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Clara working on her laptop at her desk

Learning from COVID-19 at Reading Partners

One of the most exciting parts of my fellowship right now is the opportunity to participate in summer strategic planning for the upcoming academic year. As a rising second-year fellow, I’ve had one year to learn the ropes at Reading Partners and play an integral role in the adjustments we made to transition our previously in-person tutoring program to an entirely virtual model. Last year was tough: we had to figure out how to manage tutor expectations and effectively communicate uncertainty, support tutors in learning a new virtual platform, and change several of our processes to adjust for the fact that location is irrelevant when tutoring online. Our task now is to take all of our learnings from the past year and make improvements across all areas of our operations that will set us up for success in this upcoming school year which is proving to be just as unpredictable as the last. In this blog, I’ll share some of the issues we are working to tackle this summer!

Communications

Communicating nuanced plans to stakeholders in the midst of uncertainty is hard. There’s just so many unknowns, last year and this year. Last year, we spent the year gradually pushing back the date of a possible in-person start. We also told tutors that they would start sooner than they actually did (due to delays in student enrollment), and continued to ask them to wait patiently. This year, we’re going to stick with planning virtual tutoring until we know more. Once again, we’re asking tutors for their flexibility and patience and not making premature promises of in-person engagement and tutoring start dates. We’re so grateful for the support of our amazing tutors!

Tech Tutors

Switching to online programming inevitably presents tech challenges, especially for some of our older adult volunteers. Last year, I developed our tech tutor program, where I worked with some of our federal work study college students to organize a system where they could provide one-on-one tech support to tutors that needed it. This year, I’m trying to formalize the tech tutor training: tech tutors need absolute expertise in all technical elements of our system (trust me, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong), as well as training on how to coach others on tech. I’m also working to streamline the scheduling and booking process by which tech tutors provide their availability and tutors book slots. We use a very helpful website called Calendly to allow tutors to select the time that works for them. Calendly then sends out an automated confirmation email and a reminder email before the session that includes the zoom link. We are so grateful to our tech tutors for making online tutoring possible!

How do we accurately show remaining availability for tutors that tutor many hours a week? How do we manage data when some tutors are placed at multiple schools? How do we prioritize which tutors get scheduled?

Tutor Availability

One of the trickiest challenges we have is making sure we are collecting tutor availability in a way that is efficient, clear, and most of all beneficial to our students’ needs. If we have 1,200 students that need tutors and 1,200 tutors ready to tutor, that’s great, but it only works if the tutors can tutor when the students are available. On my team, we’re finding new ways to identify when students will need tutors by tracking enrolled students’ availability in our school center schedules, and using our data system and anecdotal info from our program managers to predict when students that are currently being enrolled will be available. We’re using a new Google Form to collect tutor availability, which allows us to receive their availability into one big spreadsheet, and adjust the Google Form week to week to indicate to tutors what our highest need times are.

Tutor Scheduling

One of the benefits of switching to virtual tutoring is that all tutors can tutor at any school (for example, a tutor that lives in the Bronx can tutor a student in Bed-Stuy). This means we don’t have to deal with shortages of tutors in specific neighborhoods, and tutors with very limited availability have lots of schools they can be placed with. To adjust to this new reality, we switched mid-year to a system that allows any tutor to be scheduled anywhere instead of having separate pipelines for each neighborhood. Right now, I’m working on optimizing this system to minimize things that were tricky last year: how do we accurately show remaining availability for tutors that tutor many hours a week? How do we manage data when some tutors are placed at multiple schools? How do we prioritize which tutors get scheduled?

To conclude, I’m excited for another dynamic year at Reading Partners and grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given to be a leader on our regional team in these areas. COVID-19 has caused every organization to adapt, and with change comes first challenge, then learning, and now growth and improvement!

Clara Monk

Clara Monk

Clara (she/her) is a Fellow on the Community Engagement Team at Reading Partners in New York City.

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A child's hand is shown stamping a pattern on a white t-shirt.

Breaking the Digital Ice: Creative Approaches to Community Engagement

When I submitted my FAO Schwarz Fellowship application in February 2020, how could I have predicted that the world would become unrecognizable in just four short weeks? Graduating college, starting a full-time job, and moving to a new city are not easy feats, pandemic or not. Under normal circumstances, I would have walked across astage in May to receive my degree. I would have visited the city wherein I’d received a job offer–before accepting the offer.

