The Art of Transitions–Out of Fossil Fuels and In Life

Transitions can be hard. When we are younger, the next steps are obvious. You transition from elementary to middle school, from middle to high school, from high school to college, or life in the working world. At all of these steps, we are celebrated. Graduation ceremonies and parties can sometimes distract you from the bittersweet aspect of moving on from a moment in your life you will never get to live again. 

I remember trying to choose where I wanted to go to college and thinking that it was the most difficult decision I would make in my life. Little did I know that choosing a college when you have all of the acceptances at the same time seems easy compared to a lifetime of choosing where to live and work without knowing all your options. I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions recently as I wrap up my position as an FAO Schwarz Fellow.

We often come to a tough decision, knowing that we need to make a choice, and become paralyzed.

Transitions have been difficult for me, and I feel like I am just now getting a grip on how to handle the bittersweetness with more ease. Reflecting on my own personal transitions brings to mind another transition that has proven to be difficult for the world: the transition away from fossil fuels, although it is one that, in my opinion, should be neither bittersweet nor difficult.

As of 2023, Pew Research Center surveys indicate that two-thirds of Americans say the U.S. should prioritize developing alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar, and hydrogen technology. In this day and age, getting two-thirds of Americans to agree on a topic is a huge accomplishment. Even though the majority of us agree that we should incorporate renewable energy, just under a third think that the United States should completely stop using oil and gas. This tension is more common with decision-making around transitions–we know that we need a change, but we don’t know how to go about it. Along with not agreeing on how to transition away from fossil fuels, the American public is unsure of the extent to which this decision will affect the country as a whole–in terms of energy cost, jobs, and the economy. 

Countries around the world also agree that we need to change our energy production and consumption. At Cop28, an agreement between almost 200 countries supposedly signaled the end of the fossil fuel era. However, the agreement comes with many loopholes, and even when countries sign on (as seen in previous COP agreements), it does not mean that they will be held accountable to their goals.

We often come to a tough decision, knowing that we need to make a choice, and become paralyzed. But scientists agree that we can’t afford to wait for the perfect solution for the climate crisis. We need everything that we can come up with if we want to slow our emissions and minimize the harm that we do to the environment and ourselves. We need to make the transition now, even if it brings us into the unknown.

When I transitioned out of college and accepted my position as the FAO Schwarz Fellow at Audubon Mid-Atlantic, I made a leap of faith. I took a position in a city I had never lived in where I only knew a couple of people, leaving behind my college friends and the city I knew–Washington, D.C.–for a job that I would have for two years and an unknown future beyond that job. Having almost reached the end of this journey, I can confidently say that I made the right choice. We often look back on our decisions and wish that we had chosen a different path, but I don’t for this one. And I don’t think we will once we take the leap and choose to move away from fossil fuels and into a more sustainable future. 


COP28 Agreement Signals “Beginning of the End” of the Fossil Fuel Era | UNFCCC. (December 13, 2023)

Kim, S. E. (December 22, 2023). The Six Biggest Takeaways From COP28 | Smithsonian.

Nilsen, E., & Paddison, L. (December 13, 2023). COP28 takeaways: What does the climate deal say? | CNN.

Tyson, B. K., Cary Funk and Alec. (June 28, 2023). 1. What Americans think about an energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables. Pew Research Center.


Picture of Sophie Becker-Klein

Sophie Becker-Klein

Sophie Becker-Klein (she/her) is FAO Schwarz Fellow at Audubon Mid-Atlantic's Discovery Center in Philadelphia.


From Volunteer to Fellow: Reflecting on My Reading Partners Fellowship Experience 

Back in college, I wanted to get more involved with my community and give back. I stumbled across a VolunteerMatch posting from Reading Partners. I went to volunteer at an elementary school in Queens. Every Thursday for about a year, I would trek to the school after college classes and work with a 7-year-old student who was sweet and sometimes got frustrated with the difficulties of learning something.

Fast forward to graduation time in 2018, my supervisor at Baruch College recommended an opportunity through the career portal at school. When I logged in to my account, I was surprised to find Reading Partners on the screen. I felt like I was coming back to a familiar place. This was the start of becoming part of a cohort of fellows and the start of my professional career.

At Reading Partners, I gained experience working with a multitude of elementary school students and supported their learning growth around their literacy skills. As a fellow, I was able to provide service to the schools in South Jamaica, Queens. My work also involved recruiting volunteers, which became an area of interest of mine, and I went to work for two other non-profit organizations in this area of work. I was a volunteer coordinator for three years after my fellowship experience and honed my skill set in this area.

Currently, I work as the Foundation Programs Coordinator at the ICSC Foundation. After working for three years in volunteer management, I wanted to pivot my next step in an area of non-profit that I had worked closely with but never taken a leadership role in. And I love it. I enjoy working with students as we connect them with scholarship and mentorship opportunities. I still work with volunteers, as it is key to our work. I hope to grow in the programmatic area of my work for years to come. Furthermore, I thank the fellowship for supporting my growth and my career as I progress in the landscape of mission-driven organizations.

