A Tale of Two Fellows

Bill Cummiskey ’05, Project 55 Fellow in 2006-07, and current teacher at The Community Group in Lawrence, MA

Bill Cummiskey ‘05, former PP55 Fellow & current teacher at The Community Group, holding his infant son.
Bill Cummiskey ‘05, former PP55 Fellow & current teacher at The Community Group, holding his infant son.

Why a Project 55 Fellowship?

After a year-long internship with group Athletes in Action, Bill applied to seminary.  Harvard Divinity School would have been ideal since his fiancé was enrolled in a PhD program at Harvard. But when he didn’t get accepted to the program, Bill found himself scrambling for a plan B. His friend, then-Executive Director Kim Hendler, encouraged him to apply for a Princeton Project 55 Fellowship at Community Day Public Charter School (now The Community Group) in Lawrence, MA.

 

How did a PP55 Fellowship morph into a teaching career?

In 2006, Bill’s Fellowship prompted him to start contemplating long-term career goals outside of vocational ministry. Bill reflects: “I started to really examine who I was and who I wanted to be.” He remembers driving back from apple picking at a farm near the school and having an epiphany about how much he enjoyed teaching at the school. “The staff gave me so much positive feedback and support, and I realized I could easily see myself developing a career as a teacher there. The realization was due in large part to the kids. Our students in Lawrence are truly amazing and being with them and working with them is a reward in and of itself.”

How was PP55 different from an internship?

I think that supportive community was the highlight. Dena Koren ’04 (my PP55 mentor) even helped me find a summer job! The Boston Area Committee was motivated and comprised of interested people who were there if you needed them.

What does your role at TCG look like now?

Bill accepted a permanent roll at TCG after his internship year, where he wore many hats. “I began as a generalist which was one part paraprofessional in the classroom with other teachers, one part in house substitute, and one part helper at odd jobs and small groups.”  Over the next five years Bill’s teaching skills improved and he took on the role of a co-teacher. “I’d be responsible for small groups on long-term or even year-long bases and worked mainly in math and English language arts.”  Bill’s morphing role allowed him to teach the same group of students for four straight years. “They were an amazing group and it was an awesome experience.” Bill currently serves as the 7th and 8th grade science teacher, while also filling the role of a technology integration coach, a job he finds both fun and challenging.

PP55 had an indelible impact on Bill’s decision to work at TCG long term. What started as a “good job,” evolved into even more than a career : “Working in schools, in particular charter schools in Massachusetts, and in Lawrence specifically, has become a vocational calling. I can’t communicate how large a role TCG has played in my life. I’ve been there for one third of my entire life at this point, which seems incredible. I’d have to say that the colleagues I’ve worked with, their professionalism and skill and care for students, has been a huge gift. And the students are why we are all there and they are wonderful, new every day, and it is an amazing privilege to be entrusted to teach them.”

Bill and his wife, Kristina Fontanez ‘05, live in MA with their two sons.


Nina Narayanan ’16, current Project 55 Fellow at The Community Group in Lawrence, MA

Nina Narayanan ’16 is currently a PP55 Fellow at The Community Group
Nina Narayanan ’16 is currently a PP55 Fellow at The Community Group

Why a Project 55 Fellowship?

I’m planning on pursuing a PhD in anthropology, but for me the choice to take a year off in between was a no-brainer. I study anthropology largely because the discipline is defined by intercultural communication and understanding; it’s a natural venue for social justice and for confronting the changing possibilities of a multicultural world. PP55 has offered me the opportunity to work hands-on with a disadvantaged community and to learn directly from them about the challenges they face. Lawrence is a gateway city for low-income Latin American immigrants, so the population I serve has very specific linguistic, socioeconomic and socio-emotional needs. As an academic, I want to make sure that my theoretical work has tangible results, and that I’m able to understand the practical implications and lived experiences of racial inequality and cultural integration before approaching these topics from an academic standpoint. In this regard, my year as a PP55 fellow has already been invaluable.

What’s your role at The Community Group (TCG)?

