Women Wednesday

Lauren Paley '98, '99, '02-'06

Lauren Paley ‘98, '99, ‘02-06 is a New York alumna who graduated from George Washington University. Lauren initially went to college with the intention of being a journalist; she had even taken time off from school to work for a news service. However, working as a counselor from ’02-’06 and working with other non-profits ignited her passion in non-profit management. As it turned out, the news service was a nonprofit too, where her reporting work quickly changed to grant writing. 

After returning to college and taking up a part-time job at a law office, Lauren learned about the pro bono work of many law partners there. The law firm job was meant to just help pay bills while in school, but it led her down a path that ultimately shaped her career. 

Lauren currently works at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center where she helps match community nonprofits and small businesses in the Washington, DC area with free legal assistance. “Nonprofits and small businesses are the back bone of a healthy community," Lauren says. "They offer essential services to the public and are the top job creators toward a thriving local economy.”

However, paying for an attorney can significantly deplete the funds a nonprofit needs to keep programs running or a business needs to grow on start-up capital. The D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center runs classes on legal basics, brief advice clinics where organizations can meet with attorneys for the day, and a match program that creates long-term relationships between lawyers and organizations. Attorneys from large law firms, solo practices, the federal government, and local corporations all donate their time through the Pro Bono Center to help these small businesses and nonprofits. Lauren adds that, “When I hear people get frustrated about Washington, DC, I like to tell them about the Pro Bono Center and remind them that public service is alive and well in this city!” 

Lastly, we asked Lauren for one piece of advice she would like to give to our younger alumni. She stated, “Sometimes we’re so narrowly focused on the ‘right way’ toward our goals, we prevent ourselves from trying unrelated experiences. It’s okay to try out things that aren’t part of the plan. Some may not stick, but often you’ll be surprised.” 

Rene Pierpont, '95, '96, '00-'03

Rene Pierpont is a current LAJF Board member, as well as acting Board Secretary and Chair of the Selection Policy Committee. She was a Legacy camper in 1995 and 1996. Her grandparents are Libby and Mandy Mascia. She returned to Camp in 2000 as a staff member at Clinton, a position she held until 2003.  

Rene completed her undergraduate degree at Georgetown University.  She worked with the Brain and Language Lab, where she developed an interest in studying children with language disorders and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.  Her graduate degree in Psychology and postdoctoral degree came from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Recently, Rene joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota in the area of pediatric neuropsychology. In addition, she is married and has two young children, Nina, 4 years and Elijah, 11 months. 

Rene continues to be interested in Selection Policy because she would love to see our process of increasing the effectiveness and diversity of campers succeed. She attended the camper Selection in Minnesota this year and shared the following thoughts:

Every year when conducting interviews for Camper Selection I am so re-energized! While having fascinating conversations with the potential future campers from Minnesota, I am reminded of the essential role that our alumni have to play in enabling successive generations of change-makers develop their talents and voices through the Rising Sun experience. Selection is almost like a "Circle of Life" phenomenon within our community. Those of us who experienced something worthy of sharing while we were at Rising Sun eagerly await passing along this gift to a new set of fresh-faced young leaders. 

We caught up with Rene to ask her about her current pursuits, as well as how Camp Rising Sun impacted her:

1) What do you think is the biggest lesson or takeaway you learned from
Rising Sun?

I've learned that our character is defined not by how much we wish for something, but by how much we are willing to commit, struggle and sacrifice for that thing. This lesson applies to me in my own life every day... There are certainly always trade-offs in my career, in my role of motherhood, in my activities as a CRS Board member. All of these things present challenges-- and I continually have to choose to apply myself wholeheartedly to those challenges every day. 

Incidentally, this lesson about commitment is also really relevant to the current challenges facing the CRS community as we try to determine solutions that will ensure a sustainable future for our program. Achieving sustainability will require a serious collective effort- every one of us will need to share our precious time, to open our minds and wallets, to roll up our sleeves, to work through tough conversations and beyond hurt feelings, and to participate in tasks that are sometimes very, very challenging. I believe that our alumni will be able to do this to keep the mission of Rising Sun alive.

