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David Hugh Smith, President of Right Writers, and Editor for (non-profit) Professional Development Collaborative, Inc.’s publications (Brookline, MA)

David Hugh Smith’s Biography

David Hugh Smith is president of Right Writers, a Brookline, Mass., communications company.  This means he is a general-purpose freelance writer/editor, with clients as far away as Australia.  He has written and edited for: newspapers, for financial-services companies, for individuals, and for non-profit organizations.

He also is editor of publications for the Professional Development Collaborative.  The PDC, based in Belmont, Mass., provides education at affordable prices for professionals looking to further their careers.

Dave also is an experienced oral historian, available to businesses, non-profits, and individuals who want to create a legacy from valuable wisdom and recollections.  (Dave comments:  “You don’t need to be in your senior years to have cause to do an oral history – just the desire to capture what has happened in your life up till now.”). In addition, Dave is working on a movie script he describes as being a “thought-provoking action-adventure film that takes place in airplanes and on an abandoned airfield.”  His email address is



BSO: Tell us about your work as writer/editor/oral historian. Was this your passion at a young age or did you discover it along the way (since you studied economics at Salem State U.) ?


Writing fiction, in 6th grade English class, was my entrée to writing.  I discovered I love to tell a story.  Of course most of the stories I tell today are non-fiction.  And the topics can range from how banks can better serve borrowers to how an animal refuge was created in central Maine.  So I’m not now writing new episodes of Star Trek for classrooms of fellow 11-year-olds, obviously.  I do, however, still write fiction, and am working on a movie script.

In my view, a piece of writing is most effective when it is clear and interesting and tells a story.  People read it and connect with what is being said.  And so approaching topics as one might tell a story, I believe, is an effective way to serve readers – and people who might need you to share a message with these readers.

In high school and college, I wrote for school newspapers.  My first professional writing job occurred while I was still in college; during college vacations, I reported for the Salem Evening News in Salem, Mass.  After college, I was hired by the internationally respected daily newspaper The Christian Science Monitor.  The Monitor also got me started as an editor, and one role I played was working on text from non-professionals who were contributing to a weekly advertising section.

After then working as a writer/editor for a number of years in corporate communications and after that, as a travel writer, I worked for eight years creating an oral history library for the Longyear Museum.  This was another job I loved.  It combined interviewing people with fascinating stories, editing what they shared with me, and writing descriptions of what I learned.

Yes, I was briefly an economics major at Salem State University.  Then, I was a Business Administration/English major at Principia College.  I also studied fiction writing at Harvard Extension.  These all have helped me during my varied career in communications.


BSO: There is no typical day for an editor of a mission-driven organization, such as the PDC, that’s made a tangible impact on so many professionals in Massachusetts over its 12 year history. We met through the PDC. Share with us your a.m. to p.m. schedule.


Ah . . . my typical daily schedule.  It’s not easy being a freelance writer/editor, especially today when so much information is offered for free, online.  Publications themselves – both general-purpose and topic-specific (especially printed-on-paper ones) – also are struggling.

There is the expectation writing be entertaining, easily accessible, and free.

But if you have a family to feed, the satisfaction of producing helpful and interesting articles that people enjoy reading does little to, for example, pay for feeding a voracious teenage son.  So, three days a week, I work in customer service for the world-famous Mapparium, in Boston.  (Google it – it’s a great place to visit, when public places are open again).

So one a.m. to p.m., I could be selling tickets to the Mapparium and the next a.m. to p.m. I could be trying to save the world, or at least help save someone’s career, by helping to write and edit material for the Professional Development Collaborative – the PDC.


BSO: What are your ‘can’t live without’ software apps?


I’m sorry – I don’t have any “can’t-live-without” apps.  If there were an app that allowed you to order home-delivered Snickers bars during this unusual time when it’s hard to get to places that sell Snickers bars, that would come close.  Oh-oh-oh!  If there were an app that would enable me to buy books – I love books and do book reviews – from a bookstore, that would be a “can’t-live-without” app.  I miss going into bookstores . . .


BSO: What are your proudest achievements, professional & personal?


Proudest achievements professionally would be the articles I have written about topics that are fresh and interesting that have been prominently published.

