Q&A: Briana Payton '18, P-55/Alumni Corps Fellowship

March 26, 2019

Briana Payton
Briana, shares about her P-55/Alumni Corps fellowship at the North Lawndale Employment Network.
What are you doing now?

I am currently completing a P-55/Alumni Corps fellowship at the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN), a nonprofit organization on the west side of Chicago that provides people who have been formerly incarcerated (or face other substantial obstacles) with employment programs and financial coaching to help them secure gainful employment and financial stability. I am a development and evaluation associate, so I work in fundraising, marketing/communications and data/reporting.

What do you like most about this position?

I love so many things about this position- the most important being that I have the privilege of working at an organization whose mission and vision resonates so much with who I am and what I care about.

I want to pursue a career focused on social justice especially for minority, low income and urban communities. This placement gives me exposure to not only one but many organizations doing exactly that. I have learned from and connected with people both at NLEN and at other Chicago nonprofits/agencies and I will take these connections and lessons with me as I prepare to chart my own path in public service here in Chicago.

I also enjoy my actual job—it has been the perfect level of engagement—relaxed enough intellectually that I am getting a mental break from the academic rigor of Princeton, but challenging and substantial enough that I am using my current abilities while growing and gaining transferable skills and knowledge that I know will be useful in my future endeavors. 

What are a few experiences that helped you realize this post-graduation plan was a good first step for you?

I’ve known that I wanted to do P-55 since the summer after my freshman year. I was doing a PICS internship at another nonprofit on the west side of Chicago and while I was there a graduate from the Class of 2014 came on at my organization as a P-55 fellow. I learned from her about P-55 and it really excited me!

From my PICS internship, I was growing more and more certain that I wanted to continue work in the nonprofit sector, and here was a direct way to do that immediately coming out of Princeton. I also loved my time in Chicago that summer and was excited to learn that the P-55 program was particularly robust since the program started.

Just like with PICS, the P-55 program would match me with a mentor and provide programming to complement my placement. I even learned about an apartment that had been informally passed down to fellows for over a decade, and I live in that apartment now. So it was quite serendipitous. After that summer,  I found talking with other students and alumni who did the program about their experiences to be extremely helpful.

When the application process commenced, [the Center for Career Development] was helpful in fine-tuning my application, just like they had been when I applied to PICS. It was always nice talking with them because they took a genuine interest in what I wanted to do and were enthusiastic and effective in helping me move toward those goals. 

Did any previous work experiences play a part in your decision to pursue this role?

I visited Princeton during my fellowship year and was excited to stop by the [the Center for Career Development] and share life updates because it’s full of people who have supported me in getting to where I am. It started when I was a starry-eyed freshman looking for my first college internship experience, continued when I was a determined senior who had great options for next steps and needed sounding boards and reassurance, and I am sure they’ll be there to lend a helping hand when I am an alum needing advice about a shift in my career or just wanting someone to rejoice with me about all that will have transpired since I walked out of FitzRandolph Gates.

I know a lot of what has happened and will happen, finds its roots in the dedication and excellence of Career Services, and for that, I am forever thankful.