2) Can you tell us more about the work you do with your organization?
I am a pediatric neuropsychologist in a busy academic medical center. I conduct evaluations of children with complex medical, neurodevelopmental and mental health needs which inform their educational and treatment plans. I love working in pediatrics, and of course I have a special fondness for working with teenagers! Interestingly, many of the skills that I learned from being a Counselor working with exceptional teens at Rising Sun still apply today in my work with children who are struggling. Each type of person has their own developmental needs. To meet those needs we must be willing to listen and find ways to support them to develop into their best selves.

3) If you had one piece of advice to offer young men and women who are
still in high school, college, or the early stages of their career, what
would it be?

If you aren't making mistakes, you aren't challenging yourself enough. It's okay to be wrong sometimes-- in fact, people will respond better to you if you are humble, acknowledge that you messed up, and commit to working to improve it the next time. Also, you will probably learn the most from listening to those who have a different perspective than you.

LAJF Welcomes Janessa Schilmoeller '05, '06, '10, '11 as Camp Director

LAJF Welcomes Janessa Schilmoeller '05, '06, '10, '11 as Camp Director

We are thrilled to announce that Janessa Schilmoeller '05, '06, '10, '11 will serve as Camp Director for the 2016 Camp Rising Sun sessions. Janessa brings a Rising Sun array of experiences that will bring vibrancy to her role as Camp Director. She is a professional educator, has served as a counselor and Assistant Camp Director at CRS, has run non-CRS summer programs, and has traveled the world extensively.  Read more about her here.

Mikako Tai, '04, '05, '11

Mikako Tai, '04, '05, '11, was a Japanese representative camper at CRS/Europe (Stendis, Denmark) in 2004 & 2005, and returned to CRS as a visiting counselor at Clinton in 2011. Initially, she was only supposed to be there for 2 weeks, but ended up returning and staying for a total of 5+ weeks because she simply could not get enough of CRS.  She graduated from Wesleyan University with honors in the College of Social Studies (CSS) and spent six months living in Kenya to conduct fieldwork in the rural parts of the Swahili coast.

Currently, Mikako is the Executive Assistant and Corporate Affairs Officer at the Africa-America Institute in New York City.  She is the go-to person for all AAI stakeholders, including the Board of Trustees, sponsors, partners, program beneficiaries, and staff in both Africa and the U.S. and provides direct programming and administrative support to the President and CEO.

We asked Ms. Tai about her involvement with Camp as well as her current career endeavors.

1) What do you think is the biggest lesson or takeaway you learned from Rising Sun?

As a camper, I learned to think and act outside the box; not only tolerate but also appreciate differences among peoples and cultures; and just how much you could gain by being outside of your comfort zone. i.e. taking pride in being "Crazy". Getting to know campers and counselors from different backgrounds helped me discover first-hand, that what I believed to be true or normal did not necessarily mean it was for others. In fact, there are always multiple perspectives to a story. I learned to be cognizant about that, and be open-minded---in the true sense of the word---whenever I approached new ideas. Personally, discovering that something my community considered to be a misfortune was actually "super cool" and "unique" in my fellow campers' eyes, was very empowering. I remember vividly how this realization took a huge weight off my shoulders, and I felt like seeing the world through a completely new set of lenses. In the process, I also learned to reflect on and appreciate my own background and identity, as I was given the opportunity to compare and contrast my "Japanese-ness" with others.

I also learned that one can be an effective leader in whatever they do, whether or not they are formally placed in a so-called leadership or managerial position. And I believe that is at the core of the "sachem" spirit.

2) Can you tell us more about the work you do with your organization?

The Africa-America Institute (AAI) is an international organization dedicated to increasing the capacity of African individuals and institutions through higher education, skills training, professional development, convening activities, and program management. AAI's mission is to empower the African youth to become globally competitive, as well as to promote dialogue and engagement between Africa and the U.S. At AAI, I manage the programmatic and administrative operations as well as priorities set forth by the Executive Office. I work closely with the Board of Trustees and key stakeholders, all of whom are major players in African & U.S. businesses and governments. Our major program today is the Future Leaders Legacy Fund, which is a scholarship fund that provides opportunities for smart yet under-resourced Africans to study at high-performing African universities and obtain a formal degree. It has been very eye-opening and exciting to work with multi-sector leaders on an important cause.

