8 Questions w/ Colleen Myers ’01

myersAs we continue to prepare for MassSTAR 2017, meet our other Conference Director this year, the luminous Colleen Myers (’01)! 

Who are you and how did you become involved with MYL?
I represented Revere High School at the 2001 conference and stayed in touch with the alumni association, though conflicts kept me from returning to volunteer on staff during my high school years. When I moved to New York for college, I found a fellow alum (Hi Stinger!) sitting across the table from me in my very first college class, and he helped me to maintain my ties to the organization (while also remaining one of my dearest friends). I returned to the fold as a senior facilitator in 2010, then took over as Conference Director from 2011-2014. I have spent time on the Board of Directors as both the Board President and Director of Communications, but I’m really excited to be returning to the Conference Director role for 2017 – it’s by far my favorite role within the organization, because it gives me a chance to work closely with so many of our dedicated volunteers while also helping to mentor them and gain valuable skills that will benefit them out there in the real world.

What are you up to now?
I attended Columbia University for undergrad, and I also received my Masters in Education from Harvard University. I currently work as a Team Manager for Amazon, working within the Alexa organization. No, I’m not responsible for her terrible jokes, but I sure do wish I could claim that glory.

What’s your hidden talent?
My brain is jam-packed with lyrics, quite possibly from every song I’ve ever heard more than two or three times through. On a fairly regular basis I catch myself singing along to some song (most recently, and most horrifyingly, the 2002 Avril Lavigne angst-ridden jam, “Complicated”) and I have to wonder… what could I have accomplished in life if so much of my mental capacity wasn’t filled with one-hit wonders from my past? I could have solved the energy crisis and cured cancer by now, for all we know (that’s a lie. I’m an English major, I don’t do science. BUT STILL.)

What’s your favorite point of the STAR?
Intentionality, because it’s the one that I find to be the most challenging. How often do you stop to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? What’s my purpose? Is it getting me toward my ultimate goals?” We face this challenge constantly while building the MassSTAR Conference, but I also challenge myself to question my intentions in my professional life and in my personal pursuits. (And yes, this means that when you see me staring at the INCREDIBLE Lasell brownies with a focused look in my eye, it’s because I’m asking myself if I’m being intentional in choosing that dessert because it will bring me joy, or if I’m mindlessly being drawn to a sugar fix that will just end up with me crashing halfway through the evening events.)

What gif best represents you?
I’m so delighted that this was the next question, because I crowd sourced to arrive at this answer, asking a few volunteers who have worked with me on multiple conferences for their input. Miss Piggy and Beyoncé were both in the running, but we landed on this:


That’s my promise for the 2017 MassSTAR Conference. Except probably the explosions, I don’t think that’s covered in our insurance – cue the liability song!

What does it mean to “be a good citizen” to you?
To blatantly steal from Friday Night Lights: Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. Keep your eyes open and be mindful of what’s happening in the world around you. Educate yourself on the issues that impact you and your community, yes, but also keep in mind the broader perspectives and learn everything you can about viewpoints that differ from your own. Approach every situation with sincerity and come from a place of genuinely wanting to do good in the world. Most of all, remember that coming from a place of kindness is always a good choice, and try to embrace that position in all areas of your life.

Who would play you in the film (or musical or theatrical) adaptation of your life?
First of all, my life absolutely would be a musical comedy, thank you for giving me that option. I’m going to go with Jane Krakowski – she’s best known for her over-the-top comedic characters, but she also has real soul in her performances. I like to think that I’m balanced in that way – you’ll catch me cracking jokes and shouting cheers to keep the energy up, but I am always available for a one-on-one debrief with any of our volunteers when they need more serious, focused time.

And finally, do you have any advice for recent (or not so recent) MYL Alumni?
It is NEVER too late to reengage. I kept in contact with people I met at my Conference, but it took eight years for me to return as a formal volunteer. During my time volunteering on the conference, I have gotten a LOT of social media friend requests, and I continue to be inspired by the things our alumni are accomplishing every day. Even if you haven’t been able to make it back to a conference or to an alumni event, there’s no expiration date – you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many of us remember you!


