News from the Field: ARC Innovator making an impact in Harlem

Brian Leung ’12,  ARC Innovator at Harlem RBI (now DREAM Charter School)

Brian Leung ’12

Brian Leung is a senior analyst at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. On a daily basis, he uses analytical and statistical methods to lead and evaluate projects that minimize disparities and injustice in the City’s youth population. He volunteered as an ARC Innovator with Harlem RBI (now DREAM Charter School) in 2016-17.

How did you discover ARC Innovators?
I learned about the program from the Princeton Alumni listserve. I’d been looking for an education-based pro bono project and it seemed to be a great fit given the skills I use in my day job. At work, I frequently deal with underserved populations. I live about ten blocks away from Harlem RBI, so this project hit close to home because it’s in my community. In the Mayor’s Office, my work is mile-high. At Harlem RBI, I was working on the ground and making a tangible difference.

What did you do at Harlem RBI (now DREAM Charter School)?
They needed help with choosing an e-learning solution for distributing materials to faculty, staff, parents, and students. My final deliverable was a 50-page slide deck ranking each popular solution on the market for the implementation leader and principal. I spent about 80 hours over the course of many weekends for four months.

How did your assistance help Harlem RBI (now DREAM Charter School)?
The person who would implement the chosen tool didn’t have enough hours in the day to do the research himself, so I saved him a lot of time. In addition, I provided an outsider’s perspective and strategic insight.

How did the ARC Innovator project benefit you?
Their feedback helped me develop as a private consultant. While ARC Innovators is usually promoted to seasoned professionals, this AlumniCorps program provides opportunities that should be leveraged by both new and experienced professionals.

Dream Charter School

DREAM Charter School (formerly Harlem RBI) is a model learning community with high expectations, a strong culture of care and a vision of student success and excellence. DREAM was established in 2008 with 100 scholars in kindergarten and first grade. Today, they serve 486 scholars in PreK through eighth grade. They will open their doors to their first ninth grade class in fall 2017.

AlumniCorps Places 15 ARC Innovators

unnamed (3)Princeton AlumniCorps’ ARC Innovators program is now in its fourth year. Since accepting our first Innovators in 2012, more than thirty Princeton alumni and friends have contributed to twenty-four projects at non-profit organizations in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, DC.

The 2015-16 cohort is our largest to date, with 15 Innovators matched with organizations seeking pro bono assistance. This year’s projects have addressed a wide array of needs, including strategic planning, legal services, and website design.

Here is what participants are saying about the 2015-16 ARC Innovators program:

“Paul [Firstenberg ‘55] has been an incredible gift. He gives us his time and shares his vast amount of experience and knowledge in the most patient and giving way possible… I believe with Paul’s help we can turn the corner so that FamilyKind can do what we set out to do – help families in desperate need of our services. ” – Lesley Ann Friedland, Executive Director, FamilyKind

“Helping the Fireboat Firefighter Museum create a viable marketing plan has been one of the most rewarding, challenging, fun, occasionally frustrating, and ultimately satisfying experiences Roberta [Leger] and I have  ever had. We have spent many hours debating, planning and creating ideas to try to take the fledgling museum to the next level… Through our contribution, we will enjoy being an integral part of the museum going forward, all made possible by the Princeton AlumniCorps’ ARC Innovator Program.” – Susan Abell, Innovator

Though the ARC Innovators program will begin accepting applications for the 2016-17 program year next March, there are a few projects still seeking alumni Innovators now. Click here to learn more about Princeton AlumniCorps’ ARC Innovators program and current opportunities.

Alumni Profile Spotlight

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.

Eleanor Meegoda '12
Eleanor Meegoda ’12

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.

judy hole
Judy Hole Suratt s55

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.

ARC Innovators Launches in Washington, DC

Formerly known as Community Volunteers, ARC Innovators connects experienced alumni with short-term, high-impact projects at our nonprofit partner organizations. With support from the Chet Safian Innovation Fund, the program was reenergized and expanded to New York City and Washington, DC this year.

On May 3, more than 60 members of the alumni community and AlumniCorps nonprofit partners gathered at the School for International Studies at American University for a breakfast and networking event. As the kick-off event for ARC Innovators in Washington, DC, Living the Nonlinear Life: Building a Bridge to Your Next Opportunity featured Marci Alboher, author of The Encore Career Handbook and Vice President of Princeton AlumniCorps partnered with the Class of ’71 Legacy Initiative and to bring the event to Washington, DC.

