Meet Laura Samberg, Our New Board Chair
We are excited to announce that Laura Samberg has been named as BellXcel’s new Board Chair! Laura has devoted the past 20 years of her life to educational and children's health issues. At her family's foundation, she has focused its grant making on education and youth development, health, and Jewish issues.
Laura is experienced in conducting and managing research and policy work on education and children's health and issues in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. She serves on the boards of Harlem Children's Zone, and Health Leads. She holds a B.A. in History from Cornell University and a M.A. in Education from Stanford University.
We recently had a chance to meet with Laura to learn more about her vision in this important role. We hope you enjoy the following Q&A interview.
Congratulations! How do you feel being named our new Board Chair?
I am excited and honored to serve BellXcel as its new Board Chair. Since joining the board in 2014, I have seen the organization’s strong growth under the leadership of my phenomenal predecessor Laurene Sperling. The board is made up of talented, thoughtful individuals who are committed to reducing inequality of educational opportunity. I am thrilled to work with each of them to advance BellXcel’s work on behalf of the scholars we serve.
Where does your commitment to youth and families stem from?
I was raised with a strong social justice consciousness, coming from a long line of practitioners and advocates. At the center of it all was my maternal grandmother, a compassionate and tireless woman who modeled what it means to care for others by returning to graduate school in her 40s to become a social worker, then administrator in Detroit Public Schools starting in the 1970s.
What is it about BellXcel that drives you as our new Board Chair?
When I first learned about BellXcel and its success in countering summer learning loss, I thought, “Wow, this is a no brainer!” Before joining the board, I served on the Strategy Committee, and the more I got to know board members and leadership, the more involved I wanted to be. Among the many outstanding organizations doing this work, I believe BellXcel is distinguished by its clarity of mission, consistency of outcomes and culture of striving for excellence.
What is the Board’s vision for BellXcel’s trajectory in reaching the needs of scholars and educators?
Much has changed in the external environment since BellXcel’s founding in 1992 but our North Star has remained constant – providing scholars with opportunities to develop skills and knowledge to succeed in and out of school. In this current phase of BellXcel’s journey, the board’s vision is to serve more scholars while also leveraging our expertise in program delivery and research to influence others to adopt high quality out-of-school-time (OST) programming, whether through BellXcel or other channels.
Why is technology and innovation so important in scaling impact?
In its latest phase of growth, BellXcel scaled its reach through partnering with others, most prominently, Y associations across the nation. We are now bringing the same innovative spirit to our use of technology for the benefit of scholars. In recent years, we did not harness the power of technology as much as we could have. We are determined to not only catch up but to be ahead. Our new web-based platform will be user friendly for educators and administrators, setting the stage for broader scale. The better the technology works for teachers and administrators, the better it is for students.
Why is teacher empowerment through professional development important in achieving our mission?
We’ve always known anecdotally that our professional development and technical assistance lead to changes in teacher practice. We now have research to prove this through the recent Bellwether report. Teachers certainly apply their BellXcel training in summer and after school settings, but it benefits them, and by extension their students, in the classroom throughout the year. It’s a gift that keeps giving.
Where do you live and where did you grow up? Do you have children?
I live in Northern VA and have been in the greater DC area for more than 25 years. I love all DC has to offer, but consider myself a Northeasterner at heart, having grown up and gone to school in NY. I have a daughter and son, both in middle school. They’re experiencing a significant bump up in schoolwork this year but have lots of good sports teams to cheer for as diversions, in between their MA (through their dad), NY and DC roots!