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Announcing Our 2012 Scholarship Winners!

The Opportunities Project team is beyond excited to announce the winners of our Second Annual Scholarship Program

Congratulations to all of the 2012 Scholarship winners! We were so excited this year to be able to increase our program from three scholarships to five, and we even threw in an extra runner-up scholarship (because we can!). It took a three-person team to make our final decisions, and we can’t say it was easy!

Our entire team wants to say thank you to everyone who made the time and effort to apply. All applicants will receive a copy of Tracy’s book, Create Your Own Opportunities. We received some truly inspiring applications and cannot wait to get started.


At a Glance: The 2012 Scholarship Contest Winners


Heather Wiggins

Break the Ceiling Scholarship: Heather Wiggins

Heather Wiggins, based in the Washington, D.C. area, is an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Wisconsin Law School, and The Catholic University of America’s School of Library and Information Science. She is currently a writer, entrepreneur, and also a Copyright Specialist at the Library of Congress. Ms. Wiggins enjoys reading, writing and traveling (especially to Jamaica—the place of her birth) and it is her goal to find ways to give back to the community and to encourage young people to receive higher education.




Ai Hirashiki

Social Entrepreneurship Scholarship: Ai Hirashiki

Ai Hirashiki is an educator with over 15 years experience working with schools, non-profits, community groups and youth organizations to develop and implement education programs.  She currently works as a consultant for the New York City Department of Education and various non-profits and is a student at NYC Farm School.  Ai is working on creating her own consulting practice to help educators and non-profit groups launch educational programs that revolve around urban farms and gardens and that focus on issues such as food justice, self-sufficiency, green skills development, nutrition and healthy living.


Kara Smith

Creative Development Scholarship: Kara Smith

Kara Smith is a painter and mixed media artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She also runs a small terrarium company called Undiscovered Worlds, and teaches terrarium making workshops to children and adults. She just began the Masters in Art Education program at Brooklyn College.



Alexandra Kenin

The Big Change Scholarship: Alexandra Kenin

Alexandra Kenin is a New Jersey native who now lives happily ever after in San Francisco. After earning her MBA in Marketing at The Wharton School, Alexandra worked as a Product Marketing Manager at Google for 4 1/2 years. She now is leveraging her online marketing skills to launch and market her new urban hiking business, Urban Hiker SF. Alexandra loves hiking (naturally), traveling (37 countries and counting!), road biking, yoga, and vegetarian food.


Shawndra Russell

The Big Change Scholarship: Shawndra Russell

Shawndra Russell is a novelist–her debut novel Couple Friends was released in August 2012–and magazine/newspaper freelance writer as well as a social media strategist for several businesses. She and her husband are launching a social media company based in Savannah, Georgia that offers analysis and live event coverage. You can follow her on Twitter here.



Faith Bell

Runner Up Scholarship: Faith Bell

Faith Bell a recent graduate of Kenyon College. She is a writer inspired by travel, constant reading, and the calm of drinking tea. She has recently become more open to exploring a wide range of career options in order to connect her passions with her intent to serve others.




A Scholarship Story: Darlene Bois

We are proud to publish the last of four blog posts from The Opportunities Project’s 2011 career coaching scholarship recipients. Meet Darlene Bois, a public relations professional, Toastmasters extraordinaire, and career changer.

Darlene won a scholarship I gave away for my one year anniversary and she chose The Social Proof package. Here is her story about what she learned through our time together.

– Tracy

PS: Want to apply for a 2012 scholarship? Look for the info at the end of the post. 

Moving To The Beat of Social Media Drums With A Purpose

Do you have profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter? Well, I was not plugged in for a longtime because I did not think that I needed to be.  Guess What? I finally gave in and created a Facebook account but I kept it for a very short period of time because I was not prepared for the content on the walls of those who wanted to “friend me”.

Reluctantly, I decided to have a LinkedIn account after attending yet another seminar where the presenter mentioned that everyone should get on board or get left behind. I felt comfortable with LinkedIn because it was a platform for professionals.

