Reunions 2018 Recap

AlumniCorps hosted three well-attended events at Princeton University’s Reunions on Friday, June 1, 2018. All our activities took place at Princeton’s Neuroscience Building, off Poe Field. Our morning workshop, In The Nation’s Service: Mapping Your Network for the Public Good, featured a panel of four Princeton alumni. About 20 attendees learned how Charlie Lucas ’71, Kristen Smith ’03, Brandon White ’09, and Ayana Woods ’98 have all leveraged AlumniCorps’ programs, as well as their own networks, for systemic change.

Charlie has volunteered with AlumniCorps’ ARC Innovators program, which provides nonprofits with pro bono assistance from experienced professionals in the AlumniCorps network. Learn more about Charlie’s work by reading about him on page eight of our 2016-17 Annual Report. Kristen is a Project 55 Fellowship alumna who volunteers on our Chicago Area Committee and recently joined AlumniCorps’ Board of Directors. She reflected on her continuing bond with Fellows from her cohort: “I continue to … reach back to those folks….” As Kristen’s career in housing and economic development has blossomed in Boston, New York, and now back in Chicago, “Princeton AlumniCorps [has provided] even more benefit” in understanding these various nonprofit landscapes. Brandon, who completed our Emerging Leaders program for young nonprofit professionals in Washington, D.C. in 2018, shared that in a new job role he was “…thrown into the deep end [and/but] Emerging Leaders was there to catch me… it was like having a cheat sheet going forward.” Ayana, also an alumna of Emerging Leaders, said, “People have personalities… Emerging Leaders is an opportunity to learn skills to manage people’s personalities, and our own.” After the panelists’ comments, attendees participated in an interactive exercise to discover how their connections, skills, and resources could be leveraged for systemic social change.

Bill Shafer ’55 ends the informal introductions at lunch with a few remarks about the founding of AlumniCorps

We continued the conversation during “In the Nation’s Service Together: A Networking Lunch,” where like-minded Princetonians gathered and shared how they are mobilizing networks for the public good. 

Board Chair Liz Duffy ’88 led an informal round of introductions so attendees could get to know each other. Bill Shafer ’55 brought us full circle by closing out our time with remarks about the founding of Princeton AlumniCorps as Project 55.

As a part of the Bold Idea initiative, AlumniCorps hosted a panel discussion and Q & A session, In the Service of Humanity: Empowering Immigrant Communities. Over 40 people listened to a panel of Princetonians who are working to build capacities and develop skills among immigrants and refugees: Phillip Connor *10, Senior Researcher at the Pew Research Center; Maribel Hernández Rivera, Esq. *10, Executive Director of Legal Initiatives at the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs; José Quiñonez *98, Founder and CEO of Mission Asset Fund; and Maya Wahrman ’16, Former Project 55 Fellow and Program Assistant (Forced Migration) at Princeton University’s Office of Religious Life. Learn more about our panelists by reading their bios here.

Phillip laid the groundwork for understanding patterns of immigration and how they have changed in the United States by presenting data from the Pew Research Center. In particular, he noted that the number of refugees in the U.S. was reflective of the refugee population around the world until 2017, when the number of refugees in the U.S. plummeted disproportionately. Watch all of Phillip’s talk here.

The audience was riveted as Maribel, who was born in Mexico City and moved to the U.S. when she was 13 years old, shared how her father’s sudden and mysterious death acted as a catalyst for her career in immigrant rights. She explained why she went to law school at NYU after getting her Masters at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School: “Understanding the law was almost harder than learning English! But not understanding the law is disempowering for undocumented communities.” Maribel also shared her personal stake in the debate over immigration policy: Her husband, who is from Honduras, may have to leave the U.S. in January 2020 based on current regulations. She admitted, “My husband and I are in a very lucky position because we have a network. Not everyone is so lucky. We want to advocate and speak for them.” Watch all of Maribel’s talk here.

José, who has been awarded the MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellowship, the Ashoka Fellowship, and the Aspen Institute Fellowship for his work at the Mission Asset Fund (MAF), described how the MAF had to quickly pivot from being primarily a lending institution to launching the largest Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewal campaign in the days after the Trump Administration ended DACA on September 5, 2017.  In the fall of 2017, MAF provided over $2.5M to fund over 5,000 DACA renewal applications in 46 states. Read more about the details of the process in an article José wrote here, and watch all of José’s talk here.

Maya closed out the panel by describing how she has helped Princeton University’s Office of Religious Life (ORL) think out their theological approach to refugee work through their Interfaith Program in Refugees and Forced Migration. She humanized the challenges refugees are facing by speaking about Ashar, a refugee from Pakistan with whom she has forged a friendship. She described the international interdisciplinary conference of over 300 participants, Seeking Refuge: Faith-Based Approaches to Forced Migration, that she co-curated while a Project 55 Fellow with the ORL, stating “Religion is a way to respond to the issues in the world.” Watch all of Maya’s talk here.

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.

