Current Fellows

Molly Blake | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Playworks| 2019

IMG_9542Molly is the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow for Playworks New England. Molly’s role includes developing Playworks’ social and emotional learning programs, mentoring and supporting Playworks program coordinators, and engaging volunteers to serve at Playworks’ partner elementary schools throughout Boston.

Prior to her role as an FAO Schwarz Fellow, she served as an Americorps Coach for Playworks New England, working directly with students every day at recess to provide safe and healthy play. Molly has a bachelors degree in Public and Community Service from Providence College.


Reflections on the Fellowship: 

“Recess was one of the best parts of the school day as a little girl, but for my best friend, it was one of the worst parts of the day. As someone who has played sports my entire life, I always played soccer at recess and felt included. For my best friend, it was a part of her day where she felt excluded from games that she wasn’t good at. Recess is such a crucial part of growing up and feeling respected, included, and that you are in a healthy community. Just because I had a great recess experience does not mean that every student did.

At Playworks, we strive to provide safe and healthy play for every student every day of the school year. While working for Playworks I have learned how to work collaboratively within a team, manage groups of over a hundred students, and I have gained valuable leadership skills. I love how the fellowship has allowed me to grow professionally while still having opportunities to directly serve by going to schools to work with students. In the next year and a half, I am looking forward to further developing my leadership skills and continuing to improve social-emotional learning tools for the Playworks nation.”

Kayla Jones | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Jumpstart | 2019

FAO HeadshotKayla is the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow with the Field Operations & Strategy, and Policy & Government Relations departments at Jumpstart. As part of the Field Operations & Strategy department, she coordinates and delivers Jumpstart community events throughout New York City, including Reading Saturdays and family workshops at local libraries, preschools, and community centers. The other half of her role involves researching and writing memoranda to strengthen Jumpstart’s public policy strategy, assisting in the preparation of Jumpstart leaders to make public appearances, lobbying government officials, participating in early education advocacy coalitions, and preparing public awareness and communications materials.

Prior to starting her position at Jumpstart in September 2017, Kayla volunteered with a non-profit in Jukwa, Ghana for 9 weeks working on an environmental protection initiative and teaching English to preschoolers. Kayla graduated from Northwestern University in June 2017 with a degree in Education and Social Policy and a minor in African American Studies.

Reflection on the Fellowship: 

“I developed an interest in education after transferring into the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. During my senior year, I worked for an organization called Books & Breakfast that aimed to close the achievement gap for low-income elementary school students by tutoring and providing them with balanced breakfasts. The program catered to the students’ social, emotional, and academic needs, and I deeply admired the staff and the students I worked with on a weekly basis. I knew that I wanted to continue this line of work following my graduation, and was ecstatic after learning that the FAO Fellowship with Jumpstart could give me the opportunity to do so.

My role at Jumpstart combines my interest in community engagement and policy work and has connected me with like-minded individuals who are passionate about social change. I am blessed to be a part of a fellowship and an organization that wants to create equitable and accessible opportunities for students around the country.”

Jaiwantie Manni | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Museum of the City of New York| 2019

bubbleJai is the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at the Museum of the City of New York. At MCNY, she is working as a museum educator for students and teachers who visit during field trips. She is also working to help coordinate family programs at the museum used to celebrate the City’s rich diversity. Her special project involves working on developing a program to bring STEM into one of the museum’s galleries called Future City Lab. Jai moved to the U.S. when she was 10 years old and has lived in New York City ever since. She graduated from Queens College, CUNY with a B.S. in Geology. She became involved in museum programs during her first year of high school when she started taking academic classes at the American Museum of Natural History. She spent three years at the New York Hall of Science as an Explainer before moving on to the Museum of the City of New York.

Reflections on the Fellowship:

“After graduating from Queens College, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to jump into a graduate program or if I wanted to obtain a job to save up some money before I started a Masters Program. I was working at the New York of Science during this time and trying to figure what my next steps would be. One of the supervisors suggested applying to the fellowship, citing that with my STEM and museum program background, the fellowship at MCNY would be a great fit for me. I was hesitant about applying, but after some encouragement from that supervisor, I did. And here I am.

Since starting the fellowship, I couldn’t be more content with my position. I am extremely grateful to be apart of this fellowship. Being at MCNY has helped me to recognize that I really enjoy working in the non-profit world, and it has re-sparked an interest in perusing a graduate degree in museum education. My fellowship at MCNY has allowed me to combine my interest in STEM education and my love of being in museums. It has also given me my first direct involvement as a lead museum educator, which has been an extraordinary experience.

I am looking forward to next two years at MCNY and I cannot wait to continue working with the students, teachers, and families that visit.”

Pamela Martinez | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Playworks| 2019

IMG_5863Pam is the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Playworks Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Half of her role is devoted to consulting, supporting and co-facilitating the Team Up
consultative program. TeamUp provides a single site coordinator to four partner schools. The site coordinator spends a week each month at each school leading, supporting, and
empowering the recess team. Pam checks in with the recess teams on the weeks the site coordinator is not present to maintain the expectation of creating a safe, inclusive playground for all students.

