In Her Own Words: MEDA Intern Francesca Gallardo

“I completed my undergraduate in Interior Architecture and Design at the Academy of Art University; I worked my through design by participating in community organizing. I am now a second-year graduate student in the Environment and Community program at Humboldt State University. As a designer and community organizer, I found balance within affordable-housing development. I have worked and interned with a variety of environmental and socio-political nonprofit organizations, which were incredible experiences. But there is something very special about the individuals and teams that make up MEDA — even more so within the Community Real Estate (CRE) department. From the first time I went into the office and met with the senior project managers and community engagement specialist to my last day interning I had the utmost sense of inclusiveness and warmth. The level of intelligence, professionalism and passion that flows through the office was obvious and contagious.

“My goals were to ultimately gain experience and understanding of the current community-engagement strategies attempted by the CRE’s new construction and RAD teams. Additionally, to test new tools and engagement strategies, conduct research and collect data for my graduate project entitled, “Housing Development for Neighborhood and Community Rehabilitation.”

“I had the opportunity to co-facilitate, with Precita Eyes artists, mosaic workshops at three of MEDA’s RAD (public housing) properties. The intensive workshops ran for 10 weeks; the residents designed, colored and glued each tile. creating beautiful works of art for their landscape areas. The process was fun and interactive, and encouraged the residents to collaborate with one another. Toward the end of the workshops, trust, friendships and a sense of community had formed. Seeing how proud the residents were of their artwork, how empowered they felt, and for them to participate in an activity that required them to use their motor skills (beneficial for their health) made this experience even more special. I created a “lessons learned” document with my observations and the tools for the RAD team to continue to strengthen their resident engagement; furthermore, I shadowed the project manager on construction/relocation meeting with the residents.

“As for the new construction projects, I brainstormed with CRE’s developers and architects for the 2060 Folsom project: creating activities to obtain community feedback for types of art placement; and a contest for naming the new building. By tabling at community events, such as the Folsom Park opening and “Sunday Street” events, we brought the activities, building renderings and information about the new development projects. With my design background, I created a new construction milestone map to inform the community of pertinent dates. By going out to events/places that are familiar to the community, we successfully collected great and useful feedback. Toward the end of my internship, I helped prepare for 681 Florida’s community meeting.

“This internship opportunity provided me with a proactive experience, and so much valuable data for my graduate research project. It also allowed me to grow as a young adult entering the professional world. Lastly, it made me appreciate the gratifying work the teams do each and every day, and the contributions made to keep the Mission District and the city of San Francisco a place of opportunity.

“Thank you very much, CRE and MEDA, for this summer!”

Francesca Gallardo
MEDA Intern


Are you looking for an internship at a nonprofit doing impactful work? See all of MEDA’s Mission District internship opportunities.



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