Gisele C. Shorter joins the family of Harlem community leaders as the executive director and CPO of the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem. At the age of 32, she is finishing up her first year on the job of providing programs and opportunities for neighborhood youth.
But while she prides herself on the work she does helping young people and their families, Shorter moved from the corporate sector to nonprofits in order to make changes and live a more fulfilling life.
“I felt like I wasn’t doing enough,” she said. “I was very self-oriented, and I didn’t feel like I was able to give anything back.”
Raised in East Harlem, she said that her mother was heavily involved in the nonprofit scene. Shorter received a scholarship to the Manhattan Country School on the Upper East Side and credits the school for opening her eyes to cultural and academic opportunities not offered at the time to many children from Harlem.
Shorter later graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts with a degree in physics and political science, and was involved in community activism and did grant writing on the side for small organizations.
After college, she entered the corporate sector, taking her first job with ESPN buying and selling sports rights in programming. She then took several corporate jobs in entertainment and television.
But while she admits the money in the corporate world paid well, she always had it in her to serve the community. Shorter said that as time went by, she was getting less and less time to do her true passion.
She said, “I didn’t have anymore time to volunteer. I wasn’t doing anything for anyone.”
She was recommended by an assistant of one of her mentors to get a volunteer position through the Anti-Defamation League. Shorter went in for an information interview and made such an impression with the regional director that she ended up getting a job with the organization.
Working there for three years, she was the assistant program director for the Anti-Defamation League’s World of Difference Institute for downstate New York. She used her skills from corporate to rebrand and extend the reach of the institute.
After that, she worked for five years for the Regional Aid for Interim Need, which is the largest aging-related nonprofit in the Bronx.
“That’s where I got my program development skills,” she said.
Shorter went back to school full-time to obtain her MPA at Long Island University. She said the move was to aid her in getting validation and to help her in getting funding for nonprofits.
“In order to really go after bigger funding, you have to back to school,” she said. “It shows you are committed and that you have the expertise to do what it is you want to do.”
Shortly after earning her master’s degree, Shorter received a job working for a Boys and Girls Club branch in Westchester as assistant executive director, where she stayed for a year. The regional director for the organization saw her work and invited her to return to her home neighborhood of Harlem, where she currently serves as executive director and CPO.
The Harlem Boys and Girls Club is in its 30th year of operation and serves over 1,200 youth and families annually. The organization does community outreach, educational programs and an after-school program at four sites in Harlem.
“I have pride in knowing that we are pounding the pavement,” she said. “There are so many people who gave me a shot, and I just want to give the young people of Harlem what I had.”
Shorter is currently working on her Ph.D. at Columbia University focusing on health and behavioral studies.