8 Questions w/ Erica Cabag

cabagMassSTAR 2017 is coming up and we couldn’t be more excited. This week, get to know one of our OUTSTANDING Conference Co-Directors, Erica Cabag!

Who are you and how did you become involved with MYL?
Hi everyone! I’m Erica Cabag and I’m an MYL Foundation volunteer. I joined the Board of Directors as Secretary and was in that role from Fall 2013 to Fall 2016. In January of this year I took on the role as Director of the 2017 MassSTAR Conference alongside MYL Foundation powerhouse Colleen Myers ’01. I became involved with MYL Foundation initially as a donor thanks to learning about the organization from friend/former colleague, Jen Coliflores ’00, long-time volunteer and current Vice President of the board.

What are you up to now?
I’m the Development Officer at Gann Academy, a private Jewish high school in Waltham, Massachusetts. I’m in the middle of the Diversity Fellows Program with the MA chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). It’s a professional development program that allows me to grow as a fundraising professional, learn best practices, and network with others in the field. Volunteering for MYL Foundation is a big priority right now but I’m looking for new organizations to work with as a volunteer. I used to dance a lot when I was younger (tap, jazz, ballet, modern, etc.) and am trying to get back into classes. I’m also a notorious TV show binge-watcher. It’s terrible but sometimes I just get caught up in it all. TV is GREAT these days. I’m also trying to travel more, especially abroad. Last year I went to Israel and this spring I will go to the Netherlands. My hope is to travel internationally at least once a year.

What would your fantasy superpower be and why?
I would really love to be able to manipulate time – be it freeze time, travel in time, have Hermione’s time turner necklace from Professor Dumbledore, you name it. While it’s a huge responsibility – think Marty McFly in “Back To The Future” (I know I’m totally dating myself) – the power can’t be beat. Time is both a finite and infinite thing. While we only have so many hours in a day, years in a life, etc., what we do now could exist or live beyond our own lifetimes. In that way we already have that superpower. But to be able to go back with knowledge you have now to possibly change the course of history, or just to not wear denim on denim, the possibilities are endless.

What’s your favorite point of the STAR and why?
My favorite point of the star is Intentionality. It’s easy to get bogged down in daily tasks and often I say “yes” to things without really thinking about it. Focusing on intentionality helps to ground me so that I spend time on the things I find the most valuable as opposed to just keeping busy.

What emoji(s) best represents you?
When they tilted the cry/laugh guy, it was a game changer for me. I use it all the time!

 What’s your most memorable MassSTAR experience?

My first conference was 2014 and I arrived on Friday evening after the conference was well underway. While I prepared by reading as much as I could about the program and the staff, nothing can prepare you for the reaction you get from people when you use the “e-word” without preparation. I was standing with other board members and they asked me what I thought. I told them that I loved the energy and was just “enthusiastic to be here” and suddenly I had what felt like 25 people cheering loudly in my face, “To be enthusiastic you must act enthusiastic! To act enthusiastic you must be enthusiastic! Oh, boy, are we ENTHUSIASTIC!!!!!” I’ll be honest, it was somewhat traumatizing, but I loved it. It captures the entire conference experience for me. I used the e-word about 4 more times by accident before I finally got into the habit of saying “e-word.” And when ever I use it “in real life” I chuckle and recite the cheer in my head.

What does “being a good citizen” mean to you?
My answer to that has changed over time. Right now I’m focusing on empathy and action/participation. We can’t let life move around us, we have to look at what is happening and find where we can have positive impact on the world and act on it. At the same time, what we think is “right” isn’t the same for everyone, so you have to try your best to understand where other people are coming from, especially those who seemingly disagree with you. It’s a tough thing to do and sometimes it even feels painful, but we don’t live in a vacuum. Our lives are intertwined with others whether we like it or not.


And finally, do you have any advice for recent (or not so recent) MYL Alumni?
Don’t let your age dictate what you can and cannot do. This goes for both old and young. We are never at a wrong age to move mountains. No matter where you are in the course of your life you can always participate and make a difference. I believe those are some of the most inspirational stories in life.

8 Questions w/Andrew Stinger (’00)

stinger-questionsAndrew Stinger is a national treasure, and is also running the Boston Marathon as our MYL Foundation Charity Runner! Support his run with a donation at Crowdrise! Also, I asked him 9 questions by accident, so enjoy the bonus question!

