Supreme Fellows

New year, same game: Staying on with Strong Women, Strong Girls

When people ask me how my “new job” with Strong Women, Strong Girls is going, I tell them that almost nothing has changed! I was the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow for 2014-2016 at Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) in Boston, and officially ended my fellowship in June 2016. The previous fall, conversations with my supervisors began about what it would be like for me to stay on in a long-term staff role following the end of my fellowship. Eventually, things became official, and in June, I became a Program Manager with SWSG. In this role, I continue with the same responsibilities that I had during the second year of my fellowship: Managing partnership with SWSG’s college- and university-based chapters, elementary schools, and community centers; leading SWSG’s Junior Mentor Program; coordinating relationships with peer organizations; contributing to our research project on girls’ experiences with mental health and body image; and supporting mentor training, special events, and Development.

All in all, the transition was very natural. Fortuitously, the transition happened to coincide with my three-week vacation to Colombia. I left Boston as an FAO Fellow, and returned as a Program Manager. It was the longest vacation I had taken since beginning my fellowship, and allowed me valuable time to reflect on my experience with SWSG thus far and my intentions going forward. There is nothing like explaining your job in Spanish in a completely different cultural setting to help you pause and reflect!

There are two significant differences that I would note between my pre- and post-fellowship experiences: A greater sense of confidence and security, and deeper consideration of my next career steps. As a fellow, I was constantly taking on new projects and roles as I shifted from a Development- and adult volunteer-focused role in my first year, to a program management-focused position in my second year. I was always the “new person,” and always learning. Now as a Program Manager, I am certainly still learning; however, I have the familiarity and trust of established relationships in the community, greater certainty in my skills, and greater efficiency. I continue to be challenged by staff transitions and the growth of SWSG initiatives; yet, it takes me less time to get up-to-speed.

In terms of my perspective on next steps, the offer from SWSG to stay on as a Program Manager really forced me to consider and re-consider my aspirations. Before a staff departure started the conversation about me staying on, I had envisioned graduate school being my destination post-fellowship. Since undergrad, I’ve been interested in pursuing a Masters in Social Work, but decided to get some work experience before going back to school. Both while at SWSG and in my previous job, my supervisors have primarily been social workers, and I have really enjoyed learning from their approach. When I was offered the Program Manager role, I reasoned that some additional, deeper exposure at SWSG would only help me strengthen my future academic experience. Plus, I could save more money to have while in school (and living off loans!), and put me on track to get an even better job after completing my Master’s degree. Now, in my third year with SWSG, the question I am considering is simply when—and where—to go back to school, and what kind of Social Work, Education, and/or Nonprofit Leadership program is the best fit for me.

Working at Strong Women, Strong Girls has been an absolutely unexpected blessing, challenge, growth opportunity, and true joy in my life, and I am proud to be working here for a third year.

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Here I am with SWSG staff and a family that is part of our Junior Mentor program at Jump into Peace, an event in August 2016 organized by the office of Boston City Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Presley to promote peace and girlhood.

 

Sarah Kacevich is the Program Manager for  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. Outside of work, she loves to hike, run, do yoga, make art, cook, and travel. She is a Class of ’16 FAO Schwarz Alumni Fellow.

 

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Three Tips for Current FAO Fellows from a Supreme Fellow

Fall has begun, which means it’s time to congratulate our first years as they transition to the second year of the fellowship alongside welcoming our newest cohort of FAO Fellows!

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As a Supreme Fellow, I would like to extend my congratulations and welcome by complying with my millennial ways and writing a Buzzfeed-esque blog post highlighting 3 tips I wish I would have known when I started the FAO fellowship two years ago.

Your education continues — push yourself to learn as much as you can even when it is outside of your own “expertise”.

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By the time I was a senior in college, I was already itching to leave the classroom and begin my career as a young professional. The discussions and content I picked up in the classroom seemed detached from the real world. The minute I began working at my fellowship site, I began to gain a different form of education; I learned about systemic issues like high school access in New York City as well as more subtle yet enriching skills such as how to manage college students or my personal favorite, how to create organized systems between your personal life and work life. #worklifebalanceisreal

One way I continued to pick up this unofficial professional development was by signing up for any opportunity I could get in my new job. Extra work event where I would support with registration? I am there. A team member from the operations department needs support? Sure, I can help! In these moments I was able to observe how events worked, why operations is the foundation to any organization and what specific projects I enjoyed.

Quick random tip: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! As a fellow this is your moment to ask, given that you can use the fellowship as an excuse to learn more about the organization. People love to talk about themselves and their work!

Take yourself seriously by calculating and documenting your work outcomes.

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By the second year of my fellowship, my responsibilities extended much farther than the original job description. My work expanded into recruitment, sustaining school partnerships and writing a semester’s worth of curriculum; valuable skills I am grateful for practicing.

Because I was so immersed in my work, when I started polishing my resume it was hard to think of all of my professional outcomes. So tip #2: As you work on these additional projects and continue to develop your professional skills, write them down onto your resume and make sure to add your results!

Organizations today are goal-focused and are looking for the quantitative impact you made with your work. For example, on my resume, instead of Wrote and instructed 8th grade curriculum; I typed: Wrote, developed and instructed 8th grade curriculum composed of a total of 12 workshops (over 18 hours of instruction) with the goal to produce top quality high school applications. Organizations want to hear that you are all about results. Let the numbers speak for your work.

Use your network within the FAO fellowship!

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Do not get it wrong. Just because I am writing advice to you today doesn’t mean that I have it all figured out. During my fellowship, I struggled with creating a work/life balance, learning how to manage up, and everything in between.

Fortunately, I had another fellow in my cohort that worked at my same organization which helped a lot when I needed to talk to someone. This experience taught me that if you ever have these struggles, do not hesitate to use your network because you are not alone. The first network you automatically have when you are a part of this fellowship is your FAO crew, current cohort and alums! Invite someone to coffee or reach out through an email; our FAO fellowship community is always out to support a fellow!

Good luck!

Gabriella Gómez is the Academic Coordinator at the Harlem RBI South Bronx site, a year round development program that incorporates academic, social-emotional and baseball/softball enrichment. During her fellowship, Gaby worked at Breakthrough New York as the High School Placement Coordinator. When she is not writing curriculum, visiting schools, or facilitating workshops with her middle schoolers, she can be found carefully updating her Spotify playlist, working on her bullet journal or playing with her most adorable 2-year-old nephew, Diego.