Founding Executive Director
When Sarita Berry took a job as the Foundation for College Education’s first executive director, there was a name for the organization but very little else. Berry inherited nothing besides a desk sticky with Coca-cola and an agreed-upon salary that the organization couldn’t pay her, but by the time she retired from the position, FCE was soaring quite a ways off the ground.
Berry’s first problems were purely administrative and legal–she had to find out how to exempt the organization from federal income tax and how to produce money for her own salary once planned summer programs fell through. After muddling through these early issues, reaching out to friends and colleagues for connections and advice, and postponing her own paycheck for a while, Berry found her first FCE family.
“We really made progress when I picked up a family, a very dedicated family. They were desperate for their child to move on, to go to college, but they had no idea how to do that. That’s when we realized that we needed to make the program be a family program, and not just a program for students.” The more families that joined, the clearer it became that families of students were often not on the same page as the schools, even if the schools were pushing college applications and preparedness. FCE needed to take a holistic community-based approach to getting kids into and through college.
For Berry, FCE matters because children deserve to participate in all opportunities and because many students would not have the option of going to college without organizations like FCE. Seeing students and families with looks of amazement on their faces pushed Berry to achieve new heights and expand the program as much as possible. She fondly remembers seeing students and families undergoing small positive changes and jointly believing with the families that more changes were coming.
Berry spent a long time working for FCE, and witnessed many great moments. She cheered as the first FCE student applied for colleges, scrambled when the organization had no money, and once gave out an autograph to an awestruck parent. Though she’s enjoyed a more hands-off connection to FCE in the past 3-4 years, she still keeps up with the goings-on of the program and serves as a member of the FCE community. She’s very happy with how the program continues to expand and inspire positive change, and is glad that the program has retained its integrity despite having cleaner desks.