Special Projects

Leading as a Young Person

The training rooms are packed. These young people, after weeks upon weeks of applications, interviews, and deliberation, have entered the Wall Street office space of the New York | New Jersey market for the first time. Like their peers across the country, they have placed their trust in one permutation of a national workforce development organization, hoping to empower themselves as they journey further through their young adulthood. These young people are at Year Up.

Could I, a mere 22 year-old that scrambled out of college three months before, serve these fellow young people with any degree of competence? Was my age going to be a burden in my work?

No, it was an asset.

There’s a certain tension in the air. They have come in the most professional outfits they could have mustered for the moment, even as your own shirt collar has begun to chafe your neck. These young people are wracked with nervousness, one you are fighting with every passing second. They are looking at you, and the PowerPoint behind you, for answers. How do you manage the expectations of several dozen twenty-somethings, each eager to progress forward in their lives and succeed?

Answer: Charisma, a thoroughly organized schedule, and pizza lunches. Lots and lots of pizza. What else can you expect from Lower Manhattan?

But the first ninety days of my time at Year Up’s New York | New Jersey market have not only been marked by shuffling pizza boxes around the office, but something infinitely less greasy– a harmony between data and direct service, and the hard work of putting largescale ambitions into incremental action. Year Up prides itself on its “feedback culture,” a system in which staff, students, and the organization at large are able to engage in conversation addressing both strengths and growth areas. For the FAO Schwarz Fellow in New York, this means tackling data at the macro level: organizing surveys for literal hundreds of people. And as with any FAO Schwarz Fellow, this means engaging directly with the population you serve.

When I came to Year Up in July 2023, I had been managing my own expectations as a fellow. I knew I liked working with data, and I knew I was good with working with people. I knew, based on the experience of the previous fellow Nia Atkins, that I could expect a lot of both. I knew that LC Lookback, an event wherein staff use the outcomes of the previous cycle to plan towards the next, was something she worked with often. When I was then asked to conduct research for the August 2023 LC Lookback, only a week into my tenure, I accepted it as part and parcel of my role. Sure, it was a daunting project that required precision and close collaboration over a mere month– which for non-social scientists, feels a little like cramming for a test the night before– but I earned my BA in Sociology from research I eked out in rural New England. This was something I knew I could do. This was a chance to begin doing data analysis with tangible, immediate impact.

August rolled around. LC Lookback came and went, and I presented, showing off my comically long slide deck to fellow staff members. This I had received academic training for. You acknowledge your biases, limitations, and blind spots. You work towards substantive conclusions given the human-centric data you gather. I felt a little proud of the instances where I worked in more qualitative data, sprinkling open-ended answers from participants in-between colorful graphs and numbers. Here was a strength (They really like in-person programming!) and there was a growth area (They really don’t like not getting in-person programming!). Data was data, and to a reasonable degree, I felt confident in handling it.

One LC Lookback down, something like 3 to 4 to go, right?

What I wasn’t so sure of was how direct service would turn out. Unlike some of the other fellows, I wasn’t working with children: on that first day of Orientation, in came participants as young as 17 and as old as 28. Some of them were parents. Others had just finished their Associates’ Degree. The average age was 23. I knew that because I had looked at the demographic data beforehand, trying to see where and how that data would inform my job.

Could I, a mere 22 year-old that scrambled out of college three months before, serve these fellow young people with any degree of competence? Was my age going to be a burden in my work?

Answer: No. It was an asset.

When I got up before those dozens of participants– in-between the program managers and instructors admittedly much more relevant to their day-to-day– I cracked a joke. Then another. And with an awkward flourish of my hand, I had the room smiling, chuckling, and engaged. That’s important when there’s a long road between the start of the morning and the afternoon pizza party. “I’m Avery Trinidad, and I’m gonna be the one to flood your inbox with surveys in a few months.”

Hey, I guess I still knew how to work a crowd. Kinda.

On the way to a break, a participant brought up his hand for a fist bump. Then another, and then another. It turned into a (short) line. I obliged. Trust is important in direct service. It takes a while to build it. It comes in many forms, after all.

Avery Trinidad

Avery Trinidad

Avery Trinidad (he/him) is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at Year Up in New York City.


Natalia works with children and their families at an event at the Museum of the City of New York

A Day in the Life of a Fellow at MCNY

9:00-9:15 – Grounding 

  • I start my mornings by checking my email, responding to any messages, and planning my schedule for the day. I find this routine really grounding because I know exactly what I need to do and when to do it throughout the day.