Proudest achievement personally would be having an 18-year-old son who is a cool dude – but also a genuinely good person – and is about to embark on college.


BSO: What are your favorite news feeds?


I love reading:  The Christian Science Monitor.  I rely at lot as well on The Boston Globe.  Let me also mention a couple non-news magazines:  Writers Digest, and Preservation, from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  I also love reading Publishers Weekly.


BSO: What are your most rewarding charitable involvements?


My work for the PDC is largely volunteer, and I love doing that.  I also have served my church.  It has been satisfying supporting my son’s volunteer work for the Brookline Food Pantry.


BSO: You have a diverse career path at The New England, The Longyear Museum, the Christian Science Publishing Society and your freelance work as Right Writer. Who has influenced your career the most? What stands out the most for you of your Christian Science work? Also, How has Covid19 impacted your work?


I feel that mentors – people in your profession who believe in you, encourage you, support and guide you – are extremely important and helpful.

Alas, I haven’t attracted any mentors.  But what has happened is people have hired me and set me loose to do a job for them and that’s been just as important.

I’m grateful to the city editor at The Salem Evening News who saw something in my muddled writing for college publications and brought me on board.

I’m grateful to a former editor at the Boston Herald who was exited.

I’d worked for the Monitor and who started me off as a corporate communications writer for The New England insurance company.

I’m grateful to the folks at The Longyear Museum who recognized I’d be the perfect person to create their oral history library.

And I’m very grateful to the people I work with today – Larry Elle, president of the PDC, and the entire beautiful staff who work for the Mapparium.

Covid 19 has not substantively impacted my work.  I can do things from home.


BSO: What is your advice for anyone interested in a career as a writer, editor?


I wish I could offer steps-to-making-it as a writer and/or editor.  In fact, my own professional experience has been a continuing, evolving quest to discover these.  Meanwhile, the writing profession is very different from when I was in college.  Then, you could more easily do some writing for your college newspaper and jump to writing for a newspaper, or at least jumping in as a copy clerk as a first step toward advancement in the journalistic world — which often could lead to other types of communications work.

If I were an aspiring writer, I definitely would find ways to write, even if they weren’t paid.  Going old school, you could write for college publications, if you are in college, and/or volunteer to write for your local newspaper.  Local newspapers need material because they often can only afford a skeleton crew of reporters.  And then leverage what you write to apply for jobs that involve writing.  Definitely take communications courses in college.  Or out of college, take communications courses in person (Harvard Extension, community college for example) or online.

Social media offers various opportunities to self-publish.  Do that, and do your best work.  And share the links with prospective employers and/or people who might be able to influence others to hire you, or at least to pay you to write for them.

Perhaps most important, figure out what kind of writing you’d like to do.  And orient your efforts toward doing this writing.  In the old days publications would want to see your “clips” – clippings/copies of pieces of your writing that have been published.  Today, so much is online you often need to self-publish the type of writing you want to do if you can’t find an organization that will pay you to do this kind of writing, or at least allow you to voluntarily produce writing they will publish.

I know of people who write sterling text who are unsuccessful at getting work and ones whose writing is indifferent but who are successfully working in the communications field. The indifferent but successful writers are ones who are confident, and accomplished at self-promotion.  The ideal combination is to be an excellent writer who also is willing to do whatever it takes to tell people, “Hey!  Here I am!  I can help you by writing for you.  At least give me a chance to write a (fill in the blank) for you!”

Dana Peloso, Founder of Dana Peloso Content Marketing (Webster, MA)

Dana Peloso’s BIOGRAPHY~
In my 18+ years of service in public safety, I have exemplified exceptional leadership while under immense pressure. While my “verbal judo’ has aided me in de-escalating some of the most serious situations in the past, these skills along with my entrepreneurial drive have enabled me to successfully impact public relations and marketing campaigns.
Leveraging my past experiences and my endless desire to educate, improve myself has been among my greatest joys throughout all of my collaborations.







BSO: Tell us about the inception of your freelance content marketing work (


My  freelance marketing career began a little over a month ago. I had just recently left a career in law enforcement due to a significant on the job injury.

