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!

Board Update: Strategic Planning 2016

2016-17 Board of Directors
The Princeton AlumniCorps Board of Directors met for a retreat on Sept. 9-10

How do you take a twenty-six year record of program impact, a national network of passionate leaders and effective organizations, an intergenerational community of volunteers, and an inclusive commitment to the public good and… do even more?

Building on the success of our first twenty-six years, the Board of Directors is in the midst of a planning process that seeks to answer this question and set strategic priorities for the future of Princeton AlumniCorps. Since March, six working groups of the Board have explored core questions of how to deepen consistency and community across our programs, how to extend the reach of our programming and better mobilize our national network of alumni and partner organizations, and how to ensure the longevity of the organization. These working groups developed a long list of recommendations for the next phase of AlumniCorps, which the Board discussed in depth during its two-day strategic planning retreat on September 9-10. With considerable enthusiasm for what lies ahead, the Board will spend the next few months gathering input on key ideas before its December meeting and expects to finalize the strategic plan in early 2017.

New Staff at 12 Stockton!

Kimme Carlos, Office Administrator at 12 Stockton as of August 2016
Kimme Carlos, Office Administrator at 12 Stockton as of August 2016

Kimme Carlos joined Princeton AlumniCorps as Office Administrator in August, 2016. Prior to joining Princeton AlumniCorps, Kimme founded the NJ nonprofit, Urban Mental Health Alliance, where she continues to contribute her time as the volunteer Executive Director. She has also held several positions in nonprofit leadership as Association Manager with Creative Marketing Alliance and Program Manager, Annual Meetings with the African Studies Association.

Kimme is a strong advocate for urban community and social issues and has served on several boards in and across Mercer County, NJ, including Children’s Futures, NAMI Mercer and Oaks Integrated (formerly Greater Trenton Behavioral Health). Kimme was honored in 2009 as New Jersey’s Woman of the Year by the Garden State Woman Education Foundation for her dedicated volunteer work and she is a graduate of Regent University with a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and Psychology. She has two children, five grandchildren and lives in New Jersey. She brings to AlumniCorps a passion for and experience in nonprofit administration and operations.


Mikaela Levons '04 joined the staff at 12 Stockton as the Development & Communications Associate in August, 2016
Mikaela Levons ’04 joined the staff at 12 Stockton as the Development & Communications Associate in August, 2016

Mikaela Levons ’04 is a native of Jamaica who has been passionate about civic engagement since high school. She has worked in the charitable sector since receiving a B.A. from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School in 2004. Mikaela served as the grant writer for New Jersey After 3 and The Martin House in Trenton. Most recently, she was the Membership and Communications Coordinator for the Center for Non-Profits. She received her M.Sc. in Non-Profit and NGO Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, and currently serves on the board of a non-profit operating in rural Jamaica. She and her husband live in Ewing with their three young daughters. She is excited to return to ‘Old Nassau’ as AlumniCorps’ Development and Communications Associate.

Princeton AlumniCorps Welcomes Our New Project 55 Fellowship Program Manager

Paul Nehring '10, PP55 Fellowship Program Manager

Princeton AlumniCorps is pleased to welcome a new staff member to 12 Stockton, Mr. Paul Nehring ’10. Paul will be responsible for overseeing the Project 55 Fellowship Program.

Paul joined the Princeton AlumniCorps staff in June of 2012 as the Program Manager for the Project 55 Fellowship Program. He previously worked at iMentor, on organization organization dedicated to improving the lives of youth from under-served communities through mentoring. At iMentor he managed a high school partnership and supported students as they transitioned to college. Paul originally came to iMentor as a Project 55 Fellow and brings this perspective to bear on his new role. Paul has also acted as assistant camp director for the Triangle YMCA Camp in Minot, North Dakota, and more recently, as director of the Adventure Program at Camp Heartland, a camp committed to serving children affected by or infected with HIV/AIDS. He serves as a volunteer mentor with iMentor, as an alumni interviewer for Princeton University, and as a member of the Friends of Princeton Outdoor Action. Paul is a former PP55 fellow and current Emerging Leader. He earned his B.A. in Politics from Princeton in 2010 and is a native of Bismarck, North Dakota.

If you’d like to welcome Paul to the AlumniCorps team, he can be reached at pnehring@alumnicorps.org.

An Interview with Julie Rubinger ’09, San Francisco Bay Area Coordinator

Julie Rubinger '09

Julie Rubinger ’09 recently accepted the position of Area Coordinator for the San Francisco Bay Area region of the AlumniCorps community. Julie is currently a PP55 fellow at NewSchools Venture Fund in San Francisco, CA and was a fellow at Education Through Music in New York, NY from 2010-2011.

In the following interview, Julie talks about her PP55 Fellowship experience and explains why she decided to take on a more active role in the AlumniCorps community.

Share a bit about your PP55 Fellowship Program experience: What inspired you to become a fellow?  What kind of work have you been doing?

My senior year at Princeton coincided with the Obama presidential campaign, and it was a very exciting time on campus. Politics aside, Obama’s campaign empowered students like me to believe that we can make a difference in society. I knew that as a first step in my career, I wanted to work for a social cause. The Project 55 Fellowship program provided exactly what I was looking for, and I feel very fortunate to have been placed at Education Through Music in New York City, where I helped with their fundraising efforts. At Education Through Music, I gained exposure to the public education landscape in New York City, and worked with impressive individuals at a well-run, highly impactful organization. After two years there, I moved to San Francisco but stayed within the AlumniCorps community to join the development team at NewSchools Venture Fund. Here, I’m working on building a community of investors and raising philanthropic dollars so that we can support innovative entrepreneurs around the country who are improving public education for low-income students. It was a huge change moving from New York City to San Francisco, but I immediately fell in love with the Bay Area. The welcome I received from the Princeton community, as well as my supportive colleagues at NewSchools, helped me acclimate quickly to the new city, new job, and new life in San Francisco.

What motivated you to become the San Francisco Bay Area Coordinator?

I was involved in the New York Area Committee during my second year in New York City, and I really enjoyed working with others on the committee to support the fellows and give them a great experience. I had great mentors in New York, such as Chet Safian ’55, whose service to the fellowship program I found very inspiring. The AlumniCorps community in San Francisco is smaller, but I quickly learned that there are many phenomenal Princeton alumni here in the Bay Area that are doing really interesting work, and are eager to mentor and support the fellows. Next year, I am excited to involve more alums in the activities and programs of the fellowship program, and help give the fellows a great all-around experience.

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