What is Faces of New Profit? It’s a spotlight on members of the New Profit community, why they do what they do, and who they are. This week, we talk to Gizela Thomas!
What motivated you to work at New Profit and/or in the social sector?
I just graduated from Union College, Schenectady NY with a B.A. in History and Political Science. I have always been interested in equity work and used my studies at Union to further study the complexities in the U.S. and abroad. My first job at the Food Project exposed me to the issue of food insecurity and inspired my senior thesis on the history and politics of corn in the Americas.
I attended Union as a Posse Scholar, a merit and leadership full-tuition scholarship given to a cohort of ten students to enroll in a specific institution. Their support system, as well as the education I received from my high school and other internship and volunteer experiences (and of course my mom) brought my attention to different hurdles individuals faced with college access and persistence. I was lucky to have access to this support system and resources. I was able to study abroad in Vietnam, South Africa, Egypt and Washington D.C..
In Washington D.C. I learned more about policy work and how non-governmental organizations partner with the government to establish effective legislation. Back in Schenectady I was able to intern for the District Attorney's office and had a more personal interaction with the criminal justice system. These opportunities and my experiences growing up fostered a love and passion for social justice, community engagement and especially a need to tailor different sustainable systemic solutions.
When I heard about New Profit I found that all my passions aligned with the organization's core values and projects. I am proud to work and help facilitate New Profit's mission and infrastructure as an operations associate. It truly is a unique experience.
What is the most surprising thing about you?
I spent a significant portion of my childhood living and traveling back and forth between different parts of Asia and Boston. This fostered my love of traveling, cross-cultural connections and being an adventurous eater.
What is your favorite quote?
“The greatest disability is the inability to see something as more” – Robert Hensel
What is your favorite movie?
My favorite movie is Forrest Gump because I like how this film plays with history and comedy. I also enjoyed watching Forrest push boundaries and not letting his disability confine him.
Who is the greatest influence on who you are today?
My mother is one of the most innovative, funny and personable human beings. She has pushed me to be independent, creative and instilled the value of education in my younger sister and me. As an artist and an advocate my mother would bring my sister and I to workshops and meetings to expose us to community engagement opportunities. Her work is selfless and motivates me and my sister to defy odds and be our own advocates.