Alumni

A Strong Foundation: How the FAO Schwarz Fellowship Shaped My Career

Seven years since graduating from the FAO Schwarz Fellowship and 9 years since the start of my fellowship, the formative experiences, support system, and friendships developed within the fellowship have been foundational for finding and building my professional path.

The value most visible from the surface is a means of accessing a two-year, salaried, entry-level position at a leading non-profit organization. Finding entry-level jobs in the social impact, education, or environmental non-profit space is extremely challenging. Following a long and challenging search, I was hired in 2015 for an FAO Schwarz Fellowship at Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization with a mission to protect and restore the Hudson River from source to sea. After graduating from the fellowship in 2017, I remained on staff at Riverkeeper in various advocacy, volunteer management, and community engagement focused positions for another 5 years. My passion for environmental advocacy, community engagement, and the Hudson River watershed was fully realized while at Riverkeeper and has remained my focus ever since. The FAO Schwarz Fellowship program not only provided an opportunity to enter my desired field, but also provided opportunities for professional development, reflection, and an invaluable cohort experience.

Reflecting upon my almost decade-long career, the influence of the FAO Schwarz Fellowship is clear. I’ve been better positioned to navigate the professional landscape, including salary and benefit negotiations, job applications, creating job descriptions and hiring, and project management.

Below the surface, the FAO Schwarz Fellowship is much more than a means of entering the non-profit sector. 

What isn’t as visible is the relationships you grow within the fellowship network and through the cohort experience. Each year, 6-7 fellows are hired to work at youth- or young-adult-serving nonprofits in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, creating a cohort who goes through the program together and connects through formal methods such as planning and experiencing retreats, working on shared projects within the fellowship, professional development sessions, and informal means inside and outside of retreats. By spending time together, fellows develop friendships within their cohort, and within the cohorts above and below them. These relationships have been invaluable both to my professional development and to me personally—from having understanding and listening ears to talk through how to navigate the dynamics of professional environments, to sharing time-management tools, to finding life-long friends.

Another major component of relationship building within the FAO Fellowship is mentorship: each incoming fellow is paired with an alumni fellow who often shares a career focus. Alumni mentors provide advice, share about their career paths, and support the fellows in thinking through career next steps. These relationships often continue beyond the fellowship, with mentees and mentors connecting at bi-annual reunions and keeping in touch over the years.

The Executive Director of the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation is a tremendous resource. Priscilla has a deep well of advice, support, and kindness to offer as fellows navigate their fellowship roles, but also as alumni navigate future career moves within and outside the nonprofit sector. Priscilla’s support and advice have been invaluable—and her relationships with the alumni network allow her to make networking connections between fellows and alumni.

The Fellowship retreats, which take place twice each year and rotate between the cities where fellows live and work (New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia) are a blend of experiencing the work of each host organization, professional development sessions shaped by the needs and interests of the fellows, and unstructured time for the fellows to connect. Examples of professional development sessions include: disability accessibility and inclusivity at museums, how direct service and systems change work complement each other, personal mission statement development, exploration of leadership styles, and more.

Reflecting upon my almost decade-long career, the influence of the FAO Schwarz Fellowship is clear. I’ve been better positioned to navigate the professional landscape, including salary and benefit negotiations, job applications, creating job descriptions and hiring, and project management.

Advice from Priscilla and others in the FAO network helped inform my decision to return to school part-time in 2019 to pursue a Masters of Environmental Policy at Bard College, which I completed while working full-time.

More recently, in July of 2023, I became the new Director of Environmental Action at the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a regional environmental non-profit organization with a mission to protect the Hudson River by inspiring lifelong stewardship of the river and its tributaries through education and advocacy. My role sits at the nexus of advocacy and community engagement—collaborating with communities, individuals, and other organizations to protect the Hudson River, and is one I hope to hold for years to come.

Whether I’m between jobs, hiring interns, managing advocacy campaigns, or educating the public, the foundational skills and experiences I had during my time as a FAO Fellow have been foundational to my career, and personal and professional development.

Jen Benson

Jen Benson

Jen Benson (she/her) is the Director of Environmental Action at the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, a regional environmental non-profit organization with a mission to protect the Hudson River by inspiring lifelong stewardship of the river and its tributaries through education and advocacy.

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Liana speaking at the graduation ceremony in Israel of one of Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation's Executive Leadership Program cohorts.