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Crises and Creativity: What we can learn from 2020

At Jumpstart, we emphasize the importance of young children’s capacity to learn during those critical early years, when their minds are flexible and open to new experiences. As adults, it can be easy to settle into our patterns and believe that our time to learn and change has passed. The pandemic has affected every aspect of my work and personal life, but rather than focus on the way things haven’t gone according to plan, I’m considering the ways my perspective has changed.

At the end of my fellowship, I’m thinking about how I can continue to challenge my expectations, habits, and ideas, even after leaving the crisis-mode of this past year.

I remember the dread throughout the nonprofit and education world as we entered the pandemic last spring. Without in-person classes, how could students learn effectively? Without in-person services, would families fall through the cracks? Before there was time to conduct research, we began planning how to address the expected learning loss. When things go sideways, it’s easy to catastrophize, freeze, and just wait for things to go back to normal.

Unimaginable events can lead to previously unimagined (or unimplemented) ideas. Knowing this, I hope to hold onto the mindset that every person or system still has a huge potential for growth.

At Jumpstart, once we realized that “normalcy” would never return, the work of redesigning programs for a virtual setting began. Tech averse folks (like me), had to let go of our resistances and become fluent in virtual platforms. Rather than create a temporary replacement for traditional community engagement, we were able to develop something new. Over the summer, I worked with Jumpstart volunteers who created astounding educational videos for children. Throughout the year, I collaborated with the Reads Alliance in Brooklyn and Queens to host trilingual Zoom events that often gathered nearly one hundred attendees and distributed hundreds of book kits. Although the in-person interaction was missing, we were able to create entirely different experiences. Virtual engagement gave us the ability to have translators for multiple languages, host guest speakers who live across the world, and connect with families who may not have had the time to travel to a traditional event.

This is not to force a silver lining onto a year that was devastating and traumatic, but to point out how the learning potential we see in children still exists in adults and organizations. Unimaginable events can lead to previously unimagined (or unimplemented) ideas. Knowing this, I hope to hold onto the mindset that every person or system still has a huge potential for growth, even though they may have exited that “critical period.” I hope that we can carry forward the innovations that have stemmed from this disaster, along with a new openness to adaptation. I’m excited to return to seeing children and families in-person, to have the side conversations and irreplaceable interactions, and I’ll bring a new sense of resourcefulness and creativity with me.

Meredith Jones

Meredith Jones

Meredith Jones (she/her) is the Policy and Community Impact Fellow Jumpstart for Young Children in New York City.

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Photo Raul PetriUnsplash

Black tiles with white letters spelling out Work From Home on a brown background

Becoming a Young Professional During a Pandemic: One Year In

When I applied to the FAO Schwarz Fellowship in the winter of 2020, life was different. I submitted my application before heading over to a friend’s house to have a gathering of 15+ people, no masks involved. In late February and early March, as I was interviewing for my position, sanitizing surfaces was a new normal, but still, I did video calls from a classroom at Northwestern, not knowing that I wouldn’t return for a spring quarter. 
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A blue graphic with yellow text announcing: The 2021-2023 FAO Schwarz Fellows. Across the middle of the graphic are pictures of fellows with their names and host organizations. From left to right: Nia Atkins at Year Up, Kendyl Boyd at the Barnes Foundation, Jasmin Norford at Jumpstart NYC, Ryan Telingator at Jumpstart Boston, Ciera Martin at Mighty Writers, and Kira Azulay at the Museum of Science

Foundation Announces 2021 FAO Schwarz Fellowship Recipients 

BOSTON — MAY 7, 2021. The FAO Schwarz Family Foundation has announced the names of the six recipients of the 2021 FAO Schwarz Fellowship in social impact.

Each year, the Foundation supports six new outstanding recent college graduates with paid, two-year Fellowship positions at leading nonprofit organizations in three cities. Alumni of the Fellowship program regularly go on to hold leadership roles at nonprofit or public service organizations and programs. The prestigious Fellowship is one of a few programs of its kind focused on social impact leadership.

In Boston, the new Fellows are Ryan Telingator (Cambridge, MA), a government and legal studies major and sociology minor from Bowdoin College and Kira Azulay (Austin, TX)  a Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies major and museum studies minor from the University of Texas, Austin. Ryan will be at Jumpstart Boston and Kira will be the Fellow at the Museum of Science Boston.

