Zalika May '13

What was your class year and major/minor?

My class year was 2013. My major was Africana Studies. My minor was Sociology.

What is your current job, and city of residence?

I currently live in Brooklyn, NY and I am the Administration Manager at Harlem Village Academies Elementary.

Did your academic or extracurricular experience at Bowdoin influence how you are involved in communities now? If yes, how so?

Yes, extracurricular experience at Bowdoin influenced my desire to build a strong relationship between my school and the community. I enjoyed that Bowdoin provided very easy ways to get involved with the Brunswick community. I think the strong relationship between Bowdoin and Brunswick made my time there more fun. I got a chance to explore outside the Bowdoin bubble and meet a lot of cool people.

For Harlem Village Academies Elementary, I believed that it was very important for the school to be involved in the community because most of our students are from families that have lived in Harlem for 50+ years. Since Harlem Village Academies is a new school (it's only been open for 2 years), one way that we can support our students is to provide assistance to their families in any way possible.

In what ways have you been engaged with the community since graduating from Bowdoin (both professionally and personally)?

Working at Harlem Village Academies gave me the chance to explore Harlem and develop meaningful relationships between the elementary school and the community. This past year, I've been running a lot of donation programs between our school and nearby community centers. Every week, we donate leftover breakfast and lunch meals to the nearby nursing home and community center. Also, at the end of the year, we did a clothing drive for the Salvation Army. I also had the chance to volunteer at the high school within our charter network and help high school seniors with their transition to college.

What's been your favorite or most meaningful experience in public service since you graduated?

This year, I volunteered at the College Programs Department at Harlem Village Academies High School. I worked with high school seniors with college essays/personal statements, SAT prep, and financial aid/scholarship applications. I also facilitated mini sessions discussing any and all concerns about college life such as academics, social life, work study/budgeting, school break/traveling, etc. The goal of the sessions was to help make students less nervous about their transition to college.

Have any unexpected challenges or difficulties related to this work popped up along the way? If so, what did you learn from these challenges?

The biggest challenge was getting people in the neighborhood to trust me and the school. According to some people in the neighborhood, a lot of organizations did not always do their best to support the community. Therefore, people are a bit weary of newcomers, which is completely understandable. So I think it's just going to take time and consistent communication to help foster a strong relationship.

What advice do you have for students who want to work for the common good after Bowdoin?

Take the time to cultivate a strong relationship with the members of whichever community you decided work with. The stronger the relationship, the more you can help and the more productive you can be.