The culture at The Community Group and at Community Day Arlington Elementary School is all hands on deck, all the time. For me that’s meant that while my job description involves creating and translating mass communications home, running parent meetings and parent-teacher conferences, and teaching adult ESL by night, I’ve also found myself thrown into the classroom to teach second grade for two weeks when we were suddenly understaffed; I’ve worked in Operations, and gotten an in-depth look at the day-to-day mechanics of running a school; I’ve started a student choir with our after-school program, and found myself involved with efforts to expand our enrichment and artistic offerings; and through various communication initiatives I’ve been able to play a direct role in shaping our long-term plans for bridging the language and education gap with our community. I rarely walk into work knowing what my day will look like, and I am consistently handed the opportunity to make a very real difference in the lives of our children and families. Every day is defined by surprise, excitement, and inspiration.

How has the PP55 Fellowship impacted your future plans?

After my fellowship, I’ll be spending a year in Argentina as a Fulbright scholar, then returning to the states to pursue a PhD in Anthropology and Ethnomusicology. The PP55 Fellowship has impacted ,my research focus by challenging me to consider how my work can make a practical difference. I’ve always been interested in the ways minority and immigrant communities define and express their identities against mainstream American culture. More and more, I find myself approaching this topic from the question of language and education, confronted as I am every day with the challenges of translation, interpretation, and cultural difference in an institutional educational setting. I hope and intend on making sure that my research is poised to do real work towards addressing these social issues.


The Community Group

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Young students at TCG’s Community Day Charter Public School in Lawrence, MA

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In response to the  poverty, teen pregnancy, illegal drug use, and gang violence that has plagued Lawrence, MA since 1970, The Community Group (TCG) has been creating opportunities in Lawrence by managing a range of programs, including a network of early childhood and out-of-school time programs, a network of charter and district public schools, consulting and training programs, and a child care resource and referral program. AlumniCorps is proud to have placed 15 Project 55 Fellows at The Community Group since beginning our partnership in 2005. Learn more about them at www.thecommunitygroupinc.org!

Regional Updates for September 2016

Region Map 2016

AlumniCorps currently operates in seven regions across the country. Our local area committees recruit and match mentors, organize social events and seminars, and serve as guides to fellows navigating a new city. If you are interested in volunteering, please email info@alumnicorps.org.

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In the Bay Area, Colby Hyland ’16 and Ramie Rathy ’16 were placed at UCSF. Here they’re gathered with other fellows at the Bay Area kick off event, August 2016

Bay Area: We had an orientation and welcome dinner for fellows in August, in which former fellows Amantia Muhedini and Abigail Kelly lead a workshop session to brainstorm and discuss their overall goals and hopes for the year. All fellows attended and it was a great way to kick off the year. This month, we are hosting a behind-the-scenes experience at the San Francisco Opera. Fellows and mentors have been invited to a dress rehearsal of the opera, “Don Pasquale,” and will have a Q&A session with SF Opera Artistic Planning Manager, Sean Waugh.

Boston: We welcomed the new fellows to city by hosting a happy hour with the Princeton regional association. It was a success and many of our former and current fellows attended. We’ll have a welcome event for the fellows on Cape Cod, hosted generously by committee member Tom Flynn. There’ll be an informal BBQ where we’ll talk about the expectations for the year, followed by some fun activities around the Cape.

PP55 Chicago
PP55 kick off event in Chicago. Fellows, mentors, and volunteers all gathered on August 28, 2016

Chicago: On Sunday, August 28th, we hosted an orientation retreat for our incoming fellows. PP55 Mentor Carol Obertubbesing ‘73 introduced the fellows to the city’s history from the vantage point of the Chicago River on a Chicago Architecture Foundation boat cruise! Sherry Holland led the mentors through their own orientation program, sharing tips for connecting to their mentees. Afterwards, fellows and mentors met up for dinner at the home of Sally and Vince Anderson ‘65.

On August 31st, fellows from PP55 and the University of Chicago and Northwestern Public Interest Programs (PIP) came together for a “PIP-nic” in Millennium Park. Our seminar series kicked off on Wednesday, September 8th, covering topics like public interest, asset-based community development, and workforce development.

Michael Moorin ’16 (left); Joelle Deleveaux '16 (center); and Shira Cohen '16 (right) at the Washington DC PP55 kick off event in August 2016.
Michael Moorin ’16 (left); Joelle Deleveaux ’16 (center); and Shira Cohen ’16 (right) at the Washington DC PP55 kick off event in August 2016.