In New York City, Jasmin Norford (Suwanee, GA), a graduate of Vanderbilt University and an English and philosophy major with a minor in Brazilian studies, will work at Jumpstart New York, and Nia Atkins (North Attleboro, MA), a political science major from Columbia University, will be at Year Up.

Kendyl Boyd (Teaneck, NJ), an art education major from Moore College of Art and Design will join the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia for her Fellowship. The second Philadelphia Fellow is Ciera Martin (Philadelphia, PA), an English major and writing minor from Penn State, who will be the FAO Schwarz Fellow at Mighty Writers.

The Fellowship program seeks recent college graduates interested in developing their potential as leaders in the world of equity and social impact. The program provides each Fellow with a two-year paid position at a leading nonprofit host organization where they gain skills, expertise, and knowledge. The Fellowship also includes professional development experiences such as retreats, mentoring and networking.

“The Foundation works closely with select host organizations to design high-quality, transformative experiences that develop our Fellows’ leadership skills,” said Priscilla Cohen, Executive Director of the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation. “We’re incredibly impressed with this next cohort and their dedication to social equity. We look forward to watching them grow into social impact leaders.”

CONTACT:

contact@faoschwarzfellowship.org
Faoschwarzfellowship.org

ABOUT THE 2021-2023 HOST ORGANIZATIONS

The Barnes Foundation is a nonprofit cultural and educational institution in Philadelphia, and its mission is to promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.

Jumpstart provides language, literacy, and social-emotional programming for preschool children from under-resourced communities and promotes quality early learning for all.

Mighty Writers’ mission is to teach Philadelphia students to think and write with clarity so they can achieve success at school, at work and in life 

One of the world’s largest science centers and New England’s most highly attended cultural institution, the Museum of Science engages its audiences in STEM education through exhibits, in-person and digital education programs, and curricula.

Year Up seeks to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experiences and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.

An infographic about a Community Building method designed by FAO Fellow Lex Brown. The graphic's title is Building Community, The "ICE FARM" Approach by lex brown. The graphic is organized by the letters of ICEFARM with a step based on each letter. I- Individualization: Over time, get to know each person and their unique context. C- Consistency and Clear communication: Remember key details and reach out in ways that resonate with both the messenger and receiver. E- Explicit Ecosystem of expectations: Know what we need of others, know what is needed of us, and know how these needs are interconnected. F- Follow up/through: Be faithful to our word and acknowledge when needs aren't being met. A-Accountability: Make demonstrated effort to be accountable in action to those in our community. R- Respect for each other's humanity: Hold and honor community members as full humans with capacity for growth. M- Mutuality: Others must demonstrate a willingness and ability to enthusiastically build and maintain.

Building Community: the ICE FARM Approach

Since I was young, building community has been noted as one of my strengths. However, having my fellowship experience at Breakthrough Greater Boston (BTGB) begin completely virtually required me to think more intentionally about what community building looks like as a practice, one that cannot be facilitated as a byproduct of proximity. READ MORE

Fellowships and Internships white paper cover design

Fellowships & Internships—How to Choose What’s Right for You

We often get questions about the difference between fellowships and internships. Many undergraduates are unfamiliar with the concept of a fellowship or imagine that they are exclusive experiences designed for a designated few. Internships feel more familiar.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, more than 60 percent of college students will complete at least one internship before they graduate. Many more will use at least part of their first year out of college to intern in a possible career field.

Fellowships, however, are less understood, far more scarce, and include more prerequisites and requirements. Many, for example, are only available to graduate students. It can be confusing to weigh the benefit of undertaking a fellowship experience.

"Many undergraduates are unfamiliar with the concept of a fellowship or imagine that they are exclusive experiences designed for a designated few."

a person wearing sneakers standing on pavement ling front of three arrows going indifferent directionsTo help college juniors and seniors assess the pros and cons of fellowship and internship opportunities, we’ve gathered thoughts and data in a white paper for your convenience. Fellowships & Internships—Eleven Key Differences And How To Choose What’s Right For You is now available for download.

Feel free to share. And if you have questions or comments, please let us know.

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Logos of the 5 new Fellowship host organizations: Mighty Writers, The Barnes Foundation, the Boston Museum of Science, Yearup, and Jumpstart.

FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Announces Hosts for New Fellowships

BOSTON, MA. November 1, 2020 — The FAO Schwarz Family Foundation has selected five social impact organizations to host the 2021-2023 cohort of FAO Schwarz Fellows.