Would you believe that I had a bare minimum basics profile for one year on LinkedIn? Once again after attending another seminar, I learned to get more from my LinkedIn profile and added more dimensions to it. Unfortunately, I was still only scratching the surface.

Little did I know but help was around the corner.  I was referred to Tracy Brisson who helped me navigate the Social Media superhighway.  Before we delved into the social media, she took the time to ask about my career status and goals which include pursuing a career in public relations.  She even looked at my LinkedIn profile and gave me valuable tips to revamp it for branding purposes. Now, I use social media more purposefully and strategically in order to stay connected and share ideas.

Since training, I keep track of my LinkedIn account regularly, I tweet intermittently, and I even have a Hootsuite account. If you are not familiar with any of these social media platforms, do not be alarmed. It really is not as daunting as it seems once you have a road map that contains all the landmarks that you need to pass on the way to your ultimate destination.

Overall, I have expanded my networking capabilities as well as gained meaningful insight via my revamped LinkedIn account and the recent Twitter account that I now maintain.

If I can navigate the social media superhighway, so can you!


Inspired by Darlene? Apply for our Second Annual Scholarship Contest by Monday, September 3, 2012 (Labor Day). 

The Opportunities Project Second Annual Scholarship Contest

A Scholarship Story: Abby Cajudo

We are proud to publish the third of four blog posts from The Opportunities Project’s 2011 career coaching scholarship recipients. Meet Abby Cajudo, a northern California based scientist, social entrepreneur, and aspiring blogger.  

When I met Abby, she had a plan, but unanticipated opportunities came her way, leading her to different successes, so we changed course on our coaching topics. If I were you, I’d pay special attention to Abby’s advice on adapting- it’s something we can learn at any age! 

– Tracy

PS: Want to apply for a 2012 scholarship? Look for the info at the end of the post. 

Last May, I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. I experienced the same range of emotions most recent grads experience: excitement, fear, nervousness, “What the hell am I doing-ness?” It’s been over a year since I’ve graduated, and although I don’t know exactly what I’ll be doing or where I’ll be a year or two from now, I want to share some fundamental lessons that I’ve learned along the way.

Create your own opportunities.

“No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself” – Seth Godin 

During my last few months of undergrad, I was really nervous about what I would be doing after graduation. Most of my friends had plans. They had jobs lined up or plans to attend graduate school. I, on the other hand, had uncertainty. But instead of throwing myself a pity party, I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere by waiting for someone to pick me. Picked for an internship. Picked for a job. I needed to pick myself. I was volunteering at a non-profit organization during my last semester and it was there that I found my passion for community work, particularly around issues of health equity and health education. I saw so much potential to reach the local community through health education programs with this organization. But since the size of the organization was so small, I knew that I needed to let my voice be heard and share my ideas in order to show my value and potential to lead these programs. I needed to give myself permission to be bold. I proactively attended meetings and other events to gain as much knowledge as possible about the community I was working in and find ways I can help. Before I knew it, one month before graduation, I was offered a position at the organization as the program coordinator for a health education program!

Trust your value. You bring a whole lot to the table.

I remind myself of this every day. My first job out of college as a program coordinator, was a huge opportunity for me. I had demonstrated my potential to the organization and they were trusting me to lead their program. The program’s scope spanned the entire Bay Area I was in charge of collaboration between students, agencies, and other organizations. There were times I felt overwhelmed and under-qualified. Those were the times I needed to remind myself that I did have something to offer. Too often, recent grads feel like they don’t bring much to the table. The truth is, you bring a whole lot to the table! You bring your own perspectives, views, experiences, and opinions. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise due to your lack of work experience in “the real world”. Every internship, every college course, every assignment, every experience has shaped you into who you are. Own it. Bring it.

Don’t rush the process. You are where you are for a reason. 

