2024 Host Logos

Announcing the FAO Schwarz Fellowship Host Organizations for 2024

BOSTON — September 28, 2023. The FAO Schwarz Family Foundation has selected six leading nonprofit organizations to host the 2024-2026 FAO Schwarz Fellowships.  The host organizations selected this year are  826 Boston (Boston) which is a first-time host, Audubon Mid-Atlantic, The Clay Studio, The Food Trust (Philadelphia), and the Museum of the City of New York (New York City). They will each host one new Fellow.  Reading Partners (New York City) will host two Fellows in New York.

“The Foundation has always believed that young people have the desire and potential to imagine and create a better world, and the Fellowship is designed to help them become the leaders they hope to be.”

The Food Trust will be hosting its fifth Fellow. The Museum of the City of New York, which was among the first organizations to host a Fellow in 2006, will be hosting its seventh Fellow and Reading Partners will welcome its fourth and fifth Fellows. The Fellowships are two-year paid positions that develop the leadership skills of recent college graduates pursuing careers in social impact. 

“We’re proud to offer these paid, professional experiences with our country’s leading nonprofits where talented recent graduates can develop the skills they need to lead the change,” said Priscilla Cohen, Executive Director. “The Foundation has always believed that young people have the desire and potential to imagine and create a better world, and the Fellowship is designed to help them become the leaders they hope to be.”

The two-year paid experience offers new college graduates a chance to play key roles in some of society’s most successful and innovative social change organizations while increasing the host’s capacity and impact. The diversity of organizations selected as hosts provides Fellows with an overview of the nonprofit landscape in a variety of sectors as well as opportunities to collaborate and compare the strategies and leadership approaches organizations use in their work.

This year’s hosts are enthusiastic about the ways their Fellows can contribute to their work in the communities they serve:

826 Orange LogoCarolyn Navikonis, Senior Director of Impact at 826 Boston said,  “We’re thrilled to have an FAO Schwarz Fellow join the 826 Boston team. This Fellowship will boost our ability to offer a wide range of outstanding programs and provide individualized support to students across Boston as they grow as writers and leaders.”

Damien Ruffner, Program Manager from Audubon-Mid-Atlantic, which is currently hosting a Fellow, said, “The FAO Schwarz Fellow is vital to Audubon’s commitment and outreach into North Philadelphia. Our Fellow provides a consistent presence in the community, solidifying us as an integral community partner, creating a sustained and lasting impact on current and future generations of North Philadelphia residents.”

The Clay Studio is thrilled to again partner with the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation to host a Fellow,” said Josie Bockelman, Deputy Director of The Clay Studio. “As an organization, we strongly believe it is critical to be a part of developing the next generation of non-profit professionals through direct work experience.”

“The Food Trust is thrilled to once again welcome an FAO Schwarz fellow to our team, as we work together toward our mission of delicious, nutritious food for all,” said Mark Edwards, President & CEO of The Food Trust.  “As with any organization, our most valuable asset is our talented, passionate staff, and we feel strongly that young leaders inject invaluable energy, enthusiasm, and creativity into the social impact space.”

“I’ve worked with two phenomenal Fellows who have contributed to all aspects of our programs,” said Sydney Stewart, Manager of Student Learning and Experience at the Museum of the City of New York. “Our current Fellow designed one of our most popular STEAM-based field trip experiences. We know that our next fellow is bound to bring passion and insight to the work they do and to  create rich and meaningful experiences for our audiences.”

Finally, Primo Lasana, Executive Director of Reading Partners said, “FAO Schwarz Fellows have become an invaluable resource to Reading Partners NYC and even our national organization. Our most recent fellow joined the staff team at RPNYC and currently is a staff member at our national organization.”

Since the Fellowship’s founding in 2006, there have been 73 FAO Schwarz Fellows. Nearly 41 percent have been hired by their host organizations, 59 percent have gone on to graduate programs, and 95 percent continue to work in the social impact sector. 

Applications for the next cohort open on November 1. Interested students are invited to attend one of the Fellowship’s online info sessions to learn more. Visit for more information.