3) If you had one piece of advice to offer young men and women who are still in high school, college, or the early stages of their career, what would it be?

When in doubt, say YES to opportunities that come your way. I have always believed that it is better to regret by doing than not doing. Whatever it is that you decide to take part in, it can open doors for other exciting opportunities, if you commit to making the most of your experience. Discovering what doesn't excite you is as important as knowing what you love and thrive in. So get out there and do it!!

LAJF Welcomes Helene Mattera '97, '98 as Interim Executive Director

LAJF Welcomes Helene Mattera '97, '98 as Interim Executive Director

We are pleased to announce that Helene Mattera will step in as the Interim Executive Director of the Louis August Jonas Foundation! Helene is now well positioned to lead us through our next phase of growth. She brings a strong CRS background, educational training in youth and program development, more than a decade of fundraising experience and a passion for the Rising Sun alumni community. 

Priya Jain, CRS Board of Directors Member

Priya Jain, current senior vice president of business development and strategy at Atkins, is the mother of two Camp Rising Sun alumni and serves as a member of the LAJF/CRS Board of Directors.   She leads and implements strategy and client-focused initiatives with an emphasis on account management, sales pipeline, and sales talent development. Over the course of her 23+ year career, she’s held a variety of leadership roles that have encompassed strategy, sales, operations, and project delivery. She holds multiple advanced degrees including Masters Degrees in environmental engineering and in physics.  

In addition, Ms. Jain currently serves as a leader in the Northern New Jersey Chapter of Ellevate, a global professional women’s leadership organization and is the founder of Prabhat, a nonprofit aimed at providing educational opportunities to the underprivileged.

We asked Ms. Jain about her daughters’ involvement with Camp as well as her current career endeavors.

1) What do you think is the biggest lesson or takeaway you (or in your case, your daughters) learned from Rising Sun?

Witnessing the emotional and intellectual growth of my two daughters who attended CRS over the last five years.   They both came back with an intense awareness of global issues and a highly developed ethical sense of responsibility towards addressing them. 

2) Can you tell us more about the work you do with your organization, Prabhat?

I am the founding member of Prabhat (prabhat.org) a non-profit dedicated to educating the underprivileged children in India and the US. Founded in 2010, Prabhat has created a network of partners and non-profit educational organizations and effectively connected donors with recipients. As a board member, I am actively involved in all aspects of strategy and planning, organizing fund raising events, vetting out partners and recipients, ensuring appropriate use of funds, and communications. 

3) If you had one piece of advice to offer young men and women who are still in high school, college, or the early stages of their career, what would it be?

Life is a marathon and not a sprint.  A bad grade, being passed over for a cherished job, or getting that coveted promotion does not define who you are now or what you will become in the future.  Take these bumps or successes in the journey as an opportunity to learn from and grow.  Celebrate your successes and dig down deep to find the strength to overcome setbacks.   

Be curious, discover what you value, work hard to achieve your goals, and learn to adapt. Above all, don't forget to enjoy the journey - you have only one life to live!

Martha Mosco, Medical Director '15

Martha with the HAWC (Health and Wellness Center) sign

Martha with the HAWC (Health and Wellness Center) sign

Martha Mosco '15 served as the Medical Director at CRS 2015. Her incredible positivity, optimism, sense of humor, and general joie de vivre buoyed camper and staff spirits through the entire season, making her an invaluable resource to every member of the community. 

Martha was born in a small town in Rhode Island. She attended Simmons College in Boston for nursing. During that time, she spent a year abroad in London, which ignited her passion for travel. Martha hasn't stopped working, traveling, and living abroad since. Most recently, she spent a year in southwestern Nicaragua working on public health projects. 