Who are you?
Andrew Stinger, ’00 Alum from East Longmeadow High School

Former Junior Facilitator, Junior Operations, Senior Facilitator, Senior Operations, Conference Director of Staff, Conference Director of Operations, Board Member and Present Lion Hunt Enthusiast

How did you first become involved with the MYL foundation and what are you up to now?
Like many great MYL Histories, mine begins with my parents forcing me into the car against all my protestations bright and early for my conference at Fitchburg State in 2000. It took all of 30 seconds after arriving and immersing in MYL energy to realize they were so right to push me into attending my conference. I’ve been a regular volunteer ever since my conference, even though life has seen me volunteering from Boston, New York City and San Francisco, where I currently reside.

After completing my undergraduate studies at Columbia University, I began working for Google (in the Bay Area and in Boston). My career in tech included about 9 years with Google and a few breaks to work at start-ups. About 18 months ago, I made a big life change and stepped away from a desk, and clipped into a bike at SoulCycle, where I’m now a full time instructor. In between training runs, you can catch me teaching 10 – 15 SoulCycle classes per week in San Francisco, Palo Alto & Los Gatos!

What’s your hidden talent?
I can rap A LOT of Nicki Minaj’s verses.

America runs on Dunkin – what do you run on?
Burritos, Pizza, Snickerdoodles & Peanut Butter Pretzel Nuggets. (And also a bunch of healthy food, but “Brussel Sprouts with grilled chicken” is as boring as it sounds . . .)

What’s your favorite point of the STAR?
“Intentionality” always rings true to me. As a student, I cast a wide net and sent my energy in about one million different places (sports, music, academics, part time jobs, etc.) without much idea of the purpose behind what I was doing, other than that I was able to do it. In my adult life–and especially when volunteering at MassSTAR conferences–I’ve found that being specific about desired outcomes helps sustain and direct my energy in really profound ways. The outcome might not always 100% reflect what I desired, but it’s a lot less stressful getting there!

What .gif best represents you as a human?
I have a folder of GIFs saved on my laptop for moments exactly like these. I still dig this classic:


What does it mean to “be a good citizen” to you?
Citizenship is a shared responsibility to be aware of the successes, challenges and needs of your local, state, national and global communities and to respond with the gifts you possess. We all have within us the capability to lift up and inspire our neighbors, and to rise above cynicism and doubt into activism, belief and action.

Tell us your favorite MassSTAR story.
Buy me a post-race beer, and I’ll share a few stories about our revered alumni and some of our more hilarious holiday gatherings.

A favorite story that transpired at a MassSTAR conference involved a facilities mix-up that required us to move the location of our closing ceremonies with only a few hours notice. Our new space had roughly enough seating for forty people. When you consider our student delegation typically numbers above 100, and that parents and siblings would be in attendance, we were in quite a pickle. While dressed up in ties, slacks, dresses and other “Sunday Best,” a team of scrappy, behind-the-scenes volunteers worked quickly and with amazing attitudes to raid chairs from anyone who would let us borrow them for a few hours, often dragging stacks across campus! We somehow managed to have JUST enough seats in time for closing ceremonies, with no one the wiser of the herculean effort it took to make that happen. I’ve never been so happy to see someone take a seat in my life!

Do you have any advice for recent (or not so recent) MYL Alumni?
STAY CONNECTED. Even if you cannot actively volunteer, you can contribute to MYL from anywhere in the world. You and people you meet at MassSTAR (volunteers AND students your age) will go on to live amazing, full, exciting lives–and they will only be more exciting as you visit, encourage and celebrate each other!

Support Stinger’s charity run with a donation at Crowdrise!

8 Questions w/ Renee Semple ’15

sempleContinuing our series of “get-to-know-you” interviews with the MYL fam! This time, we learn what was so funny about Plymouth Rock (I don’t know if I get it.)

Who are you? 

