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YPN5Q: Youthprise’s Lizzy Shramko

Pollen offers five questions to the communications and development associate.


Photos courtesy of Lizzy Shramko

1. You have already had what many people your age would consider to be dream jobs. Can you list each job you have taken since graduating college and write a short sentence description about them? 

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Immediately when I graduated from college in NYC (as in days after graduation) I began to work full-time at a book publishing company in the city, and while I absolutely love reading and writing I quickly realized the world of for-profit publishing was definitely not for me. This experience led me to apply to a graduate Gender Studies program in Budapest, which was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Going to school with people who were interested in critically engaging in the world around them made me realize that I didn’t have to just accept the pervasive heterosexism I experienced on a daily basis. So once I graduated I began doing more social-justice oriented work. Surprisingly I found it harder to get a job with a Gender Studies degree on my resume. My first job post-grad school was working in communications at Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, an anti-trafficking organization that launched the Girls Are Not For Sale campaign that has since expanded to Minnesota. But when I turned 26, after years of living in NYC I found myself wanting to be closer to my family in Minnesota. My eventual move home led me to my current gig as Communications and Development Associate at Youthprise. While I had my reservations about working in the field of philanthropy, I soon realized the radical potential of transforming philanthropy from within. Youthprise is also unique in its deep commitment to racial equity and LGBTIQ youth – and modeling these commitments from within the organizational culture.

2. What does a dream job mean to you now? 

Honestly a big part of what “dream job” means is about whether or not I care about what I am doing. It’s hard to balance the bigger picture (I want to change the world) with the daily tactics (from tweeting to crafting blog posts). 

To be completely satisfied at work, I have to make those larger connections and be intentional about every aspect of work life: from how I write to how I engage with my co-workers and the youth in my office. My best days are when I take the time to be collaborative and include other people’s voices in the communications that go out. In communications, it’s really easy to isolate yourself and just Facebook like a madwoman. It’s a lot more challenging to bring other people into the conversation – but the result is often much more rich and complicated.

3. What was the biggest compromise you made when taking a job opportunity?
During my time working in publishing I experienced sexual harassment at one of the companies that I interned at. Despite complaints I made to HR no actions were taken, and out of doubt and lack of experience I just assumed that I should continue to work in a space that made me feel completely uncomfortable. More than that I didn’t want to waste a valuable internship opportunity. Looking back I wish that I had the professional and personal support systems in place to make me realize that it is unacceptable to feel unsafe at work. It was just so normalized.

4. What was it that inspired you to seek volunteer positions outside of your day job? 

It’s hard to have all of your needs met from one place, especially when your financial stability comes from that relationship. Volunteering offers a space to dabble, stumble, mess-up, and engage in work that is truly rewarding, but rarely financially compensated. My current volunteer work with Paper Darts allows me to immerse myself in the beautiful literary communities in the Twin Cities, and to work with an amazing team of ladies who are consistently pushing the boundaries of literature, art and design. Paper Darts is also entirely volunteer run, meaning that all of the blood, sweat and tears that go into making the magazine, coordinating events and generally being awesome, come from people’s desire to be a part of this amorphous beast, which adds to the weirdness that makes it what it is.

5. Favorite belonging? 

My copy of “History of Love” by Nicole Krauss. My mom gave it to me when I was studying literature as an undergraduate in NYC and that book got me through some difficult times. It’s the only book I’ve read over 10 times, and I swear I cry every time.

>>It’s the only book I’ve read over 10 times, and I swear I cry every time.

For Fun

  1. Guilty pleasure?
    Beef jerky, queer theory and Shark Week.
  2. Favorite artist?
    Hands down, Gordon Voidwell.
  3. Favorite song right now?
    Ciara’s “Body Party” is my workday anthem, which borrows from Ghost Town DJ’s “My Boo”, another favorite.
  4. Celebrity crush?
    Definitely Willow Smith. Girl can rock any hairstyle.
  5. Favorite writers?
    Louise Erdrich, Nicole Krauss, Judith Butler, Jasbir Puar, José Esteban Muñoz, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Marilynne Robinson, David Rhodes, WisławaSzymborska, Li-Young Lee.

 >>I have an obsession with rings and never take them off, especially a beautiful Catholic high school ring from my grandfather.

>>Self-presentation is a big part of my expression. For some people this might seem superficial, but for me self-presentation is extremely political.

>>I always wear another item that belonged to my Grandfather: his hat. And if that’s not enough old man for you, I got my watch from my Dad. I guess grandpa chic is what I’m shooting for

>>I always need a backpack to carry around my crap – this one was a gift from my grandmother in middle school

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