Chic Interview with Mary Conway-Spiegel

Written by Jody Published in
One of our favorite former It Girls, Melanie, recently landed what we like to lovingly call her first "grown up" job with a non-profit called Partnership For Student Advocacy in NYC. She has been so inspired by her new boss that she wanted to share her story with our community. Mary Conway-Spiegel is the founder of PFSA and Melanie spent some time interviewing her in order to share a bit of her story with all of us...

Can you explain how the Partnership For Student Advocacy (PFSA) works?

Before referrals/word of mouth, I used to cold call struggling/"failing" schools and ask for their business (PFSA doesn't charge a fee). Once I meet with a school, it's a requirement that I tour and am allowed to spend time in and amongst the community. Each school community is different; each advocacy plan is different, but either way I act as the ambassador for the school and PFSA tasks accordingly.
 
What was the driving force behind starting PFSA?
Parents/guardians want to be involved in their children's education; however, parent involvement means different things to different adults.  Parent participation is a spectrum of activities and tasking, this is something most people who criticize lack of parent involvement don't understand. The driving force behind PFSA is this:  parents, guardians and school communities need advocacy, personalized advocacy - each school community is unique, its advocacy plan/strategy should reflect its personality.
 
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, how have your commitments to the foundation been reinforced, and what advice would you give to an entrepreneur who is starting a business during a difficult time? 
Imagine being new to America/New York City and being undocumented.  Imagine living with an uncle, sleeping on a couch, working part-time and trying to get a High School education while sending money back to relatives back home; then imagine trying to accomplish any of the above successfully after Hurricane Sandy.
Hundreds and hundreds of NY City's youth struggle just to show up to school, Sandy doubles that struggle. Now more than ever advocating for and supporting schools with high concentrations of English Language Learners, students with special needs and newly arrived undocumented students is crucial - Hurricane Sandy doubles the struggle, PFSA's commitment to the neediest students will double.
 
My advice?  Stay the course and resist the temptation to give up.  Starting a business means exposing oneself to failure regularly.  
 
What is your personal mantra for establishing a successful company?  
More and more I listen to my intuition and follow it, which includes asking for help and seeking out expertise from others who are skilled in areas I'm not.  Resist micro-managing people - it allows for much more creativity. Treat everyone respectfully.
 

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