When I tell people about the advising half of my work, I usually give a one-liner along the lines of, “I advise students about financial aid and college affordability, but it’s virtual so I’m mostly texting them.” This tends to receive many raised eyebrows, which only raise higher when I go on to explain that I have hundreds of students in my caseload.
Experiencing a Breakthrough summer is like nothing else. Nothing can quite prepare you for cheering every morning in front of groggy middle schoolers and chasing the bus when students leave each day.
When you were in school, did you feel like your voice mattered? At what age did it feel like adults took you seriously? Were you allowed to move freely or make decisions for yourself? Did you have input in the decisions that affected you most?
I truly believe every child deserves a consistent, positive role model. Luckily for me, I’ve had many. Being the youngest of three, my sisters are driven and have always guided me by setting a good example.
Being physically active and having caring adults is what taught me so many life lessons and skills. As I reflect on my childhood, I watched my sisters actively pursue higher education and noticed that being involved in sports and artistic activities is how I naturally built so many relationships. My coaches and instructors were caring and thoughtful, just like my sisters, and truly showed passion in their work. They inspired me and whether they know it or not, they helped me build my skills, gain confidence, and understand the importance of having a team.
In high school, I was voted captain for four years which gave me a voice. I was able to use my skills as a leader and began mentoring others in a sport I had passion for. College is where I learned about networking and how patience and consistency can leverage a relationship.
What would a college student do without an academic advisor mentoring them throughout their college experience? I’m not sure but mine saved my life and set me up for success.
The word “Mentor” means faithful and wise advisor. In Greek mythology, Mentor is a friend of Odysseus and tutors Athena’s son, Telemachus. In the Odyssey, Athena assumes Mentor’s form to give advice to Telemachus or Odysseus. I value mentorship not only because of the knowledge and skills we learn, but also because mentoring provides personal and professional support. High quality and intentional mentoring greatly enhance a person’s success. Research shows that students who experience good mentoring throughout college have a greater chance of persisting in graduate school or securing career advancement. If I did not meet these caring role models throughout my educational career, I am not sure I would have learnedmy passion or understood the meaning of “It’s not about what you know, but who you know.”
As I continue to grow, I’ve gained many new mentors whom I consistently seek for feedback. I lean towards them for advice personally and professionally. Becoming a strong leader in many school communities, I have been given the chance to mentor youth. This is how I identified my passion for youth mentorship. I enjoy rapport-building and making new friends. I value being a listening ear and helping youth grow throughout life.
Being a Latina and growing up in Philadelphia, I faced similar barriers as many youth face today. I value my experience and relatability and use it to describe how I overcame adversity. As a mentor, I encourage my mentees to believe in themselves, to stay consistent with their goals, and to mentor others. This is how I impact social change and why I value mentorship. I get to be that positive caring adult that supports others, just like my sisters, and past and present mentors have done for me.
Pam Martinez is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at Playworks Philadelphia.
My name is Jaiwantie Manni and I am the current FAO Schwarz Fellow at the Museum of the City of New York. My direct service work involves working with students and teachers who visit the Museum on field trips.
For my special project at the Museum, I incorporate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities into our field trips, and plan and implement our Family and Community Engagement Programs. I also have the pleasure of working with, and learning from, Joanna Steinberg, who was one of the first Fellows funded by the Foundation. Joanna completed her fellowship at the Museum in 2008 but has continued to be an integral team member of the Frederick A.O. Schwarz Education Center at MCNY in her role as Senior Education Manager.
Joanna chose to work at the Museum not only because she had previous experience here but also because she wanted to work in a dynamic museum in a large city. Having grown up in New York City, she was particularly interested in urban and local history and working with students from across the boroughs. As a Fellow, Joanna’s direct service duties included leading fields trips—The Grid: Urban Planning in NYC and Life in New Amsterdam, which I also teach—and work on developing programs that aligned with the NYC Department of Education’s curriculum. The notion of having a direct service focus as well as a special long-term project, which the Fellow focuses on for the two-year period, is a concept that has been incorporated into the fellowship since it was established in 2006.
