Alumni Fellows

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Alumni Testimonials


Jen Benson | Outreach Coordinator at Riverkeeper | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Riverkeeper in Ossining, NY | 2017

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“After graduating college, my extracurricular and academic interests led me to search for career opportunities in the environmental non-profit field. By college graduation, I had been following Riverkeeper’s work for several years and was on the lookout for an opportunity to join the team. Through the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellowship, I was given the chance to join the team of changemakers I’ve dreamed of working with since graduating high school.

During my Fellowship at Riverkeeper, I conducted classroom visits, coordinated our annual day of service for the Hudson River, the Riverkeeper Sweep, which engages over 2,000 volunteers each year, who removed 77 tons of trash from the estuary in my two years organizing the event. I also coordinated our volunteer and Ambassador program and supported our campaigns.

The Fellowship has given me the opportunity to join an organization I respect immensely while having additional support from the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation through retreats, mentorship, and a strong sense of community.

I will be remaining at Riverkeeper as the Outreach Coordinator and will continue to manage the annual Riverkeeper Sweep and manage our volunteer program as well as growing my involvement in our campaigns and developing new and innovative ways to engage our supporters on these issues.”


Louis Berman | Teacher at Beauvoir School | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Jumpstart in New York City | 2013

Louis Berman - FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow“The experiences I had during my two years as an FAO Fellow impact my current work at Jumpstart every day.  The FAO Fellowship gave me a comprehensive view of how a nonprofit organization works on both the site and office level, while also fostering within me skills and confidence as a leader.  As a Site Manager for Jumpstart’s Boston Community Corps, I work on a team to recruit, train and manage one hundred older adult volunteers in providing a targeted and intentional supplemental curriculum to three to five year old children.  My experience during my fellowship as a member of the Jumpstart NY regional team gives me a unique perspective that helps greatly with understanding and delivering useful results to my supervisors.  My experience managing volunteers during the Fellowship, along with best practices I learned at our fellowship retreats, contribute daily to my support of our older adults.  Perhaps most importantly, the Fellowship has introduced me to a group of talented and like-minded young professionals, in the other fellows, who I can count for support and collaboration.  I’m very happy to continue to be involved with the Fellowship as an alumnus and mentor, and can’t wait to see the exciting next steps for the current FAO Fellows.”


Lauren Brincat | Assistant Curator of Decorative Arts, New York Historical Society, NYC | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at the Museum of the City of New York | 2012

“My experienceLauren Brincat - FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow Alumnance as an FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at the Museum of the City of New York had a tremendous impact on my career.  For two years I educated school students from all five boroughs about the fascinating history of their city. As repositories of desks, chairs, toys, and other things that experienced the past firsthand and were used by people who lived long ago, museums are powerful in their ability to connect visitors to a way life separated from us by hundreds of years. My students were always incredulous to learn that these people were just like us; they had the same needs, but met them a little bit differently. Now as a graduate student in the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture specializing in the very things I taught school children about every day, I strive to tell human stories about the past through the things people used and encountered daily. For my master’s thesis, I am studying home life and the confluence of diverse cultural groups in early colonial Flushing, Queens. Today, Flushing is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse neighborhoods in the world. My hope is to use my research to connect Flushing’s modern multi-cultural community to the town’s legacy of diversity. My tenure as an FAO Schwarz Fellow was a career-making experience. It inspired me to dedicate my career to museums, education, and the interpretation of New York City’s history.”


Julia Filman | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Row New York | 2017

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAY_AAAAJDBlNzNhM2ZmLWRiY2QtNDJjZS05MTE2LTk0MGM2NThkZDZmOA.jpg“I first became interested in working with nonprofits after participating in a service learning program in my sophomore year of college. Up until then I wasn’t as familiar with the nonprofit sector and didn’t really know that I could have a fulfilling career in that field. But my time working with students and community members through various organizations during those undergraduate years opened my eyes to the kind of work that I really felt passionate about and led me to pursue exploring nonprofit opportunities, including the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellowship.

My FAO fellowship with Row New York was such an incredible experience. I was so lucky to have found this opportunity right after graduating from college and have grown a lot in the span of these two years. Having the chance to work directly with our participants, as well as becoming immersed in the larger organization through my special project, allowed me to learn so much about my organization, and gave me great insight on the operations of nonprofits themselves. Beyond my position at Row New York, this fellowship gave me the wonderful gift of having a network of amazing peers who are working in similar organizations and fields, who I can always share with and rely on for support. I am so happy to have found this fellowship opportunity and to be a part of the FAO family!”


