The Power Of the Diversify Dietetics Community

We often get asked- what do we do at Diversify Dietetics that is so special? We always tell people it's the community that we have formed. From my years as an educator, I saw that students and interns of color were bright and hardworking. They had the academic ability, they had the grit. But they often didn't have the network to connect them to resources they needed to overcome the many obstacles that may come their way.  An inspiring example of the power of our community was demonstrated last week.

Last week I received a text from a young lady named Camaria Welch. Camaria and I had met in Spring 2018 at our Georgia state affiliate dietetics conference, right before Deanna and I launched Diversify Dietetics. Camaria explained to me how she had unsuccessfully matched to a dietetic internship and was in graduate school in the meantime to help improve her application. She reapplied for the DICAS match in April 2019.

When I first met Camaria at our 2018 GAND meeting.

When I first met Camaria at our 2018 GAND meeting.

This time, Camaria was matched to Emory University's dietetic internship! We celebrated via a few Instagram DMs. Camaria started making plans to take the next step in her journey to becoming an RDN.

Early last week, I received a text message from Camaria, apologizing for bothering me. She told me she had been working all summer to secure funding for her internship program. However the structure of the program meant that she was not eligible for federal loans. Camaria had tried to find private funding for her DI, but she was unable to secure the funds for her tuition. I asked her if she minded sharing with me how much she needed in funding.

Her text back read: “All of it.”

Camaria was thousands of dollars short. She also had a deadline- less than two weeks to get the funds, or she would lose her spot in the program. Camaria was in the situation that so many students of color faced- she had the ability, she was hard-working. Her family was loving and supportive. But she didn’t have the means to fund such a large tuition payment. Camaria is as humble as they come, but she saw not other solution, but do create Go Fund Me page.

That's all she needed to tell me- it was time to go to work.

At her Spring 2018 graduation from University of Georgia.

At her Spring 2018 graduation from University of Georgia.

I reached out to professional members of the Diversify Dietetics Community via text, email and social media. Camaria is a member of the National Organization of Blacks in Nutrition and Dietetics (NOBIDAN), and I sent a note to their Executive Commmitee. All of these RDNs responded quickly, by donating and sharing Camaria's story. In less than 4 doors, $4600 had been raised. Donors included Camaria’s family and friends. Many RDNs from all races and ethnicities donated. Some donors were even other dietetic interns- a few who had not been able to afford to attend an internship themselves!

Within three days Camaria had reached her goal. SHE IS GOING TO GO TO HER DIETETIC INTERNSHIP.

Camaria's need is a real one, and it's not uncommon. But Camaria’s situation shows what the Diversify Dietetics community is all about- a connection to a network that students, interns and young professionals of color need to find access to resources they need to overcome obstacles and reach their goals. These resources may be financial, but they are also access to mentors, help with applying to DICAS, networking events to meet other RDs in their communities, and professional resources to help them advance their careers.

Camaria's financial need is one that we hope to be able to fulfill in the very near future with the establishment of our Diversify Dietetics Scholarship Program. With everything that students and interns are dealing with, they should not have to feel the stress of setting up a Go Fund Me at the 11th hour. We are also working on new episodes of our Feed Me the Facts podcast, organizing DD Meetups all around the country and developing new programming specifically for young professionals.

Thank you to each and every one of you who are part of this community. YOU are what makes Diversify Dietetics so special! - Tamara

You can leave Camaria well wishes and follow her DI journey on Instagram.

You may be thinking why didn’t we set up a direct fundraising campaign through Diversify Dietetics for Camaria? While that would have been amazing, IRS guidelines do not allow us to manage direct fundraising efforts to individuals. Our Diversify Dietetics Scholarship fund will allow us to provide scholarships to applicants. We are excited to get this fund started, so we can help students who are in similar situations.

You can help us to set up this fund, continue to develop other resources and be with us to celebrate accomplishments like Camaria’s story, when you attend our 2nd Annual #DDMeetup Fundraiser on October 26, 2019 in Philadelphia.

If you’re unable to attend, you can also donate to our organization. Donations in any amount are appreciated. Thank you for you support!

Tamara Melton