A group pf Fellows poses for a selfie!

How the Unique Benefits of the Fellowship Enhance Opportunities for both Fellows and Nonprofit Host Partners

The Fellowships are designed not only to support the development of young social impact leaders, but also to increase the capacity of their nonprofit host organizations.

Last year, Fellows really did "lead the change" by working to pass legislation, helping to create and expand key programs to better serve their communities, and growing host's partnership networks.

Here are just a few examples of their recent accomplishments:

Ryan at a ppdium in the statehouseRyan Telingator, FAO Schwarz Fellow ’23 at Jumpstart in Boston, collaborated with partners and advocated for legislation in Massachusetts that would increase educator compensation, provide direct-to-provider funding to stabilize programs, and increase the state’s financial assistance to families to help make programs more affordable. (see blog postwritten by Ryan). Recently, in collaboration with his supervisor, he successfully lobbied for Jumpstart to receive a “historic” $350,000 in the Massachusetts state budget, enabling them to expand their programming and impact throughout the state. 

His supervisor shared: “Even after a leadership transition at Jumpstart, Ryan continued to lead this effort, securing additional support for the budget amendment with an increased ask of $450,000. Ryan’s leadership within the Common Start Coalition, advocating for accessible and affordable early care and education (ECE), has also been instrumental. Despite initial setbacks in passing the Common Start bill, Ryan and the coalition remained committed to reintroducing it in this session, and their efforts have led to two bills aligned with the Common Start vision in the House and Senate. Ryan’s dedication to lobbying legislators and raising awareness about ECE has been impeccable. He currently holds a significant leadership position on the coalition’s steering committee.” 

Ryan has spoken at the State House for a briefing, provided policy resources to journalists and coalition members, met with Governor Healey’s staff, and contributed to a historical budget increase for ECE. 

Nia Atkins smiles for photoNia Atkins, FAO Schwarz Fellow ‘23 at Year Up in New York City, led the Year Up NY/NJ site’s Learning Community “Look Back, Look Ahead” meetings since August 2022. Her supervisor shared, “These meetings are key moments for the Year Up NY/NJ staff community to gather and reflect on the journey of our participants after a class has graduated from the program. Nia has done an excellent job of sifting through the key performance data of our cohorts such as retention, attrition rates, and job conversion data. The Look Back/Look Ahead report and meeting also supplies qualitative data about our participant’s experience throughout both their Learning and Development and Internship phases which gives staff a valuable snapshot of how our young people performed and felt while going through this journey with us.”

To execute these meetings and ensure valuable data was captured and analyzed, Nia collaborated closely with both the Program and Internship teams, and improved and streamlined the data visualization aspect to make the information more accessible. Additionally, Nia served as a coach to young adults in the program, mentoring participants through the program, and supporting them with interview preparation, resume improvement, public speaking, and presentation skills (see blog post written by Nia).

"The Fellowship exerience can be a truly transformative—not just for our Fellows, but also for our host partners"

Kira with Dinosaurs

Kira Azulay, FAO Schwarz Fellow ’23 at the Museum of Science in Boston, led two youth events as part of a new  High School Science Series program focused on the themes of mental health and climate justice. Kira was responsible for securing and hosting guest speakers, creating an educator guide for teachers, and coordinating logistics for on-site set-up and evaluation. At each event, there were about 200 high school students in attendance who were able to ask questions of the panelists and then participate in hands-on projects at the Museum. Kira reflected on her experience as an FAO Schwarz Fellow in this video. 

Kira has increased the Museum’s capacity to invest in youth development and intentionally think about their practices when engaging with young people. Her supervisor shared, “In Year 1 of her Fellowship, Kira researched and cataloged youth organizations in Massachusetts and other states to help us better understand how various organizations support youth through education and employment opportunities. She also curated a literature review related to working with youth which we hope to use as a resource for potentially forming a youth council in the future. In Year 2 of her Fellowship, Kira had the chance to develop and lead content and events for youth as part of our High School Series Program. Both events afforded Kira the opportunity to put youth engagement strategies to practice as she sought to find topics, speakers, and activities that would both interest and resonate with youth.”

