Princeton AlumniCorps, through the Project 55 Fellowship, Emerging Leaders, and ARC Innovators programs, provides ways for people to engage at every age. We recently asked one of our most recent program alumni, Eleanor Meegoda ’12, and one of our longest-serving volunteers, Judith Hole Suratt s55, why they support AlumniCorps.
Why did I apply for a Project 55 fellowship? Ultimately, it came down to 3 things: (1) Princeton Project 55 would allow me to build a strong network of mentors and peers who would help me navigate the transition from student to professional. (2) Through its wide network, the fellowship lectures and regular community events, PP55 would help me learn faster – I would learn about industries I cared about, how to deal with tricky work situations, and learn from other PP55 fellows’, alums’, and mentors’ experiences. (3) It is hard to find a substantive role at a non-profit right out of college, no matter one’s degree, GPA, or work experiences. Non-profits often don’t have an HR department, and prefer to hire candidates who come vetted from having worked at other great non-profits. PP55 gave me the opportunity to work at a world-class institution, the Rockefeller Foundation.
Things I remember most from my fellowship year? There are so many great memories from which to choose! When my mentor took my long-time boyfriend (now husband) and me out for dinner at his favorite restaurant to “vet” him; it was like having another grandparent to go to for advice. PP55’s panel on “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” with Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80, Judy Hole Suratt s55, and Andrew Romano ’04 at the Princeton Club; other panels spoon-fed me opportunities to debate with and learn from experts and leaders in their fields. That is such a treat after college.
PP55 was an incredibly humbling opportunity; I was surrounded by Princetonians of all generations who came together to guide my class in our first years after graduation. Hearing their life stories and about how they crafted their careers and entrepreneurial endeavors to improve the world in some way — founding AlumniCorps, fighting for women’s rights, improving the criminal justice system, or just how they balance their time between family, volunteering, and career — has been invaluable.
I recently moved back to New York to join Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners as Manager of Business Development. There, I support the design, launch and roll-out of our various financial products via online marketing, operations, data tracking and evaluation. The products I work on include a debt reduction program and a service that helps people manage their expenses, helping them avoid overdraft fees and payday lending.
Since moving back to New York, I’ve started volunteering with Princeton AlumniCorps to pay forward the support I got from the AlumniCorps community. As I’ve gotten involved, I’ve gained the additional benefit of rejoining a solid community of individuals who are not only passionate about social change, but also are eager to learn and support one another to succeed, despite the diverse issues they care about.
My late husband, Samuel Suratt ’55, was one of the earliest supporters and developers of PP55. I remember his coming home from Princeton, describing PP55 and saying, “Judy, this is important.” At the beginning, PP55 had a summer internship program as well as the full-year fellowship program. He told Chet Safian ’55 and others that while we didn’t have deep pockets, we did have an extra guest room. That was it — from that moment on we housed a PP55 summer intern. Barbara Saatkamp Taylor ’95 was the first of nearly 20 summer interns (now friends) we housed over the years. We also were mentors to full-year PP55 Fellows — and gave stop-gap housing to many of them when needed.
I am currently part of the New York Area Committee, working primarily in setting up seminars, finding new nonprofit partners, and opening my home, when needed, to AlumniCorps functions. Sam and I always hosted the farewell party in our garden, and I continue to do so. Anth of course, I am still a mentor. I joined the AlumniCorps Board of Directors in 2013, emceed the New York 20 anniversary event and 25th anniversary event, and worked on the 25th anniversary video and gala.
I recently completed an ARC Innovators project for the Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum. The longest- serving, and perhaps most famous, NYC fireboat is in need of help and money to restore her to her former glory. We hope she will become a floating museum traveling from city to city. She needed help redesigning her website and orchestrating PR and fundraising strategies. She also needed a short video to help in these efforts. Noah Therrien, a film-maker, and I produced and edited the video. Susan Abell and Roberta Leger from Boston helped with the website redesign and fundraising strategies. Charlie Ritchie, president of the Fire Fighter Museum, is most appreciative of our efforts.The fellows and fellowships in my opinion are fabulous. It impresses me that every year both the fellows and their nonprofits work extremely hard to be sure they are working as they should. And one other thing — a very selfish reason why I (and Sam, too) love AlumniCorps — it keeps young people — fabulous young people — in our (now my) life. I support AlumniCorps because the world of nonprofits needs the best and brightest as much – or more so – as Wall Street/hedge funds/and law firms.