After her year in Nicaragua, Martha went looking for another opportunity to use her skills in a community health setting. She stumbled across Camp online and knew right away that she had found something special. After applying and being accepted as medical director, Martha found out that her uncle was an alumnus (Tod Lawrence '66)!

This summer at Camp, Martha proved herself a million times over. Tending to issues of the body, mind, and soul, she carefully and expertly guided campers through their days. In addition to dealing with issues as they arose, Martha was proactive about camper health, constantly reminding campers about ticks, water, and sunlight. She, alongside Mariam Ismail ('14, '15), kept Camp healthy and safe for everyone, staff members and campers alike.

Alongside her enormous responsibility as Medical Director, Martha went out of her way to help with the CRS program. She constantly pushed campers to question their assumptions and really think about decisions they made. She made herself available outside of the medical center, spending time with campers during their free time. She co-led an evening program on Safe Spaces, one of the earlier and more emotionally demanding evening programs. She participated in projects, swimming, sports, cooking, cleaning – it would probably be harder to name a program area Martha didn't participate in! (She even went on a three-day hike!) By constantly being present, actively listening to those around her, and setting an example for everyone, Martha greatly benefited the entire community at CRS 2015.

We asked Martha for her thoughts on this season and CRS. She had the following to say:

I think one of the most moving and impactful parts of Camp for me is that this program empowers the rising generations to live and learn an international, intercultural and community mentality. This is now, more than ever, essential for success, human kindness, learning, cooperation and peace, as individuals and for our greater society. Plus, it's a lot of fun! I was so humbled by the campers and staff that arrived on our campus and how much we all shared with and learned from each other. Learning together and practicing to consider the needs of others and the larger community before oneself was such a gift. And to see the growth and impact everyday of the community we all worked together to create was the greatest gift of all.

Martha is currently working as a nurse in a family clinic in Washington Heights, Manhattan, at the New York Presbyterian Hospital. After spending a year in Nicaragua, she found herself fluent in Spanish, which she uses every day at work, as well as to volunteer as a translator in a local free health center. Martha also continues to serve Camp on the Health and Safety committee. We're so happy that Martha is a member of our ever-expanding community, and we'd like to thank her for her stellar work and attitude this summer. 

Jackie Ramos '91, '92 speaks about the lessons she learned from CRS

Jackie Beach.JPG

We asked Jackie Ramos '91, '92 to share with us some lessons she gained from her Camp experience, and what advice she might have for future campers. Here is what she had to say.

"There are so many lessons to learn at Camp Rising Sun, but one that stands out for me is that as young women, we leave behind imprints of our lives that follow us through to our future. This holds true for me as I would never have imagined that as a young lady 23+ years ago, the lasting legacy I left behind at Camp (both in spirit and material) would have a significant, lasting and profound impact when my daughter Sophie Rose became a legacy camper in 2014 and 2015. I have had the fortunate opportunity to see in my daughter’s eyes what Camp meant to me and has done for me. To hear her declare “Camp changed my life for the better,” the very words that I spoke 23 years ago… now, that’s a lasting legacy.  Sometimes, as young people, we go through life jumping from one thing to the next with little thought of the “tokens” we pick up and leave behind. My advice would be to take a moment to cherish all that camp offers, cherish the conversations you have with your fellow camp sisters/brothers, because it very well may be the last time you speak with them. Make sure to spend quality time with each and every person at camp and break the cliques that naturally tend to form. Your world will become smaller as you bring your sisters/brothers closer to your heart. In the meantime, your life gets bigger as you nurture friendships from near and far.

Not a day goes by that the spirit of Camp does not enter my world in one form or another. It appears on the checkout line when I turn to the person next to me and ask them how they are doing. It happens when I get an irate call from an employee who needs to know that I am listening to them. It appears when I walk down the street and look up and see the beauty in the big blue sky and the chirping birds. Camp gave me a sense of awareness of the tokens in life and of myself as a contributing human being on this great Earth. I use what I learned from Camp while raising my daughter to be open to all faiths, religions, races and orientations. I will echo what I said 23 years ago and my daughter repeated and that is... Camp changed my life for the better!"