Chicago native, New York-based producer, writer, and social entrepreneur Kendall Ciesemier has been making waves with breaking news stories and interviews about social causes ever since she was 11 years old. At that young age, she formed Kids Caring 4 Kids to empower young people to help provide basic human needs to children living in sub-Saharan Africa. While she was at Georgetown University, Kendall co-founded OWN IT, a women’s leadership initiative to empower college-aged women to engage with women leaders. And at New York Film Academy (NYFA), Ciesemier completed the 6-week Documentary program in 2017.
Ciesemier’s personal history of health issues inspired her humanitarian work. Expounding upon that, she says, “My own health struggles entirely formed the lens through which I look at the world.” In lieu of gifts and flowers during her recovery, she humbly requested well-wishers donate to the village of Musele, Zambia — the most highly affected area by the AIDS epidemic at the time. “I found my purpose in founding Kids Caring 4 Kids,” added Ciesemier. Since 2004, 8,000 individuals in five different African countries have been assisted via the construction of dormitories, orphan care centers, a clinic, classrooms, computer labs, bicycles, indoor plumbing, meals, and clean water.
Now a producer at Mic, Ciesemier recently found herself helping out with an interview of rising political star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was elected to the House in 2018 as the youngest woman in Congressional history. The Democratic Socialists of America-endorsed 29-year old recently stunned the country after defeating longtime incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th District. Ocasio-Cortez was interviewed alongside fellow DSA-supported Cynthia Nixon, who lost her bid to defeat incumbent governor Andrew Cuomo.
At Mic, her topics range from criminal justice reform, racial justice, the #MeToo movement, and more. Her recent interview with Alice Marie Johnson, a woman serving life without parole for a first-time nonviolent drug offense, helped lead to Johnson’s clemency as is arguably the highlight of Ciesemier’s career.
Speaking of the experience, Ciesemier said, “We actually drove down alongside her family, three hours from Memphis to Alabama. We were racing to get there in time to pick up Alice and watching her walk across the street and see her family across from the prison was pretty powerful.” She continued, “I think, as a journalist, you’re taught to just do your job — but you’re also a human being. I don’t think I processed all of that experience until a good four days after. This is a story I’ll never forget.”
Ciesemier tweeted her emotional reaction to the release:
#AliceMarieJohnson says her release feels like a “resurrection moment” — what a day! Then, she recognized me from our October @mic Skype call and I may have started to tear. Blown away by this day. pic.twitter.com/eUXMm7FLfk
— Kendall Ciesemier (@kciesemier) June 6, 2018
Activists also showed their support of Alice Marie Johnson’s release, including Reese Witherspoon, who thanked Ciesemeier on Twitter for her efforts:
Bravo @kciesemier for breaking the #AliceJohnson story ! What an inspiration to all journalists. Keep writing your passion!https://t.co/xiUzSrhozP
— Reese Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon) July 30, 2018
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Kendall Ciesemier for her time and, more importantly, her community service, philanthropy, and activism. We wish her the best of luck with all her future endeavors.