I have always been involved in marketing in one way or another throughout my life in some facet of life so this seemed like a natural  transition from sworn life to civilian life.

In doing so, I was met with some uphill battles.  Marketing and public relations are a tough field to break into.  There are a lot of great people already established here.  I had to learn fast.  So I dedicated nearly a month prior to “breaking out”, if you will, and I studied everything and anything in order to improve my skills.

When I felt that I was ready,  I released my own brand and began to hit the ground running!


BSO: There is no typical day when creating online content for mission-driven organizations. Share with us your a.m. to p.m. schedule.


There absolutely is no typical day with creating online content!  Thankfully I have a supportive wife and family!

When I was a police officer my phone was always on and ringing at all hours of the night for various things.  Now, it rings nonstop during the day.

I start my day at 5am with a cup of coffee and some household chores.  That allows me the quiet time to be alone and get my mind cleared and in place.  I then will typically read a verse from the Bible.  It is God who got me here and I have to keep God in the forefront of my mind in order to continue to push through and succeed.  Then, I go for a walk around our block for a bit to burn some energy.  When I am done and ready to go for the day, I open up my planner.  I am old school with some facets of life, I keep a written journal of tasks, scheduled items and then some simple reminders and affirmations that I turn to throughout the day.

I try and spread my week out with various things based on their respective deadlines.

Sunday nights into Mondays are content production, Monday will be content production and follow up phone calls and emails and so on.  I am very structured and regimented so a lot of my routine is just that, routine!


BSO: What are your ‘can’t live without’ apps?


The apps that I can’t live without is a pretty simple list… Hootsuite, Act! and my calendar!  I absolutely can’t live without my day planner, and note book. They travel everywhere with me as well as my Bible.


BSO: What are your proudest achievements, professional & personal ?


My proudest achievements professionally is what I am living through right now.  If you ask any Cop what the best job in the world is and they will tell you it’s being a cop.  So many of us identify ourselves by our badge that it is unfortunately a difficult persona to escape.

I say escape because it truly is that.  From the moment you cross the threshold into the Police Academy and throughout your career it is beat (sometimes literally) into you head that there is no other career besides being a cop.

It’s simply not true.  There is more to life than the tin on your chest and the patch on your sleeve.  I hung up my duty belt due to complications from an injury that I incurred on the job yet I still had a massive identity crisis thereafter.  My proudest profession achievement is moving on.  It isn’t easy.

My proudest achievement personally has been the number of times that I have ridden in the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC). I have four solid years under the belt of various miles, but what truly matters is the good that it has done for so many.  I continue to fundraise for Dana Farber every year using my PMC fundraising site (Shameless plug!  GO DONATE!). The amount of good that the Dana Farber Cancer Institute does every day for their patients battling cancer is truly amazing.  So I have made it my life’s mission to continue to do my part to help DFCI!


BSO: What are your favorite news feeds?


My favorite news feeds have grown lately!  I have always been a fan of Matt Drudge, so I read the Drudge Report daily.  I recently subscribed and absolutely love Boston Business Journal and I have always been a fan of Boston Magazine since I lived there in 2003!  I tend to read a lot of news articles throughout the day, it would be tough to narrow it down much more than that!


BSO: What are your most rewarding charitable involvements?


My most rewarding Charitable involvements sort of piggy backs on the aforementioned.

Dana Farber Cancer Institute is by far my top pick.  I did a lot of work as a Police Officer for the CT chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  They are an amazing organization.  They provide so much for the families of victims of drunk or distracted driving and they push on even through these tough times.  I have helped a number of others, but those two are my go to’s.  I have helped with the Special Olympics on a number of occasions as well as the CT Cancer Foundation, High Pointe Church Youth Ministry in Thompson CT.


BSO: You have a diverse career path of public safety, fundraising and social media content creation. Who has influenced your career the most and what is your vision for your future career path? Also, How has Covid19 impacted your work ?


My career has been extremely diverse yet extremely focused.

I have mostly always been involved in some form of public safety since I was 16 years old when I started volunteering with my local fire department.  To say that any one PERSON influenced me in particular I cannot.  I have had a LOT of great people who have had influences on me both good and bad and with the bad you have to use that as a learning experience.