Washington, DC: We recently hosted a kick-off event to introduce our new committee members and determine participants’ interest in topics/ideas for this year’s programming. This event was hosted by our area committee advisor, Tonya Miles and was attended my P55 fellows, Emerging Leaders, mentors, and alums. While at CityBridge, Joelle Deleveaux is exploring potential solutions for the charter school facilities crunch in D.C. For his part, Michael Moorin has begun to do intensive research into the education marketplace in DC and school incubation.

To see more photos from the 2016 PP55 Welcome events, visit our Facebook album

What is the impact of a Project 55 Fellowship? What partner organizations have told us…

What is the impact of a Project 55 Fellowship?

Princeton AlumniCorps, through the Project 55 Fellowship, Emerging Leaders, and ARC Innovators programs, provides ways for people to engage at every age.

Here are just a few of the many experiences that partner organization supervisors and contacts through the years have shared.

“All PP55 fellows I have worked with have been smart, capable, positive, hard-working, and great team members. They are always wonderful! Our fellow was WONDERFUL!!!  She had a great attitude, was a hard worker, and was eager to learn.”

Corey Merrill, Fourth Grade, Head of School, Community Day Public Charter School, Lawrence, MA   

“It’s great to have people coming in who are hard-working and enthusiastic, who are open to learning about the sector but who also bring new ideas and questions.”

Katherine Canning, Education Through Music, Inc., New York

“The [fellows] are always hard-working, smart, dedicated, and help infuse a lot of energy into the overall group.”

Meredith Buxton, UCSF Breast Care Center, San Francisco

“Our Fellow was a very strong staff person and performed just as strongly, if not better, than an entry-level staff member.”

Ilana Zafran, Umoja Student Development Corporation, Chicago

“We are delighted to continue partnering with AlumniCorps and look forward to adding a new fellow next year. The most worthwhile thing about the Project 55 program is having bright, energetic, curious young people adding value to our organization.”

Ann Ginsberg, Aeras, Rockville, MD

“PP55 Fellows are bright, committed, hard-working, ethical and passionate do-gooders. The Fellows are the reason a host organization ought to cast its lot with PP55. PP55 Fellows are of such high quality that any host organization smart enough to organize itself to take advantage of this great resource will find itself completely blessed.”

John Horan, North Lawndale College Prep, Chicago

“We have enjoyed our partnership with AlumniCorps. They provide training that allows the fellows to grow professionally during their time with the agency. It is great to work with the young talent. Our fellow was capable of producing high-level work early on in his fellowship and grew to the point of needing less direct supervision to accomplish tasks.”

Matt Vanover, Director of Public Education and Deputy Superintendent, Illinois State Board of Education

“From our perspective it is wonderful to have the services of a bright, motivated recent graduate for a year. As a non-profit organization, there is always more work than there are people to do it. As an organization that relies heavily on scientific analysis, having skilled, educated Fellows gives us a significant boost in being able to track and analyze literature. It is also always beneficial for an organization like ours to develop relationships with students who will go on to become the next generation of scholars and professionals.”

Dr. John Balbus, Environmental Defense, Washington, D.C.

AlumniCorps Regional Updates

Boston

Boston hopes to grow its Princeton AlumniCorps base next year and recruited five organizations to submit positions this fall, reports Lizzie Harvey ’06. Many thanks are due to Tom Flynn p’10 and the rest of the Boston Steering Committee for their continued recruitment efforts. Current and past fellows joined with Harvard Center for the Public Interest Fellows to celebrate the holidays at Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square in December. This past January, the Boston program held a seminar on sustainability and is looking forward to upcoming seminars on medicine and education.

 

Chicago

The Chicago PP55 fellows continue to collaborate with fellows from the University of Chicago and Northwestern University in their weekly seminar series. Recent seminars included a conversation with Mildred Wiley and Howard “Nat” Piggee ’96 at Bethel New Life, a community development organization on Chicago’s West Side, where Kathleen Connor ’11 is currently a fellow. Another seminar was led by David Kay at METROsquash, an organization that uses squash to draw Chicago public school students into experiences that broaden their educational, cultural, and community service horizons.

METROsquash has hosted many PP55 fellows, including current fellow Jackie Moss ’11. PP55 fellows were joined by Northwestern and University of Chicago fellows for a holiday gathering in December, and are looking forward to more gatherings in the coming months.