The Foundation will sponsor six two-year Fellowships in social impact at five nationally recognized nonprofits. The organizations selected this year are The Barnes Foundation (Philadelphia), Mighty Writers (Philadelphia), The Museum of Science (Boston) and Year Up (New York City). Each will host one new FAO Schwarz Fellowship position. The fifth host, Jumpstart, will host two positions—one in Boston and one in New York City. 

The Fellowships are two-year paid positions that develop the leadership skills of recent college graduates interested in pursuing careers related to social change. From education in the arts to education in science, from a focus on young adults to a focus on young children, from small and newer organizations to the larger and well-established, the diversity of organizations selected as hosts will provide the next cohort with a wide view of the social impact landscape.

In a year marked by a tragic pandemic and social unrest, developing young leaders is more important than ever.

“The Foundation works closely with select host organizations to design high-quality, transformative experiences that develop our Fellows’ leadership skills,” said Priscilla Cohen, Executive Director of the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation. “In a year marked by a tragic pandemic and social unrest, developing young leaders is more important than ever, Nonprofits around the country are engaged in radically rethinking their work and how they deliver their services. At the same time, we know graduating seniors have had their educational experiences disrupted and are now facing a tumultuous job market. We’re grateful we can provide these talented future leaders with a paid two-year professional experience—and a front-row seat to what we think will be an incredibly dynamic period of intense social change.”

The Fellows’ dedication to social change serves as an inspiration to hosts who take their responsibility for the Fellows’ professional development seriously. “It is critical for museums and cultural institutions to provide growth and learning opportunities for the next generation of change agents in the field,” said Barbara Wong, Director of Community Engagement at the Barnes Foundation, which is hosting a FAO Schwarz Fellow for the first time. Jumpstart President and COO Jennifer Templeman agrees. “We must all play a role in developing the young leaders who will create innovative and tangible ways to address inequities for the next generation.“

Host organizations also appreciate the value of increased organizational capacity that comes with hosting a Fellow.  Tim Whitaker, Executive Director of  Mighty Writers,  said “In light of the pandemic, it’s all hands on deck at Mighty Writers. To be effective, you need to be able to pivot quickly to meet the needs of the moment. Having a young fellow onboard that brings enthusiasm and energy to MW will be invaluable in this moment.”

Director of Education and Outreach Programs Sharon Horrigan at the Museum of Science in Boston makes a similar point. “Supporting the agency of young social impact leaders at the Museum of Science will help the organization be a relevant and purposeful community partner that inspires, innovates, and contributes to positive local and global social change.”

Two of the host organizations selected this year have previously hosted a FAO Schwarz Fellow. “We have consistently found FAO Schwarz Fellows bring unique perspective and insight to our work with young adults, and enrich the site in which they work,” noted Elaine Chow, Chief Human Resources Officer at Year Up, which is currently hosting two FAO Schwarz Fellows, which will be hosting two new Fellows, has also hosted previously.  CEO, Naila Bolus said, “FAO Schwarz Fellows consistently bring insightful, invaluable support to Jumpstart’s policy work and community programs, helping us make meaningful progress on our goals.” 

Creating Future Impact Leaders

The FAO Schwarz Fellowship program is looking forward to welcoming its 15th cohort.  Since its founding in 2006, there have been 60 FAO Schwarz Fellows. Sixty percent have gone on to graduate programs, 35 percent have been hired by their host organizations, and 98 percent continue to work in the social impact sector.

How to Apply

The Fellowship is highly selective. To apply for the Fellowship, applicants must be college seniors at the time of application and eligible to work for two-years in the United States. Successful candidates will have strong academic records, leadership potential, and a commitment to social impact. The application deadline for the 2021-2023 cohort is February 10, 2021 (11:59 pm EST). The Fellowships are paid two-year full-time positions and include benefits. Visit the FAO Schwarz Fellowship website for more information.

ABOUT THE 2021-2023 HOST ORGANIZATIONS

The Barnes Foundation is a nonprofit cultural and educational institution in Philadelphia, and its mission is to promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.

Jumpstart provides language, literacy, and social-emotional programming for preschool children from under-resourced communities and promotes quality early learning for all.

Mighty Writers’ mission is to teach Philadelphia students to think and write with clarity so they can achieve success at school, at work and in life 

One of the world’s largest science centers and New England’s most highly attended cultural institution, the Museum of Science engages its audiences in STEM education through exhibits, in-person and digital education programs, and curricula.

Year Up seeks to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experiences and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education.

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