My name is Renee Semple and I’m an alumni from 2015. Since my experience at MassSTAR in 2015 I’ve made sure to keep in touch with the organization; on February 13th, 2016 I attended the one day conference at Brandeis University, on June 2nd, 3rd,4th, and 5th in 2016 I had joined the MassSTAR staff as a junior facilitator, and on June 27th, 2016 I had participated in an MYL Foundation volunteer opportunity where five of us helped clean the Charles River in Newton.

How did you first become involved with the MYL foundation?
I first became involved in the MYL foundation when my high school’s guidance office nominated me to represent Canton High School’s sophomore class in the 2015 MassSTAR Conference.

What emoji best reflects you as a person?
The rock-on/punk hand emoji represents me as a person because I’m always up for adventure and doing new, cool things. I also make that hand gesture a lot ☺

What’s your favorite point of the STAR?
Initiative is my favorite point on the STAR because it’s what helps lead to change; a lot of people have amazing ideas, but only those who take the initiative will ever make change happen.

What does it mean to “be a good citizen” to you?
Being a good citizen means that you’re respectful and helpful. Being respectful can cover a lot of the role of being a good citizen; respect is something that helps us set up the foundations for relationships within the community and those relationships in turn can help toward creating a sense of cooperation that helps the community function as a whole. Being helpful branches out to willingness as well. If you’re helpful and willing, you can give a lot of yourself to your community which can really lead to change.

What’s your favorite holiday?
My favorite holiday is Halloween!! I love horror movies and scary stuff!

Tell us your favorite MassSTAR story!
 My favorite story is from this past conference. I had roomed with my friend Kira, and Kira and I were both junior facilitators. We had this running joke with our friend, Jess, about Plymouth Rock. So, Kira and I decided to gather up stones and put piles in front of the delegates’ doors with little papers that said ‘1620’. Our plan was to shout “PLYMOUTH ROCK” in the morning to help wake up the delegates. But, once morning rolled around, we found our rocks cleaned up and gone. We were devastated. Later on we found out who cleaned them up and discovered that there was a big misunderstanding between us and it ended in a fit of laughter.

Do you have any advice for recent (or not so recent) MYL Alumni?
My advice is this: get involved. Get involved in whatever you can get your hands on, whether it’s through your school, community, MYLF, something you saw on social media, etc. Volunteering is a passion of mine and I’d love it to become a passion of many more people. Giving your time to others is the greatest gift in this world, so I highly encourage alumni to get involved in volunteer opportunities or other community service projects.

8 Questions w/ Alex Gomez ’10

gomezContinuing our series of “get-to-know-you” interviews with the MYL fam! Alex, surprising exactly no one, provided a Britney Spears gif. In fairness, I did ask for it. 

Who are you?
Alex Gomez ’10

How did you first become involved with the MYL foundation?
I attended the 3 day conference then stayed involved with the Alumni Association, attending meetings and volunteer events. Later I became Alumni Association President and a member of the Conference Planning Committee (CPC).

What do you do now?
Currently I am the Director of Alumni Relations on the MYL Foundation Board of Directors. When not volunteering with MYL Foundation I work at TechBoston Academy in Dorchester working for an Educational Non-Profit called New Classrooms that changes the way Math is taught in Middle Schools around the country. I also work at a public library in Hingham, MA.

What’s your patronus?
A snowy owl. R.I.P. Hedwig

How do you carry the MYL values with you in your work or school?
I’m always reminding myself, in addition to where reminding myself of where I last left my phone, of the importance of intentionality and collaboration. I truly believe that you learn the most from others and their experiences, more than in a lecture or textbook. There’s an infinite wealth of knowledge and experiences out in the world and how I interact with those in school and at work is all rooted in my core belief that the experiences I share and that are shared with me will shape me and those I encounter and work with. I always try and create a community wherever I go, a community of learning, of shared experiences; a community of love for learning and love for other humans that live, have lived, or will live on this planet.

What gif best reflects you?
There are several GIFs out there of Britney Spears making faces during her tenure on America’s Got Talent. Those GIFs are me. I am those GIFs. Here is one of those GIFs.


My Idol.

What does it mean to “be a good citizen” to you?
Taking time to actually learn about what’s going on in the world today. Even if it means jumping on buzzfeed or the apple news app and scrolling through the news headlines. It means taking the time to know there are other countries, states, and even neighborhoods in your community that are all going through similar experiences as well as totally different ones. The world is WILD and being a good citizen, to me, means being an active participant in it, always ready to know, learn, experience and grow more.

