Welcome to the first edition of Meet the Fellows, a weekly blog post series meant to highlight and introduce our 2019-2020 Work First Fellowship cohort. If you’ve read their official bios you know that many of our Fellows already have significant experience in policy work, research, teaching, and advocacy. So we know that they’re driven—but what drives them? This blog series aims to get at the heart of what makes our Fellows leaders in serving others, and the many ways they put the Work First mission, to lift people out of poverty through employment, into practice.
Name: Elizabeth (Liz) Cottle
Hometown: Hopewell Junction, NY
Elizabeth Cottle—or Liz, as we know her—is a native New Yorker, a summa cum laude graduate from Binghamton University, a global traveler, and as of recently, a verifiable expert on reviewing resumes. One of three Work First Fellows located in Manhattan, NY, Liz spends most of her time at the America Works 5th Avenue office teaching weekly lessons and working one-on-one with American Works clients to prepare for interviews and, of course, review their resumes.
Even before joining the Work First Foundation, Liz was interested in programs that strive to tackle poverty through employment. She chose to become a Work First Fellow in order to gain hands-on experience working with low-income, marginalized individuals. She was drawn to the opportunity to not only learn more about the challenges public assistance recipients face on a larger, policy-focused level, but also to get to know them and their situations at a much more personal level. In her own words, it was a unique opportunity she couldn’t pass up.
Q: WHO IS YOUR MOST INFLUENTIAL ROLE MODEL?
LIZ: Michelle Obama. Her book, Becoming, was the last book I read. Also, my mom.
The America Works 5th Avenue office is an exciting hub of clients and staff, including education trainers and corporate representatives, who quickly welcomed Liz into the family. When not teaching in the classroom, she is conducting research on the gig economy and how it relates to her clients and planning future lessons on employment skills. Looking back on the first time she taught a class in front of clients, she remembers how exciting it was to not only do it successfully on her own but also to feel proud about it afterwards. The knowledge that she is making a difference in the lives of others, many of whom have been under-served and disadvantaged for most of their lives, as well as the feeling of having accomplished something truly hard, continues to motivate her.
UNEXPECTED PLACES WHERE LIZ HAS FALLEN ASLEEP:
At a concert
In a canoe
According to Liz, one of her lesser-known talents is her ability to fall asleep anywhere. In addition to catching up on sleep anywhere she needs to—although we hope she makes it to her bed more often than not—Liz likes to take time for herself by running and listening to music, usually the Beatles.
Liz is always looking for new ways to combine her interests in microfinance, sustainable development, and helping others. A project she would love to pursue is developing a program that teaches business skills to children in developing countries who wouldn’t have access to that kind of education otherwise. But when it comes to the details of planning her future, she is careful not to overthink it.
“One of the best pieces of advice I received was to try not to have a five-year plan, so you’re open to opportunities that you didn’t expect. As challenging as it is, I’m attempting to put that advice into practice.” Her philosophy of being open to the new and unexpected has brought Liz to Malawi, Africa, where she led a small microfinance project; and to Washington D.C., where she interned with the Peace Corps. She hopes it will take her on many more adventures—like to Peru, to hike Machu Picchu, and to face her fears and go skydiving.
what she’s listening to:
A podcast that highlights the extraordinary stories of people living ordinary lives
Travelling around the world and around the country has taught Liz many important things, especially the idea that everyone should travel to a place with a culture so different from their own. “It opens up people’s perspectives and allows for an incredible amount of tolerance and acceptance,” she says. No matter where she goes, Liz is bound to do everything to help and serve others. And no matter what else she accomplishes, something she is truly proud of is her ability to support those around her and be someone they can trust and confide in.
LIZ’S FAVORITE QUOTE
“No matter how far you have traveled in the wrong direction, you can always turn around.”