Case Study:

Working to End Social Isolation for Middle School Students

Kerri Catalano's deeply felt lived experiences inspired her to create change for children today.


Growing the Organization 

Kerri joined the board of Beyond Differences' in 2019; a time when Beyond Differences had been growing its presence in the Northeast.  As a remote board member serving the California-based nonprofit while living in New York City and she proactively brought her invaluable perspective of life on the east coast to the boardroom and quickly rose to leadership serving as the Vice-Chair within four months. Both Laura Talmus, the Executive Director of Beyond Differences, and Kerri have been intentional about making this partnership work, meeting one-on-one every month to keep Kerri plugged in from across the country. 

As a passionate board member, she’s taken to weaving Beyond Differences into all parts of her daily life, whether that be setting up a Facebook fundraising page on their behalf, or cold calling her network.


Kerri Catalano came in like a spark plug and made other people take notice. She quickly ascended to be Vice-Chair of the board and makes presentations at pretty much every board meeting. She is relentless in pursuing fundraising grants from big institutions and unafraid of cold-calling and asking other people.

Laura TalmusExecutive Director at Beyond Differences

Deepening her Connection with Students to Take Action

Since joining the board of Beyond Differences, she says that “[T]he most meaningful thing to me is when I visit our schools and programs because I can see first-hand the impact that we have on children across the country.”  Kerri Catalano personally witnessed the damage bullying has on middle schoolers as her twin brother grew up. As she applied to BoardLead and reflected on her lived experiences that deeply mattered to her, she felt inspired to change that for children today.

A few months into her service term, Kerri attended P.S. 20’s Career Day in New York City. She spent the day visiting and speaking with classes from second to eighth grade about Beyond Differences. This provided her an opportunity to listen to stories of social isolation as well as learn about what these student leaders are doing to end it.


Drawing on Professional Experience for the Boardroom

Kerri brings her global recruitment background and professional skills from Credit Suisse directly into the boardroom. Also having served on the Credit Suisse Human Resources Philanthropy Committee prior to joining BoardLead, she helped oversee and organize events, an area that she seamlessly began spearheading for Beyond Differences. This past November (2019) she organized her first Credit Suisse volunteering event with Beyond Differences’ in San Francisco and is working on setting up another opportunity with the Credit Suisse New York office as well.

About Beyond Differences

Beyond Differences® mission is to inspire students nationwide to end social isolation and create cultures of belonging for everyone. As an organization, they envision a world where all youth are accepted, valued, and included no matter their differences.

Beyond Differences® works directly with middle and high school students, on campuses and online, to help disrupt social isolation and promote inclusion in their schools by empowering students to become activists and change the culture of schools. We provide schools with Social Emotional Learning tools to help tackle loneliness and foster a sense of community and complementary professional development for educators.

Their award-winning signature programs and SEL curriculum are used at 8,500 schools across the nation, reaching over 3.5 million students in all 50 states.

Contributing Authors:

This story was developed from an interview between BoardLeader Kerri Catalano and Erica Cheung, former Program Associate at Cause Strategy Partners

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