Nonpartisan Advocacy in a Partisan World: Why Public Education is a Smart Choice

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Event Overview

Question: What do LeBron James, Chance the Rapper + Taylor Swift all have in common?

Answer: They all support public education and so do the vast majority of Americans.

Consumers expect brands to not just deliver great product but to be virtuous corporate citizens as well. And in this political climate to find anything the vast majority of Americans agree upon must be considered a port in this partisan storm. 90% of Americans go to or have gone to public school and each one has their favorite teacher. By supporting public education you not only give back to the community but help build an enriched workforce, a more educated consumer and a better America.

Hosted by Sheena Wright, President of The United Way of New York City, this panel will discuss the rise of the “woke consumer”, how it effects their purchasing choices and examine ways brands can help New York City public schools + schools across the country.


Sheena Wright, President & CEO, United Way of New York City

Sheena Wright is the first woman to lead United Way of New York City (UWNYC) in its nearly 80-year history. Part of the United Way worldwide network, UWNYC is a trusted partner to more than 300 community-based organizations, foundations, corporations, and city and state government agencies and aligns and activates them around a shared agenda to tackle the complex challenges of low-income New Yorkers.

Sheena took the reins at UWNYC the day that Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. She met that challenge, raising $11 million in disaster relief. In her tenure as President and CEO, Sheena has lead a transformation of the organization—actualizing a Collective Impact strategy, and refocusing UWNYC’s support of low-income New Yorkers towards self-sufficiency. In 2013, Wright spearheaded ReadNYC, the flagship initiative of UWNYC to strengthen families and improve grade-level reading by third grade in our City’s most-challenged communities.

Prior to joining UWNYC, she served as President and CEO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation. Sheena is a graduate of Columbia University, received her law degree from Columbia Law School.  She was born and raised in the South Bronx and now lives in Harlem, New York with her 3 sons and daughter.


Tracey Wood Mendelsohn, President & CEO, Black Public Relations Society – New York

Tracey Wood Mendelsohn is a C-Level, marketing communications, brand management, business strategist and non-profit development executive. Ms. Mendelsohn is also a serial entrepreneur, educator (New York University, The New School University) and social justice activist. Her 30+ years of experience encompass various sectors, including; arts & entertainment, politics, luxury consumer goods, caviar and gourmet food and travel.

Currently, she serves as the President and CEO of Black Public Relations Society-New York, Inc., a legacy organization she is proudly helping to strengthen and grow for the future; is a principal of a full-service entertainment, media and talent management company and is the executive producer for several media properties. Additionally, she is a stakeholder and the Chief Marketing Officer of a tech startup.




Fernando Snowden-Lorence,  Vice President, Global Philanthropy, The Fellowship Initiative in New York at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

As Vice President, Global Philanthropy  for The Fellowship Initiative in New York, Fernando Lorence manages the curriculum, partnerships, budgeting and internal collaborations for the program. He reports directly to the Head of The Fellowship Initiative and partners closely with the Employee Engagement and Volunteerism team as well as the Government Relations team. In this role he is also responsible for managing the volunteer mentors recruited from within JP Morgan Chase & Co. The Fellowship Initiative is a college and career readiness program for young men of color focused on closing the achievement gap with the rate of college applications, college acceptances and persistence in college for young men of color. He is Co-Chair of the Advocacy and Community Partnerships Committee for the Hispanic and Latino Business Resource Group Adelante.

Before joining the firm, Fernando spent 15 years working in education, volunteer management, and political advocacy. He has held senior leadership roles in regional non-profits working throughout the Northeast focused on community and civic engagement, next generation learning institutions and founded a mentoring organization in Central Brooklyn. A veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom he served in the United States Marine Corps. and Marine Corps. Reserve for nine and a half years where he held the rank of Staff Sergeant.


Emily Weiss, Principal, Education First

Emily Weiss joined Education First in 2014 to support urban school districts with preparing their students for college and careers, focusing primarily on instruction and student assessment. She has also overseen research projects designed to inform the funding strategies of major foundations in the areas of teacher development and engagement.

Emily has dedicated her career to improving education outcomes for students in underserved urban public schools, first as a middle school teacher and later as a senior leader at the New York City Department of Education. As Deputy Chief Academic Officer, she oversaw school accountability and student assessment for a district of 1.1 million students and led the transition to new Common Core state exams. Previously, Emily played a lead role in designing citywide strategies for introducing the Common Core standards to teachers.

Emily earned her B.A. in English from Yale College and her Ed.M. in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. A certified teacher in New York and California, Emily now lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two young sons. She enjoys reading, running, traveling, daydreaming about Brooklyn and spending time with family and friends, especially outdoors.


Carreen Winters, Chair, Reputation Management and Chief Strategy Officer, MWW PR

Carreen leads the MWW PR Corporate Reputation Management practice, covering all aspects of corporate reputation including executive positioning, employee engagement, CSR and citizenship, crisis and issues management and labor relations. Beginning her career with MWWPR 27 years ago, Carreen has been responsible for some of the agency’s most recognized work. She is a noted blogger, author and speaker on topics related to reputation, and appears regularly in the national news media including the WSJ’s Crisis of the Week.



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