Matt Garcia, Jon Cerruti and Mark Divine were three Sergeants whom  I once worked for while dispatching with the CT State Police.  Those three men were some of the most honorable and respectful men I have ever known and ever worked for.  They taught me what it is to be a great leader, to be fair and honest at all times and then some.

I would be remisced if I didn’t mention one of my best friends, Joe Sharkey.  I have known him since I was 18 years old.  I always looked up to him as a kid and wanted to be the type of cop that he was only to realize his more than just a cop.  He was one of the most amazing people I have ever known.  I was like a little kid meeting his favorite baseball player when I finally got to work with him as a cop.  He and I still stay in close contact now and he continues to be an exemplary mentor although he will say he has done nothing….

Last in this list, however foremost in my life, is God.  God has led me in times that I wasn’t aware he was leading me straight through today now that I know he is.  We can’t fight God.  He has the plan mapped out for us, its up to us to see the signs and follow them.  I left law enforcement for a reason at a time that I will never understand and it is not up to me to understand.  I just have to roll with it and make the best of it and hope that I am doing right by God.

COVID 19 (un)fortunately has been a huge help for me.  It has allowed me the personal time to break through the funk that I was in and study.  It allowed me to hit the ground running with the determination and stamina like no other.  I hate that so many people have to go through what they are going and want it to stop but my family has never been closer than it is right now.  Check out my blog where I  wrote about this! I can attach it too for anyone who may want to see it.


BSO: What is your advice for anyone interested in a career in mission-driven content creation ? 


The advice that I have for anyone looking for mission driven content creation is simple: Do it.

Get out there, make a big splash in the pond and continue to splash around until you are seen by someone.  Then keep going.  Its corny, but I tell my kids all the time, Life’s a Garden, Dig it!

Larry Elle, MSW : Principal Consultant, Success Associates Career Services & Founder, President of Professional Development Collaborative, Inc. (Belmont, MA)



BSO: Larry, from your 20+ years as a career counselor, leading job search success teams, and your observations of challenges stemming from the covid19 pandemic (social distancing and working from home), what are the most critical obstacles facing professionals in job transition today? 


The most critical obstacles today are remaining adaptable to the changing circumstances of our economy and possessing up to date, in-demand professional skills. Related to this are being able to articulate a direction for themselves so that they can answer the question, “What kind of work do you want to do and why here?”

Many people remain mentally stuck in the past, hoping that what worked yesterday will work today. They apply for a variation of their old job and find few or no openings, or if they land an interview, the employer often sees them as “overqualified” or even “out-dated”.

It’s important to be able to articulate to prospective employers what you can do for them, why you’re qualified, and why you can better meet their needs than the next person. It also helps immensely if you do this by directly speaking to the employer (achieved through networking) rather than hoping they’ll respond to your resume.

Given the current recession, employers will be seeking employees who are both highly productive and adaptable, able to shift tasks and priorities to meet company needs. Applicants need to be able to give past examples of how they can meet these expectations, doing it in a pleasant and upbeat manner. Companies today are all about teamwork. There’s little room for loners who take directions but can’t take initiative.


BSO: In MA, we currently have 18 % unemployment. The economy is slowly reopening and professionals are being recalled and there’s some new hiring. But people are returning to changed work environments. Not only are more people working remotely, but there is a new emphasis on teamwork and demonstrating both technological know-how and interpersonal skills.

What key strategies would you suggest for professionals 1) navigating this new environment and 2) adapting their current job and job search process to reflect the environment Covid-19 has created?


Let me start by addressing the job search portion of your question because the answer to the question of how you find work remains the same today as yesterday: networking, networking and networking.

Networking allows you to interact with people who can introduce you to people who can get you the job. It’s estimated that networking produces 70 – 80 percent of all job offers. And while today we have internet interviewing, internet job boards, and internet recruiters (who are responsible for about only seven percent of all hires), it still comes down to job seekers taking the initiative to directly reach out to others to land a job.