Picture of Erika Apupalo

Erika Apupalo

Erika (she/her) is the Foundation Programs Coordinator at the ICSC Foundation. She was a Fellow at Reading Partners New York City from 2018-2020.


Alumni Fellows

2024 Annual Fellowship Newsletter

Each year, Fellowship alums share personal and professional updates, which make up our annual newsletter. Fellows from cohorts since 2008 share what they’re up to, from promotions to new roles, and from new degrees to new family members. 

Here’s a taste of what alums have achieved:

  • Became an executive director
  • Started a new role in restorative justice
  • Moved from Serbia to Zambia
  • Finishing their Master in Social Work
  • Starting an MBA in July

… and so much more! Read our latest Fellowship newsletter to learn more about what our amazing alumni are up to across the spectrum of social impact, and beyond!



Reflecting on College and Finding Your Passion

Being in a space of reflection is always uncomfortable for me, but I find that I feel at my best when I am living in that discomfort. I’m reaching the halfway point in my first year with the fellowship, I am starting my goal-setting process at Jumpstart, and in a week and a half, I will be back in Baltimore for my first-ever Alumni weekend. So as I am typing this, I am nose-deep in that reflection discomfort. Hopefully what follows will be helpful for my friends in the fellowship, for myself, and for everyone who has just submitted an application for the 2024-26 fellowship cohort as you head toward graduation and discern if this fellowship is right for you. 

Looking back, looking forward, and looking to where I am now—I realize being present is the secret... It connects you to your senses and helps decide if what you’re doing serves your passions or not.

As I begin this process, and ask trusted coworkers, friends, and family members about navigating professional goals and my early 20s, I have also been thinking back on some of the things I was told when I started college in August 2019 (a completely different world). I remember so much emphasis being put on what my major would be, how I would plan out my class schedule to help me four years down the line, and what clubs I wanted to participate in to make me a strong internship candidate for junior year.  I remember being told that the next four years would be “the best years of my life.” When I look back, I see how unnecessary and harmful that could have been—if it weren’t for Loyola University Maryland’s… shall we say… comprehensive core requirements that forced me to try a little bit of everything and fall in love with learning again. I think we are doing ourselves, and society, such a disservice when we are constantly forward-focused. The purpose of college should not be, and never before was, to set up whatever comes next. College, for those lucky enough to go, is the one time in life where you can learn for the sake of learning. There is no one handing you a curriculum that you can’t deviate from; there are so many options,and through (excuse the cliché) casting a wide net you might just stumble upon your life’s passion. 

As someone who was an overachiever, and whose high school extracurricular list looked like Santa’s Christmas list, I entered college with a clear trajectory. I would take a mix of political science classes but focus on constitutional law, take the LSAT, and apply to law school. I had a ten-year plan mapped out which included moving to New York and becoming a district attorney. But at 1:05 pm on my first day of class I walked into PS 101, Introduction to World Politics taught by an incredible political theorist. His charisma, and brilliance, and ability to make his students engage in questions that have been asked for millennia made me reconsider. I walked out of that class still sure I wanted to go to law school, but thought I might need to take some more classes with him (I would go on to take 5 with that professor—ranging from democratic theory to a seminar on warfare). Class after class, semester after semester I was exposed to things outside of my ten-year plan. Loyola required me to take two philosophy classes, the second of which was dedicated to a small segment of philosophy focused on the environment (recall my mention of stumbling upon passion).

But still, my life and career plan persisted until the summer between sophomore and junior year when I was studying for the LSAT and realized I actually had no desire to be an attorney. I cared about the law, sure, and I have research and debate skills, so I could be successful. But it wasn’t what I cared about. I remember walking up to the living room where my mom was watching a rerun of M*A*S*H, and breaking down in tears because I now had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Except I did. I did because rather than restricting myself to taking only the classes that would direct me to where I thought I wanted to go, I discovered that I was passionate about environmental justice and peace studies. 

I am where I am today, setting goals for the next fiscal year, and thinking of how I am going to make an impact because of that mindset I took in college. I took the fellowship because it gave me the opportunity to do meaningful work while being part of a network of fellows doing incredibly cool and different work than me. Hearing about Kayla’s work had made me want to rent a pottery wheel, and visiting Sarika and Natalia at their museums in New York City inspired me to spend my Sundays visiting different museums in Boston. 

This exposure to difference has been the key to my journey so far. Looking back, looking forward, and looking to where I am now—I realize being present is the secret. Being present connects you to your community. It connects you to your senses and helps decide if what you’re doing serves your passions or not. Most importantly it connects your heart to your mind. So to anyone reading… try everything and your life’s passion will uncover itself. 

