Brittany Spatz, Director of Program Partnerships at Educational Alliance
“If LinkedIn were human and cared about your personal passions and the legacy you want to leave behind, it would be me.”
Meet Brittany Spatz, a former English teacher with a Master’s in Instructional Technology who spends her day connecting people and systems to ensure that thousands of New Yorkers have access to the support, resources, and inspiration they need to live fulfilling, productive lives. Brittany is currently the Director of Program Partnerships at Educational Alliance (EA). For relaxation, she enjoys reading about trauma and how it impacts the brain (admittedly, this also keeps her up at night). She continues to indulge her love of reading by keeping up with YA literature and also named one of New York Nonprofit Media’s 40 Under 40 this year.
“There is usually glitter somewhere.” Brittany not only does calligraphy and makes her own Xmas gifts, but she has a craft room in her house. “I have a Cricut which has changed my life.” You can follow Brittany on Twitter.
What Does She Do?
Brittany is Director of Program Partnerships at Educational Alliance, a community-based service organization which began as a settlement house and has been equipping individuals with education, cultural experiences, resources, and support for over 128 years.
“I spend my days meeting with the top leaders across NYC and figuring out how their work can best support the 50,000 individuals we serve each year. As one of only a handful of individuals who work across our agency, I am also able to help leverage internal partnerships, connecting our nearly 1,000 staff members in order to maximize our impact. When I’m not playing matchmaker, I’m working to manage a handful of strategic initiatives including high-priority programs, special events, and a series of internal grants awarded to program staff by our CEO.”
How Did She Get Into This Work?
“My mom was a teacher for 32 years. I grew up in the classroom with her. I learned from her at an early age that if you wanted to make a difference you go into education.”
Each year Brittany’s mother assigned her students to share their Xmas wishlist. While some asked for the moon – a helicopter, a Porsche – others had more humble needs: a warm coat, a pair of sneakers. Mom would speak privately with these parents and ask them if it was OK for her to buy these on their behalf. “Seeing that, that’s the work. How you make a difference in people’s lives. That piece.”
Somehow Brittany’s mother also found time to cook elaborate weekly dinners, where the
extended family – including her grandfather and uncle who were lawyers – combined discussion of religion, politics, social justice, and, yes, education policy, over multi-course meatballs.
At the beginning of her career, Brittany taught English and digital literacy to high-needs high school and middle school students in the public school system for six years. “Day after day, I was disappointed by the lack of support that schools could provide to help meet my students’ most basic needs. Instead of worrying about childhood trauma, we were teaching the 5 paragraph essay. Instead of ensuring that every child eats 3 meals a day 7 days a week, we were test prepping.” This frustration led her to join the non-profit ed world, initially running Educational Alliance’s ExpandED Schools Program at PS/MS 188, a New York City public school where 100% of students receive free and reduced lunch and almost half are considered homeless.
“P.S. 188 is a community school – literally a hub for the local community.” It has a medical clinic; there’s a dentist onsite; a laundry for those without access to one. There are also trauma counselors working out of the school. To Brittany, this focus on trauma was urgent: “I came to understand the pervasive impacts of trauma on the developing brain, and, equipped with this knowledge, began developing programs and partnerships to meet the complex needs of my staff, students and their families. After a year, I was able to scale this work across our agency, stepping into the newly-created role of Director of Program Partnerships.”
What Project(s) Is She Working On?
Brittany is at work on both the reboot of EA’s teen center, as well as its older adult service, noting that there’s a big gap in the non-profit world for Boomers who don’t qualify for services because they’re under 62. “These are services we can provide, but we (currently) don’t.”
The tech side itself will keep her busy, as well: “My to-do list is filled with identifying digital systems to streamline work that we already do. Currently, we’re exploring a learning management system to enhance and track the extensive professional development work that happens here each year. We’re building out our data collection process so that our systems actually talk to each other. This is a HUGE problem in our field.”
How Did She Come to Civic Hall?
When Brittany transitioned into her current role, the first potential partner that she explored a relationship with was Civic Hall. This brought her to last year’s International Women’s Day program where she met Olivia Snarski. “Personally, I was inspired by the passion, knowledge, and power that the Civic Hall community possessed, and professionally, I recognized the opportunity gaps that Civic Hall members could help fill for our most marginalized clients.”
EA recently hosted a showcase at their community space, featuring a curated pull of Civic Hall’s entrepreneurs-in-residence (including Klaatch, WearWorks, and Heat Seek NYC). For Brittany the impact was tangible: “It was so powerful for a teacher at P.S. 188 who was working on wearable tech to see Keith Kirkland’s work. And the idea of getting our students to go to Keith’s lab to watch him in action… physical access to that space is so important to young people in marginalized spaces.”
What Is Her Ask of Civic Hall?
Brittany’s first thought when she became Director of Program Partnerships was that Civic Hall might be a terrific flex space when it relocates to Union Square, as EA’s community center on 14th Street will be undergoing remodeling. As she’s become more involved in our community, she’s since broadened her perspective beyond just our physical facilities:
“The non-profit, social service sector has so much to learn from the Civic Hall community. We need your expertise in digital data collection and analysis. We need your nimble, innovative spirit to help us unclog bureaucratic systems that prevent us from accessing the services we need for our clients. We need your expertise to help us hold the government accountable to all citizens, especially the most vulnerable. We need access to your spaces, especially for our young people and students of color, so that they can imagine a future filled with economic opportunity and personal fulfillment.”
For those who wish to support EA’s mission, their annual gala is May 9th. Tickets are available here.