I should add that on June 9th , I’m starting my 23rd Job Search Success Team. These teams are an embodiment of all the best ways to job search combining the skills of expert leadership, 21st Century job search techniques, and extensive collaboration and mutual support. Members gain the knowledge and support needed to do an effective job search, even the most challenging parts like networking. If you’re job hunting and you need a boost, check us out at

Once hired, don’t expect that you’ll return to yesterday’s workplace.

It’s repeated ad nauseum that today’s workplaces run “leaner and meaner”. The leaner is certainly true but not necessarily meaner. The Covid-19 crisis shows that we’re all in this together. In a way, we’re all essential workers who need to collaborate. Today, a well-managed workplace can be leaner and more productive, and also more supportive and collaborative. In fact, it’s the increase in collaboration (often achieved across great distances thanks to the internet) that make for higher productivity. Collaboration requires being sensitive to interpersonal human factors where cooperation and mutual support trump raw competitiveness.


BSO: Working from home, sharing space with family and managing all the domestic obligations that that entails, are creating new norms for those working remotely. You’re partnering (through your non-profit, the Professional Development Collaborative), with the highly regarded speakers Wayne Johnson and Erinda Spiro for a June 3, Zoom presentation (

Tell us more about that collaboration and give us a sneak preview of what to look forward to as our audience looks for guidance, inspiration and actionable strategies to manage this unprecedented time. 


The PDC is excited to have Wayne and Erinda share their expertise on the contemporary workplace. One of their basic insights is the idea that “getting the job done” often has nothing to do with where you are working. Work is what you do, not where you do it. They believe that as long as clear parameters are established for what is considered positive performance, and employees reach these goals, there is no need to be onsite.

They’ll discuss a Results Only Work Environment. In a ROWE, team members are measured by their performance, results, or output. Management gives employees complete autonomy over their projects, and allows them the freedom to choose when and how they meet their goals. In a Results-Only Work Environment, results count when assessing how successful an employee is, not face-time.

Their talk will share ideas about how to be successful in this changed environment, understanding that remote working is a cultural shift requiring new competencies and a shift in perspective. They call this new reality a “Responsiveness Culture” and they will provide insights into how you can master the demands of this new work environment.


BSO: Thank you, Larry, for your time, insights and resources on managing our ‘working from home’ environment. 


I appreciate the opportunity to address your audience. Thank You!

Naresh Kachoria, MBA EdM Executive Director of Step Up International ~ Dir. of Strategic Partnerships,World Ocean School (Boston, MA)

Naresh Kachoria’s Biography

Naresh Kachoria is a mission-driven leader and social entrepreneur building organizations, programs and teams that accelerate youth, community development and social impact outcomes. His work across nonprofit, academic and for-profit sectors focuses on creating pathways that lead to education, economic and social equity.

After an early career in marketing consulting and business management for financial services, technology and biotech clients, Naresh now brings a strategic business focus on planning, execution and measurement to his social impact work. He served as the Economic Development Advisor for an international NGO under a $16.7M USAID award in Botswana where we was responsible for leading the design and implementation of livelihood programs reaching more than 2,500 youth and young adults across nine districts.

Most recently, Naresh is the founder and Executive Director of Step Up International, an education nonprofit providing experiential learning and social development programs to children and youth from low-income communities. Naresh holds a B.S. in Advertising and an EdM in International Educational Development from Boston University, and a MBA from the University of Maryland.



BSO: Tell us about the inception of Step Up International, which you founded 5 years ago and have been leading successfully cross culturally, across U.S., Africa and Europe.


I founded Step Up when I returned to the U.S. after living and working in Botswana for an international development organization on a four-year $16.7M project. My role was to build and lead an internal team and a coalition of more than 10 local community development partners across the country to design and execute an economic empowerment program for vulnerable young people affected by HIV/AIDS.

As I was wrapping up and preparing to return to Boston, I started to reflect on the experience and questioned if we had truly made an impact. My team and I worked incredibly hard on this project, sometimes 12-14 hours a day, so it was especially painful to conclude that in my mind we fell short. To me, we didn’t impact the lives of 2,500 people. We reached 2,500 people. There’s a big difference between impact and reach, or outcomes and outputs to use the non-profit lexicon.

