Chief Philanthroparent

AboutGrowing up in Los Angeles, Marissa Nadjarian remembers being motivated to serve her community from an early age, like her first grade efforts for The Hunger Walk (a school-wide pledge drive and walk to support hunger and homelessness).  She scoured the neighborhood looking for pledges, and still keeps her trophy as a result of the donations she collected- a reminder that service is a part of how she’s defined herself since childhood.

In high school, Marissa fulfilled her community service hours at The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, where she found a productive outlet for addressing substance abuse that was a part of her family history.  Summers included a personalized hammer and crow bar that were put to use with The Sierra Service Project repairing homes for low-income families on Native American reservations.

At the University of California, Berkeley, working with at-risk youth was an important contributor towards her career in education. She mentored youth at schools in the bay area and at the Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk, CA. As a part of her psychology degree, she interviewed high school students and teachers about biases in disciplinary practices for minority students.

As she started teaching elementary school and working towards her Master’s Degree in Education, she discovered service learning- an effective teaching strategy that connects curriculum with real-world issues through student-driven initiatives. She became the Co-Director of Service Learning at her school and joined The Educators Consortium for Service Learning.

Watching youth find their voice for issues that concerned them became her new service passion. Her students cared about everything from animal rights and clean air, to ocean pollution and access to medical care. This was a great way for Marissa to learn more fully about issues she never addressed in her youth. Her favorite teaching moments came from watching students become their own advocates- informing their peers, teachers, and parents about issues at stake in their community. She loved discovering organizations that saw the value of youth contributions to society’s challenges.

Marissa continues to advise for The Educators Consortium for Service Learning- helping teachers, administrators, and schools find effective ways to practice service within their curriculum and school culture. Now as a new parent, she’s dedicated to making philanthropy a part of her family culture. She’s excited to find out what her toddler will care about in the years to come, and then help her become her own advocate for these issues.

She feels grateful to have a nurturing family and live within a safe community, to have all of her basic needs met and work amongst supportive colleagues. These factors allow her to use a portion of her time, energy and resources to address the social and environmental issues we face today. Her service journey is on-going, and her hope is that Philanthroparent will be a valuable resource to support your philanthropy endeavors, as well.

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