Alumni Spotlight: Ana Acevedo, The Family Place
Ana Acevedo is the Manager of Operations and Communications with The Family Place (TFP) and The Family Place Public Charter School (TFPPCS). TFP and TFPPCS work to improve English and workplace literacy for adults in the D.C. area to increase their access to opportunities. The Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership spoke with Ana about her work in the field, and her experience in our Certificate Program as a Crimsonbridge Leadership Fund scholarship recipient.
CPNL: The nonprofit sector is vast with many important causes to champion, what led you to pursue a career in your particular field?
Acevedo: I grew up in a very diverse community in South Arlington. From a young age, I was able to see how my parents and my friends’ parents had trouble, as immigrants, navigating the systems in the US. Witnessing this really called me to get into this particular field. All of the work I have done has been with immigrant families, supporting them, and helping them navigate the systems here in the US.
CPNL: The Family Place works with adults to improve literacy and workplace skills in the DC area. How has your organization adapted to COVID-19? Are there any specific projects or initiatives you have started or adapted?
Acevedo: As of right now, we are operating virtually until the end of this calendar year.
Usually, we are able to have a summer program, however, it involves being together, going on field trips and a lot of human interaction. So, it was not feasible this summer. Our teachers spent a lot of the summer researching, experimenting and discovering best practices to run our programs virtually. In a way, we are still in this trial period, but I think it will be really interesting to see what practices we keep when this is all over to improve our outreach and efficiency.
We are not sure exactly when we will start transitioning back; we’ve been exploring that process and will continue to do so in the coming months. It’s difficult to be certain but it seems like a hybrid model will make sense for us as we transition back, some in person learning and some virtual learning. The virtual environment has been challenging for us because of the population that we work with. A lot of our students have very limited literacy skills, even in their native languages, which makes it very difficult specifically regarding technology literacy. So, that is one of the most significant issues that has come up during this time: addressing the digital divide and the lack of digital literacy.
Since I do operations, I have been spearheading the process of getting our building prepared. We do have some limited in-person training and programming we have had to continue offering, such as tech support, picking up materials, and food giveaways. At the beginning of the quarantine period, I was working on food giveaways and providing resources to our students and families that they needed during this time. Then, I transitioned into preparing our building for COVID-19 precautions, posting signage, ensuring appropriate distancing, etc. I’ve also worked to provide technology resources to our students. It has been a very interesting period for us, to say the least. But we are still committed to our work and supporting our students and their families however we can.
CPNL: What is one significant challenge you have faced as a local leader in the nonprofit sector?
Acevedo: I have worked in two different fields in the nonprofit sector. First I worked with domestic violence, and now I focus on family literacy work. Those two fields operate within their own bubbles. So, I would say that the biggest challenge for me has been the lack of communication within the web of services and organizations as it grows in the D.C. area. Even though we have strong partnerships with other organizations, the communication between these different sectors is not robust. Oftentimes, two or more organizations are providing the same services to the same families. I feel like this hinders the impact we could have. We could be reaching out to other families that could also benefit from our services. In an ideal world, there would be better lines of communication to provide services more effectively. Everyone would love to have this one entry point to enter the social network and access services, and a challenge for me has been improving communication to make this a reality.
CPNL: How has the certificate program helped you in your career?
Acevedo: I have been in the field now for almost 8 years, and I never really had the opportunity for significant growth. Growth is really difficult in the nonprofit sector. I have had a lot of roles that focused on front-line support. And while that knowledge and experience is very valuable, I really saw this as an opportunity to gain a new perspective. The Certificate Program offered me this bird’s eye view of our work that I felt would impact my agency. I think sometimes, we get so stuck being in the trenches, we have a harder time stepping back to see the sector as a whole and our agencies as a whole. This allows us to discover ways to improve and examine how systems can work better. The Certificate Program was a great learning opportunity for me and energized me more regarding the nonprofit field. I gained knowledge about the ins and outs of the sector that I had not had the opportunity to see because my work was so focused around providing front-line support.
CPNL: What advice would you give to other professionals who are considering participating in the Certificate Program and particularly applying for the Crimsonbridge Leadership Fund scholarship?
Acevedo: Personally, I learned about the Certificate Program 4 years ago and I felt like I was not ready to apply. It took me a really long time to convince myself that I was ready to take that step, so I would say as soon as you are interested, really go for it. Even though it was all through zoom, it was an invaluable experience. The faculty and the learning cohort I was a part of were all amazing. It’s a great way to make connections and get a fresh perspective on what is happening in the field. I’m so grateful for the Crimsonbridge Leadership Fund, and I admire the work they are doing to support us, leaders of color, because now more than ever we need to have a seat at the table and our voices need to be at the forefront within the nonprofit sector. This is an incredibly beneficial experience for anyone.