Don’t rush it. You can’t rush growth. I needed to work a year at a non-profit to understand my love for community and my heart for service. My interests in public health and community health continue to get deeper every day. I recently started working for a research study with one of the largest clinical research groups, studying factors of breast cancer survivorship. I had no idea that I would be working where I am today. I thought that I would graduate undergrad, get a job for my “gap year” and go back to graduate school. One year out, even though I’m not there, I lovewhere I’m at and have time to figure things out. I’m giving myself time to explore and grow my passions. I don’t feel rushed or pressured by where my peers are at or what my peers are doing.

Plans change. You need to adapt.

If you asked me three years ago what my plan was, it was to go to pharmacy school. If you asked me one year ago what my plan was, it was to work for a year then go to pharmacy school. I realized within that year that pharmacy is not the field for me. That’s okay. It’s okay for plans to change. It’s completely normal. The most important thing is that you adapt. Give yourself time to adapt. Your plans changing is not a sign of failure, rather your ability to adapt is an indicator of your future success. Last Spring, I was privileged to win The Opportunities Project’s College Student Scholarship. My coaching sessions with Tracy have been extremely helpful in organizing my life and making specific steps in my career goals and networking goals. 

Inspired by Abby? Apply for our Second Annual Scholarship Contest by Monday, September 3, 2012 (Labor Day). 

The Opportunities Project Second Annual Scholarship Contest

A Scholarship Story: Alexandra Patterson

We are proud to publish the second of four blog posts from The Opportunities Project’s 2011 career coaching scholarship recipients. Meet Alexandra Pattersona student entrepreneur, writer, and aspiring librarian. I met Alexandra through a joint scholarship program with our friends over at YouTern and was happy to work with her while she was abroad in London. 

When I met Alexandra, she was interested in exploring magazine work in New York and specifically how to market herself for those type of opportunities. As a former NYC’er, I was in full-support of that plan! I was happy to see that she made it to NYC in 2012 and followed her journey on her blog. I am even more excited that she is now a fellow Southerner.

I hope you enjoy Alexandra’s insights into her year following coaching.

– Tracy

PS: Want to apply for a 2012 scholarship? Look for the info at the end of the post. 

My Favorite Lessons: 2011-2012

1. I was underselling myself.

Though I had had lots of internship experience in the publishing industry, I didn’t sound like it when I wrote cover letters. I thought that just because my experience wasn’t at one of the top publishing houses it wasn’t worth it but after I learned that employers look at transferable skills I rethought my strategy.

2. My professional presence didn’t reflect what I wanted.

I had been writing a blog for a few months before coaching but I didn’t concentrate on my true passion: publishing. My blog was an asset, full of clips to show future employers and I wasn’t maximizing my blog. Once I started writing book reviews and concentrating on industry specific articles to repost, my clips improved.

3. I wasn’t concentrating on what makes me special.

I have a big personality. I’m always the girl who brings in snacks for the group and plans the outings but my job search didn’t reflect this. I decided to put a personal touch into my applications by creating a “brag book” full of my previous projects. For me, this was the “something special” that allowed me to showcase my personality, for others it might be something different.

What do you wish you could change?


Inspired by Alexandra? Apply for our Second Annual Scholarship Contest by Monday, September 3, 2012 (Labor Day). 

The Opportunities Project Second Annual Scholarship Contest

A Scholarship Story: Zack Laplante

We are proud to publish the first of four blog posts from The Opportunities Project’s 2011 career coaching scholarship recipients. Meet Zachary Laplante, an aspiring lawyer, do-gooder and all-around good guy who I was pleased to work with last year. At the end of our time together, Zack decided he was going to enroll in law school at the University of Pittsburgh- with funding!

Like me, Zack is a scrappy Massachusetts person so we hit it off from the start and I miss our Skype sessions. I know the world is going to be a better place when Zack graduates from law school. I hope you enjoy his insights and know that I did not pay him to say what he said about me.

– Tracy

PS: Want to apply for a 2012 scholarship? Look for the info at the end of the post. 


