hope will never change?

I hope that my tenacity never fades away. Sometimes I come off intense, even too intense for my own liking, but I do feel that this trait is what has gotten me where I am today. I am a very passionate person, and I tend to cling on to things that are important to me. Despite my wide-eyed, idealist perspective, I am able to use this passion and tenacity to drive my work and keep me inspired. And for me, being inspired is the most important aspect of anything I do.

If you could spend 24 hours with any person that ever lived- celebrity, late presidents, friends, etc., who would it be?

My answer to this question changes all the time, but lately I have been sticking to one answer: David Attenborough. If do not think you know who that is, you probably do. He is the narrator of all of the famous TV shows about the planet, like Life, Planet Earth, Africa, and many more. These shows use the art of film to expose to inner workings of our planet, allowing the public to learn about our world from a very intimate point of view. Yet it is more than just about watching the footage; it is just as much about the way in which the world is presented through writing and narration, and that is where David Attenborough comes in. Outside of his superb narration abilities, he is an environmentalist and an author, prompting his creation of the show Life, a show that exposes all of the intricacies of how creatures around the world live on this planet. For me, a day with David Attenborough is a day with a brilliant, eloquent man who had dedicated his life to educating the public about what he feels is important­–our planet–with further intentions of doing what he can to preserve it. Plus, it helps that is speaking voice is legendary!



Name: Njideka Ofoleta

Hometown: Born: Miami, Florida

Ancestral: Enugu, Nigeria

Host Organization: The Discovery Center

Question #1: What is one word to describe your fellowship so far?


Question #2: What is something that you have accomplished in your Fellowship that you are proud of?

I had the opportunity to conduct my first focus group. This camp season, The Discovery Center launched a new system for registering students for camp. In the past, families registered using paper forms, but this year they were asked to register via an online database called CampSite.

 We had no idea how registration was going to work, so in order to prepare for the season I was tasked with conducting a focus group with parents to test how they’d interact with the database. I had to find parents who were willing to participate in the focus group, which involved me going to different schools and convincing parents to help us test the system. Then I had to create a plan for the focus groups, coordinate a time and place, and follow up with the parents. Then, during the focus group, I noted any areas where parents experienced difficulty and did some troubleshooting so that these areas wouldn’t be a problem once the official registration started. It was an arduous process but made registration a little easier once September rolled around.


What goals have you recently set for yourself, and how are you doing on them so far?

There’s a lot of goals I’ve set for myself, but the long term and short term goals I’m focusing on are:

  1. Long term goal: To be more present in everything that I do, making sure that I live my life intentionally.
  2. Short term goal: Become a better orator

I’ve been taking the time to slow down and practice intentionality by making plans for the goals I set on a weekly and monthly basis. This has helped me to prioritize what I need to do to reach each goal by outlining a plan and identifying the reason why that goal is so important to me. This process has been extremely helpful in the past couple of months, as they’ve grown increasingly busy and it’s so easy to let things fall by the wayside. I’m still working on staying consistent with my planning, but everything is a process.

In regards to my short term goal, previously I’d been terrified of public speaking. The idea of getting up in front of a crowd of people and speaking made me ill, which was something I wanted to overcome. But this fellowship has definitely helped me to work on my short term goal of becoming a better orator. One of my duties included visiting schools to present about our Residential Camp Program, and the online registration process. I’ve done about twenty presentations, and have been able to grow comfortable with speaking in front of audiences. Will I be giving TED Talks anytime soon? I don’t think so, but catch me in 5 years and the answer might be different

If you could visit any one place in the world, where would it be?

It’s been twelve long years since I’ve visited my home country, Nigeria, so a trip is long overdue. It’s easy to pick another exoticized location like Thailand or Brazil, but I want to romanticize my own country the way that other popular destinations romanticized. 



Name: Sarah Luft

Hometown: Westbrook, CT

Host Organization: SeriousFun Children’s Network

Question #1: What is one word to describe your fellowship so far? 


Question #2: What is something that you have accomplished in your Fellowship that you are proud of?

I’m working with the Marketing and Communications team on a content marketing initiative. We recently kicked off meetings with a team of staff dedicated to facilitating content development. I love the challenge and the potential of the initiative. And the creative avenues that content opens!

My work has given me a different lens to look at all things digital through a new (and unexpected) appreciation of Twitter.


What’s the worst, or best, tasting thing you’ve ever eaten?

Worst? Maybe fish jerky. I think it smells worse than it tastes.

Best? A good taco. And a good pizza. They’re entirely satisfying in an all-consuming kind-of-way, and extra cheesy. Also Pad Thai, shellfish, and star fruit. 

If you could spend 24 hours with any person that ever lived- celebrity, late presidents, friends, etc., who would it be?

Right now in life it’d be Gloria Steinem. A month ago it would’ve been Toni Morrison. My response varies as surely as mood, month and book.

I just finished reading Gloria’s book, My Life on the Road; I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so connected to an author’s purpose. Her narrative is very much about narratives themselves—those frequently told about peoples and places in this vast, diverse land we call the United States of America. It’s also about how we might dare to change those narratives and tell our stories… Here I am ranting about a phenomenal book, but if I could spend a day with Gloria I would ask her about it, and about organizing. I would hope to share some laughs and leave a little wiser.



Hope you enjoyed this week’s Fellows!