Beyond Differences‘ mission is to ensure that every child in middle school feels accepted, included and valued by their peers no matter what their difference. With programs in over 7,000 schools across America, Beyond Differences recognizes that middle school may often be a sensitive time, resulting in social isolation in various forms. New York City BoardLeader Kerri Catalano from Credit Suisse joined Beyond Differences’ board in San Francisco in the fall of 2018 because she resonated personally with their mission.
Kerri personally witnessed the damage bullying can have on middle schoolers in her twin brother growing 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. 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.”
Despite learning to balance serving as a remote board member living on a different coast, Kerri 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, with the two having one-on-one meetings every month to keep Kerri plugged in on the other side of the country. Laura remarks on Kerri’s addition that, “She came in like a spark plug and made other people take notice. She’s Vice-Chair of the board already 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.”
Kerri joined the board at a time that Beyond Differences’ has been growing their presence in the Northeast, and she has brought her invaluable perspective of life on the east coast to the board room. This past year, 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.
Kerri brings her global recruitment background and professional skills from Credit Suisse directly into the board room. 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.
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.
In true BoardLead fashion, Kerri brings to life our expectation that board service, when done correctly, should be consumed with mission impact. Kerri’s advice for professionals going through the BoardLead process? “Take the initial info-session seriously,” Kerri shared. “Make sure to go through all the nonprofits that BoardLead presents to you. I was intimidated that I didn’t know a lot about nonprofits or certain groups but having an open mind and spending the time doing research made a difference.”
BoardLeader Spotlights is an ongoing series focused on demonstrating the impact of exceptional participants of the BoardLead program, and sharing stories of authentic leadership in action.