Joining Marci on the panel were Grif Johnson ’72, Board Chair of Wilderness Leadership Learning (WILL), ARC Innovator and attorney; Hilary Joel ’85, founder and principal of WJ Consulting and former principal at American Management Systems (CGI/AMS) and at Booz, Allen & Hamilton; and Tina Sung ’71, Vice President at the Partnership for Public Service and founder of Experience Matters, which helps senior executives facing reorganization, a new job, or retirement make a smooth transition to the next stage of their lives. Panelists told their stories of transition between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors and offered advice for others seeking to put their experience and creativity to work in encore careers or volunteer projects.

The event, which marked the launch of ARC Innovators in DC, was attended by representatives from local nonprofit partners who are currently seeking Innovators to tackle several important projects. Through ARC Innovators, experienced Princeton alumni apply their expertise, renew their commitment to the public interest, and create meaningful change. If you live in the DC area and have interest in participating, please contact Caryn Tomljanovich at or visit for information on specific projects.

ARC Innovators Get to Work in NYC and Princeton

The first ARC Innovators projects in New York City kicked off this winter. Catherine Malmberg-Dannenbring *05 is working with Peer Health Exchange to assess real estate options as they seek new office space for their growing program. Louisa Ferguson ’12 and Lukasz Mosakowski ’12 are partnering to help Lenox Hill Neighborhood House market their local foods initiative.

In New Jersey, Justine Krell ’91 is working with the Sourlands Conservancy to create and implement a marketing strategy for two major fundraising events: a music festival and a road rally. Joel Zinn ’13, teamed up with SPLASH – The Floating Steamboat Classroom to align SPLASH’s environmental field trips with New Jersey and Pennsylvania educational standards.


Nine Available ARC Innovators Projects!

New York 

Center for Autism and the Developing Brain, Milestones and Transitions for Families of Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Event Coordinator

Coalition for Hispanic Family Services, Corporate Partnerships, Outreach Coordinator

Coalition for Hispanic Family Services, 25th Anniversary Gala, Event Planner


Literacy Volunteers of Mercer County, Fundraising and Board Development Plan, Development Consultant

Sourlands Conservancy, Legislative Action Project, Legislative Researcher

Pocono Center for Environmental Education, Promotional and Fundraising Video, Director and Film Editor

Washington, DC

House of Ruth, Human Resources Analysis Project,    Human Resources Analyst

Miriam’s Kitchen, Marketing and Outreach Initiative,    Outreach Coordinator

Miriam’s Kitchen, Alternative Financing Models, Business Plan Consultant



New Energy, New Name for Community Volunteers

Since October 2010, the Community Volunteers program has matched experienced Princeton alumni to high-impact pro bono projects in the nonprofit sector. Community Volunteers projects and events have engaged alumni in New Jersey, Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC, with a focus on graduates from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

As the program has grown, it has become clear that participating alumni do more than just volunteer their time and talent. They bring years of perspective and expertise to bear on important projects or persistent challenges with our nonprofit partners. They draft strategic plans, secure major new sponsorships, advise on tricky legal matters, and propose program improvements. To better express the range and impact of Community Volunteers, AlumniCorps has given this program a new name: ARC Innovators.

The inspiration for the name comes from a simple description of what alumni in the program do: Apply expertise. Renew commitment. Create change. The projects selected for this program require creative thinking and specialized skills to arrive at solutions that help partner organizations meet their missions more effectively. For this reason, alumni who participate in the program are known as Innovators.

Alumni Innovators complete a meaningful project that has a positive impact on the partner organization. They also hone their professional skills, develop new connections in the sector, and clarify their own sense of mission and value. ARC Innovators is designed for alumni who have significant professional experience and want to commit 2-6 months to working closely with senior management at a nonprofit organization in their community. The program is a pathway to action for alumni who meet these criteria, especially those who are:

          – Reentering the workforce after raising a family

          – Building a resume to help with a job search

          – Planning a career change into the nonprofit sector

          – Approaching retirement

          – Exploring a public issue in more depth

          – Getting more involved in their local community

          – Looking for a project to add meaning

 With this new name comes new energy. Thanks to the Chet Safian Innovation Fund, ARC Innovators is expanding in 2014 with projects in New York City and Washington, DC. The program is currently taking applications for the first round of six New York projects and five new projects in Princeton. DC projects will be announced later this spring.

