Friday, May 20, 2011

Life is Calling*... Part Two

As I said in my last blog post, the summer after I quit my job was confusing, exhilarating, and eye-opening all at once. It passed by quickly in a blur of volunteering, meeting new people, and doing lots of self-assessment. But it took having these new experiences to really start to understand what excites and inspires me. Here are some of the things that I spent the summer doing:

The Cut to Clean flyer
that we gave to salons
who agreed to be involved
Cut to Clean: The Gulf Oil spill was continuing to worsen every day at this point and those who know me, know that I have an intense love for the New Orleans area. Along with some friends, we started an organization that we called “Cut to Clean” in which we canvassed local salons to donate their hair to Matter of Trust, who then took donated hair and weaved them into what they called “booms” to help soak up oil. Unfortunately, after getting a few salons signed up, we learned that Matter of Trust would soon no longer accept hair donations. It was short-lived but I was still happy to be doing something to help. 

Taproot Foundation: I left the advertising world but I didn’t lose a love for branding and marketing that drew me to the industry in the first place. So I signed up for the Taproot Foundation, an organization that enables business professionals to donate their skills to help nonprofits that often do not have the resources or money to improve and grow the organizations. I went through the application/interview/training process over the summer and began my first project last fall. Over the fall and winter, I worked with Young Audiences New York, a local branch of Young Audiences National, which is a top provider of arts education programming in schools. Their mission is to engage, educate and empower young people through learning, creating, and participating in the arts.  I conducted a variety of internal and external research that led to recommendations for their new strategic plan. Now that this has been completed, I have started work on a branding and key communications project with Cool Culture, another education-focused organization that empowers low-income families to teach their children by giving them access to and resources to take advantage of New York City's cultural opportunities. I’ll be continuing work with them over the summer so I’m sure you’ll be hearing more on this!

Helping teens paint a mural
at a community center
New York Cares: I became a volunteer with New York Cares, a fantastic organization in New York City that mobilizes over 50,000 New Yorkers to aid 1,200 nonprofits throughout the 5 boroughs. I got involved in multiple projects so that I could get a taste of different approaches to service. I painted murals at elementary schools, taught art to middle schoolers at a community center, cleaned up parks, even played bingo with elderly residents at a nursing home. And one of my most meaningful experiences grew out of my involvement with New York Cares - I signed up and was trained through Kaplan to become a volunteer SAT Tutor for underprivileged high school seniors throughout the New York City area. These are seniors who don’t have the money or the means to afford SAT classes but are driven and motivated to change their lives for the better – often the first in their families to try to go to college. I was paired with 5 students in a school in Brooklyn and worked them up until 2 weeks ago when they took their SAT Exams. In my year with them, I helped to increase their practice exam scores by over 20% so I am waiting on the edge to find out their final scores!

Girls Incorporated: My final experience over the summer was also one of my most meaningful. I have thought for a long time that I wanted to get involved in an organization that celebrates and promotes the empowerment of women. I spent 7 years of my life in an all-girl’s school growing up in Memphis, TN, and I am certain that I would not be who I am today without the amazing environment, structure, and support that this school provided (shout-out to St. Mary’s). Anyway – so I came upon Girls Incorporated and I signed up to be a full-time volunteer in a summer workshop that they provide for students at a school in Brooklyn. I was involved in a number of different activities (theater, art, chorus, homework help) but the most impactful activity for me was what they called the “Bridge” program, which was geared towards incoming freshmen and taught them all about the Girls Inc mission and philosophy through a variety of classroom exercises and projects.
This is what Girls Inc is all about – truly an amazing community to be a part of and to pass on their teaching to others.

I guess that’s about enough for this blog post – in the next one, I’ll wrap up what I've been doing over the last year!

*Footnote: In case you are wondering, “Life is Calling” (also in my header on top of the blog) is the current Peace Corps motto.  The whole thing reads “Life is calling… how far will you go?”


  1. Lauren, I am sooo impressed with your volunteer work and proactiveness in making a difference in the world. You are such an inspiration! - Hugs, Tanya