Gabriella Gomez | Academic Coordinator at Harlem RBI | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Breakthrough New York | 2016

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“Not everyone has the opportunity to start with a support network at their first job post-college where every six months we meet together to exchange best practices as well as the much needed support in a line of work that is constant and fast-paced. I am fortunate to be a part of a community of consistent support and look forward to continue to be a part of the alum network in the fellowship.”

 


Khari Graves | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at The Philadelphia Food Trust | 2017

khari.864.200.1479.1635.220.244.c.jpg“For as long as I can remember I wanted to help others through food. Whether that was through cooking for or with them, teaching them about different ingredients and their benefits, or outreach, it didn’t matter as long as I could be able to connect with others through food. As graduation got closer, I began to think seriously about moving fighting for food access, nutritional equity, and community power from just my personal passions into a career. Through The Fellowship and the Food Trust I was able to successfully do that, and found a career I truly care for.

Since being at The Food Trust I have been able to do all these things in more. Working with TFT to ensure that “Everyone Have Access to Healthy Food” has been an incredible opportunity and experience to not only work, but to learn, grown, and teach as well. Being a Philadelphia native, I relish the opportunities the Fellowship has given me to connect with people across the city, especially students and parents, and give them the opportunity to explore new things and have new experiences much like I did when I was a student. In addition to my work, the personal growth the fellowship has given me is great as well. By using the strong network of current and alumni fellows and mentors I know I will always have someone to turn to for support, advice, and motivation.”


Sarah Kacevich  | Program Manager at Strong Women, Strong Girls | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Strong Women, Strong Girls | 2016

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAR-AAAAJGMwMjhhZmM1LTQzYzktNDI3OS1hNGViLWYyNDI0ZjgxYzYxNA“My fellowship with Strong Women, Strong Girls was a launch-pad for a long-term role as a Program Manager with the organization, which I began in June 2016. More so, it launched what I hope will be a creative, innovative, and brave career in nonprofit leadership. FAO has provided for me a professional and social safety net that I have leaned on while weathering the transition into a new workplace, leadership transitions, and growing workload, and occasional “imposter syndrome.” Since I spend my days being a “grown up” that youth and college students look up to, I’ve always found it incredibly valuable to have the support of other fellows, Priscilla, alumni fellows, the Trustees who “get” what I’m going through and can relate to what it’s like to be a young person in a non profit leadership role. I’ve been inspired by the work and personal stories of other fellows and their colleagues. I definitely intend to stay engaged with the FAO network for years to come and try to give back some of what it’s given to me.”


Dawn Lavallee | MBA Candidate, Boston University Public & Nonprofit Program | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Playworks Massachusetts | 2016

headshot?“Participating in the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellowship has given me the opportunity to take a large step forward in my work with an organization I was already deeply invested in while also having incredible opportunities for professional growth. At Playworks I am currently pioneering two major projects that will affect the future of the organization. I get to see the direct impact of my curriculum work at our 32 partner schools, as well as support over 400 of the brightest young 5th grade leaders of Massachusetts. And beyond all of that, I have fabulous professional development opportunities and a strong support network in the other Fellows as well as our Fellowship Director. I have already learned so much and know there is much more to learn, experience, and do before I see what the nonprofit world holds next for me.”


Liana Mitman |National Director of Elementary Education and the Boston Regional Manager, ShalomLearning, Boston FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Jumpstart in Boston | 2012

Liana Mitman - FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow

“The FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellowship launched my career into the nonprofit sector. Before I began my position at Jumpstart for Young Children, I had studied to be a classroom teacher. By my final year of college, I realized that I still wanted to impact children in need, but not in a formal classroom setting. I knew that if I was lucky enough to become an FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow, I would gain incredible experiences and tools to have a successful career that was different than what I had originally envisioned for myself. I am now working at the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston, coordinating all aspects of a large community program. The networking and leadership skills I was able to gain through the fellowship’s trainings, as well as the resources I learned from other Fellows has been extremely beneficial to my career and has enabled me to continue on a successful path in this field.”


Deshaun Parris | Youth Leadership Dept., Food Trust, Philadelphia | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at The Food Trust in Philadelphia | 2015

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“Being a part of The FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellowship has allowed me to combine two of my passions in life, community outreach and  health education. This fellowship has provided me with a unique experience that most people transitioning from the academic world to a professional one are not afforded. Not only have I been given a unique experience to have a direct impact on youth and their perception of healthy living, but I also get the opportunity to work with various communities and promote access to healthy foods on a behind the scenes level. This approach allows me to have a full circle view of what it takes to make a program work. Taking the time to hone these skills and truly understand what my purpose in the organization has also given me the time to prepare for what comes next. I loved my experience with the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation, and I’m excited to continue my work at The Food Trust as I start my next chapter at UPenn.”


