Current Fellows

Welcoming Our Newest Cohort of Fellows!

Today kicks off our fall retreat in Boston! We are so excited to reconnect and share out learnings from each of our organizations. This will be our newest cohort of fellows first FAO retreat! Below you can get to know the newest FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellows a bit better:

Molly Blake

Molly works at Playworks New England, where half of her role is devoted to serving as a Meet Molly New FAO Fellow (1)Senior Program Coordinator at all Playworks based partner schools. The other half of her role is devoted to developing Playworks family engagement plan and improving their college volunteer strategy.

When asked what she was most looking forward to during her tenure as a FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow, Molly said: “I am looking forward to helping with the community engagement and social-emotional learning aspects of the Playworks programming. I am also looking forward to building relationships with the other fellows along with deepening my leadership skills.”


Samantha Perlman 

Samantha works at Generation Citizen in Boston, where half of her role is devoted to direct service activities that focus on empowering Generation Citizen’s young people. The other half of her role will be devoted to long-term organizational strengthening.

Meet Samantha New FAO Fellow (1)When asked what she was most looking forward to during her tenure as a FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow, Samantha said: “Being a FAO Fellow excites me because I have the opportunity to connect and collaborate with a great cohort of motivated and dynamic young leaders in the non-profit field. I am thrilled to be working at Generation Citizen as this organization encompasses my previous experience in education and government. I cannot imagine a more perfect match and I look forward to putting my interests into action!”


Pam Martinez

Pam works at Playworks Pennsylvania, where half of her role is devoted to consulting,Meet Pam New FAO Fellow (1) supporting, and co-facilitating at Playworks partner schools. The other half of her role is devoted to developing marketing, brand building, and recruitment initiatives.

When asked what she was most looking forward to during her tenure as a FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow, Pam said: “I am looking forward to strengthening the program within our Playworks schools by building closer relationships with the community. I also look forward to meeting the other fellows and furthering my professional growth.”


Jaiwantie Manni

Jaiwantie works at Museum of the City of New York, where half of her role is devoted to Meet Jaiwantie New FAO Fellowteaching existing school and summer field trips. The other half of her role is devoted to assisting with the creation, implementation, and marketing of Family and Community Engagement Programs for the Center.

When asked what she was most looking forward to during her tenure as a FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow, Jainwantie said: “Creating STEM programs for the Museum of the City of New York as well as being involved with and helping with the Family and Community Engagement Program. I am most excited about meeting the students, teachers, and families of New York and learning more about the city I grew up in.”


Kayla Jones

Kayla works at Jumpstart, where half of her role is devoted to coordinating & delivering Jumpstart Community events throughout NYC. The other half of her role is devoted to Meet Kayla New FAO Fellowbuilding capacity in Jumpstart’s new Policy & Government Relations department.

When asked what she was most looking forward to during her tenure as a FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow, Kayla said: “Being raised around educators inspired my passion for working in the field of education. This fellowship allows me to both serve in communities that need equitable educational opportunities and slowly deconstruct the policies that created these disparities in the first place. Working at Jumpstart combines my interests in community engagement and policy work, and I welcome the new experiences and connections I’ll make during my time here.”

Advertisements

A Look at uAspire’s Afford & Succeed Programs

At uAspire we work to ensure that all young people have the financial information and resources necessary to find an affordable path to – and through – a postsecondary education. We strive to accomplish this goal through a variety of means: in-person andAllie Karen Holiday Party virtual (texting) advising with high school and postsecondary students, training guidance counselors and in-school practitioners, and through policy work.

Both Allie and Karen advise students virtually and in-person, but Allie works with high school students and Karen works with postsecondary students! Below they outline how they support students to and through postsecondary plans through their respective programs, Afford and Succeed:  

uAspire’s Afford Program 

College Affordability Advisors in the Afford Program work one-on-one with high school students to provide them with the tools to successfully navigate and manage the multi-step financial aid process. Rather than filling out a financial aid application, like the FAFSA, for students, we aim to empower them to be self-advocates and take ownership of their financial aid process and journey to postsecondary plans. In deciding upon postsecondary plans we encourage students to consider cost and affordability, in addition to other factors like program/ college fit. Deciding on postsecondary plans can sometimes be challenging, confusing, and overwhelming, we try to serve as sounding boards for students to consider their different options and think critically about next steps. Once seniors graduate from high school, we spend the summer months texting them through our Summer College Connect (SCC) program to ensure they are ready to start college in the fall!

uAspire’s Succeed Program

The Succeed Program serves students who have graduated from high school, whether they are enrolled in a college or not. Succeed students can be anywhere in the state or country, therefore our communication with them starts via text. We send out reminders and important financial aid deadlines every few weeks, and we respond to students to support them with their individual needs. Advisors also support students in-person or via phone calls. Because financial aid must be renewed every year and is subject to change based on factors such as student/family income and GPA requirements, affordability is a major factor in college persistence for many students.

