Nia Atkins is pictured on Zoom with hear Year Up coaching group

Stepping Into the Role of Coach at Year Up

Direct service is an incredibly important part of my work and everyone’s work at Year Up. Many other staff members and I engage in direct service by serving as coaches to small groups of young people—our coachees—as they progress through Year Up’s programming. No small task, coaching involves meeting multiple times a week with one’s coachees both as a group and one-on-one, providing feedback on various professional skills, presentations, and resumes, and offering consistent support through any challenges our young adults may face.

When I first joined Year Up in June 2021, I observed more seasoned coaches before becoming a coach myself. I got the opportunity to see many different coach-coachee interactions and learn about what it takes to foster and maintain a successful coach-coachee relationship. Veteran staff members talked to me about their experiences including past mistakes they may have made in their first few go-arounds and how they’ve learned and grown since then. Despite my access to a wealth of coaching resources, the thought of stepping into the role of “coach” myself, daunted me. I felt insecure about being similar in age to my coachees and worried that I would not yet know enough about Year Up programming to be helpful to them.

This past August—a little over a year into my Fellowship—I got to see my first group of coaches graduate Year Up, and all I could think about during the graduation ceremony was how proud I was of them.

In October of 2021, I became a coach for the first time. While I had lingering anxiety about my ability to succeed in the role, my multi-month tenure at Year Up had prepared me well. Additionally, I had the privilege of co-coaching with one of the most senior staff members at Year Up’s New York and New Jersey office. Together we guided a group of five students through an almost year-long journey full of highs and lows. I learned a lot about Year Up and about coaching from my co-coach. I also learned a lot from my coachees about the student experience at Year Up and about what Year Up means to them.

This past August—a little over a year into my Fellowship—I got to see my first group of coachees graduate Year Up, and all I could think about during the graduation ceremony was how proud I was of them. I had watched their shyness and uncertainty develop into confidence and authority. And I could not help but notice that I had gone through a similar journey as a coach. By the time of their graduation, I already had a second group of coachees in a new cohort, and everything had felt much easier and less stressful with them because I had done it all before. I was much more knowledgeable, confident, and commanding in my role, and as a result, I was a stronger coach than I’d been before. Moreover, I realized over the course of one year and two different coaching groups that I really love the direct service work I do! Coaching students is by far my favorite part of my Fellowship position.

This October we welcomed yet another new cohort of students, but this time is different in that it is my first time coaching by myself. I would be lying if I said I am not a little bit nervous to coach on my own, but anytime those nerves set in, I remember that my experience, commitment, and passion will continue to guide me in the right direction.

Nia Atkins

Nia Atkins

Nia Atkins (she/her) is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at Year Up New York | New Jersey.


logos of 2023 hosts

FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Announces Fellowship Host Organizations for 2023

BOSTON — October 13, 2022. The FAO Schwarz Family Foundation has selected five social impact organizations to host the 2023-2025 cohort of FAO Schwarz Fellows.

The Foundation will sponsor seven, two-year Fellowships in social impact at five nationally recognized nonprofits. The organizations selected this year are the Barnes Foundation (Philadelphia), Jumpstart (Boston & New York City), Museum of Science  (Boston),  Whitney Museum (New York City), and Year Up (Boston & New York City). Jumpstart and Year Up will each host two Fellows, while the other host organizations will each host one.

The Fellowships are two-year paid positions that develop the leadership skills of recent college graduates interested in pursuing careers related to social change. From education in culture to education in science, from early childhood education to workforce development, from smaller and newer organizations to the larger and well-established, the diversity of organizations selected as hosts will provide the next cohort with a comprehensive view of the social impact landscape.

We’re thrilled to provide talented future leaders with paid, professional experience with our country’s leading nonprofits. They’ll have a unique opportunity to affect social change at this crucial time.”