Nurturing Tomorrow’s Visionaries: Running a Fellowship Program for Executive Leaders

In a world driven by innovation, leadership, and social impact, the role of executive leaders has never been more crucial. These leaders, armed with the vision and expertise to drive change, play a pivotal role in shaping the future of organizations, communities, and industries.

Recognizing this, fellowship programs for executive leaders have emerged as a powerful platform to cultivate and unleash the potential of these remarkable individuals. Drawing inspiration from my own transformative journey as a FAO Schwarz Fellow, I have embarked on a mission to curate and facilitate fellowship experiences that empower professional leaders to drive positive change in the world. In this blog post, I will delve into what it takes to run a fellowship program for executive leaders and how being part of a family foundation adds a unique dimension to this endeavor.

Running a fellowship program is a labor of love that requires dedication, thoughtful design, and a deep commitment to empowering individuals to make a difference.

A Personal Journey: From Fellow to Facilitator

My personal journey into the world of fellowship programs began with my participation in the FAO Schwarz Fellowship Program, an initiative of the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation . I was a Fellow in the 3rd  cohort of the Fellowship, from 2008-2010. I was the first Fellow at Jumpstart for Young Children in Boston and the experience was nothing short of transformative. The program offered me unparalleled opportunities to learn, grow, and engage in meaningful work that aligned with my passion for social impact and early childhood education. Through mentorship, hands-on experience, and exposure to various sectors, I honed my leadership skills and gained insights that have stayed with me throughout my career. 

This firsthand encounter with the power of fellowships planted a seed that would later grow into my aspiration to provide similar opportunities to other leaders. I later ran a highly selective teen fellowship program, and now serve as the Associate Director of the Mandel Institute for Nonprofit Leadership as part of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation. Our mission is to strengthen the capacities of talented professionals who lead or have the potential to lead- important nonprofit institutions. We run fellowships for executives as well as educators and cultural producers.

Running a Fellowship Program: Key Ingredients

1. Purposeful Design: A successful fellowship program begins with a well-crafted design that aligns with the mission of the organization and the needs of the fellows. It is essential to structure the program in a way that fosters experiential learning, personal growth, and a deep sense of community. Defining the goals of the fellowship for the participants is crucial.

2. Selecting Fellows: Selecting Fellows: Implementing a variety of applicant selection methods, such as applications with written and video components, structured interviews, and a time for group process helps identify a pool of candidates that can show their individuality. It is important to look for diversity among fellows in order to enrich the learning environment and broaden perspectives.

3. Mentorship and Networking: One of the cornerstones of a fellowship program is the opportunity for fellows to connect with seasoned mentors and build a robust professional network. These relationships offer guidance, insights, and connections that can propel fellows’ careers and impact to new heights.

4. Cross-Sector Exposure: To equip leaders with a holistic understanding of the challenges and opportunities in various sectors, it’s important to expose them to a diverse range of experiences. This might include rotations across departments, engagement with community stakeholders, and collaboration with partner organizations.

5. Ongoing Learning: The journey of a leader is a continuous one. Providing access to ongoing learning opportunities, workshops, and resources ensures that fellows remain at the cutting edge of their respective fields and continue to drive innovation and change. Including content on leadership models and methods is important. 

Family Foundation and Fellowships

Being part of a family foundation adds a unique dimension to the fellowship experience. Family foundations are often deeply rooted in values, purpose, and a commitment to social impact. This shared ethos creates a sense of belonging and purpose that resonates deeply with fellows, fostering a strong sense of community and connection.

Family foundations also offer a nurturing environment that encourages fellows to explore their passions, take risks, and think outside the box. A family foundation’s long-term perspective and dedication to positive change provide fellows with the support and resources needed to bring their visions to life.

Running a fellowship program for professionals is a labor of love that requires dedication, thoughtful design, and a deep commitment to empowering individuals to make a difference. Drawing inspiration from my own fellowship experience and the guiding principles of a family foundation helps me immensely in my work. I am better able to work with my team to create transformative opportunities for leaders to unleash their potential, drive innovation, and create lasting social impact. As nonprofit professionals continue to pave the way for the next generation of visionary leaders, we should celebrate the power of fellowships and the incredible journey of personal and professional growth they offer.

Liana Brodsky

Liana Brodsky

Liana Brodsky (she/her) is the Associate Director of the Mandel Institute for Nonprofit Leadership, part of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation.

