Olivia Smith serves as Manager of Fund Development
Olivia Smith serves as the Manager of Fund Development for JPEF. In this capacity she is responsible for effectively managing the donor database, our IGNITE young professional's affinity group, and planning and executing donor engagement events including the biennial EDTalks. Olivia previously worked with Ability Housing where she supported development efforts. Earlier she served as an office manager for Pace Center for Girls and at the Ronald McDonald House. She received her Bachelor of Science in Human Services from Florida State College at Jacksonville.
Tell us a little bit about you and how you came to JPEF.
Though I wasn’t born in Jacksonville, I’ve lived here since I was a young child and consider myself a Duval devotee. I’m very passionate about nonprofit work, specifically work being done to ensure all children have equal opportunities in our community. I learned about this open position at JPEF through a friend and JPEF staff member, Betsy Penisten. The position itself intrigued and excited me, but what truly hooked me were the JPEF team members I met during the interview process. There is an intentional emphasis on the culture- collaboration, creativity and fun, and the feeling of connectedness between the team at JPEF is palpable upon entering the room with them.
Why does public education matter to you personally?
I’m a firm believer that access to high-quality education is a right that every child is entitled to, and that public schools should serve as an equalizing force in our communities. The services our public schools provide are critical to not only the academic development of children, but also to building their social and emotional skills. When our public schools, teachers and other school personnel are supported, schools become a transformative environment where every child is given the opportunity to master academics, learn about the world around them and perhaps most importantly, learn about the invaluable role that each of them plays in that world. My middle and high school years weren’t the easiest years of my life and I feel strongly that without the teachers and resources I had access to through the AVID program at Wolfson High School, I wouldn’t be in the same sphere of life that I’m in today.
We know you have a real passion and purpose for nonprofit development. Can you tell us why this is so important to you and what you hope to accomplish this next year at JPEF?
Yes, I love the nonprofit development world and that’s because I truly believe that the core of development is building relationships. It’s often said that Jacksonville is just a “big small town," and I believe that to be even more true for the nonprofit sphere of Jax. There are so many people and businesses who care deeply about the future of Jacksonville and want to to ensure that future is bright. Development is where the magic of connecting those people with organizations doing that work happens.
In the next year at JPEF, I’m hoping to continue building relationships between JPEF and members of the Jacksonville community that are invested in public education. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have a role in the work that JPEF is already doing.
Tell us about a teacher who made an impact on your life.
Honestly, I don’t know how I can pick just one… so instead, I’m going to talk about two! These two teachers provided me with the safety (both physically and emotionally), accountability, and unconditional encouragement that, at the time, I didn’t even know I needed. I’m so thankful for each of them.
- Ms. Long (or Coach Kelly as I referred to her) was my ninth-grade geometry teacher, 10th grade AP art history teacher and my swim coach. She provided me a safe space to just be myself during two of the most difficult years of my childhood and she welcomed me into that space whether it was during my assigned class, swim practice or her own lunch break and for that, I’m eternally grateful.
- Mrs. Porubski (or Mama P as most students called her) was my AVID teacher in 12th grade and was truly so much more than a teacher. She demonstrated the love she had for her students in such tangible and supportive ways. I am a first-generation college graduate in my family and the process of completing college and scholarship applications can be overwhelming for students and families who aren’t familiar with those processes. Mrs. Porubski not only guided me through those steps, she held me accountable along the way. When there were barriers such as application fees, information needed, a lack of self-confidence in myself, etc., she got creative and found ways to break those barriers down.