“Young leaders are more important than ever as our greatest social impact organizations look to expand their reach and impact,” said Priscilla Cohen, Executive Director of the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation. “Meanwhile, graduating college seniors are looking to make an impact in the world and lend their talents to organizations with missions they believe in. We’re thrilled to provide talented future leaders with paid, professional experience with our country’s leading nonprofits. They’ll have a unique opportunity to affect social change at this crucial time.” 

Hosts are enthusiastic about the ways their Fellows can contribute to and enhance their work in the communities they serve: “The Barnes is honored to host and work with an FAO Schwarz Fellow, as this rising leader will contribute to our overarching goals of expanding our regional audiences, which in turn enriches our entire region,” said Valerie Gay, Deputy Director for Audience Engagement & Chief Experience Officer at the Barnes Foundation. “By working in under-resourced communities, especially with youth and their families, the Fellow will establish and deepen relationships that will have immediate and long-reaching benefits for both the audiences we serve and the Barnes.”

Jumpstart, a returning host, is excited to host two additional Fellows and help them develop as a leader. Mark Reilly, Vice President of Policy and Government Relations, shared, “Jumpstart believes wholeheartedly in providing our FAO Schwarz Fellows with an amazing experience to learn about nonprofit organizations, community work, and policy advocacy and to develop crucial social impact and leadership skills.”

Organizational capacity is another common theme across hosts, as they can expand their services in valuable ways. Christina Moscat, Manager of Youth and Bilingual Offerings, at the Museum of Science, says, “We have valued the opportunity to host a FAO Schwarz Fellow and pair an emerging professional in the field to use their passion and near-peer perspective to mentor youth at the Museum of Science. The Fellowship has helped us create more opportunities to impact teen excitement and engagement with STEM.”

Adam D. Weinberg, Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, a first-time Fellowship host, makes a similar point: “The FAO Schwarz Fellowship will help the Whitney to become increasingly inclusive, welcoming, and accessible to all interested in learning about American art and artists.”

Year Up has enjoyed a long legacy of mission-driven FAO Schwarz Fellows, and looks forward to the next: “Connecting to our mission at Year Up is critical to the work we do and we’ve found the FAO Schwarz Fellows to be fully committed and engaged in helping us close the opportunity divide for talented young adults by providing the training and internships they need to start a meaningful career,” said Lindsey Himstead, Director of Marketing.

Applications for all Fellowship positions open on November 1, 2022.


Creating Future Impact Leaders

The FAO Schwarz Fellowship program is looking forward to welcoming its 16th cohort.  Since its founding in 2006, there have been over 65 FAO Schwarz Fellows. Nearly 60  percent have gone on to graduate programs, 42 percent have been hired by their host organizations, and 97 percent continue to work in the social impact sector.

About the 2023-2025 Host Organizations

The Barnes Foundation promotes the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture. (Fellowship description.)

Jumpstart 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. (Boston Fellowship description, NYC Fellowship description.)

The Museum of Science aims to inspire a lifelong love of science in everyone through delightful exhibits, programs, curricula, and professional development offerings for educators. (Fellowship description.)

The Whitney Museum of American Art seeks to be the defining museum of 20th- and 21st-century American art, fostering the work of living artists at critical moments in their careers, often before their work has achieved general acceptance, and educating a diverse public through direct interaction with artists. (Fellowship description).

Year Up’s mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by ensuring that young adults gain the skills, experiences, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through careers and higher education. (Boston Fellowship description, NYC Fellowship description.)

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Fellows participate n the tomato harvest at the Food Project in Boston

Fellows Gather in Boston for Four Days of Professional Development

Special thanks to Jesse McLaughlin, 2024 FAO Schwarz Fellow at NYC Audubon Fellow​

Current Fellows recently gathered in Boston for four days of professional development and immersion in the world of social impact.

After traveling from NYC and Philadelphia, Fellows arrived in Boston on Monday, met up at the Museum of Science for a variety of group activities, and then had dinner together at their Airbnb. One Fellow said, “it was so great to finally meet everyone in person and have time to get to know each other.”