Princeton AlumniCorps Welcomes New Executive Director, Andrew C. Nurkin

On behalf of the Princeton AlumniCorps Board of Directors, President Kathy Miller ’77 and Chairman John Fish ’55 are thrilled to announce the hiring of Andrew C. Nurkin as the next Executive Director of Princeton AlumniCorps.

Andrew joins Princeton AlumniCorps after four years on the staff of the Pace Center for Civic Engagement at Princeton University, where he developed and managed public leadership and civic action programs that engage undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni. He previously served as the Executive Director of Fine By Me, an organization dedicated to promoting equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people on campuses and in communities across the country. Andrew has also worked as an organizer with national campaigns to end poverty and comes to Princeton AlumniCorps with extensive experience in mobilizing individuals to take shared action on issues of public concern. Originally from Atlanta, Andrew holds a M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, a MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BA in English from Duke, where he served a three-year term on the Board of Trustees. He also volunteers as a writing instructor at Garden State prison.

Andrew writes, ” Over the past four years it has become clear to me that Princeton AlumniCorps is not simply another elevation in the civic engagement landscape. AlumniCorps is doing something different and particularly compelling, and if civic engagement has now become a defining feature of Princeton, then AlumniCorps (and its earlier incarnation as Project 55) deserves a heap of the credit. You have built an entire organization devoted to maximizing the positive social impact of that unique network known as Princeton alumni, and in the process you have enriched the ways generations of graduates think about the purpose of their Princeton experience. The methods are as inspirational as the aims: intergenerational mentorship, responsiveness to community-identified needs and broader trends in the nonprofit sector, a collaborative ethic, and a humility that opens the way for energy and good ideas to become visible outcomes. The word catalyst seems apt for this organization that does indeed precipitate and accelerate change.”

AlumniCorps President, Kathy Miller ’77 writes, “Andrew has the skills needed to successfully work with our large cadres of volunteers and board members and relevant to furthering the growth of our programs through expanded alumni engagement. I am personally looking forward to working closely with Andrew in my role as President, and am confident that you will find him to be thoughtful, intelligent, articulate and sincerely passionate about the work of the organization. ”

Andrew begins at the Princeton AlumniCorps offices on Monday,  June 25, 2012. He can be reached at or 609-921-8808 ext. 2.

Community Volunteers Launches Turning Point Series

Jim Farrin '58, Walter Fortson, and Natasha Japanwala '14

On April 26th, Princeton AlumniCorps welcomed more than 30 guests to its inaugural Turning Point panel entitled “From Princeton to Prison to Purpose: The Story of Walter Fortson, Jim Farrin ’58, Natasha Japanwala ’14 and the Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program.” Turning Point, a Community Volunteers initiative, brings together speakers with inspiring stories about what drives their passion for service. Each panel highlights a specific issue or need in the community.

Walter Fortson discussed his incarceration in a New Jersey state prison, and what sparked his desire to turn   his life around. Rutgers University Professor Donald Roden started a program to help inmates enroll as university students and took an interest in Walter.  “That was the first time in a long time that anybody had looked at me as a human being,” Walter said. “The compassion in his eyes for me really let me know that I had a second chance. That’s something I [will] never forget.”

Since his release, Walter has been admitted to Rutgers University, where he received the 2010 Rutgers Academic Excellence award, and was recently named a Truman Scholar. He has dedicated himself not only to improving his life, but also to helping others in similar situations turn their lives around.

Charlie Puttkammer ’58 founded the Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance   Program which is dedicated to bringing Princeton students and community members to local prisons to tutor inmates. Charlie reached out to his classmate, Jim Farrin ‘58, to help run the program. While Jim was hesitant at first, a fortuitous encounter between his wife and a prison chaplain at Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility made Jim realize this was an opportunity to give back in a very significant way. Jim met with Al Kandell, Administrator at A.C. Wagner.  Jim recalls Al saying to him, “We need Princeton volunteers, and I can tell by looking at you, Jim, that you’re going to bring them.”

The next fall, volunteers from Princeton University began tutoring at the prison. Of the volunteers he has worked with, Jim said, “These young Princeton students… have such a wonderful sense of mission.” Now, as Jim looks to expand the Petey Greene Program to other universities and prisons, he and Walter have teamed up to start a program at Rutgers. AlumniCorps is seeking a community volunteer to help with this expansion plan.

Natasha Japanwala ’14 is a current volunteer with the Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance program. She discussed her experience as a tutor with the program, as well as leading a Breakout Princeton trip to a women’s correctional facility in Oklahoma. “I feel like every time I go to a prison, I help someone in a small way,” Natasha said. “And to be very honest, I think they help me more than I help them. . . It’s been such a huge part of my education.”

Check out a video of the panel discussion or view a slideshow of the event.

For more information on the Community Volunteers program and to see current opportunities, please visit the program website at, or contact Rachel Benevento, Community Volunteers Program Manager at and keep an eye out for our next Turning Points program in the early Fall.


Princeton AlumniCorps’ 2011-12 Annual Report is Here!

