Hannah Roth, Solomon Schechter of Westchester Class of 2013, has a plan: having secured and deferred a job offer from Citibank, she will spend a year of service working for a nonprofit in New York City, and then return to Citibank as a socially-engaged leader. How is such a thing possible? Roth was nominated for a ServiceCorps Fellowship by Citibank which, along with GE and Bloomberg, sponsors the ServiceCorps program.
Roth attended Solomon Schechter of Westchester for high school and recently graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor's degree in Human and Organizational Development, which teaches students to solve problems in organizations and communities. Two of her Solomon Schechter of Westchester teachers made a lasting impact on her, both personally and academically, and contributed to her success in college: “Mrs. Bloch and Mr. Modica really knew me. They always asked about my family and what I was doing. They were always willing to go the extra mile for something I needed, in or out of the classroom. The critical thinking skills that Mr. Modica tried to instill in us made his class more analytical than a typical history class where you just memorize facts. I think that was vital to my success throughout college.”
During her year of service, Roth will work at Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit that works to connect low-income families to affordable, well-designed homes. She credits Solomon Schechter of Westchester with planting the seeds for this, too: “The school instilled a strong sense of tikkun olam in us,” said Roth. “When we went to Washington, DC in tenth grade and gave out care packages to the homeless, it really spurred my interest in helping that population.” She also participated in midnight runs (deliveries of personal items to people in need on cold winter nights) with many other Solomon Schechter of Westchester families through her synagogue. After meeting her current commitments, which include her year of service and two more at Citibank, she will focus on social enterprise (starting a business to give back). She hopes to one day launch a business which benefits homeless people in New York.
Roth has stayed close with many of her Solomon Schechter of Westchester classmates, traveling to Asia with one and living with another in the fall when her fellowship begins. “The community at Schechter was really strong and it has stayed with me,” said Roth. “Moving back to New York was easy because I have a strong network of people here, mostly from Schechter.”
© 2017Kavanot Magazine
As a senior at Colorado College in 2004, Matt Ronen felt compelled to pursue a service year before settling down professionally. He even wrote a business plan for a partnership between companies and nonprofits that would create a service “gap year” between college and career. His professor told the Cleveland native that his idea was “creative and original, but ahead of its time,” recalls Ronen, who turned down a position with Oppenheimer & Co. to spend a two-year hitch in the Israel Defense Forces.
In March 2011, during his last semester at Johnson, Ronen was walking home from dinner when he was assaulted and mugged. During the long recovery that followed, he had an epiphany inspired by reading Anne Frank’s words: "No one has to wait, but can start right now to gradually change the world."
“I wanted to leave the world better than the way I found it,” he says. “I always thought this was something I would do later in life. But what if you don’t get the chance to give back?”
Although Ronen subsequently took a job offer as a brand manager at Colgate-Palmolive, his old idea never left him, and in 2014 he left the corporate world to follow his dream. Now, ServiceCorps has a staff of five and operates out of office space in Manhattan donated by Cornell trustee Howard Milstein ’73. The program launched in summer 2016 with 11 recent college graduates who deferred prestigious job offers from ServiceCorps corporate sponsors GE and Citi in order to work at top nonprofit organizations.
Ronen’s goal for ServiceCorps is “to empower the most talented emerging leaders to tackle society's toughest challenges the first year of their career and every year thereafter.” Participating business partners share the cost of the program with ServiceCorps, with the nonprofit covering other expenses such as healthcare and any student loan repayments during the deferral year.
Ronen hopes to double the number of student participants every year until they hit 1,000. “My vision is to be the next Teach for America — the next post-college movement,” he says, adding that: “Without my Cornell degree, I would not have the skills, knowledge, and wisdom to pull it off.”
© 2017Cornell Enterprise Online