One of her special projects was coordinating an educational program at the Museum called New York City History Day. This annual citywide event brings together hundreds of students from across NYC to share their research in the form of exhibitions, documentaries, performances, papers, and websites. Joanna expanded participation in the program by over 100 participants and developed relationships with many schools who were new to the program. To help new schools prepare, Joanna led workshops with teachers and student groups about how to research and interpret primary sources and develop thesis statements to make a historical argument. As a former history major, Joanna was excited that the program creates a community of young historians in the making, and recognizes and ignites their interest in history.
It’s been wonderful to see the program grow under Stephanie Dueno, also a former FAO. Schwarz Fellow, who served as the coordinator after Joanna until 2017. She created an extensive curriculum that teaches students how to conduct historical research and develop their own perspectives, in addition to strengthened partnerships with the Department of Education and schools across the city.
Like myself, Joanna had previous experience working in museums. Joanna was a history major and an art minor at Oberlin College in Cleveland, Ohio. During her time at Oberlin, Joanna completed a Museum practicum at the Allen Art Museum, which is where she led tours as a Museum Educator and worked as the Assistant Registrar in Collections. During one summer, she worked at the Museum of the City of New York in the Urban Peer Docent Program mentoring high school youth who learned to teach in museum exhibitions for the first time. However, being a Museum Educator isn’t something you learn overnight. Joanna mentioned that it takes time and practice to hone your pedagogical skills, which involves fine-tuning questions to elicit lively discussions, learning to listen closely to students and having them respond to each other, while also building on their comments and observations to enhance their engagement with the exhibitions and discussions about New York.
For Joanna, the Museum has provided an amazing laboratory for developing interactive learning strategies, thinking about accessibility and how students interact in the spaces and identifying optimal moments for learning. Even though I’ve worked in two museums before coming to MCNY, I find myself also seeking advice on how to fine-tune these skills and learning how to make connections between students.
Today, Joanna is the Senior Education Manager of the Frederick A.O. Schwarz Education Center at the Museum of the City of New York. After her fellowship ended in 2008, Joanna continued to work on teaching and developing new field trips, particularly ones in conjunction with Activist New York, Jacob Riis: Revealing New York’s Other Half, City as Canvas, and Hip Hop Revolution, in addition to History Labs. Joanna says that “working on educational programs where students and chaperones see cultural movements of their own generation and their own communities across the boroughs represented in the Museum have been powerful and have changed the way students experience the Museums.”
Years later, Joanna has developed many lesson plans for Activist New York and recently worked with a team of educators to develop lesson plans for Beyond Suffrage: A Century of New York Women in Politics for teachers to use in their classrooms. She has also worked on developing some of the components of the Future City Lab field trip that I am working on. The Future City Labis one of the Museum’s new permanent galleries that’s part of New York at Its Core, which allows visitors to examine the city’s current challenges and develop strategies to respond to these challenges using interactive digital games.
Today, Joanna is my go-to person for anything regarding field trips. She helps teach me the field trip content and is someone I seek feedback from while developing a STEM-based educational experience for students visiting the Future City Lab for my special project work.
Throughout these past six months, I have worked with students from grades K–12, and have learned to lead five different field trips. Using STEM concepts, I have also developed a new interactive display for theFuture City Lab to help students learn about the strategies New Yorkers are using to address major challenges that the city is facing in terms of the environment, housing, and transportation.
My hope is that the inclusion of tactile objects, like concrete and materials from green roofs will help them understand the inner workings of the city and the choices professionals and community members are making to solve problems. Having the opportunity to look at photographs and touch urban materials will not only resonate with students but will draw a real connection between the exhibition and the city beyond the Museum’s walls. I’ve worked with Joanna and other members of the Schwarz Education Center to make decisions about what to include in this display so that the concepts featured in the exhibition are more accessible to our students of all ages. Having Joanna’s expertise on how students grasp information has been extremely helpful and has made my project more meaningful.
It has been delightful to come into the Museum and work with Joanna to develop a more STEM-based educational experience for students visiting the Future City Lab. Every day, I get to work in a professional setting where everyone is each other’s cheerleader and everyone is given room for professional growth. I not only get to collaborate with other Museum Educators but also our Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellows who are trained as Museum Educators to utilize their doctoral research in a public history setting by engaging the Schwarz Education Center’s audiences.