Princeton AlumniCorps is pleased to announce the release of our 2011-12 Annual Report.

We are conducting four programs to provide  a continuum of opportunities for alumni to engage in meaningful civic service throughout their lives. The report showcases these programs and  highlights our recent accomplishments, including:

– Launching Emerging Leaders, a program designed to propel aspiring nonprofit professionals forward in their careers and address the growing leadership deficit that the nonprofit sector faces.

– Placing 51 young graduates in fellowships at public interest organizations around the country through our flagship Princeton Project 55 Program, whose alumni now number more than 1,300.

– Channeling the activist spirit in alumni from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s by finding them skills-based Community Volunteers opportunities in Washington, DC, Chicago, and the Princeton area.

– Helping college students and alumni around the country organize initiatives inspired by the PP55 example through The Alumni Network, which welcomed two new affiliates this year.

– Engaging more than 200 volunteers and more than 450 donors in supporting and driving all facets of our work.

All of this is possible because of the support and shared effort of our donors, volunteers, board, and staff, who ensure that our programs and impact continue to grow.  We thank you for your continued belief in our work!

Click here to view the full report.

Community Volunteers Launches Exciting Partnerships with Local Nonprofits

Community Volunteers is excited to be partnering with several local nonprofits to offer five new substantive volunteer opportunities for Princeton alumni. Westminster Community Life Center, featured below, serves neighborhood families in the greater Trenton area through supplemental educational services and proves nutritious, hot meals to children who may not otherwise have a substantial dinner.  The Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program organizes Princeton students to help prison inmates learn basic academic skills, and SPLASH, a steamboat operated on the Delaware River, provides school children and other groups with environmental education and historical appreciation. We are excited to be working with these incredible organizations moving forward!

If you are an alum interested in using your professional skills and talents to help these great organizations, visit to view the latest opportunities and to learn more.


Spotlight on a Community Volunteers Partner Organization:

Westminster Community Life Center

Westminster Community Life Center serves to enrich the lives of neighborhood families in the greater Trenton area through supplemental educational services such as after school programming and early literacy intervention. Dana Dreibelbis ’78 (above), has been volunteering with the Center for several months. Dana shares with us below why he chose to get involved with this inspiring organization and how he plans to use his professional publishing skills to expand the capacity of the Center.

What motivated you to get involved with the Westminster Community Life Center?

With the youngest of my children in college, it was time for me to allocate my time in new ways. My goal was to put my Christian faith into action in a local service program. Westminster Presbyterian Church (WPC), home of the Westminster Community Life Center, appealed to me with its longstanding record of leadership and outreach. Westminster is in an area of Trenton which faces a variety of challenges, including high crime rates, drug dealing, a low number of two-parent home settings, and extremely high drop-out rates in schools.

Can you describe the Center and your responsibilities there?

My work at Westminster Community Life Center has a variety of aspects. Being self-employed, I am able to carve out time to volunteer there after school on Wednesdays to provide homework assistance, reading enrichment activities, and assist with a food service. Kids who may not otherwise have a substantial dinner are fed a nutritious, hot meal.  The Center also has teen-level outreach programs, which offer a safe environment, coaching in life-skills, and SAT college preparation.

How are you using your career experience in publishing to help meet key needs of the organization?

The Center’s students produce writings and artwork that is collected as a bound package. The middle school students are producing a multimedia CD to promote constructive living and discourage drug use and gang membership, and the high school students are working on an HIV prevention project.
I am planning to help expand the scope of their publishing efforts through a new initiative. The current state of digital publishing (high quality production with very low costs to produce and distribute) enables us to produce small books and multimedia products of professional quality. Many if not all of these can be sold via channels such as Amazon. Irrespective of what may happen on the ‘sales’ front, all of the participants in this process will be honing skills that could lead to jobs in the publishing/media marketplace, and career paths that are important for the long-term health of Trenton.

Why should Princetonians take action through Community Volunteers?

Many people talk about wanting to make a difference but do not know where to go or what to do. By aligning with a reputable organization with a proven track record, one has the chance to be of service and learn more about various issues. In my case that has meant a greater understanding of the direct and indirect effects of urban problems, including the complexities and impact of racism, and the difficulties faced by youth in building positive lives while being confronted with obstacles such as joblessness and gangs.

What do you enjoy most about your volunteer work?

For me, the best part about this kind of volunteering is that I have the opportunity to serve in both concrete and personal ways. I have been able to live out my faith in a positive, meaningful way while interacting with others. The relationships I am building with the staff, students, and parents, along with the supportive schools and community—all these relationships and interactions make my volunteer experience worthwhile.


 Interested in Becoming a Community Volunteer?

Westminster Community Life Center is looking for the following:

Fiscal Support Specialist: Assist with documenting in-house procedures and developing a procedures manual.

Human Resource Strategist: Work to initiate, develop and finalize an employee handbook for the Center

Grant Research Specialist: Research and identify applicable grants to support program objectives and general operating costs

To view the above opportunities and more, click here.