Board members Paula Morency ’77 and Tom Allison ’66 are leading the effort to build out Community Volunteers in Chicago.  Stay tuned!

 

Connecticut

“The Connecticut branch of AlumniCorps and the PP55 Fellowship Program has been blessed with outstanding fellows again this year,” writes Harry Berkowitz ’55. Julia Kearney ’11 and Michael Belmont ’11 are at the Norwalk Community Health Center, where they have been immersed in every aspect of the Center and are playing an integral role in its functioning. Tiffany Lee ’11, at Housing Development Fund, has likewise reported she is deeply involved in the organization, and is enjoying her fellowship. The fellows continue to travel to New York to join the New York AlumniCorps family in their monthly seminars. Fellows have enjoyed meals with Harry, who continues to support the Connecticut AlumniCorps community with his good spirit and great energy. Connecticut is looking forward to hosting fellows again at the Norwalk Community Health Center and the Housing Development Fund in the coming year, in addition to other new partnerships with local organizations.

 

New York

Kristen Smith ’03 reports that the year continues to go well for the New York AlumniCorps family. The annual Career/Networking Night took place at the home of Laurie & Arthur Malman ’64 on Wednesday, December 7th. Facilitators included Paul Nehring ’10, Jess Jardine ’10 and Andrew Goldstein ’06Chet Safian ’55 & Jenny Safian s’55 hosted a holiday celebration at their beautiful home on December 13th.

The NY program kicked off the New Year on January 12th with a trek uptown to the Hispanic Society of America for a seminar on the arts. Distinguished panelists included Marcus Burke ’69, Mark Rossier and James Martin (former Princeton dance teacher). Marcus Burke, the Senior Curator at the Hispanic Society of America, also gave a tour of this hidden gem in Washington Heights. This seminar was organized with the help of Judy Hole Suratt s’55.

PP55 fellows at the New York holiday party in December

On Wednesday, February 29th, Prep for Prep will host a seminar on ‘Sustainable Food and Public Health’ featuring Dr. Gordon Douglas ’55, Mia McDonald and Matt Rice. On March 27th, at the Whitney Museum, fellows will be receiving a behind the scenes look at the museum and its Biennial Exhibition due to the hard work and planning of Scott Taylor ’75 and NY Seminar Committee Co-Chairs Katie Ko ’09 and Reilly Kiernan ’10.

Emerging Leaders will host its first cohort in New York this year! Applications are now available online.

 

Philadelphia

Current fellow Joseph Sengoba ’10 is working to organize a forum focusing on Philadelphia’s criminal justice system in the Spring, inspired by the New York seminar at District Attorney’s Office of New York, which he attended. According to Carol Rosenfeld ’05, the Philadelphia fellows attended an amazing forum on education reform at the beginning of November, which was organized by former PP55 fellow and Philadelphia area committee member Katie Thaeder ’09. February’s seminar will focus on using social media for social change, and the group is also looking forward to attending the Princeton Global NetNight in March to practice  networking skills.

The Philadelphia area is thrilled that they’re on track to once again double the fellowship program for the coming 2012 – 2013 fellowship year. They are continuing to recruit partner organizations through the Spring round – please email Carol Rosenfeld ’05 at carol.rosenfeld@gmail.com if you know of any organizations in Philadelphia that would benefit from hosting a fellow.

 

Princeton

Community Volunteers has launched in Mercer County, and now offers five new substantive volunteer opportunities for Princeton alumni looking to lend their talents and skills to local nonprofits. To read more about our new partners and available volunteer opportunities, click here.

There are two exciting upcoming events in the Princeton area. On March 2nd the Princeton Senior Resource Center will be hosting an exciting panel and discussion about channeling your talents in meaningful ways. The event is entitled “Living with Purpose”. To learn more about this exciting event, visit www.towntopics.com. On March 14th, from 7-9pm, Princeton AlumniCorps will be hosting the Princeton Global Net Night 2012: Developing Your Personal Brand. In addition, learn about volunteer opportunities for alumni to use their professional skills to help nonprofits address critical needs. Hope to see you there! To learn more visit www.princetonaaa.org/events.

