Bloustein School shares a passion for public service with students
Nakeefa Bernard is a 2010 graduate of the Master in Public Policy program at Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. She currently serves as the Development and Communications Associate at New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC).
NJCDC is a comprehensive community development and social service organization located in Paterson, New Jersey—the state’s third largest city. As one of Paterson’s leading community-based organizations, its mission is to inspire and empower people with opportunities to transform lives and communities. The organization serves over 2,000 individuals each day through a wide range of programs and services, with its core work and organizational focus on school-centered revitalization, youth development and education, affordable and supportive housing, and the preservation of the Great Falls Historic District through comprehensive neighborhood revitalization.
While her role at NJCDC is primarily geared towards fundraising, including grant writing and event planning, Nakeefa also helps manage volunteers and relationships with potential partners and funders—all of whom make it possible for the organization to carry out its mission. “The position of fundraiser is unique because it encompasses many roles important to the longevity and success of the organization,” she noted. “The best part about my job is that it allows me to dabble in each of NJCDC’s 20-plus program areas, giving me the opportunity to be ‘on the ground’ and participating in community work as well as go behind the scenes to help design our next big project.”
As a lifelong resident of New Jersey, Nakeefa developed a fondness and curiosity for her home state and knew that she wanted to pursue a career in service to New Jersey’s urban areas. While not entirely sure what path she would take to get there, she knew the Bloustein School would help her explore the many career options available. “My experiences at the school eventually steered me in the direction of community development. As a student of community development, I can say that human and social capital are probably the most important and most coveted resources in any community; at the Bloustein School, we as students were blessed to have had the opportunity to develop both of these assets."
"It is human and social capital that makes us more effective in everything we do. It binds us, it strengthens us, it allows us to effect real change, and it gives us the power to accomplish anything we set our minds to. In the current economic climate we cannot afford to take these assets for granted, and we must work together if any of us are to truly succeed.”
Having never thought about writing for a living, she soon realized that it is a skill that working professionals often mistakenly take for granted. “As part of my degree I had to learn to think critically and write effectively. Thanks to the Bloustein MPP degree program, I am able to find, gather, analyze, and understand the data that I will need to begin a project,” said Nakeefa. “Now before writing a grant, I gather and evaluate community data in order to provide the funder with a snapshot of the city’s conditions. In other words, I get to ‘take the pulse’ of the City of Paterson through researching and analyzing socioeconomic and demographic data. More importantly, I understand the context and implications of decisions made by lawmakers on the local, state, and federal level.”
Nakeefa is thankful for the Bloustein School’s influence in preparing her for her profession. “My professors had an immense impact on my life. They gave me the confidence and tools I needed to become the community development professional that I am today. They possess a passion for public service, a desire to effectively inform public policy, and a commitment to teaching—all of which create a remarkable classroom experience and helped inspired my own passion for public service. Without that passion, I’m not sure where I would be today.”