Launching the non-profit, Step Up International, was my response to rectifying the lack of impact under that large project targeting vulnerable youth and young adults. Two guiding principles really drove the process of conceiving Step Up. One, the organization must be by the community, for the community. Local input and leadership must have equal influence from the outset in designing and executing our model, strategy and programs. And two, we were going to invest over the long-term in cultivating the potential, confidence and resilience of young people who most need our support.

After five years, Step Up remains the first organization in Botswana to provide year-round experiential education programs that educate, empower and inspire our kids with the social-emotional and 21st century skills to thrive from childhood to adulthood. We have grown from serving 12 students in grade five to 150 students from elementary to high school who come from communities confronting HIV/AIDS, poverty and teenage pregnancy.

While the local team in Botswana drives much of the decision-making, we have a cross-cultural team across the U.S., Europe and Africa that brings diverse perspectives, skills and ideas to our work. The strength of Step Up is the culture we have built that embraces global perspectives while allowing local leadership the ability to contextualize ideas and decisions.


BSO: There is no typical day in for mission-driven organizations creating and implementing social impact. Share with us your a.m. to p.m. schedule.


It’s really hard to say that I have a typical daily schedule. Because Botswana is either six or seven hours ahead of Boston, depending on the time of year, I have to be flexible and adapt to their workday since they start working while we’re sleeping.

I usually check email before 8am to make sure I have time to respond to urgent issues before they leave for the day. We’ll also communicate via WhatsApp when we’re in the midst of a collaborative project or waiting on each other for information. We have at least one team call a week, but we’ll have more if we’re working on deadlines or something unforeseen comes up. Most of these calls are between 7am to 9am my time.

The local team works really hard and our work in that environment can get exhausting. We’re working with kids who come from really difficult households and communities and this can take a toll on staff. I want them to stay energized, creative and entrepreneurial so I really encourage them to leave the Step Up Center as soon as our last group of kids leave so they can decompress and take time for themselves. Usually, they knock off around 11am my time/5pm Botswana and then I head to the gym or run to keep my mental well-being in shape as well. I’ll then come back and continue to work in the afternoon so they have the information they need from me by the time they return the following morning.


BSO: What are your ‘can’t live without’ apps?


We have a geographically dispersed team of staff, volunteers, donors and Board members across continents and time zones so the ability to easily and cost effectively communicate with each other becomes imperative. WhatsApp has been our go to app. It’s not flashy, but it’s a mission-critical tool for Step Up that allows us to remove barriers to collaboration and rapid communication with each other, partners and funders. We also use WhatsApp locally to communicate with our parents and caregivers, sending them regular updates about Step Up and photos of the Achievers excelling in our programs.

In Botswana, Facebook is a key platform for information sharing and almost everyone who has a smartphone is an active Facebook consumer. Our local team does a great job with the local Facebook page and that has led to partnerships, volunteers and funding from community sources.

And personally, LinkedIn has been an important app for me. I’ve recently transitioned out of my Executive Director role at Step Up and am exploring my next career move, preferably in Boston or the Washington, D.C. area. LinkedIn is probably the key job search and networking tool for most people today and it’s been a great way for me to network and connect with people. Feel free to contact me if you’re reading this and have a role to discuss!


BSO: What are your proudest achievements, professional & personal ?


My proudest professional accomplishment is conceiving and launching Step Up, especially in a country like Botswana. So many contextual factors indicated this was the wrong venture at the wrong time.

We built Step up to fill a gap and complement organizations in the community, not to replicate what already existed. It would have been easier to focus on HIV/AIDS work, but so many organizations were already doing that. Also, many advisors told me that funding was extremely difficult for social impact organizations in Botswana because all of the financing was going towards HIV/AIDS programs and research. And they were right.

To me, these were exactly the reasons why I had to start Step Up. If we didn’t start to build a pathway that would educate, inspire and empower these kids to overcome their social and economic challenges, no one else was going to do it.

But, the biggest achievement during this journey is the fact that we stayed true to our core guiding principle – building an organization by the community, for the community. After five years of leading and growing Step Up, we spent the last 12 months executing a transition plan that turns the organization over in full to the local leadership team and the local community.

