Ellen Goldwasser is a counselor with an NYC organization called Esperanza, an alternative to incarceration program dedicated to youth, families, and communities. Esperanza began as a demonstration project of the Vera Institute of Justice, and now works to find ways to reduce reliance on out-of-home placement for youth who are adjudicated delinquent in the family court system. Ellen provides therapeutic services to youth and their families, including assessments, intensive family and individual counseling, and crisis intervention.
Before moving to NYC to complete her master’s in social work at Columbia University, Ellen worked at Minami Tamaki, LLP, in San Francisco. One day she was chatting with her co-worker (Steve Ngo) about her interest in women’s rights organizations and he told her she needed to get involved in Spark. Ellen reached out to Spark’s Executive Director, Shannon, and over the next couple of years she joined the investment committee, the Black and Pink Ball committee, and the Spark Champions. When Jenn Wilcox and Ellen moved out to New York around the same time, they were thrilled that there was so much interest in creating a Spark affiliate in NYC.
YWCHAC – Spark’s first New York grantee. Ellen particularly likes the WE SPEAK program (Women Empowered Support Protect Educate Advocate and Know), which holds weekly events and teaches young women in New York City the skills to empower themselves and to advocate for better sex education programs in New York City Schools.
Ellen believes that Spark does critical work, both by partnering with and awarding small grants to women’s organizations that might otherwise be overlooked, and also by creating awareness about important issues that impact women locally and globally. She loves the fact that Spark is so democratic and that the leadership is very open to new ideas.
Questions by Proust – Answers by Ellen
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being super busy, surrounded by people I love.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Training my puppy – although it never quite ends, the early stage is the biggest test of patience.
What talent (or superpower!) would you like to have?
Oh man, if I could fly…
What is your most marked characteristic?
Aside from my interpretive hearing, I’m very adventurous – I’m always up for anything.
If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
A giraffe – they’re so tall and stoic AND they barely require any sleep!
What is the quality you most like in a fellow human being?
Reliability and trustworthiness. Humor is a great plus, but it’s most important to me to be able to count on someone.
What is your favorite journey?
The summer after I finished college, my sister and I traveled around Africa and Europe for four months, sightseeing and visiting friends. It was one of my favorite experiences and allowed for a lot of sister-bonding time!
Who are your heroes in real life?
Two of the most incredible women I have ever met: Maya Angelou and my grandmother, Lizie Goldwasser.