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FAO Schwarz Fellowship: Alumni by the Numbers

Fellows make an incredible impact during their two years with their host organizations and go on to do some pretty amazing things. From running for mayor to running their own therapy practice, from engaging students in designing and building schoolyards to leading an organization supporting youth in reentry, our alums’ careers truly run the gamut of social impact.

Since 2006, we’ve supported 73 Fellows in launching their careers in social impact. After the Fellowship, 59% of alums have completed or are pursuing graduate school. A few examples:

  • Kayla Jones, MBA/MDiv dual-degree, Emory University
  • Nick Mitch, Masters in Urban Planning, Harvard University
  • Samantha Perlman, JD/MA in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Boston College Law School and Tufts University 
  • Claudia von Nostitz, MEd Childhood and Special Education, Hunter College

About 41% of Fellows were hired by their host organization completion of the Fellowship:

  • Clara Monk, National Community Engagement Manager, Reading Partners
  • Pamela Martinez, Program Manager for Americorps Members, Playworks PA
  • Deshaun Parris, Youth Leadership Associate, The Food Trust
  • Karen Wilber, Senior Director of Learning & Evaluation, uAspire
  • And now, the statistic we’re perhaps most proud of: 95% of Fellowship alums remain working in the social impact sector.

    • Greg White, Community School Coordinator, Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Education Community School Initiative
    • Lauren Hurley, Supervising Program Manager, iMentor Chicago
    • Emily Hynes, Program Associate, Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance
    • Ciara Williams, Co-Executive Director, PLAN: the Post-Landfill Action Network

    The Fellowship provides a tight, passionate network–for life. Are you ready to lead the change and help others through your work? Mark our key dates in your calendar and stay tuned!

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    Beyond the Two Years: What Fellows Are Doing Next

    Upon completing the Fellowship, our alums go on to do amazing things. Some are running for office, some are in graduate school. Others are teachers, therapists, marketers, research associates, entrepreneurs, and so much more! Read on to learn what this year’s graduating class is doing next.

    Jasmin

    Upon completion of her Fellowship at Jumpstart in New York City, Jasmin will be pursuing a Masters in Education Policy at Boston University as a Martin Luther King Jr. Fellow.  At the same time, Jasmin will work as a Massachusetts organizer for Educators for Excellence (E4E), working to organize educators to policy and advocacy opportunities for education reform. 

    During her Fellowship, Jasmin planned and executed the Family Academy series with schools in several New York neighborhoods, navigating both a virtual and in-person programming format that created opportunities and engaged many families and caregivers as they built early literacy skills alongside their children. She named these events as some of the most impactful of her Fellowship because she was able to build deep bonds with families, children, and school-based professionals who helped to support and implement Jumpstart’s programming. 

    She also gained experience in both lobbying and advocacy for issues impacting the early childhood education field with the Policy and Government Relations team, and was given the opportunity to support Jumpstart’s New York Policy agenda build-out. She supported the team from the preliminary stages of writing legislation, to lobbying for the role of paid community service with legislators, and used coalition-building skills to support and convene broad support around their initiative. This exciting experience reaffirmed her passion for policy, advocacy, and collective action. 

    She shares, “Overall, these two years have allowed me to enhance my policy and programming communications through direct lobbying, testimony, and community event leadership. My understanding of how to support large advocacy movements through collective action has supported my passion for impacting the lives of children and families through educational equity.”

    Kira

    Upon completion of her Fellowship at Museum of Science in Boston, Kira accepted a permanent role at the Museum as a Youth Programs Education Associate.

    During her Fellowship, Kira worked with Summer Youth Interns and Youth STEM Ambassadors, creating workshops about college and career readiness, leading team-building activities and field trips, and mentoring youth staff who were developing their leadership and education skills. She also facilitated science learning in the exhibit halls of the Museum through small-group, drop-in style activities as well as larger stage shows, like the Live Animal show she developed to teach about adaptations.

    She also focused on creating opportunities for youth to connect at the Museum. The Youth Programs team hosted large convening events like the High School Science Series (HSSS), where hundreds of high school students visited the Museum for free for a half day of exploration around topics like Climate Change and Mental Health. She also collaborated on the Mental Health and Women’s History Months Themed Weekend and has been able to connect with exciting external guest speakers and performers as a Museum educator.

    She shares, “Through this Fellowship, I learned that I love working with people and making a difference with my work. The social impact space is so varied, but the passion that my colleagues and peers have is energizing and inspiring. I plan to continue working in informal education, specifically with youth, and to grow my skills as a leader and communicator.”

