Assistant Director, Office of YMCA Relations, Springfield College; Age 38Erin Friedman says the philosophies of Springfield College and the YMCA have a lot in common.
“Our mission is all about educating the whole person — spirit, mind, and body — for leadership and service to others,” she said of the college where she’s worked for the past decade, “and the Y’s values and principles are truly aligned with that.”
Perhaps it’s unsurprising, then, that the two entities share a history and heritage, and a partnership that dates back to the establishment of the college in 1885, when it was known as the School for Christian Workers, she noted. “Today, that partnership with Ys across the U.S. and around the world still exists at our core and our foundation.”
One of Friedman’s roles in the college’s Office of YMCA Relations is to “recruit and ultimately place the next generation of YMCA leaders, preparing leaders to work in a wide range of careers,” she explained, adding that the YMCA is primarily focused on youth development, social responsibility, and healthy living.
Among the students examining opportunities in those areas are Bronwen Stern and Jessica Lajoie, juniors at Springfield College whose letter to BusinessWest was among many supporting Friedman’s nomination to 40 Under Forty. They talked about traveling with their advisor and mentor to YMCA conferences locally and across the country, connecting with potential employers and learning experientially.
“For us, Erin is not only an advisor, but a role model. She is the most kindhearted and selfless person we know,” they wrote, noting, as one example, her involvement with the Sexual Assault Victim Advocate program on campus, which helps people who have experienced a sexual assault. “She truly is devoted to not just making Springfield College better, but improving the community of Springfield as a whole.”
Friedman said she stresses real-world learning for a reason. “A college degree today is not enough; you need to be able to distinguish yourself,” she said. “It’s important to connect with opportunities to learn beyond the classroom, and connect with professionals from all over. Our ultimate goal for young people is to become the best version of themselves as possible and help them discover what they’re really passionate about.
“If you’re in a job where you’re counting days to Friday and or counting the hours in the week,” she added, “perhaps you’re not where you need to be. For me, it’s highly rewarding helping people find meaning and purpose. That’s what we can provide.”
— Joseph Bednar