When I first came into contact with Tracy Brisson, I was in the midst of a very trying period in my career and my life in general.  I was preparing for law school simply because I felt out of options, and I had not developed the skills I needed to expand my network and determine the best path for me to take.  Fortunately, I was selected for a scholarship for coaching sessions from Tracy that were crucial in developing ideals and values that guide my goals and decisions to this day.  A mentor can be an absolute godsend when you’ve reached a brick wall, but it truly comes down to finding your own way and making decisions that fulfill you as an individual.  Here are a few of the key ideas that I have developed over the past year with a push in the right direction.

First, balancing your short-term and long-term goals is critical to success.

After graduating and finding that there seemed to be no clear-cut path for a liberal arts major with concentrations in psychology and political science (huge surprise!), I started looking into graduate school.  While I prepared my applications, I worked on a political campaign, went door-to-door raising money for an environmental awareness non-profit, interned with a couple different Internet start-ups, and even spent some time in retail.  All in all, every experience brought with it its own challenges and lessons, but I was always sure to take care of short-term needs while keeping a focus on long-term goals.  Time is money right?  You have to budget your time just as you budget your finances. Bills have to get paid, but that’s no reason you have to put your goals on the backburner.  Dedicate 20-30% of your day to networking and furthering your career, and give the rest to your day-to-day priorities, and you’ll be surprised how much you can get accomplished.

Second, the world owes you nothing.

I grew up with the naive notion that all you need is a college degree to make it, so I expected an immediate return simply from obtaining a degree.  Needless to say, I was dead wrong.  The truth is, you only get what you give.  Reaching your goals and fulfilling your dreams is less about what you have, and more about what you do with what you have.  The prodigiously talented author that dares not publish a word is doomed to obscurity just as a Harvard student will go nowhere without applying the innate talent that got them there in the first place (imagine if Mark Zuckerberg never dared to create Facebook!).  The world will not come to you unless you make it do so, so make connections, experiment and explore new possibilities, and don’t be afraid to introduce your own ideas into the mix.

Finally, every disaster is an opportunity.

When the economy crashed, the obvious reaction was panic.  Living in a country where we almost feel entitled to future prosperity, having the floor drop out from under us was a shock I don’t think anyone was ready for.  However, as we pick ourselves back up, our generation is beginning to redesign and re-envision the world based on our experiences and interpretations of this new world.  In the wake of catastrophe there will always be those with a vision for the future, and I believe that is a spirit everyone can come to embrace.  See the positive in every negative, find the upside to every downside, and when you find something worth fighting for, stick to your guns like your life depends on it.  I’ll end with wiser words than I could ever write, and I hope they inspire you like they inspire me:

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though
checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy
nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor

– Teddy Roosevelt

Best of luck out there everybody, and thanks to Tracy and The Opportunities Project for helping me find my way.


Inspired by Zack? Apply for our Second Annual Scholarship Contest by Monday, September 3, 2012 (Labor Day). 

The Opportunities Project Second Annual Scholarship Contest

Our Summer eCourse, Updates and Music Monday

Summer is definitely a time when “go-go-go” easily becomes the norm. With that in mind, we want you to take a moment and pause with us, as we have three very important things we’d like to share with you today.

eCourse is live!

We are very excited to let you know our eCourse is finally here, Avoid a Cruel Summer: 12 Ways to Up Your Game for 2013. With Tracy’s help, we’ll ensure you take those much needed moments to reflect and move towards your goals this summer, and it’s portable so you can have some fun while doing it (i.e. bring it poolside or to the beach)!

It’s up to each of us to make sure we take a little time to regroup in the midst of all the chaos. We just know this eCourse will help bring you that much closer to aligning your goals for the rest of 2012.

 Congrats, Lauren!

Also, today is the first day of full-time work for our graduating intern, and ‘Cuse ’12 grad Lauren Wannermeyer. For those of you who participated in The Graduation Project webinar series, you know that Lauren did some heavy thinking about risk and reward in her career search the last few months and we are so proud that she took the leap to move to DC and pursue her dream. We hope she gets the flowers we sent to her new office!