    Nia

    Upon completion of her Fellowship at Year Up in New York City, Nia accepted a role as a Research Associate at Mathematica, which uses data, analytics, and technology to address pressing social challenges including climate change, health care, education, and employment. 

    During her Fellowship, Nia led four Learning Community Lookbacks, which consisted of her collecting and analyzing significant data about students in the current and just-graduated classes, and presenting that data to staff in order to address strengths and growth areas as a program and organization. 

    She also led multiple groups of coachees through the entire program up to their graduation. She feels very fond of each of her groups, and is so happy that they have been successful throughout the program and beyond. She is sad that she will be unable to attend the graduation of her final group of coachees, but knows that they are destined for great things beyond Year Up.

    She shares, “In addition to my accomplishments I have also gained invaluable skills and experiences that will both prepare me for what is coming next and also stick with me for the rest of my life. Year Up has enhanced my public speaking skills by allowing me to present to large groups and facilitate activities with our participants. It has taught me how to lead my peers and mentor others. Over the course of my Fellowship, I have improved my spoken and written communication and my organizational and time management skills. I have also been able to practice my quantitative and qualitative research and analysis skills, as well as my data visualization skills. Each of these abilities will come in handy in my upcoming professional role as well as in my graduate school experience.”

    Ryan

    Upon completion of his Fellowship at Jumpstart in Boston, Ryan accepted a role in the Massachusetts Legislature as a legislative aide to Representative Marjorie Decker.

    During his Fellowship, he tested the early literacy of over 100 kids using TOPEL, contributing to the data and evaluation of Jumpstart’s program. He also built out the foundation of a new Massachusetts Community Impact (MACI) team. The MACI team held events to engage children in literacy activities, distributed literacy kits to families not served by traditional Jumpstart programming, organized material creation events with corporate and community partners, and formed relationships with other organizations to organize events with their core constituencies.

    He also led Jumpstart’s policy and government relations work in Massachusetts. He set policy priorities for Massachusetts, fostered relationships with elected and appointed officials and their staffs, represented Jumpstart on the Common Start Coalition’s Steering Committee (and served as the policy expert for the coalition, speaking about the bill at the State House and answering questions from journalists and stakeholders), and submitted testimony on bills and proposed regulatory changes.

    He shares, “This experience thrust me into a role with elevated responsibilities that often left me as the youngest and least experienced in the room. Early on, I frequently felt imposter syndrome and deferential to those around me. Over the course of the two years, however, I have developed a confidence and a voice that I am proud of. This growth is at the core of the FAO Schwarz Fellowship: leadership and competency fostered in a recent graduate who wants to make a career in social impact sector. This was only possible through impactful mentorship and incredible responsibilities that I’ve grown into and excelled at over the course of my Fellowship.”

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    Fellowship Alums Share Social Impact Resources

    We asked current and alum Fellows to share their perspectives on their careers, social challenges, and resources that have influenced them in their careers, and more broadly, the world of social impact. This is the final part of a four-part series.

    What is the most interesting book you’ve read or podcast you’ve listened to on social impact?

    Julia MacMahon ‘10: 

    I just finished listening to season 5 of Scene on Radio: “The Repair”, which explores the roots of the climate crisis and what went wrong with our (the West’s) relationship with the natural world. It’s really thought-provoking and has helped me to place a lot of my feelings of ambivalence about the modern world and how many of our systems function.

    Jesse McLaughlin ‘24:

    Staying with the Trouble by Donna Haraway is a potent reminder of the interconnectedness of all creatures (human and non-human) in the messy struggle for justice and equity on a damaged planet.

    Kayla Hopgood ‘14:

    An important read for me was Words for a Dying World: Stories of Grief and Courage from the Global Church. The author, Hannah Malcolm, basically makes the argument that in order to make any sort of meaningful impact on the climate crisis we need to learn how to grieve. Proper grief should propel us to act. When we consider social impact we do need to consider the philosophical, religious, and psychological underpinnings many of our greatest injustices carry. That’s part of the work I do as a minister. 

    Ciara Williams ‘18:

    I really enjoyed the book Prison Land: Mapping Carceral Power across Neoliberal America by Brett Story. I also enjoy The Red Nation podcast hosted by Nick Estes and Jen Marley.

    Quick Recommendations

    Fellows shared so many great recommendations, we had to include more!