Do you have any advice for recent MYL Alumni?
Read my answer to the previous question and DO IT. Also, get involved with the MYL Foundation. Help shape the lives of others around you. Take the MYL Foundation values and share them in your community and the communities you explore as you grow in both age and experiences.

8 Questions w/ Nick Valentini ’07

valentiniGetting to know the MYL fam! This week, hear from Nick about citizenship and caffieneation. 

Who are you – what’s your name and MYL year, and what positions have you held with the Foundation/at MassSTAR?
Hello! My name is Nick and I’m a 2007 MYL alumnus. I originally represented Georgetown Middle-High School and have returned to volunteer at the conference as a member of Junior Operations staff, a Junior Facilitator, and for the past three years as a Senior Facilitator

What are you up to now?
This week was probably the laziest week of my entire life, mostly spent sleeping, catching up on TV shows and slowly packing/organizing my stuff to move to New Hampshire. Next week I’ll be starting medical school at Dartmouth!

I graduated in 2013 with a BA in Government and Environmental Studies with the goal of working in the field of environmental policy. However after many years as an EMT I decided I wanted to pursue a career in medicine instead. I spent a few years working in healthcare and preparing to apply to medical school before completing the application process this year.

America runs on Dunkin. You run on ______?
5 hours of sleep and a trenta iced red eye* from Starbucks

*For emergencies only, normally a plain iced coffee will do the trick!

If you were a Muppet, who would you be and why?
This was a very tough decision between Cookie Monster and Kermit the Frog. I share Cookie Monster’s love of food and appreciate that he finds fulfillment in a very simple passion. I can relate to Kermit’s kindness and empathy and also to the fact that he spends a lot of time trying to control the craziness of his friends and coworkers!

What does it mean to “be a good citizen”?
I think citizenship means something different to everyone. It can entail being civically and politically active, raising awareness of causes important to you. In a broader sense, as a citizen of the world, it can mean practicing the values of respect, intentionality, and responsibility that are taught by the MYL Foundation and are crucial to a productive society. I think a good citizen is aware of the characteristics of his or her community and cognizant of the impact his or her actions have on other people.

What’s your ideal superpower?
The ability to control time, I could always use more time in the day!

Tell us a memorable MassSTAR story!
Some of the most impactful moments for me have been witnessing the development of the next generation of MYL leaders. Whether it be a delegate speaking in front of the group for the first time, or when a former delegate returns to conference staff, or when a delegate is sincerely thankful for the opportunity to participate in MassSTAR. It all makes for a very memorable MYL experience!

On a lighter note, surviving consecutive all-nighters on staff during the earlier days of the MYL conference and the hilarious moments from those nights will always be memorable.

Lastly, I have to mention that Cayla (also recently featured in this blog!) continues to hold a grudge against me for my role in the Ice Cream Game during her delegate year.

Do you have any advice for recent MYL Alumni?
Absolutely stay involved with MYL and the alumni association! I have made lifelong friends and developed an endless network of professional colleagues from MassSTAR and it has been incredibly beneficial to have this support network throughout my life. I also encourage everyone to volunteer with MYL in some way, whether that be as staff returning to the MassSTAR conference or with one of our alumni association events. The experience “on the other side” of the MassSTAR conference is memorable and meaningful in different ways than the experience of a delegate.

On a more personal note, after 3 major changes in college, a few mismatched internships, and a lot of soul searching, my most important realization lately has been that it is completely okay at a younger age to not have it “all figured out.” As many of you finish high school and prepare to enter college, pursue advanced training, or begin employment, I think it is important to realize that you are not stuck on one path for the rest of your life. I encourage you to utilize the MYL network to aid you on your individual journeys!

8 Questions w/ Miriam Crichlow ’10

miriamWe’re helping you get to know our outstanding alumni, one spotlight at a time! Can you guess which Marvel anti-hero Miriam identifies with?

Who are you?