Update on Our Lost Friend Hope Reichbach

On a sadder note, our team, especially Tracy, is devastated this morning to hear about the passing of Gus Reichbach, father of Hope Reichbach, one of the first friends of The Opportunities Project and a great force of light that we lost too soon. We loved Gus because Hope did and we know that this not only a loss for her family, but all of Brooklyn and the thousands of people he helped as a judge in the court system. It’s hard to believe that Hope would have only turned 24 on July 24th. If you have some extra funds and believe in internships like we do, please consider donating to the Hope Reichbach Memorial Fund. You will not be sorry.

Take a moment and enjoy today’s Music Monday, then go check out Hope’s Fund and register for this summer’s guided journey.

We can’t wait to hear from you on your progress, so join our Facebook community today!



Week of May 11th: Lasting Impressions

Is it Friday already? This week flew by way too fast. So it goes. We’re creeping up on graduation – and want to send a special congratulations out to intern Lauren Wannermeyer on her graduation from Syracuse University this weekend. We wish you the best of luck in all your post-graduation endeavors!

We’ve been working hard this week on quite a few projects. Join us on Facebook to discuss the changes happening in corporate culture beginning on Monday.

In my new role at The Opportunities Project, I am constantly searching for things that are news-worthy and career related, especially those things that impact women in particular. It’s hard to not take note of all the opinions regularly surfacing in the news regarding how women “should” manifest their lives.

There’s also been a lot going on in the political world this week, and there seems to be the expected explosion of differing opinions and all things related with various topics – so let’s get right to this week’s Lasting Impressions:

1.) We couldn’t help but notice Time’s magazine cover of the breastfeeding mother for “Are You Mom Enough?” The LA Times just called this print article “A shocking stroke of genius.”

Yes, things seem to be moving completely digital, but this story proved print is still relevant and actually has more impact  than any website’s new landing page.

This isn’t a new story.

This is an old story, uncovered, and has created a lot of heat.

Have you voiced your opinion on the topic of breastfeeding yet this week? What do you think of this attempt by the LA Times to recover people’s response to the impact of print? Do you think the response would be the same if the story wasn’t in print?

2.) This one may have slipped your radar. Warning: language NSFW. Actresses Kate Beckinsale, Judy Greer and Andrea Savage recorded a hilarious video in response to the common Republican stance on monitoring women’s rights when it comes to birth control, abortion, and a few other things. This was by far the funniest thing I watched all week, and was a great balance to the rather serious overtones of political conversation since Obama announced “…same-sex couples should be able to get married”  and whether he went too far… or simply not far enough.

I’m just going to go ahead and declare “should” as the word of the week.

3.) Last but certainly not least, I’m sure you’ve heard of the passing of author Maurice Sendak. Who didn’t grow up on the book “Where the Wild Things Are”? While his face may not be all that familiar, his works most certainly are.

Can you believe this book was first published in 1963? Just this January, I went to a 1st birthday party for a friend’s son that was completely themed on this book. I guess some things, like dreams, become timeless. Minus a few technological details, of course, but the premise and drivers seem to remain the same.

His books seemed more fantastical to me than scary as a child. What’s your history with Sendak’s books?

Don’t forget: Sunday is Mother’s Day, so be extra nice to all the Mom’s in your world this weekend!


Pay Attention to the Girls

Last year, I was fortunate enough to participate in a blogging campaign for The Girl Effect through an opportunity presented by one of my online coaching heroes, Tara Sophia Mohr. The annual blogging campaign (500+ bloggers) brings attention to the sobering stats of what happens to young girls in the developing world without intervention. Forced marriages right after puberty. A lifetime of poverty and an inability to take care of their family. By writing about these issues, we can start a conversation that creates a ripple effect which will eventually reach those who can make change on a systemic basis.

The Girl Effect has proposed that if we laser focus on investing in young women- before the age of 12- through education and entrepreneurship, we can make a large scale impact on the economy of third-world countries. The Kauffman Foundation for entrepreneurship recently found that women are the key to economic prosperity here in the U.S., too. If you pay more attention to little girls and young women in the world, things can really start to change for all of us. This video will explain and inspire.

