Isabel Lunken, 22, majored in architectural studies in college. She now utilizes her education in a very different way than she ever pictured.
Lunken now works as an engagement associate at 4Front, a Jewish teen program managed by the JCC of Greater Baltimore. Since starting this position in September, she has helped inspire teens through leadership and innovation.
After growing up in Baltimore City, Lunken graduated from Hobart and William Smith College in upstate New York. In college, she received a bachelor of arts in architectural studies with minors in entrepreneurial studies, environmental studies and studio art.
Lunken currently lives in North Baltimore and belongs to Beth Am Synagogue.
What do you currently do for work?
I am 4Front’s engagement associate. I run our Social Innovation Fellowship, which is a six-month program offered to nine through 12th-[grade] Jewish high schoolers where they create a socially impactful business. They go through a bunch of workshops, a boot camp and work alongside a mentor in teams to create these viable business models that they will present to the community in a demo day in April. There’s also a New York City component to it that we just got back from where they learn about entrepreneurship and meet with socially impactful Jewish entrepreneurs in New York City. So, that’s one part of my portfolio.
I also run our Peer Leadership Fellows cohort where we have 12 Jewish teens that are in 10th and 11th grade from across Baltimore City where they learn to have meaningful conversations. They’re learning about relational engagement and how to network with their peers. Then I will also be the CIT director for J Camps at the [Rosenbloom] Owings Mills JCC this summer. So, I’m working on creating an updated curriculum for two months this summer to give to rising ninth and 10th graders across the Baltimore area.
The last part of my role is as an engagement associate. I’m trying to go out into the community with our partners who also run Jewish teen programming to get to know teens across Baltimore and what they’re interested [in]. The entrepreneurial studies [that I learned in college] really speak to my role with the Social Innovation Fellowship.
What made you decide to apply for this job?
I heard about this job opportunity because I was a part of 4Front programs when I was in high school. I was able to hear about this job opportunity through my program leader who now runs 4Front, Diane Solomon. I got a message about the job opening, and I originally didn’t think I would go into education, but it is really something that sparked my interest and it’s something that’s important to my personal development. So, I looked into it and applied for this role.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I’ve really greatly enjoyed the immersive experiences I’ve been able to give these Jewish teens in my programs. The most meaningful part has been seeing their growth in the leadership opportunities I’m giving them. I’ve run a Shabbaton, a full-day boot camp and a New York City weekend trip. They’ve really been able to see the value through these immersive experiences that I’ve been able to give.
Do you feel like you can use your art background?
My art background was great. The school I went to was very liberal arts focused. So, everything that I studied was very process based, specifically my art. I’ve done a lot of commission work, but it’s really interesting all the components that come into that. It’s all about the process of creating something, and this really correlates to creating a program and then running it. There are all these steps that you have to take and then you’ll make slight changes. You’ll go back and refinish, get input from coworkers and colleagues. Similar to art, it’s like an ever-changing process and you have to be able to go with the flow. Just like teen programming, there’s always something that’ll come up and shift your process, but in the end you’re able to create something that is super meaningful, just like art.
Outside of work, what are your other passions?
I’m currently training for a triathlon, Half Ironman. I’m trying to get really active. I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with my friends and connect back in Baltimore. I like doing anything outdoors. I’m a big skier, which I’m getting back into, and I like to read. I’m a big reader.
What’s your favorite book?
I always go back to one of the first books that really got me into reading, the Harry Potter series. It is a little bit corny, but I think that it really grew my love for reading.
What do you like about working in the Baltimore community?
I think growing up, you don’t see the value of it as much as a teenager. Being able to come back and work, I am able to reflect on my experience there and how there’s such a strong partnership through all the different agencies of The Associated: [Jewish Federation of Baltimore] and through all of the Jewish individuals of Baltimore. There’s a family sense and everyone’s wanting to help and support you and get you connected to people that’ll make your personal life just as good as your work life in Baltimore, which is amazing.
What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
I love Sukkot. Sukkot’s meaningful because it gives you an awareness of the historic struggles we faced as Jews. But it’s also an opportunity to get together with your Jewish community, have a meal, have an experience in a sukkah. My family has built our own sukkah most years, and that gives a sense of coming together for the Jewish community, which I greatly appreciate.