My name is Miriam Crichlow. I was a delegate to the 2010 conference representing Ursuline Academy. Since my conference, I have served as a junior operations and as a facilitator. I currently serve on the Conference Planning Committee as the director of staff.

What are you up to now?
Right now I am still in Cleveland at Case Western Reserve University, finishing up a few classes for my degree. I’m also working as your friendly neighborhood IT specialist at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.

What’s your hidden talent?
Surprisingly good bowler. Not a particularly useful talent but has won me free pizza on numerous occasions.

What’s your favorite point of the STAR?
My favorite point of the STAR has to be intentionality. When I first heard the points of the STAR it immediately stuck out to me because I didn’t think it was a real word. However, as I’ve stayed involved in the MYL Foundation I’ve come to realize it’s not only a real word but also a reminder that my actions should be done with and on purpose.

What fictional character is most like you?
I tried taking a buzzfeed quiz for this but I didn’t like the answer so I’m going with Marvel’s Jessica Jones. When it comes to accomplishing her goals she has a real no nonsense attitude I can’t help by respect and admire. She’s also a rare strong female lead in a predominantly male dominated field. As a female computer engineer it’s a good change of pace to see a woman kicking butt and taking names.

Are you a night owl or early bird?
I’d like to believe I’m an early bird then again I also designed class schedules so I never had an 8am in college. If I’ve gotten my 8 hours, then definitely early bird if not I try to do my best to rally.

Tell us a memorable MassSTAR story.
It absolutely has to be closing ceremonies for the 2015 conference. There weren’t enough chairs set up so operations, CPC and the board moved at least 100 chairs from classrooms to the gym. It was a real bonding moment for all of us.

Do you have any advice for recent MYL alumni?
It’s been said before and I’m going to say it again: stay involved with the MYL Foundation. First, speaking as the director of staff, staffing decisions are hugely impacted by your involvement with the organization. Going to alumni events shows you’re still active within the Foundation and a great candidate for a staffing position. Second, speaking as a fellow alum, the MYL family is consistently there to support and help you. Ranging anywhere from writing recommendation letters to calls for a quick vent session – it’s a network of people you can depend on.

MassSTAR 2016: Meet the Staff (PT. 1)

Our outstanding volunteer staff is hard at work getting our 2016 MassSTAR Citizenship Conference ready – in two weeks, 100+ delegates will arrive at Lasell College in Newton, MA for an unforgettable weekend.

Check out the video below to meet some of the people who volunteer their time to make it happen – which also proves that we play as hard as we work!

MYL in Action: National History Day at Braintree High

lilyblog1by Lily Tang (MYL ’15)

As one of the recipients for the MYL Foundation’s Grant program, I have had the opportunity to pursue my goal for my school. My project is to bring National History Day into my school.

National History Day, or NHD for short, is a yearlong research project and history contest similar to science fair. In 1974, a history professor created NHD because he wanted to provide students with a different, more engaging, way to study and comprehend history- we can all agree that sometimes textbooks just drain all the life out of a subject. Today NHD has affiliations in all 50 states and internationally, too. Each year over half a million students, compete in the Regional, State and National level. NHD allows students to present their projects in different forms such as creating an exhibit, website, documentary, paper or as a performance.

Last year I worked with my school’s Director of Social Studies in order to create the History Club. I was able to recruit four other students to compete in NHD. Our team won first place in the South Shore Regional Contest and placed Honorable Mention in States. This year my goal was to expand the club by promoting it more and making students more aware that this opportunity exists. In addition to the publicity aspect of the club, I had to come up with a way to fund it. The cost of registration and the busses was a huge problem, as I did not want money to prevent students from participating in NHD. As such, I applied for the MYL Foundation’s Grant program.

This year our numbers have doubled and we had 10 participants in the club, and submitted 3 projects: 2 exhibit and 1 website. The Grant program made this year possible because it helped covered the registration cost for the Regional contest. Thanks to the MYL Foundation, our school succeed in the competition- our teams placed 1st and 3rd! It has been an amazing and fulfilling experience for me because first time NHD participants after the contest had came up to me and told me that it was “really fun” and that they would definitely continue it next year!

I am so grateful to the Grant program for giving me this opportunity to spread my love for history to others and to inspire them to create something amazing, too!