2024 cohort

The FAO Schwarz Fellows Newsletter

2024 Cohort Update

Vanessa Barragán

The Food Project (Boston)

Even as a first-year Fellow, I am very grateful for all the experiences I have already had through the Fellowship. In the summer, I led a group of 12 high school students through 6 weeks of daily farmwork and social justice workshops, and helped in leading the other 30 students through the program. In the fall, I began managing our Build-A-Garden program. So far I have planned, scheduled, and supervised the installation of 25 new raised garden beds for Boston residents. I also continued supervising many of the summer youth through our academic year program. More recently, I am so excited about organizing new programs to engage our community of local gardeners and forging new collaborations with local organizations—including an upcoming gardening workshop with the Mattapan Library. I feel that the Fellowship has immersed me in many new lovely communities, including the Boston community, The Food Project’s community, and my cohort of amazing Fellows. 

Sophie Becker-Klein

Sophie Becker-Klein

Audubon Mid-Atlantic (Philadelphia)

While I am only part way through my first year as a fellow, I have already accomplished so much. In July of this past year, I packed up my college apartment in Washington, D.C. and relocated to Philadelphia. In these few months, I have acclimated to a new place, a new job, and new people. I have assisted with countless summer camp programs, created my own lesson plans, and forged deep relationships with three schools in the community as I teach my four-lesson curriculum every week. I have tabled at community events, spent hours birding and learning from other birders, and created meaningful relationships with those at Audubon Mid-Atlantic and my fellowship cohort. In less than a year, I have come to love my work and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the fellowship has in store for me.

Kayla Johnson Headshot

Kayla Johnson

The Clay Studio (Philadelphia)

I joined the fellowship in July and became the After-School Program Coordinator & Teaching Artist at The Clay Studio. During my time thus far I have offered ceramics workshops at schools, libraries, older adult facilities, colleges, summer camps, and more. I was born and raised in Philadelphia and it has been so gratifying to teach workshops at places that I frequented in my youth. The Clay Studio’s yearly festival took place in August, and I was able to take part in Clayfest where we offered ceramics activities to the Philadelphia community all day long. Since joining the Fellowship, I have been able to create and facilitate our brand-new, after-school program. This September we began the after-school Artist program and we have served around 20 students since the start of this school year. This program allows students to come to our studio four times a week to handbuild and wheel-throw. I have been able to create partnerships with Philadelphia organizations such as Philly Plant exchange to offer arts curricula related to the use of natural materials. Within this partnership, the first cohort of students made planters to be donated to those in hospice care. I have enjoyed the freedom that FAO Schwarz Fellowship offers me to interact with all areas of my organization. In 2023, I hope to continue my work building our after-school program and begin to also plan events in-house for adults called handcrafted workshops. 

Jesse McLaughlin

New York City Audubon (NYC)

My time working at New York City Audubon over the past six months has been explorative, empowering, and invigorating. Since I started the Fellowship in July, I’ve developed and conducted programming for visitors to NYC Audubon’s seasonal environmental center on Governors Island and taken an active role in the city-wide Lights Out Coalition in the fight to pass legislation to turn off unnecessary artificial light at night (ALAN), which has significant negative impacts on human health, wildlife, and the environment. I am most excited to reactivate the organization’s Artist in Residence program on Governors Island, as well as develop nature- and conservation-related programming that reflects a commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. My experience as an FAO Schwarz Fellow and a member of the team at NYC Audubon has exceeded all expectations. I’m looking forward to a fulfilling two years at NYC Audubon.

Jahmali Matthews

Breakthrough Greater Boston (Boston)

Since the start of my fellowship with Breakthrough Greater Boston, I have thoroughly enjoyed both expected and surprise opportunities to contribute to the diverse projects of my host organization. In the past six months, I have assisted with Breakthrough’s fall middle school programming and formed connections with youth in my community while assisting with planning and teaching alongside our program team. Recently, Juan Mojica and I successfully hosted the first in-person reunion for Breakthrough Alumni since 2018, allowing us to continue to foster the Breakthrough community in students we support from a distance through our work on the College Success team. 

Juan Carlos Mojica

Breakthrough Greater Boston (Boston)

During my time at Breakthrough, I’ve been able to connect with my college success caseload, conducting check ins and assisting with times such as the completion of the FAFSA. Jahmali and I recently hosted a reunion event for them to connect with one another as well as see their mentors face to face. Other experiences that I’m having at Breakthrough include working alongside the alumni network as well as having the opportunity to learn more about fundraising and grant writing. I’ve also been assisting in student application support for 6th graders across middle school campuses, answering any questions while walking through the application with the students.

Natalia Wang

Museum of the City of New York (NYC)

It has been a privilege to work at the Museum of the City of New York for the past six months. I have designed and facilitated in-person field trips for K-12 audiences where we share the complicated histories of New York City. Working with my colleagues at the museum has been an absolute pleasure – I have learned so much from them and am excited for what’s to come! In the coming weeks, I will continue to lead field trips and other student programs for K-12 audiences, as well as develop further programming for our new exhibition Food in New York: Bigger than the Plate.

Explore Cohort Updates

Select a cohort year from the list below to discover what former Fellows are doing now.