Briana Payton '18's Project 55 Experience
Briana is no stranger to civic engagement— some of her favorite experiences at Princeton University include a Princeton Internships in Civic Service (PICS) placement in Chicago; leading alternative break service trips to New York City; and Community-Based Learning experiences in Trenton and Princeton. She knew she wanted to invest her time working on issues affecting marginalized African-American communities in urban areas, so she jumped at the chance to be a Project 55 Fellow at North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) in Chicago.
Briana explains that she was "drawn to work with NLEN by their mission of serving people who face barriers to employment such as poverty and prior incarceration.” She was especially excited to grow professionally in fundraising, marketing and communications, and data evaluation— all aspects of her role.
Briana’s passion led her to think creatively about NLEN’s work and ways to increase their impact. She grew the organization’s social media reach significantly, raising their following by 15% during her tenure. She helped lead an incredibly successful Giving Tuesday campaign in which NLEN more than doubled the funds raised over the prior year and engaged over six times as many donors.
“I was drawn to work with NLEN by their mission of serving people who face barriers to employment such as poverty and prior incarceration"... Briana also benefited from proximity to NLEN’s Executive Director, who helped her to recognize “the importance of administrative leadership being connected directly to the community that they serve.”
NLEN’s Director of Development, Lauren Wesley, supervises the organization's Fellows. She said that Briana's assistance in planning and executing NLEN’s 13th Annual Sweet Beginnings Tea “illustrated her immense growth and professionalism,” as Briana rose to the challenge of helping NLEN serve over 400 guests. Lauren added that twelve PP55 Fellows "have had an invaluable impact on our organization since our inception in 1999.”
In fall 2018, Briana starts a Master's program at the University of Chicago in Social Service Administration. Briana chose this field because, after working at NLEN, she wanted to pursue an advanced degree that will train her to both deliver direct services and lead organizations that deliver social services, whether in nonprofit, government/policy or educational spheres. Briana also benefited from proximity to NLEN’s Executive Director, Brenda Palms Barber, which helped her to recognize “the importance of administrative leadership being connected directly to the community that the organization serves.” She reflected, “My time at NLEN helped me realize that I am passionate about Chicago and the residents who live here, which helped me choose to attend University of Chicago over other programs I was considering in other states.”