Volunteer Appreciation Spotlight – Joanna Herrera

Joanna Herrera FOFA

FAmily, we’d like to introduce you to Joanna Herrera, a member of the Friends of Foundation Academies Board and the FA Scholarship Committee. We recently had an opportunity to chat with Joanna to ask her about her experience with FA. 

Joanna, you are from Trenton and graduated as Valedictorian from Trenton Central High School! How does your educational experience inform your work at FA? Also, why do you choose to support our school?

My educational background drives my passion for advocating for Foundation Academies. It wasn’t until high school that I entered the Trenton Public School system. We couldn’t afford to continue private education. I didn’t realize it then, but it was unfair. The system was basically saying, “if you don’t have enough money, your education will suffer. If you challenge the status quo, you’ll need to work twice as hard.” 

I was fortunate enough to be awarded a place within the Princeton University Preparatory Program, but that also meant all of my high school summers were spent studying to keep up with the pace of education in areas with more resourcing.

I was impressed with Foundation Academies’ aim to provide Trenton students with a high-quality education, regardless of socioeconomic status. They care deeply about their students and have a system in place to succeed. They challenge their students, inviting them to think critically about how to become change-makers in their local communities, provide exposure to music and the arts (I would know, my nephew who is a Foundation student played the violin for my wedding), and so much more. These are all fantastic opportunities that every student should have access to, and FA is making that happen in a community that so desperately needs it. 

What do you like most about volunteering at Foundation Academies?

Knowing how much education made a difference in my life, I always knew I wanted to be involved in advancing young minds in some shape or form. I’m always impressed with the students and staff who make up the FA community; they’re a group of passionate and brilliant individuals who push themselves to be better each day. 

I’m most excited about being on the Round Table Scholarship Committee for the 2nd year in a row since its inauguration. Having secured a scholarship that enabled me to attend the University of Richmond was an invaluable experience, and it changed the course of my life. I’m truly the lucky one as I get to be a small part of the big story that is Foundation Academies.

Why do you think others should volunteer (or donate) to Foundation Academies?

Foundation Academies is a great place to get involved if you have a local connection to Trenton or care about advancing people’s lives through education. FA is an organization I trust, where dollars donated are truly used to impact those served. FA also provides excellent ways of getting involved that can best suit varying volunteer styles, from reading to students, mentorship, participating in a shark tank style panel for a civic service-learning class, or even teaching a craft. 

What message do you have for our students who may relate to you and your story?  

Your passion and work ethic will drive you far. I wasn’t always the smartest in the room, but I kept asking questions until I got it. Don’t underestimate the importance of your community–family, friends, teachers, and mentors. Having a hype squad in your corner will propel you forward. My support system constantly uplifted me and helped me learn how to believe in myself. 

Thank you for your dedication and support, Jo! We sincerely appreciate you!

Joanna Herrera is a Trenton native and first-generation college student. She was the Valedictorian of Trenton Central High School’s Class of 2011 and a Princeton University program scholar. In 2015, she earned her B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Richmond. Joanna started her marketing career at BlackRock.  Since then, she’s been helping support user growth for an AI-based search engine start-up, AlphaSense. She has over six years of experience in Digital and Growth Marketing. Joanna lives in Denver, CO, with her husband and Yorkie. She enjoys dog walking, swimming, hiking, and traveling in her free time. She is passionate about staying connected with her hometown community, family, and friends.

If you’d like to get involved as a volunteer, click the button below. Our scholars look forward to welcoming you!

Mary-Anne Smith

Mary-Anne Smith is a member of the Advancement team at Foundation Academies. In her role she supports the mission by engaging, partnering with, and securing financial support from a diverse spectrum of audiences through integrated, strategically aligned communications, engagement programs, and philanthropic opportunities.