Charlotte Rendon | Queens Novice Coordinator at Row New York, NYC | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Row New York in New York City | 2015

“FAO SCharAlumnichwarz Family Foundation Fellowship! What would I have done without you? My two years with the Fellowship at Row New York have been ones of growth, exploration, and persistence. As my Fellowship comes to a close, I am grateful to have been chosen for such a rewarding opportunity. I learned to engage with high school and middle school students, work with adult rowers, and pushed to get out of my comfort zone to create and execute ideas of my own in the development of a new subsection of Row New York- the alumni community. I am happy to say I will get to see this growth continue as I am staying on the team! I have accepted the offer of Queens Novice Program Director and cannot, will not, stop smiling! I know it will be hard work but I am up for the challenge and excited to help more students discover the joy of being a student athlete through Row New York.”


Joseph Rosales | Program Manager, College Success at iMentor | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Breakthrough New York | 2016

Joe pic“After graduating from college, my academic interests led me to seek a career that would combine my passions for cultural identity and serving others. Through the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellowship, I have since ignited a passion for educational equity and have grown in a field that I now hold dear. At Breakthrough New York, I work with high-achieving, underserved students from across New York City. As the High School Coordinator, my direct service work allows me to share my own experiences with my students, whose stories are similar to my own. Whether preparing monthly class meetings, assisting with SAT prep classes, or meeting with my cohort of seniors about college, I have ample opportunities to help shape the next generation of leaders while increasing my own knowledge about the imbalance of power in our own school systems.

This Fellowship has already given me tremendous opportunities to grow and learn throughout my first year. Our biannual retreats not only allow for the Fellows to share stories and swap strategies from our own experiences, but it gives us all the opportunity to reinvigorate ourselves as we recognize the mission of our service. I feel honored to be a part of this community and look forward to continuing my work in the years to come.”


Ellie Sanchez | Massachusetts Program Manager at Generation Citizen | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Generation Citizen in Boston | 2017

dsc_7750“During and after college, 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.

Becoming 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.”


Caroline Smith | ESL Teacher, Charlestown High School, Boston | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia | 2014

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“Being an FAO Fellow at Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia challenged me and allowed me to grow in exceptional ways. During my work as the Site Manager at our Drexel Middle School Site, I learned from the mentorship of passionate, skilled professionals, and was able to serve as a mentor in turn to both my middle school and college students. I learned about the logistics of running an extraordinary program, and had the opportunity to take ownership of my site and contribute to its growth and development. Through my special project work, I was able to help increase the organization’s impact by developing more rigorous school year programming and initiating a Breakthrough Family Association. In addition to the opportunities offered by Breakthrough, being a Fellow introduced me to the staff and mission of other exceptional nonprofits. Although we were only together for 5-6 days a year, I developed meaningful bonds with my fellow Fellows and learned important lessons from seeing them thrive in their own roles. Planning and helping to facilitate the Philadelphia Fall 2013 retreat was also an incredible professional development experience. As a result of the opportunities offered by the Fellowship, I grew as a leader and a young professional, and developed specific goals for my continued growth in the field of education. I was able to apply many of the skills I learned through the Fellowship to my experience in the Boston Teacher Residency, as well as in my current work as an English/ESL teacher in the Boston Public Schools. I am enjoying continued relationships, both personal and professional, with my fellow Fellows, as well as continued involvement with the Fellowship as a workshop facilitator.”


Shaina Spann | Program Manager at Jumpstart |FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Jumpstart in New York City | 2015

Shaina“My experience as an FAO Fellow was nothing short of transformational.  I came to Jumpstart as a timid (though passionate) post-undergraduate with the bare beginnings of leadership experience.  Now, as I reflect on the past two years, it’s incredible to realize that I’ve been molded into the young leader I had no idea I was capable of becoming. The past two years have taught me when to speak and when to listen; when to teach and when to learn. More than that, they’ve taught me that there is and will always be more to learn. More to learn from people, from places, from children. And I know that learning is the first and greatest mark of a leader. What I didn’t realize before is that most leaders don’t start out as leaders, sometimes they start out very small. Sometimes in four year old bodies from “dangerous” streets or “under-resourced” schools or communities that people call “disenfranchised”.  There are leaders that live there everyday, that pick up books, and ask question. They sing songs, laugh, play and take the first steps into re-creating the world. Those are the tiny leaders that have changed my life.”


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