The Opportunities Project doesn’t have an international reach, but we were started because I became passionate about the issues around economic inequality and access, and in particular how these issues impact still impact Generation Y women. The Girl Effect does a fantastic job of showing the impact of what happens when we don’t pay attention. What can you do to start?

Thanks to my colleagues and friends Tanisha Christie, Dana Leavy, and Michelle Ward who took me up on my invitation to join this year’s campaign. Please read their posts when you get a chance.

Remember Our Anniversary Party Tomorrow!

Hello, Monday! We’re back from an interview coaching workshop in Columbus, Ohio for one of our clients and getting ready for tomorrow’s First Anniversary Party on Tuesday, September 20th from 7PM to 10PM and fundraiser for the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Foundation (HOBY), my favorite education non-profit. I participated in HOBY 20 years ago and without  it, I would have never gone away to school or led the professional path I took toward entrepreneurship.

The ticket price for the party is $15 and all proceeds are tax deductible and go directly to HOBY NY Metro’s account via the Eventbrite page (minus the ticket fee). We’ll also be auctioning off some donated goods and services  from our colleagues and partners valued at over $1,000. Here are just a few:

A 4 session small business coaching package from Dana Leavy of Aspyre Solutions

– A one hour free health consulting from Jaison Greene of Detox Authority

– An $82 Avon skin care package courtesy of Jandelle Hinton

– A coaching package of your choice from us!

We can’t wait to see you there and support a great cause, celebrate, and expand your network so see you there!

RSVP here.

Four Upcoming September Events and Opportunities

Summer is almost over and we’re doubling down on our efforts to meet our dual mission of helping young professionals create opportunities for themselves quickly and confidently AND improving educational outcomes so that more young people have a shot at career success. Here are four opportunities and events we’re hosting and hope you take advantage of them with us.

The Opportunities Project’s First Year Anniversary Party and Fundraiser for HOBY


Please join me on Tuesday, September 20th at 7PM to celebrate a successful first year in business,as well as network, and raise money for my favorite education organization, the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Foundation (HOBY). I participated in HOBY 20 years ago (1991, baby) and it was very influential on my development as a young adult and professional. Without HOBY, I would have never gone away to school or led the professional path I took toward entrepreneurship. I believe this organization teaches the skills kids really need in today’s economy and want to help them reach more students.

The ticket price for the party is $15 and all proceeds are tax deductible and go directly to HOBY NY Metro’s account via the Eventbrite page (minus the ticket fee). We’ll also be auctioning off some donated goods and services which we’ll update on the Eventbrite page. It will be a fabulous opportunity to support a great cause, celebrate, and expand your network so see you there!

RSVP here.

Free Webinar: Confidence Confidential- How to Sell Yourself in the Job Search


I am doing a free webinar through Big Marker’s Jump Start Your Job Search September Campaign called Confidence Confidential: How to Sell Yourself in the Job Search on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 7PM ET. After teaching and coaching 750 people last year on how to manage their careers, I’ve found that the issue is rarely a bad resume or lack of skills, but an absence of confidence. I’m excited to share what’s worked for my clients so you can break through the wall between you and your new exciting career move.

You can register here.

Pay What You Can Coaching is Back

We’re doing our latest round of Pay What You Can Coaching on September 19th and 20th where we offer 6 sessions at discount rates. We’ve filled two of the slots and if you want one of the last four, make sure you apply ASAP.

You can submit an application for one of the slots here.

Avoid a Cruel Summer free eCourse Enrollment Deadline Extended


Due to demand, we’re extending the date that you can enroll in our free eCourse, Avoid a Cruel Summer until September 22, the official last day of summer. Yes, you can’t probably do the lessons on the beach any longer unless you live in the south, but it’s all still good content. It will also be the last opportunity to get it all for FREE.

If you want more info on the course, check out our video on our Facebook page or straight to the enrollment page.

Posted via email from The Opportunities Project Blog