Leadership Change at FAN

Posted in: A Letter from Nia

Group HugIt is with a combination of wistfulness and excitement that I announce that I will be stepping down as FAN’s executive director two weeks from today.

I am wistful because FAN has truly been an impassioned work of my heart for the last 10 years.  I am grateful for every miracle, small and large, that I have witnessed through this work- young people who have experienced such difficult things who have learned to talk about their emotions instead of acting out, who have learned to trust, who have built lifelong friendships, who have graduated high school and gone on to college, who have found a leader inside, who have learned to make good decisions and take the right risks, who have learned to love themselves because they are worthy of acceptance, who have found “home” and “family” at FAN.  Staff members and volunteers who have changed career paths or gone back to school or were changed because of working with FAN.  To be invited into the most intimate moments of joy and sorrow of kids and their families, to be chosen as surrogate auntie or grandma or mom to dozens of young people, these experiences have been my privilege and my honor.  Above all it is unquestionably clear that FAN’s work with youth in foster care is uncommon, life changing, deeply needed, and profoundly important.

It was always my vision that when the day came that I would say goodbye to my role as FAN’s leader, I would leave the organization strong enough to ensure that this much needed work would go forward.  I am excited because, against all odds, I believe that I have achieved this goal.  Although this announcement may come as a surprise to some, it has actually been long in the making.  FAN’s second executive director will be Bernie McGrath, who joined the FAN team in April as Assistant Director of Administration. Bernie first worked with FAN as an intern in 2013.  He subsequently earned an MPA from George Mason University with a concentration in Nonprofit Management.  In his time at FAN, Bernie has demonstrated deep commitment to and understanding of FAN’s mission, competence in the many roles that an Executive Director must play, and a drive to continue to grow FAN’s work and impact.  Most importantly, I knew that I was making the right decision when 4-5 young men ran into the office this summer and descended on Bernie with calls of “Eh Bernie!”  They gathered around his desk to talk and joke-the ultimate endorsement.

In addition to Bernie, Marlon Jones, who has been FAN’s Program Director for two and a half years, will remain in his position and ensure that we maintain the quality and consistency of our programs.  At the request of current board members and the incoming executive director, I will serve on FAN’s Board of Directors for at least one term to provide continuity and the support.  We are confident that FAN will continue to grow and prosper under Bernie’s demonstrated passion for FAN’s work and capable leadership.

I want to thank all of you for your support of FAN’s work over the years.  It has meant the world to me and to the young people that we serve.  I hope that all of you will continue to engage with and support FAN’s work during our transition.  Although I will miss my day-to-day role in the FAN-mily, I have assured the staff, the board, and our young people that I will not be far away.  I hope that for them, my leaving will serve as a model lesson for how to responsibly and lovingly say goodbye.


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