9:15-9:45 – Field Trip Prep Time 

  • Most, if not every morning, I will be leading field trips for K-12 audiences as part of my direct service work. After I’ve grounded myself in my goals for the day, I will take time to prepare materials that students will engage with throughout the experience. Our field trip materials include a wide range of historical objects, iPads with videos, and arts and crafts materials. 
  • I will also review the information about the group to best tailor the experience to their needs. Sometimes the teacher let us know ahead of time that the students are studying a specific topic related to the gallery, so I will make sure to include that topic as a discussion point in the tour. 
  • I will often teach more than one field trip in a day during the academic year, so I will prep materials for my second field trip at this time if needed so that I am not rushing later on.


10:00 – 1:00 – Field Trips 

  • Depending on the time of year, I will teach one or two field trips a day. Each trip is an entirely different experience. Some of the variables that make each field trip unique include the student’s prior knowledge and interests, their grade level and previous museum experience, the gallery we are visiting, the time of day they visit, or even the weather. Developing my arsenal of teaching strategies has taken lots of practice, experimentation, and collaboration with other facilitators on the Education team. 


12:45 – 1:00 – Clean Up! 

  • Once all of my field trips for the day are done, I will put away materials that I took out for the day. I will also make note if we are running low on supplies and replenish them so that they’re prepared for the other museum educators who may need them.


1:00 – 2:00 – Lunch

  • When the weather is nice, I will eat lunch in Central Park! The Museum is across the street from the Conservatory Gardens, so I will often sit on a bench in that area. Now, having worked at the Museum for a year, it’s been really fascinating to see and learn how the gardeners change the landscape over the seasons. 


2:00 – 5:00 PM – Special Project Work Time 

  • In the afternoons I have dedicated time to work on my special projects. These projects change throughout the year depending on the upcoming programs and gallery rotations. Much of the special project work I do is collaborative, and I really appreciate the opportunities to work and learn from my colleagues!  
  • Field Trip co-development – One of the special projects I have been working on is co-developing a field trip for our upcoming exhibit People, Place and Influence: The Collection at 100. Part of this work includes selecting objects that students will interact with, identifying the types of engagements we will have students participate in, and selecting the main concepts we want students to take away from the field trip. 
  • FAO Foundation work – I will also work on projects for the FAO Foundation. The projects I have worked on this year include creating a graduation book to celebrate the second-year fellows upon the completion of their fellowship, preparing to present for prospective students, planning for the upcoming New York City retreat, and more.


Natalia Wang

Natalia Wang

Natalia (she/they) is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at the Museum of the City of New York.


Jesse holds a sign that says "no more dead birds, pass lights out" at the Lights Out Rally in NYC in May 2023.

Collective Creativity: Confronting the Problem of Collisions Head On

New York City is a captivating sight both day and night for its ceaseless bright and bustling energy, but the allure of artificial light at night has unintended consequences for migratory birds. The beaming lights that define the City’s nightscape disrupt wild birds’ crucial, ancient journeys and can create a sudden end in the form of collision with glass.

As part of my Fellowship with NYC Audubon, I also manage the environmental center on Governors Island, including the Artist in Residence Program. One of the great joys of my job is supporting artists in their work to educate the public...

Artificial Light at Night (ALAN) affects the millions of birds that pass through New York City during their migration every single year. Birds rely on natural light cues for their migration, navigation, communication, and reproduction. Light pollution can disrupt these behaviors, drawing them into cities like New York and confusing them, making them more susceptible to deadly collisions with windows.

Though the majority of collisions with buildings take place in the daylight, the birds are drawn to these unsafe environments by night-time lights. When dawn comes and hungry birds look to refuel for their long journey ahead, they encounter a disorienting, urban landscape full of glass. Many collide seeking refuge or escape.

Given New York City’s great size and number of artificially lit buildings, achieving an impactful level of consistent, voluntary participation in “lights out” efforts by New York City buildings has proved challenging. In other words, kindly requesting each one of the City’s million buildings to turn off unnecessary nighttime lighting during peak migration is an impossible task. Therefore, NYC Audubon’s advocacy efforts focus on the creation, passage, and enforcement of legislation that would require a reduction in artificial night-time lighting during spring and fall migration. Such laws would save the lives of countless birds and greatly reduce city-wide energy consumption. Working in partnership with the Lights Out Coalition, NYC Audubon is currently advocating for legislation that will require all City buildings to dim unessential nighttime lighting during migration, extending previous legislation that applied to City owned and operated buildings.   

My special project as an FAO Schwarz Fellow is to take an active role in NYC Audubon’s Lights Out advocacy. This effort has been slowly gaining traction over the past year, but things have taken off in the last few months with the introduction of Int. 1039 in New York City Council. Leading up to the introduction of legislation, I worked with the Lights Out Coalition to organize a rally at City Hall and bring in a crowd of supporters, drafted a fact sheet with press talking points, and created a webpage and email about the new bill. 

