Queens native Abbe Raven, acting chairman of A&E Network, is proud to return to her alma mater every year to work and speak with students about the importance of an education and job opportunities.
Born and raised in Laurelton, Raven attended the Humanities & Arts Magnet High School in Cambria Heights, and has been visiting the school for the past six years since joining PENCIL as a board member and participating in its annual program called Principal For a Day held on April 16.
PENCIL is a New York City-based non-profit that works to translate initial business interest into opportunities for sustained partnerships with schools. The organization makes it easy for business professionals, educators and students to work together—in schools and the workplace. Its hands-on programs, including in-school partnerships, mentoring, internships, and immersive experiences like Principal For A Day, create targeted opportunities to make a real difference in the classroom and beyond.
“Having attended New York City public schools, I look forward to Principal For A Day each year as a chance to share my journey with the next generation of student leaders,” said Raven. “In 2006, PENCIL gave me the opportunity to go back to my alma mater, Humanities & Arts Magnet High School (formerly Andrew Jackson HS), which grew into a multi-year partnership to help connect more students to opportunities to fulfill their potential.”
During this year’s Principal For a Day event, over 150 business and civic leaders visited public schools across the five boroughs to experience a “day-in-the-life” of a school principal meeting with students, teachers, and school administrators to learn the lasting impact that they and their organizations can have on students and schools.
According to Raven, a principal of a school is very much like a CEO of a corporation.
“It’s just a little different in terms of what we’re trying to accomplish — we have similar goals and we want our team to be united. We want our team to be successful,” said Raven. “Principals are working with their teams of educators to motivate and share learning with their students.”
Raven added, “I admire what both principals and teachers do on a daily basis, in terms of how hard they work, how committed they are, and how they want the best for their students. It’s really about finding the right strategies to make sure they’re engaged and motivated.”
The acting A&E chairman shares not only her work experience but life experience and giving students an exposure to job opportunities and how to be better prepared for college and other kinds of mentoring experiences.
“I always tell them I grew up in the same neighborhood as you did. I went to the same high school and sat in these very chairs. The experience I had in high school was to try and absorb as much education as I could and get as many life skills as I could and it served me well,” said Raven. “What I say to them is that it’s the same opportunity for you. I wasn’t born with family in the entertainment industry. I was a regular girl from Queens. I made my own way and that’s a possibility for all of you.”
According to Raven, she got her education and first interest in theater from her drama teacher in high school, who encouraged her to work in theater during the summer — an experience that changed her life and gave her a direction into the future.
“I had wonderful history teachers,” said Raven. “Who would’ve thought I would’ve been the head of the History Channel? I’m very grateful to them for the foundation they gave me. I’m hoping that the kind of work we do at PENCIL by building partnerships at schools we are sharing our knowledge and experience with students so they can be better prepared in their life after high school.”
Describing PENCIL as an amazing non-profit organization that believes in giving back to NYC schools, Raven said it has been extremely rewarding for employees at A&E Network to get involved with the students.
“They enjoy being mentors and they loved working with students and it’s an entry point for them to get involved on a one-on-one or group level with individual students and schools,” said Raven. “We have employees clamoring to want to work with schools. PENCIL really bridges this partnership with schools, corporations, company executives and employees. Anything that we can do to make New York City schools better is better for us.”