    We Do This ‘Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice by Mariame Kaba – Recommended by Jen Benson ‘17, Lauren Hurley ‘20

    “My most recent favorite podcasts is a two-parter from Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead podcast about Immunity to Change with Lisa Lahey. It’s not necessarily specific to social impact, but it just a fantastic walkthrough of how to set realistic and impactful goals and then actually accomplish them.” – Recommended by Dawn Lavalle ‘16

    Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer—beautiful and eye-opening book!” – Recommended by Charlotte Blackman ‘22

    Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown (as well as the podcast they co-host with their sister, Autumn Brown, called “How to Survive the End of the World”). – Recommended by Sarah Kacevich

    “If you’re interested in starting up a business, I recommend reading The Lapsed Anarchists Guide to Building a Better Business by Ari Weinzweig.” – Recommended by Emily Vikre ‘08

    “I listen to a podcast called Code Switch that tackles topics around race, ethnicity, and pop culture.” – Recommended by Nia Atkins ‘23

    “I highly recommend listening to Maintenance Phase, which deconstructs the research behind science and health fads, and talks a lot about anti-fat bias.” – Recommended by Mariah Peebles ‘11

    Fellowship Alums Discuss Social Challenges

    We asked current and alum Fellows to share their perspectives on their careers, social challenges, and resources that have influenced them in their careers, and more broadly, the world of social impact. This is the third in a four-part series.

    What social challenges do you believe are the most important to solve?

    Nick Mitch ‘20: 

    No matter what specific sector you’re working in, I think it is critically important to consider how the built environment shapes outcomes. Too often, we take this context for granted and miss opportunities for more transformative change.

    Michael McNeill-Martinez ‘14:

    Access to resources that make people feel safe, supported, healthy, and more educated have all taken a hit in the last 5-7 years due to a variety of factors. This is especially crucial for young people who already have to deal with their own challenges in self-discovery and reflection as they mature and try to navigate modern society. We need to ensure that a myriad of programs are in place to ensure that there is equity for all, and people can move forward feeling a sense of fulfillment and long-term stability. 

    Serena Salgado ‘22:

    I think one of the most important social challenges to solve actually has to do with the way social impact is funded. It’s clear that many of the world’s wealthiest people like the idea of funding organizations but just how to do it (and maximize impact while doing so) is such a huge question. How do we direct wealth into the hands of community leaders without attaching so many strings? Let me know when you find out! 

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    Fellowship Alums Discuss Their Career Paths

    We asked current and alum Fellows to share their perspectives on their careers, social challenges, and resources that have influenced them in their careers, and more broadly, the world of social impact. This is the second in a four-part series.

    Tell us a little about your career path after the Fellowship. How did the Fellowship experience influence your career path?


    Joe Rosales ‘16: 

    My Fellowship at Breakthrough New York was my first foray into education – I came into my role as High School Coordinator with very little student-facing experience, but I learned a tremendous amount in my two years on staff. While my role had me working with ninth through twelfth graders and on various projects, I surmised early on that my strongest passion came with counseling. I followed that instinct into more singular roles until I landed my current position: a college counselor at a public school in Queens. I love it!

    Molly Blake ‘19:

    The fellowship truly influenced my passion for education and took me on a route to my current company Panorama. I have loved getting to see the impact of social-emotional learning from a high level and impacting districts across the country. My next move is to hopefully get into expansion work and continuously help districts with behavior issues in school districts. The Fellowship empowered me to take this leap into education and lead with grace. I am very appreciative of that. 

    Maley Parilla ‘12:

    Prior to finding the Fellowship I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in my career, besides that I wanted to do something in education but did not want to be a teacher. The Fellowship helped me learn of all the different ways this type of career could be possible and introduced me to all aspects of non-profit work. It gave me the space to try fieldwork and administrative work. The fellowship and working at Jumpstart were formative for me–through these opportunities, I figured out that I wanted to be a Social Worker. The Fellowship and working for Jumpstart gave me such great experience prior to entering the Social Work field and gave me a leg up in terms of experience and opportunities that I could pursue both in grad school and following grad school. 

    Abi Mlo ‘22:

    If it weren’t for my fellowship at the Trust for Public Land, I would have never landed myself a job working in a land protection nonprofit with an emphasis on increasing access to the outdoors. While I don’t plan to stay at TPL forever, I feel forever touched by the organization’s mission and I plan to continue this effort no matter where I end up next. 

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    Fellowship Alums Share Career Advice

    We asked current and alum Fellows to share their perspectives on their careers, social challenges, and resources that have influenced them in their careers, and more broadly, the world of social impact. This is the first in a four-part series.