Step Up is now an independent non-profit in Botswana with its own Board of Directors. While it’s certainly bittersweet transitioning out of my Executive Director role after pouring in so much blood, sweat and tears, I couldn’t be more proud of the team that embraced a new model, made it their own and is now going to carry Step Up into its next chapter. I know the community and the kids we work with are in more than capable hands with our local leadership and staff.


BSO: What are your favorite news feeds?


Personally, a few of my go-to news feeds are the New York Times, The Atlantic and Quartz. I’m not a super fast reader and am envious of folks who are fast and can consume more information. Wish I had that super power and wish I had more time to read.

Professionally, I enjoy Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), Harvard Business Review, EdWeek and The Hechinger Report.


BSO: What are your most rewarding charitable involvements?


I have always been an active volunteer supporting social impact organizations, even before transitioning to social impact work full-time. But the most rewarding experience outside of building Step Up was volunteering to support a refugee family that was relocated to Lynn, Massachusetts.

It was a family of six; five children under the age of 13 and their mother. They couldn’t find their father at the time they were selected for relocation to the U.S. from a camp in Ethiopia. But the mom decided it was in the best interest of her kids to leave as soon as possible. Can you imagine how difficult a decision that was to make? When they arrived in the U.S., she didn’t speak a word of English and I had to communicate with her through her oldest son and daughter. Those kids grew up fast. I visited them weekly and supported them for two years. We became very close before I moved to Botswana. We stayed in touch by email while I was overseas and then reconnected when I returned. It was incredible to see how much the kids had grown, and they were even reunited with their father!

I still stay in touch with the family though we don’t see each other as often as I’d like. The oldest daughter is now a pre-med student. The parents and the kids are a true inspiration and a remarkable symbol of resilience and perseverance.


BSO: You have an MBA and a Masters in International Education Development. You are very passionate about youth development. Who has influenced your career the most and what is your vision for your future career path? Also, how has Covid19 impacted your work?


That’s a tough question, but if I’m being totally honest I would probably say my father.

We didn’t get along well and we were not particularly close. But I always admired his journey from a desert village in India to becoming a doctor and starting his own practice in Upstate New York. I mean, how does a kid from a village where camels delivered water to households, where there was no electricity, where the nearest city was hundreds of miles away, where no one really finished school, much less went to university and med school, end up overcoming all of those odds? How does that happen?

I think that has always stuck with me – that my father was the exception to the rule. He wasn’t supposed to make it. So many kids who have just as much talent as my father and come from similar environments being left behind just because they’re poor, or don’t have access to basic resources. I think I always wondered, what if we could just give them a little nudge? Could that nudge change the trajectory of generations just like my dad’s journey changed the trajectory of his family, from living in poverty to one where I had, and my kids now have, almost unlimited choices and access to opportunities?

Since transitioning out of Step Up, I did step back quite a bit, limiting my time to advising or coaching the team as needed. With COVID-19 though, Step Up had to abide with Botswana government shutdown orders issued to businesses, schools and non-profit organizations. Because of the shutdown and the need for additional support to help navigate the ambiguity, I jumped back in a bit more to help the team develop a strategy to keep our Achievers engaged remotely while social distancing at home. Food insecurity has become an issue as well. I worked with the local team to secure emergency funding from a donor in the U.S. so we could provide six-months of food relief to our kids and their households.


BSO: What is your advice for anyone interested in a career in mission-driven social impact ?


My suggestion is to focus on an issue that you really care about and connect with folks at organizations working to address that problem.

I think you’ll find a lot of great organizations addressing similar problems in different ways. As you talk to people, try to identify organizations that approach the problem in ways that resonate with you. Continue to network within those organizations and make sure you are able to articulate how your skills and background can help to advance their work. They’ll want to know about more than just your passion for what they do. They’ll want to know that you can help solve problems and add value to their mission.

The other thing to remember is that a social impact/non-profit organization is a business. And just like a business, there are many roles within non-profit organizations. Whether you have a finance, operations, HR, marketing, tech or programs background, non-profits have diverse roles and needs.

You don’t have to be an issue expert to begin a mission-driven career. Good luck and keep an open-mind.