But local legislative advocacy is only one avenue for action. I believe that reducing collisions with glass requires a collective commitment to creative solutions for wild birds. As part of my Fellowship with NYC Audubon, I also manage the organization’s seasonal environmental center on Governors Island, including the Artist in Residence Program and gallery space. One of the great joys of my job is supporting artists in their work to educate the public about the trials and triumphs of birds in New York City, as well as inspire action to protect our winged neighbors. 

Recently, I have had the honor of curating Of Ash and Air, a solo show of Leslie Ruckman and Gal Nissim’s work that explores a new mythology, guided by the long history and symbolism of human-bird relationships. Ruckman and Nissim’s artworks serve as powerful visual narratives, inviting viewers to reconsider their relationship with the avian inhabitants of the City. Featured in Of Ash and Air are glass sculptures of songbirds cast from real, NYC collision victims collected by NYC Audubon’s dedicated volunteers. These solemn but compelling pieces prompt viewers to tangibly confront the second-greatest direct cause of bird mortality in the United States: collisions with glass. Reincarnated in the material that killed them, the sculptures honor the birds in their death, aiming to bring awareness to a seemingly invisible problem.

In another part of the installation, animated murals illustrated on the UV spectrum– which birds can see but humans cannot – depict the entanglements of human and bird cultures throughout time. Through these murals, Leslie and Gal also propose an intentional solution to the unintentional problem of glass collisions, blurring the illusory boundary manufactured in urban environments. 

Of Ash and Air stands as a testament to the transformative power of art, encouraging us to reconsider our relationship with other-than-human species and imagine a future where birds and people coexist in harmony. Art reminds us that we have the power to shape our future. However we may reach that future, I hope it is one where urban landscapes are not hostile to migratory birds but rather spaces where the beauty of avian and human creativity intertwine. 

Jesse McLaughlin

Jesse McLaughlin

Jesse McLaughlin (he/him) is the Advocacy & Engagement Associate FAO Schwarz Fellow at NYC Audubon in New York City.


Feature images in blog gallery by Gal Nissim and Leslie Ruckman, courtesy of NYC Audubon.

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.

Jasmin Norford

Jasmin Norford

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


Finding Hope in State Policy

Ryan reflects on the impact of his project work in state policy.

The past two years have been incredibly difficult—all have suffered deep trauma, grief, isolation, and fear. An unfathomable number of lives have been lost, and an unquantifiable number more have been forever altered from the loss of family, friends, or health because of the coronavirus. Graduating in May of 2021 – soon after the first anniversary of the pandemic-induced shutdown of the country – I felt hopeless as the polarization and political stagnation in Washington D.C. made the long road to recovery feel nearly insurmountable. However, I have found reasons for hope over the first nine months of my Fellowship through my special project work, where I have witnessed the potential of state government to step up where the federal government was lacking.

My Fellowship is at Jumpstart, a national early education non-profit that advances equitable learning outcomes for young children in underserved communities by recruiting and supporting caring adults to deliver high-quality programming to children and drive systems change through teaching, advocacy, and leadership.

At Jumpstart, I have gained an entirely new perspective on the power and importance of lobbying in the social impact sphere.

My special project work at Jumpstart is focused on early childhood education (ECE) policy and advocacy in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Lobbying and advocacy tend to not have the best reputation among the American public. When I graduated from my small liberal arts college, I could not have anticipated that I would become a registered lobbyist just a few months later.

At Jumpstart, I have gained an entirely new perspective on the power and importance of lobbying in the social impact sphere. Political advocacy feels like an impactful extension of my direct service; I build off Jumpstart’s successes in direct service and workforce programming with the intent to create monetary and legislative investment by the government, both for Jumpstart and ECE as a whole. The collective power coming from the incredibly engaged, collaborative, and supportive advocacy community that I work with is a major highlight of my work.

I have had many amazing opportunities to make contributions that impact the Massachusetts legislative process and elevate early education priorities to legislators. The range of issues that I am involved with varies from a bill focused on tax breaks for early education providers who received federal relief money, to a group of bills focused on exclusionary discipline reform, to a statewide campaign working to systemically change the ECE structure in Massachusetts. My duties have included testifying in front of two legislative committees, contributing to coalition work and organizing events, participating in a Lobby Day at the State House, and personally conducting many meetings with legislative staffers to advance Jumpstart’s priorities on Beacon Hill.

I am incredibly grateful for the support and mentorship from my supervisor and colleagues on Jumpstart’s Policy and Government Relations (PGR) team who have worked with me to clarify our policy priorities and to prepare me to enter meetings on behalf of our organization. Massachusetts and the country at large are starting to recognize the importance of ECE in the lives of children and families, and for the economic well-being of the community. It is an exciting time to be involved in this advocacy space, and I look forward to continuing my work with Jumpstart’s PGR team for the next year plus.

Ryan Telingator

Ryan Telingator

Ryan is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at Jumpstart in Boston, MA.

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!


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.


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.