Vanessa at The Food Project
Vanessa Barragán, FAO Schwarz Fellow ’24 at The Food Project in Boston, focuses in part on community engagement through their Build-A-Garden program, where they support Boston residents in growing their own food through the installation of raised garden beds (see blog post written by Vanessa). Her supervisor shared that Vanessa is “doing an incredible job managing the Build-a-Garden program.  Building on her work, The Food Project plans to double its impact, moving from 50 installations per year to 100 installations per year. ” 

Sophie and a colleague share information about Audubon Mid-Atlantic at a table.

Sophie Becker-Klein, FAO Schwarz Fellow ’24 at Audubon Mid-Atlantic in Philadelphia, has grown partnerships with schools in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood where she is providing weekly lessons on environmental education (see blog post written by Sophie). Sophie’s supervisor wrote: “Sophie and I, through a series of meetings, developed a school-year schedule for her teaching Audubon lessons in class at our priority schools. These lessons included birds and bird migration, Healthy Watersheds and healthy Delaware River, bird adaptations, and Weather vs. Climate were specifically chosen by Sophie to encompass the full range and impact of Audubon. Sophie will be interacting with all grades in these schools. This is the first time Audubon Mid-Atlantic has had the resources to fully commit to multiple schools and this work could not be done without Sophie.”


Snapshots from the 2023 Philadelphia Professional Development Retreat

Current Fellows gathered in Philadelphia for three days of professional development and  immersion in social impact work.

The Fellows traveled from New York City and Boston to Philadelphia for the spring retreat in April. After arriving on Wednesday, Fellows headed to The Clay Studio where they had a rooftop lunch and reconnected with the cohort.

After lunch, Fellows went on a tour of the studio with Jennifer Martin, the Executive Director of The Clay Studio and then attended a professional development presentation with Adrienne Justice, Community Engagement Manager about the importance of social-emotional learning in curriculum development.

Fellows then transitioned into a ceramics workshop where they explored their identity and social-emotional themes. To finish out the day Fellows interacted with the after-school program and engaged in a project together where students and Fellows made tiles to be made into a collaborative piece. 

On Thursday, the Fellows visited The Discovery Center to engage with Audubon Mid-Atlantic. The day began with a bird walk where we explored Audubon grounds and identified birds with Center Manager Damien Ruffner. Fellows then engaged in conversation with Suzanne Biemiller, Executive Director and Angie Wenger, Director for Southeastern Pennsylvania Centers. Afterwards, Fellows participated in a mussel measuring workshop where they learned how mussels were used in watershed education. We then traveled to Reading Terminal for lunch and city exploration.

Some of the sites we visited were City Hall and Love Park. One Fellow noted that “the bonding time and conversations were so crucial in building relationships” Fellows returned to Audubon Mid-Atlantic for team building activities with Outward Bound and canoeing on the Strawberry Mansion Reservoir. 

Thursday evening was full of celebration and connection as the graduation for second-year fellows commenced. Speeches were held and graduation books given to Fellows as they reflected on their experiences in the Fellowship. This led into the alumni dinner where current fellows connected with alumni Fellows in Philadelphia. The dinner was illuminating as  alumni Fellows to share their career journey, current Fellows found points of connection and collaboration among organizations. As one Fellow said, “I feel like during this retreat we bonded as a group, and the activities played a big part in that.”

On Friday, Fellows returned to The Clay Studio for wheel throwing and reflections on the retreat before heading back to their respective cities after a tiring, but inspiring week.


Kayla Johnson

Kayla Johnson

Kayla Johnson (she/they) is the After-School Program Coordinator and FAO Schwarz Fellow at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia.

Kira with Dinosaurs

Talking with Kira Azulay, FAO Schwarz Fellow at the Museum of Science

A second Fellow will join the Museum of Science in 2024. Thanks to the team at the Museum for creating and sharing this video with us!

Kira Azulay

Kira Azulay

Kira (she/her) is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at the Museum of Science in Boston.


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.