10 Questions with Sarah Shapiro - Program Director, Elizabeth Edwards Foundation Fellows Program

What does a typical day look like for you?

The time when I get to my office until 2:18pm is generally the calm before the storm. I typically work on lesson plans centered on college and career exploration, academic development, and positive youth development skills for my weekly meetings with sophomore, junior, and senior high school students. I update our social media networks, research programs and scholarships that would be a good fit for my students, work with other community organizations focused on positive youth development, and research and apply for grants. I try to get as much done as possible before 2:18pm because this is when the bell rings and our office is flooded with students. Once the students come, we have group and individual meetings, complete service projects together, and visit colleges or participate in other events at my work or in the community.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on a grant to get funding for my students to take an ACT and SAT boot camp and a college application essay writing workshop. I’m also setting up and traveling with students to visit area colleges and universities for campus tours and open houses, as well as helping them to fill out scholarship and financial aid information. Finally, I am planning our annual Washington D.C. trip which all juniors in the program get to participate in during Spring Break.

What was your path to get where you are today?

After graduating from college, I did an AmeriCorps program called City Year in Baton Rouge, LA. While there I worked with displaced young people from New Orleans and helped rebuild the city after the hurricane. After my service was completed, I moved to Albuquerque, NM and worked with an after-school enrichment program called Citizen Schools. After about 2 years, I decided to go back to school and get my Master’s degree in Positive Youth Development and Education at NC State University. I worked for the YMCA after receiving my degree and got a job with the Elizabeth Edwards Foundation almost 3 years ago.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

The most challenging aspect of my work is also what I love the most and that is working directly with the students. They can be frustrating, especially when they lack motivation, but it is also very rewarding being a part of their everyday lives and helping to identify and build up their motivation. Because many of the students I work with don’t have the same tools and support systems that other young people may have, it is very fulfilling to help them build skills and identify resources that will help them to reach their goals. Every day is different working with young people, and while you don’t always know what to expect, it makes the work more interesting and exciting.

How do you effectively balance your time?

I am a big list maker. I have lists for work, my private life, and goals that I’m trying to accomplish. I also have to prioritize my tasks because there is always too much to do during a single day. One thing I’ve had to learn to do in the past few years is to take time for myself. I put a lot of pressure on myself to excel in my job, and without finding time to exercise, read, or hang out with friends; I’ll burn out easily and won’t be an effective employee.

What are five tools you use on a regular basis?

My beautiful, after going 3 places to find one, Target Planner, Facebook, Power School (to look up my students grades), YouTube, e-mail in general.

What is the best career advice you have been given?

Sometimes you just have to jump in feet first and do what you want to do. Then you can apologize later if you have to.

Who or what inspires you?

Currently, one of my students has really inspired me. She has a really rough home life and has had to face so many challenges and obstacles. Her resilience and determination is amazing and really inspires me to not let my own challenges get me down.

Why do you do what you do?

I love working with young people and want to give them the same support, help, and advice that I got when I was young. The guidance I received from my parents has truly made me who I am today. I want to impart that same help in the hopes that the students will reach their full potential and have happy, fulfilling lives.

Who should we interview next?

Betsey McFarland - Executive Director of the WELL
Ashley Kopp - Founder Hip Hop Haven

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