Emily Rotella Brings the Power Lunch Program to Baruch College

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Emily RotellaEmily Rotella has a very full schedule. The 25-year-old Baruch College MBA student juggles her classes with a full time job at Random House, additional sales rep duties at the publishing house, and a weekly commitment to a 5th grader named Emmanuel— a commitment she calls the "highlight of [her] workweek."

She connected with Emmanuel through Everybody Wins!, a national literacy and mentoring nonprofit group that brings volunteers to children for weekly one-on-one reading sessions. The Everybody Wins! Power Lunch program, which Rotella has been a part of for the last two years, enlists larger groups of reading volunteers through partnering companies and organizations, of which Random House is one. And though she has found the experience of reading to Emmanuel extremely rewarding, her passion for the program has only made her want to do more. Having enrolled in the graduate Operations Management program at Baruch College in January of 2009, the idea of recruiting Power Lunch volunteers at the College immediately came to mind.

"I met with Carl Aylman, director of student life [at Baruch College], and he was on board right away," she said. With the support of Everybody Wins!, three orientation sessions were held on campus and 30 volunteers were recruited this fall. Because the majority of the 71 participating New York-based organizations are for-profit companies, Baruch stands in somewhat of a unique position as a partner in the Power Lunch Program. Rotella will play the role of the "company contact" at Baruch, helping to "recruit volunteers, coordinate with school administration and maintain the smooth running of the program," said Hope Geller, director of communications at Everybody Wins! NY.

Thus far, volunteers for the Baruch College group are made up mostly of undergraduate students, though at least a handful of graduate students have shown interest. Rotella says this is to be expected, as undergraduates tend to have more flexibility in their schedules — something that greatly influenced her decision to come to Baruch. "I needed to go somewhere flexible since I work full time. Baruch is beautiful, so flexible, so affordable, and the biggest selling point for me was the diverse population," she explained. The 30 volunteers recruited for the Power Lunch Program this semester, she said, also serve as a strong reflection of the diversity of the College.

Rotella hopes to foster the development of the Power Lunch program at Baruch by keeping in touch with participating students and gradually building a sense of community around it. Encouraging volunteers to bring in friends and continue with the program next semester, she said, are two important ways of doing this. Above all, though, Rotella’s goal is to promote the resounding principle behind Everybody Wins!, which is not to teach children how to read, but to help instill a love of reading. "My experience has been fantastic," she said. "I just hope it’s been as good for my reading buddy."
—Adrienne Rayski