What brought you to MSPIA for your MPA?
When I was studying at St. John’s University for my BS in Public Relations and Business Administration, I had an internship at CBS Sports Network; I loved it but by the time I graduated, there were no vacancies. I ended up taking a position with the nonprofit organization, Harlem Children’s Zone, as an advocate, working directly with a caseload of about 60 kids. After about a year and a half, I got a call from CBS with a job offer for a position that was outside of what I had done with them before, but could be a great stepping stone. After a few months at CBS, I still managed to keep in contact with a number of kids from my caseload. I’m from the South Bronx and I could see a lot of myself in them. I wanted to continue to be the helping hand to them, as I had had coming up. On top of that, the new position hadn’t grown on me as I hoped it would and there were no further vacancies within the company. I hadn’t dreamt up the Family on Three Foundation at that point but, I knew that I had some ideas that I thought would be really useful in terms of youth development. I knew that whatever I would do next would involve helping kids, but I wanted to have the wherewithal to make a meaningful difference. I started doing research into MSPIA’s MPA program with nonprofit management as my focus. I liked its core courses and how similar they were to those of Baruch’s MBA program, but I was particularly impressed with the range of electives. I felt like I could get a lot out of the program and it would help guide my next steps. I had a friend at Baruch that put me in contact with the assistant director of admissions, Daniel Battista. Mr. Battista agreed to meet with me and helped me with every step of the admissions process.
Tell us about Family on Three Foundation, Inc.
The Family on Three Foundation is a 501(c)(3), youth enrichment, nonprofit organization that I founded alongside my business partner, Anthony Mason Jr., son of former New York Knick, Anthony Mason. We both are passionate about youth mentorship, and had actually pushed around the idea of starting a program a few years ago. When Anthony’s father passed away in February of 2015, I made the arrangements to have his high school gym renamed in his honor. Anthony and I made a few trips to the school to speak to the kids there and their outpouring of love and admiration was phenomenal. That was when we decided to go full throttle and the Family on Three Foundation was born.
Our mission is to impact our youth and community by providing inner-city kids with positive role-models, strategic enrichment and exposure. We provide healthy life-skills workshops like an introduction to financial literacy and through sports, we teach on-and-off-court values that foster growth, awareness, education and achievement. We believe that a child’s sense of self-worth, self-confidence and ambition to achieve are the building blocks toward their personal success. Not everyone is born with a silver spoon, and that’ okay. We believe that when we strengthen our youth, we enrich our community and we stand to change our world.
Every member of the Family on Three leadership team has their own story of struggle and overcoming adversity. We pride ourselves on using our individual experiences to help guide the next generation around their own obstacles and rough times.
In the last year we’ve hosted our Saturday program at Springfield Educational Campus in Queens, for just under 50 kids each session. We move to keep our kids engaged during the days in between sessions, by posting weekly motivational videos from our mentors on our social media page. Working with everyone from the New York Knicks to the office of NY State Senator, Leroy Comrie, we’ve hosted 8 special events including community engagement initiatives and have invited to speak at a number of youth programs including the Bishop Elite Basketball Academy in Mississauga Canada.
What is your role as director?
As the founding director of the organization, my role varies a great deal. Since we are still growing from the ground up, I spend a bulk of my time on content creation and document reviewing which includes curriculum content, marketing materials, sponsorship requests and proposals as well as preparing official documentation for governing bodies like the IRS and others. I work very closely with Anthony, our staff and members of our advisory board, to make sure the final product of everything we do comes out with the right look and feel for our organization. I think that the most interesting part of it all are the meetings. Our support is widespread, and we’re a young organization open to new perspectives; so we meet with everyone across the board from potential donors, supportive organizations, schools and parents. Every conversation is unique and I really have to be ready for whatever comes my way. I’ve learned how important possessing soft communication skills is to business. You have to work with a multitude of different people and personalities, and being engaging and an active listener makes things a lot easier.
What are your short- and long-term goals for Family on Three Foundation?
We’ve been blessed with early success in the form of notoriety. With that, we’ve been given the shoulder-tap to sit at the table with some major players (both domestic and international) that can really increase the magnitude and effectiveness of our mission. We are working to replicate our program in at least two additional NYC schools by the end of this year. To do that successfully and be sustainable, the proper funding is important. Currently, we are looking to increase the number of core supporters and garner multi-year unrestricted funds.
In the short term, we’d like to continue furthering our program development and branding. We are exploring the use of collaboratively structured initiatives by teaming up with other organizations who share our vision of creating a meaningful change. While we use sports and mentorship as our main vehicles to connect with our kids, partnering-up with other groups stands to offer our kids a more in-depth look and understanding of different things they may be interested in, such as film or media production. Exposure is key to growth and creating a habit of progressive growth is the first step toward success.
In the long term, the plan is to eventually be able to facilitate our programs under one roof, so the goal is to have our own facility. The space would be comprised of part recreational facility, multimedia production lab and office space.
Anthony, myself and our team believe in our purpose and the impact that we can have and we are willing to pool our resources to get things done and change lives. A strong team working on the same page is already halfway to a win. With the coursework my MPA nearing completion, I’m am working with a great group of people and the future looks bright for myself and the Family on Three Foundation.
How did MSPIA’s MPA program help you start your organization?
The MSPIA program can really a great benefit to a student with a purpose. It provided me with the formal knowledge necessary to do things the right way in terms of starting my foundation and safeguarded me against some of the pitfalls that can occur when you are first starting out.
I owe everything to the MSPIA program, its coursework and extremely supportive instructors. In the early stages of our foundation’s formation, I had a pretty good understanding of what had to be done in terms of drafting business plans, proposal and all of the administrative stuff; but when the filing process began, I relied on what I learned at MSPIA in a major way. The classroom would set the premise and provide me with the steps on how to get certain things accomplished, and it’d be up to me to apply the research and really get knee-deep in the implementation. It quickly came to the point where I was literally learning something in class one night, and applying it to my work almost immediately.
From a rising MPA’s perspective, the most mind-blowing part of our formation was that our 501(c)(3) application was approved in record-time. I prepared the application myself and I used every bit of what I had learned from SPIA to compile the right documentation. When we submitted the completed application, I fully expected not to hear anything for weeks if not months; so we were dumbfounded when we received the receipt of submission letter and the official approval letter in the same week. The entire process from submission to approval to 7 days. MSPIA’s MPA program prepared me for the process and I am extremely grateful.
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