Allie Negron is the FAO Schwarz Marketing & Communications Fellow at uAspire. In this role, she spreads awareness about uAspire’s work and college affordability news. In the other half of her role, she serves as a College Affordability Advisor, where she works with Boston Public School students to guide them through every step of the financial aid process.

Karen Wilber is the FAO Schwarz Succeed Fellow at uAspire. In her role, she is a member of the team that develops curriculum for the Succeed Program and is a College Affordability Advisor serving postsecondary students.

 

Social Justice in Our Work

Among the vast selection of picture books in the Reading Partners Library at PS 3 is Margaree King Miller’s, Granddaddy’s Gift. Miller’s book tells the story of a young black girl, Little Joe, growing up in Mississippi during the 1960s. Little Joe watches her grandfather fight for black voters rights and learns the value of education and advocacy. Told from the perspective of Little Joe, the last page of the book reads:

“Grandaddy had taught me to stand up for things, even if I was scared, and always to be proud. His gift never left me. At the top of the courthouse steps, Granddaddy took my hand. We had come a long way. We still had a long way to go.”

As I’ve embarked on the beginning of my Fellowship, Granddaddy’s message resoGranddaddy's Giftnates deeply with the ways I approach my work at my host organization. Reading Partners is a literacy nonprofit that provides individualized tutoring to early, struggling readers. Due to the fact I work directly with many young children of color, I want to find ways that I can stand up as an advocate for our students and apply social justice to my work.

All of the current Fellows have grappled with standing up for under served youth in some way or another as we push forward for equity in our roles. This year, we have focused on applying social justice to our work during our retreats, delving into the implications that our work has on current issues of racial justice. Through various workshops led by our fellows, we are analyzing the systemic forms of societal oppression that we must navigate in order to best serve the communities we work with. During our fall retreat in Philadelphia, we explored our work through the lens of the Black Lives Matter movement in order to discuss ways our organizations can resist racial injustice. At our upcoming spring retreat, we will be continuing this conversation by examining our organizations’ missions and strategizing for cultural competency in our programs. One of our Fellows will also lead a session on the Nonprofit Industrial Complex to explore the role that nonprofits play in the greater economic and social scene.

The Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC) brings to light the phenomenon in which nonprofits must often appeal to the agendas of funders in order to receive grants and sustain their organizations. As more nonprofits apply for the funding, social justice initiatives can take the back burner to business operations. Here arises a dilemma in which an organization may stray from its intended mission. In turn, a nonprofit may enact initiatives or say-all solutions for the communities it serves without taking into account the real issues that need to be addressed. This session will be focused on the ways that we can work with our organizations to subvert and challenge the NPIC. With these different factors in play, from institutionalized racism and classism to economic structures of neoliberalism, the Fellows have a sense of urgency to committing to anti-racism and social justice.
Although all of us have different paths as to how we ended up at the FAO Schwarz Family
Foundation Fellowship, I think that there is one core value that connects all of us in some capacity. We all have a passion for enacting change through leadership and standing up for the youth we work with. The current fellows are sensitive to the current events that shape our society and have given a lot of thought to the ways that we can approach our work and to fight oppression. Therefore, I urge you to take into account the ways in which you can stand up for anti-racism and equality in your workplaces and in your personal lives. Even when we are scared or confused, it’s vital for all of us to remember Granddaddy’s message and to stand up for what we believe is right and just. Although I think that we still have a long way to go, we are on the right path to fostering bright futures for our country’s next generation of leaders.

Claudia von Nostitz is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at Reading Partners in New York. She is a literacy tutor in two elementary schools in Brooklyn and develops city-wide strategies to engage the communities around the schools Reading Partners serves. Claudia seeks to build sustainable partnerships that will help support and empower the students that she works with.

 

Developing a Nonprofit Leader

dsc_7756-wmMy initial love for nonprofit work came from my early involvement in a high school program, called Upward Bound, that worked to prepare low-income, first-generation students for college.  Through the program I spent my high school summers on various college campuses, like Harvey Mudd College and Georgetown University, gaining professional skills at major internships, like at a biochemistry lab at UCSD and in the Finance Division of the Library of Congress, and honing my networking skills throughout all of these experiences.

When I graduated from the program, with an acceptance to my alma mater, UCLA, I realized how life changing that experience was, how incredibly inspired I was by my Upward Bound advisors who were all successful people of color, and how critical nonprofits are in providing major opportunities for urban youth.

