Tuesday, October 23, 2012
There are some things that no college-bound young adult should have to endure, especially during such a highly anticipated period of transition. Upon admission into NYU, Susie Levitt (CAS '09) and Niki Carlotti (CAS '09) were both faced with similar tragedies. Years later, their shared experiences served to inspire the founding of the Levitt Comninos Carlotti (LCC) Foundation, Inc.
The LCC mission is to encourage tenacity, perseverance and continued education in young adults who have a terminally ill or deceased parent. After reading our interview, be sure to check out the LCC blog that launched yesterday (10/22), on the 8-year anniversary of Nikki's Mother's passing.
NYU Arts and Science Alumni Relations: How did the two of you first meet, and how did your friendship evolve over the course of your time at NYU?
Niki Carlotti: Susie and I met at an NYU meet-and-greet for Connecticut residents. My father and Susie's mother started chatting, and when the topic of their spouses arose, they immediately introduced me to Susie. Since we are both friendly and bubbly, we took an immediate liking to one another. Susie and I kept in touch the first year and a half of college, through the passing of Susie’s father. We were then accepted into the same sorority midway through sophomore year, where we both held philanthropic positions. We further bonded while studying Economics in summer classes at NYU. During this time, we realized we'd both held internships at Citigroup Smith Barney. After graduation, we both began careers in the world of fashion, and met a few months later to reconnect and exchange ideas. It was then that we finally realized how much we'd always had in common, including our passion to honor our deceased parents. I confessed I'd always wanted to hold a walk in my mother's honor, which I'd thought sounded far-fetched as I spoke the words aloud. Instead, not only did Susie love the idea, but she proposed we take it to the next level. This prompted our decision to start a nonprofit organization to help young adults in similar situations such as ourselves.
Alumni Relations: I can think of nothing more difficult than enduring the loss of a parent while transitioning from high school to college. What was it like to know someone else going through a similar situation?
Niki: When I met Susie, I had already lost my mother. It was difficult for me because while the death of Susie's father seemed inevitable, I didn't want to bring it up. All I could do was offer my support, which I did sporadically over the next few months until Susie's father passed. During college, we exchanged stories about our experiences coping with our respective losses, but it wasn't until recently when we really discussed the effects the deaths have had on us. Susie's father played a huge role in her life and was the parent who always pushed her to succeed, as my mother was for me. It's comforting to acknowledge the loss of our biggest role-models together. Susie knows me very well, not only because of how much our friendship has evolved over the years, but because of our shared experiences. The realization of this fact is one of the main reasons we started the LCC Foundation. We hope to provide at least a portion of this support to our scholarship recipients to let them know they aren't alone.
Alumni Relations: What motivated you to create the LCC foundation?
Niki: Along with the countless traits Susie and I have in common, the ones I'm most proud of are our ambition to succeed and our passion to help others. When Susie and I first spoke about honoring our parents, all we knew was that we wanted to do something in return for all of the love, guidance and support they'd provided us with in their lives. It was a combination of love for them, desire to help others in our situation, and determination which created the LCC Foundation. Failure never crossed our minds.
Alumni Relations: How do you locate prospective scholarship recipients?
Susie Levitt: We primarily promote the LCC scholarship to high school seniors through online scholarship postings and by contacting high school guidance counselors. Many of our applications in prior years have arrived through word of mouth from our NYU peers and our board of directors, but we have also seen a great response from press articles such as the Norwalk Citizen. This year, we have established a team of volunteers who focus exclusively on scholarship awareness and outreach. The LCC scholarship will be released on more than a dozen college scholarship websites at the end of November and we also have plans to work with family bereavement centers to target potential scholarship recipients.
Alumni Relations: What was the biggest challenge along the way?
Susie: The first significant challenge Niki and I faced when establishing the LCC Foundation was achieving tax-exempt status. Since neither of us had prior experience in applying for tax exemption, we were lucky enough to have been selected as a client by Columbia Law School's Community Enterprise Clinic. Through the clinic, we attended several seminars and workshops to best educate ourselves on the appropriate type of incorporation for our charity and also wrote a business plan, established our incorporation's bylaws and built a talented board of directors. By taking these steps and participating in the clinic, we were able to obtain nonprofit status in half the time it takes for a typical application to be approved.
Alumni Relations: Do you have any success stories to share?
Susie: The most gratifying and successful aspect of managing the LCC foundation is reading stories from scholarship applicants from around the country. It is a joy to know we are encouraging brave young people dealing with immeasurable emotional pain and helping them to continue their educations. After reading personal stories from these high school seniors, it brings Niki and I back to the days where we faced similar adversity. To know that we are helping kids who have been through similar circumstances as us, we couldn't ask for a bigger success!
Alumni Relations: How can alumni find out more about LCC Foundation and get involved?
Susie: There are tons of ways NYU alum can help and get involved with the LCC Foundation. We are always actively looking for volunteers to work on scholarship outreach as well as helping spearhead fundraising initiatives. We are local in NYC and many of our meetings take place close to Washington Square Park. For more information, feel free to contact us at email@example.com!