By Rich Polt
Published January 04, 2013
To kick off the 2013 Talking GOOD series, I’m featuring an individual from my former hometown of Boston, MA. Karley Ausiello, has spent a great deal of her life dedicated to the service of others. Today she does so as Vice President of Volunteer Engagement for United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley (and as a mom!).
Before coming to United Way, Karley worked for 10 years at Massachusetts Campus Compact as their Associate Director. She has a B.A. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, an M.P.A. from Harvard University, and an M.S. in Higher Education Administration from Syracuse.
As I see it, Karley embodies and exemplifies the characteristics of today’s 20 and 30 somethings. She is an idealist but also a pragmatist. She leads through example and believes that the actions of the few can influence the many. And while the nonprofit sector is rife with so many other “Karleys,” there is no one else quite like her. This is why I so enjoy doing these interviews … because they give professionals an opportunity to shine as real and unique human beings. Thanks for being open Karley. Happy 2013!
The 10 questions
IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?
To inspire others to make their communities a better place to live.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOU “EXPIRE?”
This past year, Parenting Magazine listed Boston as the Best City for Families. Although I agree with their reasons, right now due to socio-economic barriers, many families cannot take advantage of Boston’s best assets. I’d like to bring together businesses, volunteers, and the government to break down these barriers for families in Boston and surrounding communities, and truly make Boston the Best City for ALL Families.
IF YOU COULD MEET WITH ANYONE (ALIVE), WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM?
That’s easy. Jon Bon Jovi. First, Bon Jovi was my favorite band growing up and still is. I’ve seen them in concert many times. Perhaps too many to admit! And now, Jon Bon Jovi is a national leader for community service and philanthropy. He currently sits on the President’s Council of Community Solutions and founded the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation. I admire his commitment to breaking the cycle of poverty and homelessness for families, a key issue for United Way as well. I would ask him about his philanthropic path and his vision for involving everyday citizens in broad-scale community change.
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE?
“No Backtracking”. My first job out of graduate school was at Massachusetts Campus Compact, a statewide organization with the mission to build a network of colleges committed to civic engagement and community partnerships. The organization was fairly new and growing. Our small staff embraced the motto, “no backtracking” – which for us meant to have conviction in your decisions, to always move forward, and push yourself to set higher goals. We also did a lot of statewide travel, and so “no backtracking” had a practical implication. If you take Route 2 to go to UMass Amherst, take the Pike back. Just for variety.
WHO WOULD PLAY YOU, IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE?
This is tough. I’m going to go with Helen Mirren! First, I don’t think I want to see a movie about my life until I’ve had more time to accomplish my goals. Helen Mirren is an amazing actor whose career spans decades. I love that she’s spot on as the Queen of England, and then equally perfect as Becky’s inner voice on Glee. And, let’s just say it, she is aging quite well. How I hope for that!
WHAT IS A BELIEF THAT IS CORE TO YOUR BEING?
I honestly believe that we can all do something for our neighbors and for our community. I take to heart Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s definition of greatness, “Everybody can be great because everyone can serve.” For me that means everything from knowing my neighbors and my daughter’s classmates and helping them out when needed to serving on the school council and the neighborhood association and volunteering at local organizations that provide positive opportunities for children and youth.
WHO ARE YOUR HEROES?
The first person that comes to mind is my dad. Because of him, I’m the first person in my family to go to college. Getting excellent grades and going to college was an expectation he set from the time I was in grade school. What I didn’t know and didn’t learn until I was in my 20s was that my father dropped out of high school and got his GED while in the Navy. He didn’t want his children to see their career choices limited and he didn’t want dropping out to ever be seen as an option. My father also modeled the importance of parent engagement in education. Throughout high school, I would flush with embarrassment by the too often occasions of seeing my dad waving to me from the door of a classroom. He was there to talk with the principal or a teacher about a school challenge or idea or sometimes he was just checking up on me. When I began playing an instrument in school, my dad became the president of the booster club for the school band. When the public school teachers in our high school were in a labor dispute and could not lead after school clubs, he became the advisor to my sister’s class. I look forward to embarrassing my own children like this one day.
IF YOU WEREN’T DOING THIS, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
I’d love to run a vintage clothing and book store with my best friends, Jenni and Leah whom I met when we all were AmeriCorps*VISTA members.
TELL US SOMETHING SURPRISING ABOUT YOURSELF.
The only meat I eat is bacon.
WHAT QUESTION(s) DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED?
QUESTION: Tell us about something you’ve done recently that exemplifies your purpose in life.
ANSWER: A few years ago I was able to bring the Youth Venture program to United Way. Youth Venture supports inspires and invests in teams of young people to start up social projects that create positive, lasting change in their communities. What started as an initial investment in four teams of youth, in four years has grown to support over 40 teams of primarily low-income young people from under-resourced communities in Boston, Lynn, Lawrence, and Lowell. With every new team I meet, I’m reaffirmed in my belief that we can make a difference in our communities. It’s not about age, income, race, or gender. It’s about passion, vision, and perseverance. United Way is in a unique position to give young people a platform to share their ideas and connect them with mentors and advisors that can guide them along the way. Our Facebook page also shares some of the amazing Youth Venture photos and stories of the amazing things these kids achieved.