With this in mind, I got involved with education-based nonprofits, like Jumpstart and City Year, providing day-to-day educational resources to youth in under resourced communities like mine through direct service. Although, I was very proud of my work  and could see the impact I was making on my students, I knew that I wanted to learn more and do more beyond direct-service. I wanted to work to develop stronger programs, advise on curriculum, and develop workshops for volunteers. I wanted to reach more students at a higher capacity.

DSC_2151.jpgBecoming an FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow fed all of my professional desires. Through my experience with the fellowship, and my organization, I have developed many skills. For instance, deconstructing and reconstructing a Cultural Competency training for over 300 college volunteers, delivering productive and solution-oriented feedback, and simply not being afraid to have six meetings in one day over the phone (millennial anxieties are hard to kick). I have been able to take a lot of what I learned through my “on the ground” nonprofit experiences, and put them to use on an organizational level. I don’t think I could have conducted workshops on the importance of building relationships with students as effectively if I had not myself spent four years supporting classrooms.

There is still so much I don’t know, and even if I do know it, I can always get better. Still, I am willing to continue to grow as a nonprofit leader, and will continue developing valuable skills, and work hard to deliver urban youth the resources they need not only to survive, but to thrive.

Ellie Sanchez is an FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Massachusetts Generation Citizen. In her role as Program Associate,  she works to increase civic-engagement amongst marginalized youth by providing training and quality assurance for College Volunteers to ensure the highest-quality action civics programming is delivered to students in  Massachusetts.

Why I Chose to Work For uAspire

I grew up in a household with a mother who was very on top of my college application and
financial aid processes- so much so that I didn’t have to do much more than log into my student portal and accept my financial aid package each year. It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I started to understand allie-graduationthe time, commitment, and knowledge that goes into submitting financial aid forms.

Today, I realize just how fortunate I was to have this built-in mentor, my mother, guide me through the tedious, multi-step college application and financial aid processes. Due to the fact that I can now appreciate just how fortunate I was I also realize that there are many students that may not have a parent, legal guardian, older sibling, friend, etc. to serve as their guide towards reaching postsecondary education.

I decided to work for uAspire because I want to help students with dreams of going to college, reach their goals. But as many, if not all Americans know, post-secondary education does not come cheap. The realization that going to college can become very expensive is stressful in and of itself, and that coupled with trying to find a way to make it affordable can be extremely overwhelming, especially while juggling school work, applying to college, and a plethora of other responsibilities. I am by no means the only person that can or will help a student make it to college, but I enjoy doing what I can to make the college-going process more digestible for students.

allie-uaspireI am a firm believer in the idea that education is right and not a privilege. Students that put in the hard work and effort in school to go to college shouldn’t be stopped short because of high cost. I feel very fortunate to be able to meet and work with seniors and learn about their dreams for college and beyond. While I may only provide them a tidbit of knowledge and a few tools, the students take what they learn and run with it. I am only part of their journey for a small fraction of time, but it is incredible to witness students take ownership and control of their futures and not let obstacles stop them from achieving their goals. Working at uAspire provides me with the opportunity to meet and work with motivated, inspirational students, while simultaneously helping to ensure that higher education is attainable for everyone– I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and for the students I’m getting to meet along the way.

Allie Negron is the FAO Schwarz Marketing & Communications Fellow at uAspire. In this role, she spreads awareness about uAspire’s work and college affordability news. In the other half of her role, she serves as a College Affordability Advisor, where she works with Boston Public School students to guide them through every step of the financial aid process.

How to Stress Less Over Project Management: The RACI Tool

Remember the days of working on group projects in school? If you’re like me, you might have felt like no one had any idea what his or her role was. You might have even gotten stuck doing all of the work because you were worried that no one else would take responsibility or were afraid to ask for help. Maybe you came to dread group projects. Nowadays, does your professional life ever feel like that?

When I first started my FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellowship at Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) in Boston, we were undergoing several leadership transitions. Roles were unclear, and projects sometimes stalled or petered out entirely. Luckily, when our current Executive Director came on board, she introduced our transition-weary team to a project management tool with a somewhat conspicuous name that has since helped us immensely: RACI.

RACI is an acronym for the words “Responsible, “Accountable,” “Consulted,” and “Informed.” Below is a quick summary of what that all means (you might notice that it should really be called “ARCI”).

  • ACCOUNTABLE: Ultimately accountable for the success of a project, program, event, or goal. S/he may or may not be responsible for carrying it out in a hands-on way.
  • RESPONSIBLE: Responsible for implementation. There may be more than one R, and an A may also be an R.
  • CONSULTED: Someone who is consulted for her/his opinion, but not expected to be involved in carrying out a project.
  • INFORMED: Simply needs to be informed of progress and/or outcomes.

