Princeternship Stories: Justina Liu ’19, Wellness in the Schools

Over reading period, another Princeton student and I spent three days at the nonprofit Wellness in the Schools (WITS). We got to see many sides of WITS and on the last day even had the chance to chat with founder and Princeton alum Nancy Easton ’88.

WITS is a national nonprofit that provides hands-on nutrition and fitness programs to public schools. It began with one classroom at PS 225 in New York back in 2005, and has since expanded to reach over 100 schools nationwide. Some of the changes it has made in schools include offering healthier lunches and active recesses.

Over the course of three days, I got to see the WITS office in Harlem, a cooking lab in a public school in Brooklyn and a greenhouse in the original WITS school in Upper Eastside.

On the first day, I went to the WITS office. It was one large open room and brightly decorated. We began writing a mock grant since fundraising is a huge part of any nonprofit. I got to meet two people on the staff and heard their stories about working for WITS. Since WITS partners with professional chefs and restaurants like Chopt, one of the perks of working there is having great food present at work events and meetings.

On the second day, I volunteered at a public school in Brooklyn and helped with a food lab teaching vegetarian chili. The chef not only prepared the chili but taught the children about different kinds of beans and nutrition.

I happened to pass through the cafeteria during lunchtime and saw the school lunches. The school had healthier options than the public school I went to in upstate New York. There were a salad bar and plenty of vegetables in the entrée. Nancy later told us that all the WITS schools have a salad bar.

On the last day, we visited the original WITS school which has a greenhouse. There was also a cooking lab happening that day, and because the students were older, they had a little more independence with their project and they got to design a restaurant and menu.

Afterwards, I went to the office, finished the grant I had started and I spoke to Nancy about her role as the executive director of WITS, what her days are like and her current goals for the organization.

I feel that the three days I spent at WITS showed me new ways of thinking about careers and factors to consider about my future. For one thing, I’ve learned that working for a nonprofit has a different feel than working for a typical company. Also, fundraising is a huge priority for WITS since it relies on those funds to operate, which is something that I did not expect. This experience was worthwhile as it helped me to see what working at a nonprofit would be like and to understand how they accomplish their goals. I am very grateful for this opportunity and highly recommend the Princeternship program!