Natalie Leary is the Director of Community Partnerships & Outreach for the New York City Department of Youth & Community Development. The department invests in various community-based organizations and programs to alleviate the effects of poverty, while providing New York residents and their communities beneficial programs and services.
In her position, Leary is currently working on establishing innovative crime prevention programs to the department's after school programs, specifically in highly impoverished, high crime areas. She spends her days meeting with local members of the community, small community-based organizations, and elected officials to learn about the needs of the various communities across New York City. From there, she shares this information with the public and private organizations the department is partnered with, in addition to potential partners. She also works on developing community initiatives and workshops that aim to support the community.
One of Leary's most proud accomplishments is developing and facilitating a community development workshop series. The series gave small grassroots community-based organizations knowledge and access to the New York City contracting system. She says that "this series has led to an increase in these type of organizations becoming pre-qualified for City funding opportunities thereby increasing their ability to meet the needs of the highest need communities across NYC." Additionally, she says that the series has been picked up as a City initiative and will expand to include a series on developing a non-profit organization.
While at Maxwell, Leary served as President of the Maxwell Women's Caucus, a graduate student organization dedicated to promoting open dialogue among students regarding women's issues. She recalls overseeing the organization's community service projects, particularly the work they did with Girls Inc. of Onondaga County. One of the projects the caucus was involved in was developing the group's first prom dress drive. She says that Maxwell students, their families, and faculty donated dresses for young women in need for this project. "Of all of my experiences this was the most touching because I was able to witness the positive impact that giving back to our new community had on my colleagues, and how much of an impact our presence was to the center and the girls they served."
"In short, my year at Maxwell opened the universe to me. At Maxwell not only did I receive a top-notch education, I also learned the importance of pushing through situations that seem impossible like making it through quantitative courses with my sanity in tact, and recognizing strengths in others. Maxwell made me fearless, and taught me the importance of collaboration.In my professional career; I draw on this experience EVERY DAY. Whether it is finding common ground with a co-worker to complete a project, or developing a proposal for a major partnership and pitching it to my senior management team. I am confident in my skills and abilities, and comfortable navigating unfamiliar territory and I owe that to my time at Maxwell."
While at Maxwell, she says Professor Bifulco and Professor Van Slyke taught her "great skills" that she still leans on to this day. Leary was the recipient of the Margaret Jane White Scholarship. She says being a recipient of this award "served as confirmation that I was on the right path, and even when I doubted myself, there were others that believed in my potential."
After Maxwell, Leary worked at a youth alternative to incarceration program. During her time there, she developed a symposium that showcased various strategies to "close the school-to-prison pipeline," which drew a crowd of over 500 attendees. She then began an Education Pioneers Fellowship on the South Side of Chicago to strengthen parent and community relationships at a charter school management organization. From there, she went on to serve at the Kings County District Attorney's Office as an analyst in the Crime Strategies Unit. In this position, she analyzed gun violence patterns and developed strategies to reduce it in high priority communities in Brooklyn, New York.
Leary offers a piece of advice to current Maxwell scholars. "To current students I would say, the coursework isn't easy, but the experience is completely worth it. Make the best of your time in Syracuse. Explore the city and learn about its residents. Use your skills to leave the city a bit better than it was before you moved in. The career you are preparing for is bigger than the numbers we crunch in our quantitative courses. There is a greater human element to it all and everything you will do affects lives, so be wise in your choices and move with an empathetic heart," she says.