January 2018 Alumni Spotlight
January Alumni Spotlight with Mery Hackman, MPA ‘14
“Having worked with people has made me realize that not everybody has the same resources and that is why my personal mission has been to help others.” Sentiments like this further the Marxe School’s mission and alumna like Mery Hackman embody this effort. In this month’s alumni spotlight Mery tells us about organizations that provide support to people with disabilities, her volunteer experience at The Young Center, and more.
Tell us about some of the causes you care about. How has your MPA from the Marxe School aided you in approaching those causes?
In general, I care about people. I have been very fortunate to have been provided with opportunities and a good support system that’s enabled me to succeed in life. Having worked with people has made me realize that not everybody has the same resources and that is why my personal mission has been to help others.
My MPA has allowed me to grow within the non-profit sector and given me tools to move into leadership roles. Through my MPA I have also extended my professional network which act as both resources and a source of support.
You worked for Easter Seals New York and now work for YAI. Can you talk about the mission of each of those organizations and what you do in support of those goals?
What’s interesting about both these organizations is that they both have very similar missions. Both focus on providing people with disabilities opportunities to live, learn, and work in their communities.
YAI is an organization that works with people with Intellectual and Development Disabilities (I/DD). In my current role at YAI, I help secure funding that allows us to maintain and increase the number of people we serve, the types of services we provide, and increase opportunities in the community for the people we support. YAI supports close to 10,000 people yearly.
At Easter Seals, I worked in Vocational Services and helped oversee all their employment programs. We helped older adults with low income as well as homeless veterans and their families secure training and employment opportunities.
Both opportunities are rewarding in different ways and through them I have learned a lot about people and myself. Through both I have seen the resiliency people show when faced with difficult situations, the compassion people have towards others, and learned more about human nature.
You volunteered as an Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) Child Advocate at The Young Center. Can you tell us what your most meaningful experience in that?
I volunteered with The Young Center for a year. It was a really fulfilling, rewarding, and challenging experience. This opportunity was really personal for me since I am a Honduran immigrant and gained my citizenship at an early age. My experience was different than that of unaccompanied children crossing the border today, but the reasons for migration are very much the same. My family, like these children, came here in search of better opportunity, work, and a better life.
My goal in working with the Young Center was to provide support to the children coming in and act as a liaison between the different stakeholders (lawyers, family, case workers, etc.) and try to act in the child’s best interest. For me, what was most rewarding was getting to know the child and their story while participating in everyday activities. The child I was paired with really enjoyed making cookies. We would spend our time getting to know each other while baking. These moments were important and rich because they built a level of trust, provided the child the opportunity to be engaged in an activity that was fun for them, and allowed me to glimpse into the world of someone who was very young but had endured so much.
Often, I think stereotypes are built on ignorance and fear. My career thus far has allowed me to look at people differently, understand how very similar we all are, and how it’s important to provide support and aid to others.