Ithaca College Alumna Turns Alternative Spring Break into a Career

Each year, dozens of Ithaca College students eschew the typical spring break trip to the beach and opt instead for Alternative Spring Break, a week-long, service immersion experience that gives students the chance to positively impact other people’s lives. For Emily Francis ’15, it did more than that — it gave her the experience, connections and inspiration to begin a career in non-profit development.

Emily Francis '15 (Photo provided)


Francis is a foundations relations associate for the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C, where she primarily writes grant proposals so that the food bank can provide healthy food to people who are battling food insecurity.

The seeds for this job were planted during her junior year Alternative Spring Break trip as part of a program called “Food Justice in the Urban Environment.” During that time, she volunteered at several places, including her now-employer, where she prepared food, bagged up non-perishable items for distribution, and delivered meals to homeless shelters, halfway houses and community centers.

“The work environment when I was there had the most energy I’ve felt in my entire life. I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I never knew this type of job existed.”

The experience was also personal for Francis, who battled food insecurity when she was growing up. “I was lucky enough to have extended family members who could support me and my family,” she said. “Many others are not as lucky.”

In addition to working at the food bank, Francis also volunteered at the D.C. Central Kitchen. That’s when a happy bit of IC fate came into play. The organization’s chief development officer, Alexander Moore, was a 2007 graduate. He met with the students and spoke about his experience at the kitchen. When Francis was getting ready to graduate and move to Washington, she called Moore and spoke to him in more detail about how he got into his line of work.

After bouncing around jobs for some time, this past summer, Francis applied to be a communications intern in D.C. Central Kitchen’s development office, and her connection to IC paid off. “I really sold the idea of being an Ithaca alum,” she said. “And how my experience would help me. He remembered me and was a great advocate to have while I was interning.”

As an intern, she was responsible for revamping and managing the organization’s social media accounts. She was also introduced to the organization’s head grant writer. “She talked to me about how her days were spent researching and writing, and I was fascinated by it,” Francis said. “I had no idea how organizations like that raised funds.”

Following the internship, she began looking for full-time work as a grant writer. Thankfully, her classroom experience as a journalism major in the Roy H. Park School of Communications prepared her well for the job.

“The journalism program provided me a really well-rounded experience,” she said. “I learned about a lot of different types of writing, and I use those same skills in my current position. It affirms the fact that my degree was extremely useful.”

Francis says getting to write all the time for her job is a dream, but it’s also reaffirming to help people who are battling food insecurity. “Our mission of providing people with healthy and nutritious foods really resonates with me,” she said. “Everyone wants to be able to support their family. When you give them the resources and the chance to do that, they will.”

Emily Francis