Lela Walker Nmah

Agent of Change: My Year as a Kingston Fellow

3/23/15 by Lela Walker Nmah

​Wilder is committed to improving the quality and diversity of persons working in the field of human services or human services research. One way that Wilder meets this commitment is through the Kingston Fellowship, an honor awarded each March to Wilder employees based on their accomplishments, commitment to human services, and leadership potential.

The fellowship is awarded through a named endowment fund established with a lead gift from Tom and Mary Kingston and contributed to by many friends of the Wilder Foundation. Kingston Fellows have the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas and develop innovative programs to address community concerns. 

I was one of five employees awarded a Kingston Fellowship in 2014. I have worked for the Wilder Foundation for four years as a licensed practical nurse. I am married and have two daughters and two grandsons. The Kingston Fellowship provided me with funding that helped me finish my master’s degree in public health.

Passion for Community Work

Working in the community is my passion. I earned a four-year degree in human services and decided to pursue a master’s degree so that I would have more opportunities. Given the disparities that exist in the world today, I feel fortunate to be able to find resources and tap into them to get results. One of the ways that I can give back is by getting an education that will help me serve and work with other community groups.

I had already started on my master’s degree at Argosy University in Eagan when my supervisor encouraged me to apply for the Kingston Fellowship. I chose public health because there is an ever increasing need for innovative public health expertise to engage communities in developing long term solutions around complex health challenges. I believe strongly in being an agent of change and being part of a greater collaborative effort towards long term community sustainability, health and well-being.

Internship Provides Validation

As I worked on my master’s degree, I searched for a community-based internship in the region that I could complete in addition to my full-time work at Ravoux. I found an opportunity at the Twin Cities Mobile Market, a Wilder program that brings food to under-resourced areas in Saint Paul.

I went to community engagement meetings and helped with research, policy work and data entry. My favorite aspect of the internship was community engagement work. It was interesting to see how the community embraced the concept. My internship gave me validation that public health is what I really want to do.

I finished my degree on Dec. 19, 2014. I now have the credentials to become more deeply involved with community engagement around education and resource acquisition. My degree will significantly expand my ability to serve the underrepresented populations in a much broader capacity, and allow me to have an impact towards reducing the disparities in prevalence of these public health concerns.
Now that I have completed my degree, I hope to continue working in the community and following my dream.

The 2015 Kingston Fellows will be announced at a reception on Thursday, March 26, 2015. The reception is scheduled for 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. at Wilder Center, 451 Lexington Parkway North, Saint Paul, MN and is open to the public.