Interview between Kaitlyn Krouse, NET Committee and Haley Mitchell, PIP Committee and Learn Fresh Junior Board Member
If you are interested in learning more about nonprofit board service please sign up to attend the next NET NonProfit Mixer on Tuesday, December 8, from 7:00–9:00 p.m.
Haley Mitchell is originally from Powder Springs, GA, and currently resides in Astoria, Queens. She is a Field Clinical Engineer at Abbott Laboratories and considers her hobbies to be volunteering, watching reality TV, hiking, and exploring NYC Parks. After joining the NYJL a year ago, Haley volunteers for NYJL’s Playground Improvement Project and serves the Junior Board of Learn Fresh.
Kaitlyn spoke with Haley about the process she went through to apply and become accepted to join a Junior Board, the positive impact she and her peers are making on the board’s overall mission, and her advice for any NYJL members looking to go down a similar path.
When you attended the Nonprofit Education and Training (NET) Committee’s Non-Profit Mixer, did have a plan about the nonprofits you wanted to meet with?
One of my life goals is to serve on the board of a nonprofit organization, so I was super excited when I found out that NET was hosting a mixer! I didn’t go into the mixer with a list of organizations to talk to; however, given that I am in an early stage in my career with limited volunteer leadership experience, I specifically focused my time on organizations that were recruiting for a junior board. My main goal was to find a nonprofit where I felt that my participation on the junior board would have a tangible impact on the organization and help to develop my skills and capabilities as a leader and volunteer. I also wanted to make sure that the work each nonprofit is doing aligned with my passions so I kept an open mind and talked to as many organizations who were recruiting for a junior board as I could.
Can you tell us about the non-profit you joined and why it resonated with you?
Learn Fresh is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on developing and delivering innovative STEM learning experiences to underserved students across the country. We believe leveraging students’ passions can empower their learning in the classroom. Our flagship program, NBA Math Hoops, has engaged over 250,000 middle school students in math and social-emotional learning through the game of basketball! Learn Fresh explicitly aims to serve students underrepresented in STEM fields, including girls, students of color, and those living in low-income communities because we believe every student deserves equal opportunity to learn, grow, and thrive in the classroom.
Growing up in a small suburb in Georgia, only a small portion of my classmates went on to pursue education and careers in STEM, and even fewer of them were women. I did not have any female role models who worked in STEM fields, which is something I believe I would have benefited from greatly. As a biomedical engineer working in the medical device industry, I have been eager to find ways to give back to young learners who may not have access to the best education or role models in STEM, and joining Learn Fresh’s Emerging Leaders Council (ELC) has been the perfect way to do just that!
What was the process like for applying and getting on the junior board?
Unfortunately, I was only able to make it to the second half of the NET mixer due to my work schedule and was unable to talk with Learn Fresh in person at the event. However, my Provisional Leader, Megan Zuckerman, was also in attendance and spoke with them. She thought that Learn Fresh aligned perfectly with my passions and connected me with the organization, which I am so appreciative of!
From there, I had several phone conversations with both the Chief Development Officer and the CEO/Co-Founder of Learn Fresh and filled out a questionnaire about my background, interests, and what I hoped to bring to the organization. The whole process took about 3 months to complete before I was invited to join the first ELC meeting. I met with Learn Fresh just before COVID happened so there was a big-time delay.
What are the time and financial commitments you have to put in?
I have committed to at least a two-year term, and a minimum of 20 hours of service each year, including monthly virtual meetings, volunteering at/hosting events, and planning our inaugural fundraising gala. While there are no dues or a specific monetary ask to join the ELC, members are encouraged to make a financial contribution at a level that is personally meaningful. I am very passionate about the organization and our work so I have chosen to make recurring monthly donations.
What are the primary responsibilities you and the other junior board members have?
The ELC plays a strategic role in developing awareness of Learn Fresh’s programs and providing opportunities for growth by leveraging social media, events, and individual fundraising to support organizational goals. Due to the nature of pandemic restrictions, most of our time has been spent planning and executing educational virtual events to expand our organizational reach, as well as volunteering to support the NBA Math Hoops National Championship presented by Clorox that took place virtually this summer.
Do you feel that you and the junior board as a whole make a positive impact on the nonprofit?
I do! The ELC is focused on expanding our reach, particularly in the Northeast. Our members are perfectly positioned to do this, representing New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington DC. Each of us brings our expanding networks to the table and has been diligently working to plan and execute virtual educational events for the organization. Our broad range of careers brings unique perspectives to our discussions, and our collaboration has been great so far!
Has your work with NYJL and Learn Fresh positively impacted other aspects of your life, both personally and professionally?
Yes, definitely! My work with Learn Fresh has been incredibly rewarding on a personal level, particularly through my interactions with some of the NBA Math Hoops students during the virtual National Championship this summer. I was amazed by how dedicated and passionate the students are, and how much teamwork and good sportsmanship they exhibited as they competed in the National Championship. It is so clear that this program is having a tangible and incredibly positive impact on their lives! Having the opportunity to meet the students has further reaffirmed my decision to join this organization, and has proven to me just how important the work I do on the ELC is!
On a professional level, I am hoping to utilize the leadership skills I am developing with Learn Fresh as I continue to grow in my career at Abbott.
Is there anything you want other NYJL volunteers who may be interested in joining nonprofit boards to know?
Keep an open mind! Pick an organization whose mission you are passionate about, and make sure you can fully commit both time and resources to the board. The NYJL is an incredible resource to lean on for access to open board seats as well as leadership and development training, and it is likely that your experiences as a trained volunteer can directly translate and allow you to make an impact on a nonprofit board. Serving on a junior board has been incredibly rewarding, and I would highly encourage anyone who is interested to seek out non-profit leadership opportunities!
This interview was edited for length and clarity.