Community Volunteer, Karen Ali ’78 Completes Project at Good Grief

Community Volunteer, Karen Ali ’78 Completes Project at Good Grief

Good Grief, Assistant Anthology Editor

In the early winter of 2013, Karen Ali ‘78 was seeking an opportunity to use her professional skills and continue her extensive history of volunteering in the Princeton community. After attending Global Net Night at the AlumniCorps offices, she was connected to Good Grief for a project that could use her professional editing skills. Good Grief was seeking a volunteer who could edit an anthology of children’s essays about their grief journey. Karen connected with the project on both a professional and personal level.

Good Grief, Inc. was founded in December 2003 by a group of volunteers concerned about the lack of ongoing, effective grief support services and grief education in New Jersey. Good Grief’s mission is to normalize grief in our communities through education, advocacy and year-round grief support programs for grieving children, teens and adults. Good Grief offers a loving and supportive community, a home and a refuge, for New Jersey’s grieving children. Through peer-support programs and educational workshops, Good Grief creates a community and environment that normalizes grief and honors the individual grief journey.

Karen received her law degree from the University of Michigan. She worked for many years as the Vice President of Compliance and Regulatory Affairs for the New Jersey Hospital Association and also worked as the Director of Diversity at Pepper Hamilton LLP. She has volunteered for many nonprofits including Friends of the New Jersey State Museum, Literacy Volunteers in Mercer County and Dress for Success Mercer County. She is an active tiger, currently serving as a member of the Fred Fox Class of 1939 Fund Committee and an alumni interviewer.

How did you get connected to Princeton AlumniCorps and Community Volunteers?
I came to Global NetNight in February of 2013. At the event, I learned about Community Volunteers and the opportunity for alums to participate in short-term, high-impact projects for nonprofits. I talked with Rachel Benevento, who was then the Program Coordinator for Community Volunteers, about the program. I filled out the form and forgot about it until I received a telephone call from Rachel in the middle of the summer of 2013 with information about the Good Grief project.

What interested you specifically about CV and the project with Good Grief?
I was attracted to the general idea of how Community Volunteers works¬–helping nonprofits with short-term, high-impact projects¬–and was interested in using my editing skills. I strongly believe in giving back and CV projects are an excellent way to engage alumni based on their skills. I also connected to the project on a personal level because of my own grief journe¬y: losing my three-year-old nephew, Ross as a result of a car accident and then 10 months later, losing my 48-year-old brother, Patrick due to illness.

What were the specifications of your job and what skills have you used or gained?
The job was an editing job. I was able to refresh my professional editing skills and use them in a different way. I have never edited personal stories before and this was a whole new way of using my skills while still maintaining the individuality of each story. After the project, I feel that I am able to effectively edit narratives and personal stories and connect with what the person was trying to communicate. It was a great skill to gain.

Had you done work like this before, or was it a new experience?
Yes. I have done editing before, but this was different. Although I used my professional editing skills, this project went well beyond that. You do not want to change a personal story or change the meaning. There were a few stories that were hard to edit because of personal memories and the way they were expressed. I had to work within those parameters and maintain the content, while editing to make the stories readable. The stories written by teens in the project were excellent.

What was the biggest challenge of the project? What were the biggest rewards?
The biggest challenge was maintaining the personal flavor of the stories and not wanting to change the substance of the writer’s memories or feelings. On a personal level, the process was very cathartic. I learned that the grieving process is an ongoing journey. There is no one time when someone stops grieving; there is no “statute of limitations” on the grief process. I also realized how important it is to continue to share stories about your loved one with family and friends. This project confirmed what I already knew about the grief process and gave me new insight into what my family and I should do to continue to honor my nephew and brother’s memories.

What would you tell potential volunteers about CV to encourage them to do it?

Try it; you will definitely like it. It will enrich your life and you will learn from the experience even if you think you have nothing left to learn. You can always learn something: self-learning, skills learning, organizational learning. The experience gave me a real sense of accomplishment and made me feel good about myself. I would definitely do it again.

For more information on opportunities with Community Volunteers, please visit our website or contact Program Coordinator, Caryn Tomljanovich at