This past intersession, I had the opportunity to shadow Adrienne Rubin ’88, Executive Director of the Princeton Education Foundation (PEF). The Princeton Education Foundation’s mission is to support the Princeton Public Schools through fundraising, outreach, and support of programs throughout the school district. As it turned out, Adrienne was actually leaving her job at PEF to work for another service-oriented organization, so she was full of advice about the nonprofit field. I also got a lot of exposure to the way that philanthropy benefits education, which was really interesting to see, and I loved getting the chance to talk with Adrienne about her job, her life, and how her experience at Princeton influenced her career.
On my first day there, Adrienne picked me up and we went to John Witherspoon Middle School, where we sat in on a focus group about school lunches. There were about 15 children there, and they talked about the things that they liked and didn’t like about school lunches. The Vice Principal and the Kitchen Manager were also present, which showed me how dedicated the staff of the school was to the interests of the students. Adrienne told me that she is periodically invited to events like these because it shows the school district, the students, and the parents that PEF is involved and interested in the happenings in the schools. She also said that the information that she learns at these kinds of events is valuable for applying for grants, whether it is for arts programs or for the free and reduced lunch program.
After the focus group, Adrienne and I went to her office, and I helped her deal with a lot of the tasks necessary to the running of PEF. I helped enter data into Salesforce, which is a data aggregation and storage tool that PEF uses to keep track of donors, families, and events. The work that I did was to help PEF plan for their Annual Spring Gala. I also created a few forms using an online form service, including forms for Gala tickets and auction bids. I really appreciated the fact that Adrienne was giving me concrete tasks, and I knew that the things I was doing were actually helping her and the organization to continue in their plans for the Gala.
On my second day, Adrienne took me to a presentation by Women in Development, a group for women who work in nonprofits in Central New Jersey to discuss their roles in the nonprofit industry. Adrienne told me that it is also useful for networking, and she actually found out about her current job at PEF through Women in Development. I had the chance to talk to a few different women at the meeting, and I really appreciated hearing their stories as well. The guest speaker was the Executive Director at NJCASA, the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and it was really inspiring to hear her speak about her experience in the nonprofit world and all of the different nonprofits that she worked for. After the meeting, I got to talk with Adrienne about her experience as well, and I really appreciated getting an “expert” opinion about the nonprofit field. I’m considering careers in government, nonprofits, and education, and Adrienne and I talked about all of those different fields and her experiences with many of them. Hearing her story really got me thinking about how I want to pursue my future, and it also gave me the chance to bond really well with Adrienne. We talked about all sorts of things, from life at Princeton to religion, and I felt like Adrienne was really interested in working with me and showing me the ropes of the nonprofit industry during my Princeternship.
I finished out the week by helping her clean out her office and sorting through old files and donations. It was sort of like looking through PEF’s time machine, because I got to see their old advertising materials and read old newspapers. Adrienne admitted that sometimes the work isn’t exciting, but that the work is interesting and fulfilling, and that those moments definitely outweigh the less exciting moments of her job. I really appreciated her honesty, because I know that no job can always be perfect or exciting, but at the end of the day, if you’re doing work that is fulfilling and you’re working towards a valuable goal, then you’ll find a way to appreciate your job.
I had a great time working with Adrienne at PEF, and I really enjoyed getting more hands-on experience in the nonprofit world. Not only was I able to help PEF plan for its Gala, but I was able to help Adrienne end out her time at PEF successfully. I’m really grateful for Adrienne because she was a great host, and I felt like she really was interested in sharing as much wisdom as she could with me.