Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

About Rachel Bowie

Rachel Bowie ’04, a former member of the Wheatones, is a freelance writer and editor based in New York. Read more about her »

Head of the Class

Geoffrey Fenelus finds his passion teaching kids

Geoffrey Fenelus ’09

Geoffrey Fenelus ’09

Geoffrey Fenelus ’09, an economics major, didn’t always plan on working in education.

When he enrolled at Wheaton as a freshman in 2005, his intention was to pursue a long-term career in finance. Little did he know he’d find his true calling as the founding dean of students at Bushwick Ascend Middle School, a public, tuition-free charter school in central Brooklyn that offers a rich, rigorous liberal arts curriculum modeled closely on the practices of New York City’s finest independent schools. Ascend’s mission is to equip every student with the knowledge, confidence and character to succeed in college and beyond.

There are nine schools in total in the Ascend network, but the Bushwick location—which Fenelus helped launch—just opened in 2015. “Our mission is simple,” he explains. “We’re trying to get kids to, through and beyond college by making sure every Bushwick Ascend student has access to the same quality education as students in high-income neighborhoods.”

For Fenelus, the opportunity to take on a leadership role came at the perfect time. After working as a personal banker in Queens after graduating from Wheaton, he began to think about a career in education when a friend invited him to volunteer in the classroom at a KIPP charter school, also in New York.

“The first week, I went in one day a week,” he recalls. “The second, it was two days a week. Three weeks later, I was in there five days a week. I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed the work.” [Read more...]

Housing director empowers New York tenants

Persephone Tan ’09

Persephone Tan ’09

A New Yorker born and raised in Chinatown, English major Persephone Tan ’09 was fresh out of Wheaton College trying to decide her next move when she met NYC Council Member Margaret Chin at an immigration rally in Washington, D.C., in 2010. After talking with her and expressing her passion for issues related to the Asian American community, Tan realized that she wanted a career in public service. Chin hired her to be a community organizer and policy analyst. Since then, Tan—who speaks three dialects of Chinese—has worked her way up to become the council member’s director of housing, assisting the 168,000 constituents Chin represents in Lower Manhattan with housing-related issues. “My focus is on the Chinese population,” Tan says. “Since I grew up in Chinatown, I speak the language and understand the community needs and the cultural norms. There are some Chinese-speaking tenants who know when they are being harassed by the landlord and there are those, English-speaking or not, who are just unaware of what their tenants’ rights are.” With her hard-earned title in hand, Tan is honing her skills even further as a newly selected member of the Coro Immigrant Civic Leadership Program in New York. This fall, she began an intensive study on how to be an effective leader and better the community in which she works. We caught up with Tan to talk to her about her job and the fellowship, and how Wheaton played a part in it all. [Read more...]

Driven: NASCAR producer enjoys life in the fast lane

Andrea Pelkey ’02She’s gone on ride-alongs at many racetracks, but ask Andrea Pelkey ’02 whether her job has had any impact on how she handles the road, and she’ll just laugh. “My friends and family would say my driving has changed,” she admits. “Let’s just say I’ve gotten a few speeding tickets across a few different states over the last couple of years.”

Pelkey’s need for speed makes sense. She’s a producer for NASCAR at ESPN. After working her way up from production assistant to producer at ESPN (and earning an Emmy Award along the way for her work), her career path took a major turn in 2007 when the network landed the rights to telecast several of the NASCAR Sprint Cup races, and subsequently “NASCAR Now.”

[Read more...]