This summer, I will be working with some of the Museum interns who are young adults being trained in Museum Education techniques as a first-time job opportunity. They lead field trips to camp groups and Family Programs in July and August. I am looking forward to being a part of their training and supervisory team where I can impart my recent knowledge as a new staff member to this new cohort of interns.
With the support of the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation, the Frederick A.O. Schwarz Education Center at the Museum of the City of New York offers career development opportunities to a wide range of professionals at different levels of their career. I feel fortunate to be the beneficiary of one of these opportunities. From the Foundation’s resources to my colleagues at MCNY, I’m learning how to hone my creativity, experience, and knowledge to contribute to the important educational programs offered by the Museum.
We’ve all heard about how invaluable our network is and how nobody finds a job without LinkedIn these days. And, in some ways, staying in touch is far easier for our generation than those who came before us. But how many of your Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections would you feel comfortable calling up on a whim? Or asking if you could come take their portrait like this artist did?
Fall has begun, which means it’s time to congratulate our first years as they transition to the second year of the fellowship alongside welcoming our newest cohort of FAO Fellows!
Your education continues—push yourself to learn as much as you can even when it is outside of your own “expertise."
As a Supreme Fellow, I would like to extend my congratulations and welcome by complying with my millennial ways and writing a Buzzfeed-esque blog post highlighting 3 tips I wish I would have known when I started the FAO Fellowship two years ago.
By the time I was a senior in college, I was already itching to leave the classroom and begin my career as a young professional. The discussions and content I picked up in the classroom seemed detached from the real world. The minute I began working at my fellowship site, I began to gain a different form of education; I learned about systemic issues like high school access in New York City as well as more subtle yet enriching skills such as how to manage college students or my personal favorite, how to create organized systems between your personal life and work life. #worklifebalanceisreal
One way I continued to pick up this unofficial professional development was by signing up for any opportunity I could get in my new job. Extra work event where I would support with registration? I am there. A team member from the operations department needs support? Sure, I can help! In these moments I was able to observe how events worked, why operations is the foundation to any organization and what specific projects I enjoyed.
Quick random tip: Don’t be afraid to ask questions! As a Fellow this is your moment to ask, given that you can use the fellowship as an excuse to learn more about the organization. People love to talk about themselves and their work!
Take yourself seriously by calculating and documenting your work outcomes.
By the second year of my fellowship, my responsibilities extended much further than the original job description. My work expanded into recruitment, sustaining school partnerships, and writing a semester’s worth of curriculum; valuable skills I am grateful for practicing.
Because I was so immersed in my work, when I started polishing my resume it was hard to think of all of my professional outcomes. So tip #2: As you work on these additional projects and continue to develop your professional skills, write them down onto your resume and make sure to add your results!
Organizations today are goal-focused and are looking for the quantitative impact you made with your work. For example, on my resume, instead of Wrote and instructed 8th-grade curriculum; I typed: Wrote developed and instructed 8th-grade curriculum composed of a total of 12 workshops (over 18 hours of instruction) with the goal to produce top quality high school applications. Organizations want to hear that you are all about results. Let the numbers speak for your work.
Use your network within the FAO Fellowship!
Do not get it wrong. Just because I am writing advice to you today doesn’t mean that I have it all figured out. During my fellowship, I struggled with creating a work/life balance, learning how to manage up, and everything in between.
Fortunately, I had another fellow in my cohort that worked at my same organization which helped a lot when I needed to talk to someone. This experience taught me that if you ever have these struggles, do not hesitate to use your network because you are not alone. The first network you automatically have when you are a part of this fellowship is your FAO crew, current cohort and alums! Invite someone to coffee or reach out through an email; our FAO fellowship community is always out to support a fellow!
Gabriella Gómez is the Academic Coordinator at the Harlem RBI South Bronx site, a year-round development program that incorporates academic, social-emotional and baseball/softball enrichment. During her fellowship, Gaby worked at Breakthrough New York as the High School Placement Coordinator. When she is not writing curriculum, visiting schools, or facilitating workshops with her middle schoolers, she can be found carefully updating her Spotify playlist, working on her bullet journal or playing with her most adorable 2-year-old nephew, Diego.