 

 

San Francisco Bay Area

Julie Rubinger ’09 writes that the Bay Area fellows are doing well. After a career mixer hosted by the Harvard CPIC program in October, Julie reached out to members of the local AlumniCorps community to participate in a November seminar on education. Entitled “The Future of K-12 Education in America”, panelists included April Chou ’96 of KIPP Bay Area, Andrew Garland ’01 of The New Teacher Project, Derek Mitchell of Partners in School Innovation, and Kit Tollerson ’08 of Rocketship Education. The panelists discussed the challenges of closing the achievement gap, and how individuals and organizations are developing innovative solutions to improve public education.

In early December, Chet Safian ’55 visited the Bay Area and met with all of the fellows in the Marina district. Chet recounted some wonderful stories about the history of Project 55 and the importance of public service. The fellows celebrated the holidays with other fellows from Stanford and Harvard, at Yerba Buena Gardens in downtown San Francisco.

 

Washington, DC

Emily Silk ’10 and Sara Twardock ’11 report that the seminar series is well under way in Washington, DC.  After taking part in an interactive office dynamics seminar led by Charity Fesler ’01  and Lisa Lazarus ’02 in December, fellows enjoyed a January seminar about post-fellowship plans: “Planning Your Next Move”, led by professional career coach and talent recruiter Katie McNerney and DC Area Committee Chair Ari Altman ’97. Next up? A highly anticipated discussion of environmental policy, hosted by Justin Smith ’90 at the Department of Justice!

PP55 fellows attend a seminar in Washington, DC

The DC region has also hosted a number of more informal events: December saw fellows, committee members, and mentors gathered at the home of Kathleen McCleery ’75 & Bob Martinez ’75 for a holiday dinner featuring delicious homemade soups and equally enjoyable conversation. Fellows also recently convened at happy hour event planned by the three newest additions to the DC area committee: current fellows Carol Dreibelbis ’11, Rachel Sverdlove ’11, and Sarah Twardock ’11.  They are now looking forward to a busy spring—beginning in February, when Kathleen McCleery ’75 will host fellows at PBS NewsHour, where she is Deputy Executive Producer.

AlumniCorps looks forward to celebrating the inaugural year of Emerging Leaders following the final session on March 13th. We are grateful to all of the individuals and organizations whose ongoing support has contributed to the great success of the program. Nonprofit professionals in Washington, DC who meet the application criteria are encouraged to apply now for the second year of the program which will begin this June.

 

Hear PP55 Fellows’ Stories from Around the Nation!

Visit:

pp55fellows.blogspot.com

Raise Your Hand If You Eat Food. Then Take Action!

We all eat food, but few of us care to think about what systems, policies, costs, and risks are associated with bringing that food to our tables. The production and consumption of food affects every aspect of our lives as individuals, as members of a local community and as agents of a global economy.

A former PP55 fellow in Boston slices fruit at a farmer's market.

In September 2010, Gordon Douglas MD ’55 and Sheila Mahoney began a conversation about food.

The Focus on Food initiative was conceived with the goal of cultivating Project 55 fellowship opportunities for recent Princeton graduates at organizations committed to food-related issues in this country. The issues range from obesity to farm factory pollution to food safety regulation to farm worker rights—all of which may be linked to our industrial food system, which is itself a product of government policies and business practices that support the production of vast quantities of low-priced, low-grade food, whatever the costs to the common good. As diverse and numerous as the issues may be, Focus on Food recognizes four broad areas of advocacy in today’s food movement: public health, environmental sustainability, social justice and animal welfare. Alumni have the opportunity to advance the issues in any one of these areas, whether by examining policy, promoting awareness or effecting change on the ground.

 

Take Action.

–   Are you an experienced professional? Put your principles into practice. Become an AlumniCorps Community Volunteer and donate your expertise to a food-related nonprofit.

–   Look at your own personal and professional networks. What organizations in your community are working on the food problem? Who might take a Project 55 Fellow or a skills-based AlumniCorps Community Volunteer?

–   Are you passionate about sustainable, healthy food? Help us to organize an educational panel or event for alumni in one of our AlumniCorps cities.

–   Are you a professional working in food and public health, social justice, the environment, or animal welfare? Contact us about speaking at an AlumniCorps seminar or panel for Project 55 fellows.

–   Join the conversation. Which of the four food system issues most concern you?  How can we start a dialogue? Click here to apply for membership in the AlumniCorps Focus on Food online discussion.