What are one or two of the most monumental challenges you’ve faced since assuming the role of executive director for New York Cares? What were your outcomes?
Without question, New York Cares’ response to Hurricane Sandy was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my tenure. In the days immediately following landfall, we worked closely with NYC Emergency Management and NYC Service to deploy volunteers to the areas where they were needed most. We raised $3.5 million for this important work, launching programs serving homeowners, nonprofits, and schools in the impacted areas. Over the course of the first year, we filled over 25,000 volunteer positions on over 2,000 projects, including the mucking out and gutting of 385 homes. We built a full-time disaster response team, set up full-time operations in the Rockaways and Brooklyn, and provided social services, like food distribution and canvassing.
When I arrived at New York Cares, we had a strong presence in Manhattan, with only 15% of our Community Partners located in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island. In 2005, we launched what would be a 10-year initiative to grow our programming overall, while reducing the proportion of Manhattan-based partnerships from 85% to about one-third. Five years into that expansion, which had many promising results, focus zones emerged where there was great need in the community but a persistently limited New York Cares presence. Thanks to our broad expansion, followed by an initiative to build our presence in these Focus Zones (the South Bronx, Central Queens, and Central Brooklyn), today New York Cares truly serves all five boroughs.
What are some current or upcoming initiatives at New York Cares you can tell us about?
New York Cares is in the second of a five-year expansion of three education programs that emphasizes long term achievement through academic support, college preparation, and civic engagement:
School Success, an initiative that places attention on individual high-need public schools and the services they require to improve their students’ performance. The initiative seeks to make the school a central part of family life by providing services for students and their parents alike.
College Access, four tuition-free high school programs, designed to help students overcome obstacles to achieving the dream of going to college through tutoring for the SAT, FAFSA preparation assistance, and college application guidance.
College Success Program, a service-based learning program for students in the CUNY system, designed to increase retention rates and to provide mentorship opportunities.
We are also preparing to launch a new strategic plan in early 2017 that will focus on building volunteer leadership, more deeply engaging the corporate community in impactful volunteer service, and continually directing our work to the highest need neighborhoods and issue areas.
Why did you seek out the School’s Executive MPA program? What was your experience in it like? What has your experience and degree helped you accomplish since graduating?
Once I began working in the nonprofit sector, I knew that I wanted to lead an organization when I was “ready.” I entered the Executive MPA at a point where I wanted to “know what I didn’t know” as I prepared to take on the leadership challenge. The Executive MPA turned out to be an excellent decision. Not only did I dig into new subjects, I was able to explore all areas of nonprofit management outside the context of the specific jobs I had held. Beyond the specific subject matter, I studied with a cohort of people, who were in similar points in their careers, many of whom are still close friends and professional colleagues. I draw on the network I developed then frequently.
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