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Sheena Wright named President of NY United Way

CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 10/14/2012, 12:52 p.m.
Sheena Wright named President of NY United Way

Last week history was made as the United Way of NYC (UWNYC) announced that Sheena Wright would become President and CEO of the 75-year-old organization making her the first woman to head the branch. Wright is best known as President and CEO of the Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC) in Harlem, where she served for 10 years. She will begin her new position at the UWNYC in mid-November.

Wright served as a board member of the United Way of New York City and will succeed Gordon J. Campbell, who led the organization from 2007 until Sept. 1 of this year. In addition to her new role at UWNYC, Wright serves on the Vera Institute for Justice and the New York City Regional Economic Development Council.

During Wright's tenure at ADC, the community organization built 785 units of housing in 78 buildings and nearly a half-million square feet of community, commercial and retail space, including the first new high school building in Harlem in 50 years, creating over 1,000 jobs in the process.

Tackling her new role, Wright told the AmNews she plans to now use her talents and make a difference across the city. She said one of her main goals at the United Way is dealing with the issue of poverty in the city.

"I am thrilled to work at such an iconic place," Wright said. "One in three children are living below the poverty line; and the United Way of New York City is poised to be a significant tool in reducing that number."

Growing up in the South Bronx, Wright said she knows firsthand how much families need assistance and a place to turn. She recalls going to school in one of the city's worst performing districts at the time. In an effort to get a good education, Wright's mother sought out resources and sent Wright to a boarding school. She excelled so much she was admitted to Columbia University at age 16 and went on to receive her law degree.

"Going to a boarding school allowed for me to get to my full potential, and that's what I am excited to be focused on," she said. "Making sure low-income New Yorkers get quality education opportunities and income support. I also plan on focusing on health and wellness."

The United Way utilizes $100 million a year to fight hunger and poverty in the city. The UWNYC helped over 1 million New Yorkers last year and supported over 1,000 nonprofits. UWNYC works in 60 schools and with numerous nonprofits across all five boroughs.

As she prepares for her new position, Wright said she wants to focus her work on employment, cutting the school dropout rate in the city and getting low-income New Yorkers connected with vital services they need. She also wants to focus on health and wellness, specifically for school-age girls, and put more sports activities in schools.

"I am thrilled to be embarking on this new chapter as president and CEO of United Way of New York City," she said. "I look forward to continuing and strengthening United Way's work to improve the lives of low-income New Yorkers through initiatives in health, education and income."