Happy to connect with anyone who is thinking about making the leap or a transition. Feel free to connect on LinkedIn, or email

Melissa Bernstein, PhD ~ Artistic Director, Newton Theatre Company & Executive Director, Newton Youth Players (Newton, MA)

Melissa Bernstein, PhD  ~ Artistic Director, Newton Theatre Company

Melissa Bernstein, PhD Biography 
Melissa founded the Newton Theatre Company in 2013.
She has directed all Newton Theatre Company shows including Wonder, Our Town, The Song of Achilles: Parts I and II, The Imaginary Invalid, Junie B. Jones and That Yucky Blucky Fruitcake, The Importance of Being Earnest, Agamemnon, Junie B. Jones and that Meanie Jim’s Birthday, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, The Bourgeois Gentleman (or The Would-Be Hipster), The Oresteia, Junie B. Jones Sneaky Peaky Spying, Ethan Frome, Natural Shocks, Ada and the Engine, Iphigenia at Aulis, Living in Exile, Mansfield Park, Women, Exhibiting, It’s a Wonderful Life, Helen, The Witches, Marie Antoinette, Pinocchio, Sorry, Wrong Number.
She was the founder and Executive Director of the Newton Youth Players, housed in the Newton Cultural Center at City Hall.
Over the program’s history, she has directed over 50 productions involving close to one thousand youth actors. She continues to direct students in NTC’s after school theatre program, Newton Theatre Kids.
Melissa holds a Ph.D. in Theatre from the University of Colorado at Boulder, an MFA in Playwriting/ Theatre Education from Emerson College and a BA in Theatre from SUNY-Binghamton.


BSO: Tell us about the inception of Newton Theatre Company and Newton Youth Players.


Newton Youth Players started 13 years ago as a program I developed with the Mayor’s Office for Cultural Affairs. It was an afterschool musical theatre program for elementary school children. Newton Theatre Company started 7 years ago, also in partnership with the Mayor’s Office for Cultural Affairs – our first shows were a staged reading of the book “Wonder,” and a huge-cast production of Thornton Wilder’s  “Our Town,” where we triple cast the show and cast the mayor (Setti Warren), as well as folks who work or live in Newton. 

Newton Theatre Company became its own non-profit two years ago.

Last September, 2019, I started Newton Theatre Kids as a program run through Newton Theatre Company, modeled after Newton Youth Players. The winter session of Newton Theatre Kids had us running four different casts of “Annie Get Your Gun!”

BSO: There is no typical day in the life of an entrepreneur. Share with us your a.m. to p.m.


Morning – Wake up, skim the New York Times, do email, if the sun is out, try to do a 3-5 mile walk.

Early afternoon – Catch up on email, read some potential plays to produce. Late afternoon – teach a children’s theatre class (live or now on Zoom), catch up on email

Evening – family time, rehearsal of NTC play (live or now on Zoom), email, tv with husband.

BSO: What are your can’t live without apps?


The New Yorker.
The New York Times Crossword Puzzle.

Dark Sky – checking it constantly to see if I can do my walk, also to see if we can do our outdoor Greek Tragedy performance in summer!

Google Maps. 


BSO: What was the best advice you received when you started your non-profits?


Be prepared for the unexpected. 

BSO: What are your proudest achievements, professional & personal?


Proudest achievement professionally – starting Newton Theatre Company. And specifically, adapting and staging Madeline Miller’s novel, “Song of Achilles” with her guidance. 

Proudest personal achievement – That my three adult daughters are my best friends.


BSO: What are your favorite news feeds?


New York Times, New Yorker.


BSO: What are your most rewarding charitable involvements?


Friends of the Parents Circle

Southern Poverty Law Center


BSO: Who has influenced your career the most? 


Jim Symons, my professor and Chair of the Theatre Dept. at the University of Colorado, Boulder, while I was getting my Ph.D. in Theatre. He inspired my love of Greek tragedy.

BSO: What is your advice for anyone interested in a career in theatre arts and artistic direction


It’s sometimes hard to find a way in, but if you are passionate about your art, that will shine through. Keep creating and networking!

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