The other half of her role is devoted to developing marketing, branding, and recruitment
initiatives. Pam is expanding the Playworks brand by tabling events, creating newsletters and emails, and by consistently posting and sharing on social media.

Reflections on the Fellowship: 

“The FAO Schwarz Family Foundation has allowed me to continue to grow professionally within Playworks. Starting as a volunteer during my final semester at Temple University, I then graduated and began doing direct service work as a Recess coach. I have always had a high interest in youth development. In my third year at Playworks, I am now able to take a step back from direct service and help strengthen the development side of the organization.

The fellowship is allowing me to grow my leadership and networking skills. Knowing I am connected to so many current Fellows and alumni, is empowering and reassures me that I will always have a network to reach out to as I continue to grow in my career. I look forward to learning more in these next two years and grow within the fellowship and in my host organization.”

Samantha Perlman| FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Generation Citizen | 2019

Photo_SamanthaPerlmanSamantha is the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Generation Citizen where she advocates for an action civics education for all youth. In her position, she facilitates chapter management of our Boston college student mentors as well as the coaching and advocacy for Generation Citizen’s teacher-led partnerships. Originally from Massachusetts, Samantha recently graduated magna cum laude from Emory University with a degree in History and African American Studies.

Reflections on the Fellowship: 

“I am so thrilled for the opportunity to be the FAO Fellow at Generation Citizen- such a dynamic, meaningful and innovative organization that I would not have known about without hearing about the FAO Fellowship. My host organization is a perfect fit for me as my professional background consists of federal and state government positions and my academic focus is on representation and access to education.

My own motivation for civic engagement stems from my experience in public service and time abroad in South Africa witnessing college student political engagement. In this way, my personal trajectory is deeply tied to our mission as civic education is crucial to the fabric of the United States and we must advocate for it in all schools.

One of my favorite parts about my role is the wide range of people I regularly interact with such as our teachers, local elected officials, and students who participate in our program themselves. Because of the fellowship, I also have an extended family through my trustee mentor, alumni mentor, peer fellows and the larger FAO Family Foundation community. Because of the role models within my FAO network, I am already developing as a strong leader in the nonprofit sector and look forward to expanding my skillsets as my fellowship continues.”

Karen Wilber | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at uAspire | 2018


Karen is the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Succeed Fellow at uAspire. In her position, she is part of the team that develops curriculum for the Succeed program and is a College Affordability Advisor serving college students. Karen is originally from the Chicagoland area and graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Human Development and Psychological Services. Before coming to uAspire, she spent one year teaching English to high school students in a small city in northern Viet Nam.

Reflections on the Fellowship:

“I have had such an incredible experience at uAspire since I started my fellowship, and I have the design of the fellowship and my position to thank for that. uAspire’s mission is: to ensure that all young people have the financial information and resources necessary to find an affordable path to – and through – a postsecondary education. Much of what I have the opportunity to be a part of is the “through” part of our mission. By advising postsecondary students via text an in-person, I am able to support students in unlocking solutions to making college more affordable. This pairs perfectly with my special projects work in which I’m part of the efforts to research and document challenges that college students face in an effort to develop solutions that can be implemented into our advising work.

Not only has the design of the fellowship allowed me to dedicate my time to both advising and program development, but it has also built in a structure of support that has contributed to my happiness and success. Between my alumni mentor, trustee mentor, peer fellows, (and even another fellow at uAspire as a bonus!), I have felt such a great sense of community in a time that learning about other people’s experiences is so beneficial for my growth. Having learned and grown so much just partway through my first year, I’m excited for what the rest of my fellowship holds for me.”

Ciara Williams  | FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Mural Arts Philadelphia | 2018

headshot_cropCiara is the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Mural Arts Philadelphia where she works with the Restored Spaces Initiative. In her main role, she acts as an environmental educator for Trash Academy, a “collaboratory” between community members in Southeast Philly, artists, and environmental activists. The project seeks to inspire a wellspring of actions around trash issues and tests and shares the best grassroots solutions that emerge. Ciara is from Chester, Pennsylvania and graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in Education and Environmental Studies. Before coming to Mural Arts Philadelphia, she managed the Chester Youth Courts, a youth-led disciplinary model rooted in restorative justice and was also the garden manager at an elementary school where she focused on science-based garden instruction.

“The FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellowship has allowed me to continue my involvement in areas of deep importance to me. I was first exposed to environmental justice through community organizing in my hometown of Chester, PA. That experience helped me to develop as an activist and action researcher while also laying a foundation that has supported my development in other fields. The Fellowship’s focus on direct service and special project work creates a structure upon which I can apply the interests and skills I am already practiced in while also supporting my growth in new areas.

My host organization, Mural Arts Philadelphia, is committed to supporting my growth and creating opportunities for my strengths to make an impact on communities. I feel confident that my interests and abilities will continue to shape what my work will look like within Mural Arts’ Restored Spaces Initiative. Through this work, I have been exposed to a model of community engagement that operates at the intersection of public art, self-determination, and the built environment. I feel like this practice is truly unique to Restored Spaces and I am so thankful to be in a position where I can take part in our projects as they unfold.”