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Our Alumni

Andrea Toledano '15, Educator and Writer

Where do you live at the moment?
Fort Lauderdale
What educational path did you follow? 
I completed my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a focus on international policy at Florida International University. I then completed my Master of Science in Education at the University of Pennsylvania, where the major was Higher Education. At Penn, I completed a graduate assistantship, doing research for Write4Change, a writing platform that allows students from all over the world to engage with each other’s creative and prompt-based pieces. I sit on the Editorial Board of the Penn Graduate School of Education student-run "Perspectives on Urban Education" journal.

What is your current profession and where do you work? How did you come to work in this field?
I have been editing and writing professionally for seven years and have worked within a wide range of industries and clients, including for-profits, non-profits, and education consulting companies. My consulting experience has involved tutoring students in English and writing. I now am filing to run for Broward County Commissioner (D-7) in the 2020 elections.

A few experiences led me to this point, but it started with a poetry book that I wrote and self-published in high school. A teacher found out about it and arranged for an interview with the Miami Herald. Right around this time, Marq Cerqua, a retired NFL linebacker, believed in me, and I became the first high school student to intern as a freelance writer for the South Florida Chapter of the NFL Players Association. We continued working on projects, and once I completed my graduate degree, we officially began to condense those projects into one: a nonprofit, Stand Up Life, promoting emotional intelligence in and out of the classroom.  

What is most rewarding about the work you do? What are the challenges?
The most rewarding part of my career is spending time meeting interesting people and realizing they want the same things. When I explain my vision for the future of our children, people realize how simple (but crucial) education reform really is. Through my nonprofit, I am influencing the classroom, and through my policies, I hope to influence families and the community as a whole.  
A challenge with the campaign and the nonprofit has been essentially funding it myself—and being selective about the number of commitments I take on so I don’t burn out. Now, I need to dedicate more hours to my writing (and it helped me emotionally as I was growing up, hence my vision), which has been my primary source of income. The challenge has been dedicating as many hours to this and to expanding my client base, which I am looking to do now that I have worked on a solid foundation for the other two projects. I like working 90-hour weeks because each day is so different, and I’m constantly meeting new people—seeing passion and lit-up eyes in conversation. Ultimately, everything I do centers around writing, education policy, and community engagement. However, as I’ve gotten more involved in organizations, I must narrow down my commitments, including committees that I actively engage in.

What is one essential academic or life skill you honed at Scheck Hillel?
Hillel taught me the importance of looking at different angles in any given situation—and building meaningful relationships as opposed to just focusing on quantity. Never underestimate the importance of a network in business. I apply these principles to my life every day; I prefer to get five business cards from people I’ve engaged in conversation with than a few dozen from everyone in the room. You do see the same people at many networking events, so ultimately, you will have time to meet most. Patience is key. 
What is your advice to future Hillel students who might consider a career in your field?
Pay attention in class, but pay extra attention in classes you don’t necessarily think you’ll enjoy. You may be pleasantly surprised. Also, befriend the people you don’t think you have much in common with; these friendships sometimes enrich your life most. If you’re looking to go into government, start by assessing which areas you want to specialize in and become really good at that. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know enough about a particular topic, but do learn about it later.

Once you go off to college, my advice is to get involved. Regardless of what you major in or where you end up working, this will give you essential life skills applicable to every industry. It doesn’t matter where you go but what you do with your time, so intern for different companies in college. Take the unpaid internship—it’s an investment in your future. And remember that much of your future success will be attributed to who you know, not what you know, so cultivate those relationships and enjoy your college years. If you do end up working on multiple projects, find an intersection or theme that ties them all together. Make it come full circle. 

What is the last book you read/podcast you heard that taught you something you didn’t know before.
I listen to the Wall Street Journal "What’s News" podcast for daily coverage and lots of "Freakonomics" as well as "Today, Explained by Vox.” I recommend a podcast series called "Serial." The last podcast I listened to was by NPR, talking about ethical stem cell research. It’s a hot topic in policy, and I want to learn more about it.