Picture of Ryan Corrigan

Ryan Corrigan

Ryan (he/him) is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at Jumpstart in Boston.


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.

Picture of 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.


Jason Roberts and his wife hiking Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park, Washington.

An Interview with Jason Roberts, Office of Fellowships at Northwestern University

We sat down with Jason Roberts, associate director of outreach and communications in Northwestern University’s Office of Fellowships, to learn more about his experience as a fellowship adviser and the students he supports.

You play such an important role with college seniors. Tell us what you do at Northwestern and about your experience talking with young people about the future.

One of my primary roles is to advise first- and second-year students, especially through our annual “talent search” meetings, when students learn that a faculty member has recommended them to meet with our office.  I am also the advisor for most postgraduate fellowships that take place in the United States, so it is not uncommon for me to introduce a Northwestern (NU) student to the world of fellowships, then advise them throughout their undergraduate years, culminating in successful pursuit of a bridge-year fellowship as a graduating senior.

Along the way, I am also happy to help NU students better understand the internal opportunities available to them as they seek the experiences and credentials that will make them stronger candidates for external awards.  I have worked at Northwestern for a very, very long time (and it feels even longer than that!), so I take it as my responsibility to do my part to help NU students maximize the value of their entire time as undergraduates, which entails considering what they want to do beyond the relatively narrow purview of applying for an external award and showing them how this powerful, wealthy institution can enrich and expand their humanity.

And the best part of that journey is helping them to learn who they are and what they want to do, both in the near future and for the rest of their lives.

For applicants who ultimately want careers serving the environment or working in a humanities-related field, the FAO Schwarz Fellowship offers rare and much-needed opportunities.

How have our national conversations on leadership, social change, inequality, environmental justice, and civil rights influenced the post-college plans of the students you are advising? Have you noticed any particular trends or themes as they ponder their future and what happens next?

As we often say on campus, Northwestern is a very “pre-professional” university, and here is how I define that to students when I discuss this issue with them:  NU students are often A-types who overachieved in high school and see college first and foremost as a path toward entering their desired profession, with medicine, law, finance, and consulting accounting for the professional aspirations of many of our students.  

However, I noticed a change in student attitudes in response to the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of Michael Brown.  Suddenly, it seemed many of our students were generally more politically aware and more concerned with what it meant for them to be good citizens.  Although this shift did not necessarily entail a corresponding rejection of the career paths named above, it did seem to mean that students were, on average, more thoughtful about how they might do more than get a good return on investment for their education. They, instead, began to think more deeply about how their careers could be ethical and meaningful.  While students rightly feel a lot of anger about inequality and anxiety about the environment, I find that their youth typically makes it possible for them to access hope in the fight against despair, and it is one of the intangible benefits of my job that I get to have my own sense of hope renewed by my work with them.

We’ve been so lucky to have had four Fellows from Northwestern University (Natalia Wang ’22; Serena Salgado ’20; Kayla Jones ’18 and Karen Wilber ’16) participate in our program in recent years. What do you think it is about the program that appeals to your seniors?

There is a lot to like about the FAO Schwarz Fellowship.  The financial compensation is excellent. Very few awards pay as well as this one does, which undoubtedly makes it easier for students to follow their ideological convictions (and their hearts) to pursue work that prioritizes social impact over profit and higher salaries. 

The fellowship also offers a compelling mix of autonomy, responsibility, community, and mentorship.  Applicants know they will have the chance to engage in meaningful work, with a structure that encourages them to target specific professional development goals, all while receiving support from their peers in the cohort and mentorship from the leaders in their host organizations and the fellowship foundation. For applicants who ultimately want careers serving the environment or working in a humanities-related field, the fellowship offers rare and much-needed opportunities.

Lastly, I am sure that the placement cities are especially appealing to our students, many of whom come from large coastal cities.

We know from our research that a lot of students don’t believe they are good candidates for prestigious Fellowships or don’t even know what a Fellowship is. What do you tell them?

This conversation is a very common feature of our work with prospective fellowship applicants, and I handle it in a couple of different ways.  First, I try to help students understand a few basic facts about applying for selective external awards.  These awards are all highly competitive, which means you cannot find an “easy” award to apply.  Because these awards are so competitive, they need to accept that fact as a reality and focus instead on their desire to have the experience being offered (while also making sure they are eligible before expending unnecessary effort).  I encourage students to imagine they have gotten an offer from the award at hand and then gauge their emotional response—are they on the fence about it when they hear the news, or are they excited to immediately say yes?  If they give me the latter answer but still need encouragement, I remind them of something they likely already know but often need to hear again: the only way to be sure you don’t win a given award is to never apply in the first place.

