Trailblazers’ co-chair Lauren Busch likes her drinks in popsicle form, suffers the seasonal heartbreak of a Knicks fan, and is laser-focused on building a council of young professionals who care deeply about New York City.
From: Long Island
Professional Position: Global Marketing, BlackRock
Favorite restaurant: Shopsin’s
Favorite bar: Loopy Doopy. It’s a popsicle bar…I’m a little bit of a child at heart.
Favorite NYC Neighborhood: Chelsea
Greatest misconception about NYC: The people are unfriendly.
Team: The Knicks. It’s heartbreaking.
If I didn’t live in New York, I’d live in: Durham, North Carolina, though I’d miss winter.
Why did you become a JAR Trailblazer?
I attended the 2015 JAR Gala as a guest, and found the room to be full of so many people I had either worked with or looked up to as role models. It meant so much to me that people who are generally competitors in the industry came out to support each other and to celebrate doing good.
I had done a lot of community service in college but the Trailblazers group made me realize that, while I may not be able to donate a lot at this time, I can give blood, sweat and tears. At the time, the Trailblazers were a group of three young professionals who attended board meetings; I started asking questions about our growth trajectory, and over the following year Michelle [Aragon, Trailblazer co-chair] and I developed the group into what it is today: A group for people who want to give back to New York City.
Which JAR grantee are you most excited about?
Bottom Line, which helps low-income and first-generation-to-college students get to and through college. It feels very close to me because, to a certain extent, its constituents go through an experience I’ve gone through: I graduated from high school, dealt with the stress of getting my grades in order and making sure I was the best applicant I could be, then going off and starting fresh in college. I understand the framework of the experience, and so there’s an emotional tie for me. Plus, I’m very proud that we’re building something from nothing with this grant. The Trailblazers decided we wanted to raise $5,000 and give it to this organization (and achieved that goal!) so there’s a sense of pride there, as well.
What have you learned from grantees?
Everybody needs help sometimes. There is a human component to everything that exists in the world, and fundraising isn’t the only solution to a problem. Going on site visits encourages me to continue to give my time and money and to keep pushing things forward.
How has being a part of the Trailblazers changed your perception of NYC?
I think it helps me to realize how far the city has come, in such a short time. The city has become so much safer and, while a lot of people attribute this to the government alone, JAR has made me realize it’s not just the government making changes, but that we all help make changes in little ways every day. It’s very easy to ignore how dangerous the city could be if not for the programs in-place.
What has been your favorite JAR event to-date?
I really enjoy the thank-you reception each year. It’s a small-scale setting—far smaller than the gala—and I get to meet and hear from the grantees first-hand. For a long time, that was my only opportunity to meet JAR grantees face-to-face. This means far more to me than attending a gala surrounded by lots of people, and reminds me why I’m doing this.
Where do you see the Trailblazers in five years?
My hope is that we have a Trailblazer Council of young professionals who are deeply engaged and advancing the strategic vision of the group. Also, that we have a fairly significant group of individuals who are consistently engaging with us by attending events, receiving a newsletter, offering suggestions—a funnel of young people interested in becoming more involved, and who want to age up to the JAR board. I’m not concerned with our becoming a preeminent group in New York society but rather I would like to see a group that really cares and is interested in contributing to NYC in some way.
What advice would you offer to someone joining a young leadership organization in the city?
Jump in and get your hands dirty! Chances are, the group needs you as much as you need them. There’s a lot of heavy-lifting and you may not know about all of the work being done behind the scenes. It’s the easiest way to learn what you’re interested in and care about.