Miriam's Kitchen
Category: Alumni, Discovery & Impact, General News

Title: Combating Hunger and Homelessness in DC

As a licensed social worker, Adam Rocap knew he wanted to work in a space that created positive social change. When Cheryl Bell left the private sector, she was looking for something that combined her interests and desire to help other people grow. From a young age, Lara Pukatch knew she wanted to work somewhere where she could make a difference. These three people, guided by their commitment to service, currently work together at Miriam’s Kitchen, a nonprofit working to end chronic homelessness in Washington, DC.

Adam, Cheryl, and Lara have another thing in common – they are alumni of the McCourt School’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership’s (CPNL) certificate program.

CPNL’s Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program, offered twice a year, equips nonprofit leaders with the strategies, resources, and tools to fulfill their missions, advocate for systems change, and demonstrate measurable impact. At the end of the program, students develop a capstone management project they can take back to their organization to help expand its impact.

“Our goal was to create training for mid- to senior-level nonprofit leaders to help their organizations become more high performing and high impact,” explains Dr. Kathy Kretman, director of CPNL. “The role of the nonprofit sector is critical to democracy, and we wanted to provide a space where nonprofit leaders, local to international, could strengthen their effectiveness to address society’s biggest challenges.”

Scaling Impact

When Adam joined Miriam’s Kitchen, the organization had just decided to expand its work to include advocacy in addition to its meal program and case management. At around the same time, Adam enrolled in the CPNL certificate program. He began his capstone project by focusing on impact evaluation and applying what he had learned in his courses. This helped him develop an advocacy program designed for meaningful and long-term change.

“When you’re a nonprofit that is intentionally setting a really bold goal, like ending homelessness, you are only going to get even close to that if you really focus on how you design, run, and manage your nonprofit for really high impact,” explains Adam, deputy director at Miriam’s Kitchen. “It’s really mission-critical to learn the types of things that we learn through the Georgetown program for us to even fulfill our mission.”

Over the years, many people at Miriam’s Kitchen have attended the CPNL certificate program – including Cheryl, the organization’s executive chef, and Lara, the director of advocacy.

“I got an opportunity to learn where my unique niche is in the nonprofit sector and how to capitalize on that so I can help my organization go further and have more visibility,” said Cheryl in an interview with the CPNL team.

Connecting Community and Advocacy

“In advocacy, it is critical to engage and elevate the voice of the community you are serving,” explains Dr. Luisa Boyarski, associate director of CPNL. Throughout CPNL’s certificate program, there is an emphasis on cross-sector collaboration and meaningful community engagement. As Dr. Boyarski describes it, the two components are “at the core of changing systems and making a lasting and positive impact.”

In an interview about the certificate program, Lara shared that Miriam’s Kitchen’s “advocacy has resulted in over $100 million in housing that ends homelessness for the folks we work with every day.”

“My role, wherever possible, is to use my power and privilege, and the organization’s, to amplify the voices of our neighbors and leverage their expertise and experience,” Lara explains.

United in Service

As a Jesuit institution, Georgetown University has a longstanding tradition of service and social justice. Every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, people are encouraged to honor Dr. King’s life and legacy through a day of service. While service can take many forms, at its core is the pursuit to build a more just and equitable world.

In Adam, Cheryl, and Lara’s case, their commitment to community and ending homelessness led them to a career of service in the nonprofit sector. McCourt is proud to provide the training, tools, and support to help passionate changemakers make the world a better place.

Whether it is volunteering when you can or pursuing a career in advocacy and service, strengthening civil society is not an individual effort, it requires a community of individuals dedicated to making the world better than how they found it.

As Dr. King once said, “Everyone can be great because everybody can serve.”