On Tuesday, the cohort visited The Food Project in Dorchester where they participated in farm chores and learned about food security. The Fellows managed to clear an entire section of tomato plants nearing the end of their season, but not before picking the last of the harvest for distribution at local farmers’ markets. The Fellows then took time off to explore Boston’s iconic 2.5 mile-Freedom Trail, grab dinner along the water, and do a little cannoli taste-testing. When asked which iconic cannoli she preferred, one Boston Fellow exclaimed: “Mike’s!”


“It was so great to finally meet everyone in person and have time to get to know each other.”

On Wednesday, the Fellows met with senior leadership from Jumpstart to hear about their professional journeys and about the impact of early education on children’s lives. The Fellows learned Jumpstart’s policy work and had a tour of the Massachusetts Statehouse.  (You can read about one Fellow’s perspective on that work in a previous post.)

After lunch, the Fellows headed off to Breakthrough of Greater Boston where they learned about the organization, spoke with the Executive Director, and led mock interviews with high school seniors. The Fellows then had supper in Harvard Square and a special birthday celebration for one of the first-year Fellows who said he “felt even more supported and connected to [his] other fellows on this special day away from home.


Thursday’s destination was the Museum of Science where equity in STEM education and enrichment were key topics. The Fellows had the opportunity to lead activity stations in hands-on chemistry projects for high school students as part of the Museum’s High School Science Series. The Fellows met with the President of the Museum and had time to explore the Museum including touring the live animal care center. There was a lot of lively conversation and questions—NYC Audubon and Audubon Mid-Atlantic Fellows were particularly thrilled to be able to see Cobalt the Blue Jay up close and personal in the care center.

The day ended with dinner at the Boston-area home of a Trustee, a chance to meet several alumni Fellows, and to enjoy the company of the FAO Schwarz Fellowship community over a delicious meal and s’mores cooked over a fire pit. One alumna Fellow who attended said that she “enjoyed getting to meet the new fellows and reconnect with everyone. I’m forever grateful for the fellowship and how it helped set me up for many amazing years at my non-profit.” 

On Friday, Fellows reflected on what they learned and took part in closing activities before heading home. “Inspired, committed, rejuvenated, and connected to the FAO Fellowship community” were some of the words Fellows used to describe how they were feeling about the retreat.

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A group of fellows

FAO Schwarz Fellowship Announces Increase in Fellowship Salaries for 2023-2025 Cohort

BOSTON — July 19, 2022 The FAO Schwarz Fellowship has announced an increase in salaries for Fellows starting with the 2023-2025 cohort. 

When they start next summer, new Fellows will receive a salary of $40,000 in their first year,  which includes a $2,000 start-of-Fellowship bonus. In their second year, they will earn $45,000, which includes a $3,000 end-of-Fellowship bonus. In addition, 100 percent of the cost of health insurance premium coverage will be paid for both years (with an approximate value of $12,000/year), and Fellows will receive a monthly subway pass (with an approximate value of  $1,200/year)—for a total value of approximately $111,400 in compensation over the course of the two-year program.

The Fellowship will continue to monitor salaries in the cities where we offer Fellowships and ensure that Fellows receive a living wage along with the professional development, mentoring and experiences they need for a career in social impact.

Salaries are paid by the host organizations with funding support from the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation.

“The FAO Schwarz Fellowship program offers Fellow salaries that are very competitive with salaries and benefits offered by other selective Fellowships,” said Priscilla Cohen, Executive Director, of the FAO Schwarz Fellowship program. “Add in the professional development that the Fellowship includes, and it’s clear that it is a valuable program for young people seeking careers leading social change.” Completing the two-year program can also “help young people advance more quickly to management positions leading social change.”

“We’re grateful that we can support this increase in partnership with our nonprofit host organizations,”  added Cohen. “The Fellowship will continue to monitor salaries and the cost of living in each of the cities where we offer Fellowships and ensure that Fellows receive a living wage along with the training needed to jump-start a career in social impact.”


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,


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.

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