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.

A Note from the President & Executive Director – Winter 2018

Princeton University in the winter

As a board member and volunteer in the Princeton area for the past several years, I had always looked forward to January and the opportunity to interview applicants for the Project 55 Fellowship. This year, I had the privilege of conducting the interviews as a staff member and it gave me a deeper appreciation not only for the countless hours the staff and our volunteer alumni interviewers spend reviewing applications materials and asking thought-provoking questions, but also for the potential impact of this, our flagship program, to transform the applicants and our partner organizations. As I marked the nine-month anniversary of assuming the Executive Director role, I told every applicant I interviewed that it is (still) one of my favorite parts of the job. This year we invited about 120 Princeton University seniors to interview for over 70 placements with many longstanding partner organizations as well as several new exciting opportunities. Students took time from their busy Reading Period and exam schedules to trek in the cold and snow to our office at 12 Stockton Street. Our staff is joined by AlumniCorps volunteers as we assess which placement might best fit each candidate’s skills, passions, career goals, and specific interests. The energy of these young people is palpable and contagious, not only in our interview rooms but throughout the office. In the midst of tumultuous domestic and international news, the earnest determination of these students gives us a sense of hope for the future.

One applicant I met with is a Dreamer who has already had a profound impact on her communities. Incredibly smart, caring, and capable, she is passionate about college access and is already an accomplished poet and artist. Another demonstrated great empathy and sensitivity while reflecting on the impacts of the Swim Team scandal last year and lit up when describing his thesis research. He met with successful asylum seekers to the US who are here because of persecutions for gender identity. We met a young woman determined to be a pediatrician who remained resilient and positive despite losing her mother to breast cancer while our applicant was a Princeton undergraduate. I spoke at length with another applicant about arts as cultural narrative, storytelling, and personal expression.  This brilliant senior from a family of educators believes strongly in the ability of theater to develop empathy. As I listened to the students share their passions and future plans, I was reminded of why we do what we do and why we seek to mobilize these soon-to-be-Princeton graduates for the public good.

AumniCorps ED Kef Kasdin ’85 (center, in blue with sunglasses) and other members of Rachel’s Network near the current Mexico-US border wall, November 2017.

I thrive on the personal interactions with our community and January was just the icing on the cake of a busy fall making connections in our network. In keeping with our Bold Idea Initiative’s focus on immigration issues, in November I traveled to the Mexico-US border with Rachel’s Network. As the Board Chair of Rachel’s Network, I liaised with grassroots leaders working for fairer outcomes for immigrant populations and safer, healthier environments for border communities. You can learn more about the trip on Rachel’s Network blog, here: https://rachelsnetwork.org/borderlandstrip.

In October I traveled to the Bay Area with our Director of Programs and Strategy, Caryn Tomljanovich. We met with current and prospective partner organizations, and the Area Committee hosted a get together with volunteers and Fellows in Oakland, CA at NewSchools Venture Fund.

As February approaches and our Fellowship candidates interview with the partner organizations to which we will have referred them, we switch focus to our Emerging Leaders program, which concludes with Closing Celebrations in New York City (February 13) and Washington, DC (February 15).  It’s amazing how time has flown since we selected these 32 high potential young managers last spring and kicked off the program in June.  The Closing Day and Celebration allows for reflection on and sharing of their experiences with each other, supervisors, family, and the broader AlumniCorps community, which welcomes them to continued learning, impact, and transformation. The Program builds capacity for these dedicated and self-aware leaders, both in themselves and for the nonprofits they are preparing to run.

Each opportunity to engage with our program participants and committed volunteers brings a renewed sense of purpose and energy to the work that we do at 12 Stockton. If you are reading this Shared Effort newsletter/ blog, then you are considered a part of the great ‘fishnet’ that is the AlumniCorps family. Here’s to another year of mobilizing people, organizations, and networks for the public good.

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

tcg_kids2
Young students at TCG’s Community Day Charter Public School in Lawrence, MA

tcg_kids

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.

lcolbyhyland16-ucsf_rramiefathy16-ucsf
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 other Princetonians 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 reflections that Princetonians have shared with us.

“Project ’55 has played an important role in offering our students remarkable volunteer civic engagement opportunities that clearly have a lasting impact on their personal lives and careers.PP55 has truly been a source of inspiration and guidance for young alumni who want to make a positive difference at a local, national, or global level”

Shirley Tilghman, President Emeritus, Princeton University

“Project 55 has been the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. “I think we’ve demonstrated that we’ve had a meaningful impact on communities around the country, on alumni at Princeton, on the student body and on the institution itself.”

Chet Safian ’55

“I’ve served as a mentor since 1993. I moved to Chicago in late 1992 and attended the Community Service Conference held here in Spring 1993.  I was so excited by the PP55 program and the fellows I met at the conference that I immediately spoke to John Fish about becoming a mentor and have been one ever since. I really enjoy getting to know a recent graduate each year. Depending on the interests of my mentee, I try to balance fun things to do (theatre, music, Chicago touring) with conversation about their experiences at work and living in Chicago.”

Carol Obertubbesing ’73

“Mentoring for PP55 has been an exhilarating experience. The opportunity to be involved with the program and the mentees of pp55 add an entire dimension to my life. They are truly the best and brightest…and we have a chance to be wired in to the future World’s leaders. What more may one ask?”

Harry Berkowitz ’55

“PP55 has given me the opportunity to make a difference. This has an impact on students, on agencies and the populations they serve, and on a broader group in society.”

Anne-Marie Maman ’84 

“My time with Princeton Project 55 helped me to understand that having access to and encouragement toward service can have a profound effect not only on the arc of a career, but also on the strength of our communities. . . . Organizations like this prove once again that each of us can shape a better future for ourselves, our communities, and our country.”

Michelle Obama ’85

“I am very encouraged by the steps being taken by Princeton AlumniCorps to involve new leaders not only in sustaining the PP55 program, but also in developing new programs whereby Princetonians of all generations can have a meaningful, positive impact on society.” 

Scott Taylor ’75

“I hope that you will convey to the participants both my sincere regard for their efforts and my gratitude for the way in which their active service not only benefits the communities in which they work but also makes Princeton a better place. The Project 55 program has been a wonderful concept; it is one of the aspects of this University that make so many of us proud to be members of the Princeton family.”

Harold Shapiro, President Emeritus, Princeton University

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.