Here’s a quick example: Say you are the Program Director of a year-long program for teenage girls. You’re nearing the end of the school year, and are planning a celebratory event for the girls. You are overseeing a team of one staff person, whom you supervise, and three volunteers. All of you are involved in the event planning in a hands-on way.

  • A: You as the Program Director are accountable for the event’s success.
  • R: You, the staff member, and the three volunteers are all Rs.
  • C: Your Executive Director is not involved in-depth, but you need to consult her here and there to make sure you are staying in line with the event budget. Plus, she is helping you secure a venue through her sponsorship connections.
  • I: Given the culture of your specific organization, your Board Chair only really needs to be informed of the date, time, and location (if she wants to come) or simply of how the event went after the fact.

Since learning about the tool and applying it to all areas of our team’s work, I’ve become somewhat of a RACI evangelist (as have other staff and volunteers within SWSG!). I’ve implemented it when planning events with a team of volunteers; when navigating community partnerships that me, my supervisor, and her supervisor are all involved in; and when simply looking to designate someone who was in charge of something, big or small. (“Who’s the ‘A’ on opening the mail?”)

What’s so great about RACI? Simply identifying roles—what they mean, how they differ, and how they interact—for a project, program, or goal, is immensely clarifying and tension relieving. It’s also simply helpful to provide your team with a common language to refer to understood norms for roles. As a person who is young IMG_82981or simply new to an organization, it can be tough to decipher when you are and are not in charge of something unless it’s spelled out. It can work the other way around, too. For example, does your Development Director really need to be “responsible” for overseeing your program’s field trips? Nope, she’s more like an “I” or even a “C.” Keep that micro-management in check! Supervising staff or volunteers and want to set expectations around their role? Draft a RACI, get their input, make sure they buy into it, and use it to hold them accountable.

Clarity and communication, paired with the right amount of detail and structure, equals less stress, more progress and more goals met. Have you or will you put RACI to the test after reading this? Let me know how it goes!

Sarah Kacevich is the FAO Fellow and Program Associate with Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) in Boston, an organization that empowers girls to imagine a broader future through a curriculum grounded in female role models and delivered by college women, who are themselves mentored by professional women. At SWSG, she oversees three college chapters and 35 partner program sites, leads the pilot Junior Mentor Program, and manages partnerships with other nonprofits. Outside of work, she loves to hike, run, do yoga, make art, cook, and travel.

Staying Grounded: A Visit to Recess

“Hi, my name is Tristan. I’m going to be one of your Junior Coaches today.”

When I spent a day on the recess yard at the Trotter Innovation K-8 School the other day, all of the Junior Coach 5th grade leaders were helpful. They came out pretty much on time for their recess shifts, helped get the first graders playing kickball and running relay races, and helped set up the volleyball net. But Junior Coach Tristan stuck out ahead of the rest.

That was our first interaction and it was him who took initiative to come up and confidently introduce himself to me when I hadn’t even realized he’d come outside yet. We’d spent a lot of time at the Junior Coach Leadership Convention over February Vacation talking with these young leaders about how to introduce yourself, and it made me beyond proud to see it in action. But it only got better from there.

“What do you like about being a JC?” I asked him, as we started setting up for fourth grade recess.

“Well, last year I was a bad kid. Now I get to help. I like being viewedIMG_0819 as a good kid now.”

Sometimes the words we use to talk about our work become jargon. I can’t count the number of times I’ve said to someone who asked about my job that we help kids who have a hard time succeeding during the regular school day have a chance to shine and develop leadership skills through our Junior Coach Leadership Development Program. However, it means something entirely different to hear that sentiment coming from the genuine lips of a fifth grader. He was viewed as a bad kid, but he worked hard, learned a lot from Coach TK, and is able to be helpful now. Able to be viewed as a good kid.

It’s a very unique space I get to be in as the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Playworks. I get to work closely with upper-level staff, meet funders, and develop my skills in my special project work. I also, though, get to spend time with awesome young people like Junior Coach Tristan and get regular human reminders of why it is we do the work we do. I don’t just hear the stories our development staff tell that may have happened a week, a month or a year ago – I get to go experience them and help those young people continue to develop.

As I reflect on the first year of my fellowship, the most poignant thing I’ve learned is about myself. As I make moves toward the upper level of nonprofit management, it’s essential that I keep that connection to the ground-level work. I can’t imagine a week where I don’t see the people we serve in person, hear about how they’re doing, and remember how much we all have to learn from each other.

Dawn Lavallee is the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Playworks Massachusetts, a national nonprofit working to change school culture by leveraging the power of safe, fun, and healthy play at school every day. As the Junior Coach Alumni coordinator, she works to launch 5th grade leaders into a successful middle school career. She also works to bring valuable social and emotional skills to the children of Massachusetts through play.