    What advice would you give current or soon-to-be alumni Fellows as they’re beginning their careers?

     

    Emily Hynes ‘21: 

    Something from my fellowship experience that has helped me begin to discover my career path was the opportunity to do so many different things in my fellow role. That opportunity gave me both the skills to work in many different areas at future jobs, which I’m currently doing in my new role, as well as the insight into different job areas that has helped me narrow down what I want to do in the future in my career.

    Jonathan Baez ‘14:

    Be a sponge and absorb as much as you can wherever you can. One of the worst things one can do at the start of their career is to think you know it all. Seek a mentor and seek to grow to your full potential. 

    Karen Wilber ‘18:

    I’ve been lucky to have many amazing managers, and having a great manager can significantly influence your job happiness and professional development success, so if you’re interviewing ask good questions about who will be supervising you and how they support those they work with.

    Kayla Jones ‘19:

    Keep making the next best step. I know there is a lot of pressure for recent college grads to have everything figured out. There isn’t a ‘right’ or a ‘wrong’ choice to make. Instead, trust that your intuition and passion will help guide your decisions. A path gets determined by a number of steps. Make that next step, even if it feels scary. Taking a step even when you’re scared shows how brave you are. Trust yourself, do your best, and you’ll be surprised by how much you can achieve. 

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    Abi reads a children's book to a Fellow at Reading Partners NYC.

    Dear Future Fellow

    H'Abigail Mlo (Fellowship '22) shares her perspective and advice with college seniors.

    Dear Future Fellow,

    Whether you’ve received an offer or are a prospective applicant: congratulations! You’ve come a long way from where you started, a doe-eyed college first-year, and you should be proud. You’ve worked hard, spent countless hours across countless desks, offices, and libraries, to be here. You’ve turned your tassel, or you’re about to, on an accomplished college career. The question of “What’s next?” has come up again and again from friends, family members, and professors. They mean well, but I’m sure it’s only making you more nervous for the future. I’ve been there.

    Rather than describe my FAO Schwarz Fellowship in a single word, I’ll use three: challenging, fulfilling, and necessary.

    If I could describe my senior year in a word, it would be frenzy. Not only did my year stop short because of the pandemic, but I was also juggling several things at once. Classes, work-study, an internship, an honors thesis, two student leadership roles, and, of course, job applications. Seemingly everyone around me had secured jobs by winter break. Perhaps you can relate. Prior to submitting my application for the FAO Schwarz Fellow role at Trust for Public Land, I submitted applications for six other fellowships and three full-time roles.

    By April, I’d heard back from all but two organizations with a rejection. I received an offer from TPL that month. Also that month, I moved from my college dorm to my parent’s house. There, I completed my classes and internship, defended my honor’s thesis, and ultimately graduated college. I started the Fellowship soon after.

    Rather than describe my FAO Schwarz Fellowship in a single word, I’ll use three: challenging, fulfilling, and necessary. Though these last two years have been challenging, I’ve had a fulfilling experience that has been necessary for my growth as a leader. I’ve learned so much about the field of environment and land protection, and about myself. I’m in a role I never imagined myself in–because I didn’t previously know it existed–and living in a city that I love. This is thanks to Trust for Public Land and the FAO Schwarz Fellowship.

    Now, when asked, “What’s next?” I can proudly say I’m staying on at Trust for Public Land, taking on the position of Stewardship and Engagement Coordinator. I will also be closely connected with the Fellowship as an alumni mentor to an incoming Fellow.

    I’m thankful to have grown alongside a cohort of incredible Fellows and to have met them in person recently for our retreat. My alumni mentor, Jen Benson, has been of immense support to me, as has the Fellowship director, Priscilla Cohen.

    My advice is to cherish these next few years. Whether you’re in a Fellowship or with another employer, build strong connections within your organization and the community around you. Take advantage of the resources offered by your organization and the Fellowship, whether it’s a workshop, conference, or a coffee chat with someone you admire. Seek out learning opportunities, or ask for them. Lean into discomfort and into challenge. Take time off and rest for the sake of rest.

    I’ve come a long way since June 1, 2020, just as you will in the years after you graduate. Trust me when I say time flies.

    Good luck,

    Abi

    H'Abigail Mlo

    H'Abigail Mlo

    Abi completed her FAO Fellowship with The Trust for Public Land in Philadelphia in June of 2022. She has remained with the organization as Stewardship and Engagement Coordinator.