Alongside this discussion, our work together on an application offers the students a chance to gain confidence about their competitiveness for the award in question and for their future moving forward, and I especially appreciate the specific requirements of the FAO Schwarz Fellowship as a way to achieve this goal.  Because the fellowship requires a cover letter and a resume but not a personal statement, my work with applicants can focus on helping them better understand and more powerfully articulate just how significant their experiences have already been for building the skills and acquiring the tools they will need to be successful in their fellowship placement and in many other roles beyond it. 

Over the past few years, I have found myself frustrated by much of the instruction around these genres of writing (i.e., cover letters and resumes) and have devoted much more effort and attention to helping students learn how to write effectively in these genres, and I have been particularly happy with how my FAO applicants have benefitted from that process even when they did not get chosen for the fellowship.  The cover letters and resumes they wrote for the fellowship were directly applicable to other opportunities they pursued and were given offers for, demonstrating the value of the process and, more importantly, the value of their own experiences and credentials.

Picture of Jason Roberts

Jason Roberts

Jason Roberts (he/him) is the associate director for outreach and communications in Northwestern University’s Office of Fellowships


Feature image courtesy of Jason Roberts.

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.

Picture of 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.


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!


    Significant and Measurable Growth: Reflecting on My Two-Year Fellowship

    Approaching the end of my Fellowship, I have had several opportunities to reflect on the soft and hard skills I have gained from this experience and have been most struck with the significant and measurable growth I have seen in many parts of my professional and personal journey. This experience has afforded me incredible opportunity and leadership in programs and advocacy impacting children and families of New York City, while learning from a powerful community of advocates relentlessly invested in improving the lives of children through robust early learning opportunities. 

    The Fellowhsip was a fantastic opportunity to remain in my passion area at the intersection of direct service and policy, while growing the skills I needed to be a more capable advocate and professional.

    My direct service work through Jumpstart’s Community Impact team wove direct service components with helpful elements of strategic planning, development work, and more. We focused on expanding the role of Jumpstart services to fit specified community needs, to broaden our scope of service and connect with community partners in schools and beyond. Through the team I have gained valuable experience by planning and executing the Family Academy series with schools in several New York neighborhoods, navigating both a virtual and in-person programming format that created opportunities that engaged many families and caregivers as they built early literacy skills alongside their children. These events were some of the most impactful of my Fellowship, helping to build deep bonds with families, children, and school-based professionals who helped to support and implement our programing.

    Additionally, participating in strategic planning through NY community coalitions like City’s First Readers and the Reads Initiative sharpened my skills in advocacy and coalition-building for more effective direct-service programming, gave me additional experience in supporting the grant and funding cycle for programming, and created lasting relationships with a powerful community of advocates.

    Through my special project work in the Policy and Government Relations team, I have gained experience in both lobbying and advocacy for issues impacting the early childhood education field and was given incredible opportunity for leadership in supporting our New York Policy agenda build-out. The most impactful parts of this work over the last year have included the roll out of a bill supporting the Federal Work Study community service set-aside, including the exciting introduction of our bill in the 2023 House of Representatives legislative session. Supporting our team from the preliminary stages of drafting our legislation, to lobbying for the role of paid community service with legislators and using coalition- building skills to support and convene a broad coalition of organizational support around our initiative, made for an exciting experience that has reaffirmed my passion for policy advocacy and collective action. 

    Beyond direct experiences in work, relations with both colleagues and mentors played a powerful role in my development as a Fellow. My supervisors and teams became excellent sources of support and leadership and took an important role in allowing me to discover my unique interests in our work, take leadership in key projects, while problem solving around challenges. Having these integral relationships early in my career with senior level professionals offered great opporunities for leadership and to learn from the stories, experiences, and support of those around me. These lasting connections will continue to empower my work beyond my current organization as I continue in educational advocacy. 

    Beyond this, working in the education policy arena was a power experience to witness collective power in action. Working with coaltions of advocates, organizations, and program managers across New York City was not only a heartening experience to see the power of our collective voice and programming to improve access to education and resources for families, but to see the ability of groups to leverage the voices of educators, families, and organizations for real and measurable change. These lessons in the role of mentorship, the power of collective action and the skills I have taken from key projects will stay with me through the course of my career.

    With incredible support and advice from the Jumpstart community and from the Fellowship, post-Fellowship I will be entering graduate school, pursuing a Masters in Educational Policy Studies from Boston University as a Martin Luther King Jr. Fellow. While completing my degree, I will continue to work in the educational advocacy sector as an Organizer while continuing to build skills in data analysis, policy management, and advocacy through my studies. I am honored to have gained such valuable experience, realtionships, and insight during these first two years in my career. The Fellowhsip was a fantastic opportunity to remain in my passion area at the intersection of direct service and policy, while growing the skills I needed to be a more capable advocate and professional.

    Picture of Jasmin Norford

    Jasmin Norford

    Jasmin (she/her) is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at Jumpstart in New York City.