“It’s not about us. It’s about the people that the Foundation serves. That’s always what the focus has to be on. Look at who is benefiting and think, ‘How can we continue to support them?”
As the newest member of the Forman S. Acton Foundation Board of Trustees, Karen Washington knows what it takes to support and uplift a student population. With 40 years of educational and philanthropic expertise, she is bringing a one-of-a-kind perspective to the Foundation and is already looking forward to sharing her unique viewpoint with the board.
Growing up in South Jersey, Washington has spent much of her professional career advocating for students who are marginalized across the area. From Woodbury Heights to Mullica Hill to Camden, she has worked in both public and private schools, teaching a mix of English and foreign language classes throughout her career. For almost 25 years now, Washington has been at Moorestown Friends School, most recently as the school’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, where she has provided leadership and served as an advocate for students and families. Additionally, she supports meaningful student organizations at the school that encourage discussion around diversity and inclusion, such as the MLK Club, Diversity Committee, and the Gender Equality Forum.
In her role on the Foundation’s board, she hopes that she can use her deep experience as a student advocate and educator to be a valuable resource for young people in Salem. She’s excited about making a difference in the lives of those who may not have the same educational and financial opportunities as others.
“I want to give a voice to those without one and widen the lens through which people see others,” she said.
Throughout her career, Washington has made it her goal to help people around her appreciate difference. Just as she’s done as an educator, she aims to find ways to work with the board and the young people the Foundation supports to create discussions around identity and change the way people look at themselves and others. By altering an individual’s perspective even slightly, she says it can drastically alter young people’s belief in what’s possible – especially when it comes to education.
“I want to show families that college is a real tangible thing,” Washington said. “The people around them believe in them, even though their circumstances might not be telling them that. That’s what’s important to me.”
Beyond her time as an educator, Washington has advocated for the underprivileged in other ways as well. She has spent time as a liaison for New Jersey SEEDS (Scholars, Educators, Excellence, Dedication, Success), a nonprofit organization that prepares motivated, high-achieving, low-income students for admission to private schools and colleges across the country.
She understands how monumental going to college is for students today – even more so for those who are first-generation college students. Whether it’s guiding students through the application process or helping them figure out how to save for college expenses, she wants to let students know that the Foundation is there to help. Washington hopes that with her position on the board, she will be able to make college a much more attainable goal for families in Salem.
“There is a whole lot of trust to be built for students in Salem to believe it, and for their parents to believe it,” Washington said. “That means they have to know that the Foundation really believes in them, that we really do want this for them, and that college is truly possible for all of them.”