Professional Development

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.”

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Keeping and Utilizing the Fellowship Network

We’ve all heard about how invaluable our network is and how nobody finds a job without LinkedIn these days. And, in some ways, staying in touch is far easier for our generation than those who came before us. But how many of your Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections would you feel comfortable calling up on a whim? Or asking if you could come take their portrait like this artist did? Luckily, we all have some sort of network we’ve built that we do feel comfortable reaching out to, and that’s a good place to start. There are certainly innumerable resources out there about how to best build and foster your network, but I’m hoping to share a few quick things I’ve learned in the time since completing my FAO Fellowship.

CONNECT WITH INTERESTS

If you feel comfortable enough to reach out to someone via email or the phone, chances are you also know something about their interests. One of the best go-to ways to stay connected with someone or to start an email that contains an ask is to include something you’ve heard or seen lately that you think they would be interested in. Just listened to a podcast about an organization like theirs? Read a news article that was about their hometown? Share a link and let them know you were thinking of them. (Quick tip: make sure this isn’t about their sector being a total scam or their hometown mayor laundering money… positive is always better).

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK…

It’s cliché for a reason: the worst someone can do is say no (or, more likely, not respond to your email). The important thing is to be clear about what you’re asking for and try to ask for something that won’t be a huge inconvenience. If you’re reaching out to try to further your career or ask for help, you should be the one doing most of the work. If you’re hoping to meet up, pick a location convenient for them and offer specific times. If you’re interested in their field of work and you’ve already heard all about their job, search LinkedIn for someone they know in a position you would be interested in and ask for an email introduction. Better yet, offer to send a paragraph for them to include in an email introduction. I won’t go into it here, but Vu Le has some great advice for you once you’ve secured that coffee date. Also, be sure to say thank you to both the person you met with and the person who arranged it. They’ll be happy to know you followed through and connected with someone in their network.

EVEN WHEN IT’S BEEN AWHILE

One of my personal struggles is staying in regular contact with those in my network. I try to follow great tips like using holidays as an excuse to reach out and being intentional about refreshing my network, but I never do it as often as I should. A couple experiences over the past few years, however, have taught me that shouldn’t stop you from reaching out when an opportunity presents itself. If there’s a job posting at an organization where someone in your network used to work or you’re thinking about transitioning to a new field where an old fellowship connection has experience, it’s worth reaching out even if you haven’t stayed in touch. And if you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to be up front about how long it’s been and give a reminder of how you know one another. Chances are, they will be able and willing to help if you approach with a manageable ask. Even if they aren’t, this can serve as a great touch point. Take the opportunity to reconnect and catch up.

Overall, I’ve learned in recent years not to think of my network as something separate from the rest of my life. The people I completed my FAO Fellowship with, the Executive Directors I met on retreats, the fellowship Trustees I met at dinner, they are all people I have something in common with. They serve as resources for me, just as I can be a resource to them. And if I ever get too hesitant about reaching out, I think about whether what I’m asking for is something I’d be willing to do if the situation were reversed. Staying connected with your network, both personally and professionally, will be beneficial to your career and to your life. The best time to start is now.

Dawn casual head shotDawn Lavallee is a 2018 MBA Candidate in the Public and Nonprofit MBA program at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. During her fellowship, Dawn worked at Playworks New England developing Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum and helping young Playworks Junior Coaches to make a successful transition to middle school. When she’s not doing classwork, she can be found running, hiking, crafting, or volunteering with local nonprofits.

3 Ways the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellowship Made Me a Better Leader

Special Project: coordinating the annual Riverkeeper Sweep. For my special project in my first year at Riverkeeper I worked closely with the Director of Community Engagement to coordinate the 6th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep, our day of service for the Hudson River and its tributaries. Previously I had the opportunity to coordinate small straightforward events like campus film screenings, community rallies, and service projects, but had never organized an event on such a considerable scale. At first the prospect of coordinating an event of this scale felt impossible.

How would I keep track of 109 locations, over 100 registration pages, and ensure each Sweep Leader had the training, materials, skills, and volunteers necessary for a successful project?

Under the guidance of the Director of Community Engagement, Dana Gulley, I learned to manage moving parts such as tide dependent cleanup times, waivers, data management, Sweep Leader training, and successfully collaborating with 164 individual leaders. With Dana’s partnership and a strong plan with weekly deadlines, we achieved the most successful Riverkeeper Sweep yet, with 109 Sweep projects, and 2,200 volunteers across NYC and the Hudson Valley who removed 48 tons of debris and plant to maintain over 800 trees and shrubs.

Building on the skills I learned last year, I was the primary organizer of the 2017 Riverkeeper Sweep, which achieved a count of 101 projects from Brooklyn to the Adirondacks with over 1,300 participating volunteers.

Direct Service: supporting Riverkeeper campaigns. The drinking water contamination crisis in Newburgh, New York has allowed me to grow my skills as a community organizer, by developing a comprehensive outreach plan, building relationships with new partners, and executing strategic community education and outreach. These efforts have helped raise awareness about toxic chemical contamination to Newburgh’s drinking water supply, pressure the Department of Health to conduct blood testing, and to spread the word about the blood testing program. Working with communities such as Newburgh has taught me to think outside the box and find non-traditional partners, outreach methods, and the responsibility to amplify existing community voices. It’s easy to step into a situation and make your voice or the voice of your organization the center of attention. What’s instead needed, is to listen and learn from the community you are serving and amplify their concerns and goals.

Goal setting and prioritizing professionally AND personally. Since the start of my Fellowship at Riverkeeper my work schedule has included weekend events and night meetings across New York City and the Hudson Valley. In the beginning it was easy to orient my life around my job and the challenging expectations I was working to meet while unknowingly neglecting personal goals. Quickly I learned the value of prioritizing during work and personal time and having goals in both areas of my life. Last winter I set a goal to climb all 46 Adirondack high peaks over the next few summers while acquiring the necessary skills and gear. With this goal in mind, I’ve prioritized incorporating almost daily exercise and frequent weekend hikes into my weekly plan. Prioritizing exercise has allowed me to be more focused in the office, and I have climbed 9/46 peaks with 5-10 more planned for summer 2017.

Jen Benson is an FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Riverkeeper. As the Education and Outreach Coordinator, she creates opportunities to increase youth environmental awareness and engagement with the Hudson River. She also works to support campaign and programmatic initiatives, and helps coordinate the Riverkeeper Sweep.

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.