How Christopher Hayward Uses His Expertise to Support Students in NYC
One of Christopher Hayward‘s fondest memories with PENCIL is taking fifth-graders from the East Village Community School to the New York Stock Exchange. While that may sound unusual to some, Christopher believes that the future of NYC depends on exposing students to diverse careers and that early career awareness is key to their success.
From volunteering in classrooms to serving as Principal for A Day® to being an engaged Board member, Christopher has been an essential part of the PENCIL community since his first commitment in 2004.
His passion and dedication led to him becoming PENCIL’s Board Chair in 2019.
We spoke to him earlier this week about his introduction to PENCIL, the partnership between his current firm, GoldenTree Asset Management LP and the public school, High School for Math, Science & Engineering, as well as how the pandemic has shaped his routine.
How did you first learn about PENCIL?
I was working in finance in New York City at Merrill Lynch. Our company had a relationship with PENCIL before I joined the firm. A few colleagues participated in PENCIL’s annual event, Principal for a Day®, and they talked to me about it.
Tell us more about your first PENCIL experience at the East Village Community School.
I chose an elementary school to partner with Principal for a Day® and our ongoing partnership with my firm because my children were young at the time. Working with 5th and 6th graders made sense to me, and I had an excellent relationship with the principal for several years.
The only reason the partnership ended was that the principal ended up relocating outside of New York. And at the time, I moved on to another partnership.
What makes PENCIL different from other non-profits in the city?
For me, it always comes back to the kids. Having impact on the city’s 1.1 million students can make a big difference. That’s a lot of young humans that are going to be going out into the world. If we can contribute in some way by giving back through our expertise and guidance, it also makes the world a better place.
A partnership with PENCIL is constructive and fun. It’s very tangible, and you can see the impact you make because you’re dealing directly with students, not three or four layers away from them.
For High School students, PENCIL does college and career readiness training. They also have a paid internship program to place students who attend NYC public schools in businesses throughout the city.
Nothing is better for a high school student than to have real work experience when thinking about college and what’s next for them. All of that is fun and rewarding for us at GoldenTree and other partner organizations.
Coming back to when you took students out to the NYSE, what happened on that day?
We rang the bell during the day, which was a wonderful experience and 5th graders didn’t know what to expect from the New York Stock Exchange, obviously. And, this is when the floor was jam-packed and active.
It was just one of the many things PENCIL helps achieve: It’s exposure to things that children might not have an opportunity to witness even though it’s in their backyard. It was about opening their eyes and minds to a world with new possibilities.
We have also taken students to our offices at times.
That’s sounds like great exposure! How would the students react?
I heard 5th and 6th graders say, “Hey, you know, maybe down the road, I would be working in a building like this” or “Oh, there are so many computers here!” They could see what a working environment looked like and possibly imagine a future there. That’s what PENCIL is all about.
Your current firm, GoldenTree Asset Management is partnered with High School for Math, Science & Engineering. What does the partnership look like in a virtual environment?
Like everybody, we’ve pivoted and adapted where we can. Yes, we miss the classroom. Yes, I miss physically seeing the kids regularly. I am sure all of us involved in partnerships feel the same way. But we respect the situation we’re in and try to adapt.
So, yes we’ve gone virtual. We are using Zoom and other mediums to make ourselves available, conduct the same activities on the topics we focused on at school, and continue to help.
What are some of the topics you cover during the virtual webinars?
Interviewing skills, resume writing, personal and professional branding, interviewing etiquette on Zoom and more. In my current partnership, we work with 11th and 12th graders and they benefit a lot from these workshops. Not only is this useful for college applications but also for internships.
When we talk about opening eyes, minds and doors, we are also talking about businesses. How has PENCIL impacted you and others at your firm?
My wife is from the Philippines. I’m a Caucasian American. We met via graduate school in the city. So our children are mixed. Our children have grown up thinking about what being mixed means to them. And hopefully, that has informed me and shaped how I approach things, especially in my professional work and in my work with PENCIL.
Working with PENCIL is an authentic reminder that our community does not always look like our business environment and that we need to bridge that gap. The school system that surrounds us — attended by over a million children — is comprised of mostly Black, Brown, and Asian students, and many of them have difficult economic situations. Through our work with PENCIL, we aim to close the opportunity gap by increasing awareness and access for these students.
Our readers are interested in learning more about you. What are you currently reading?
The book I’m reading right now is called ‘Trillion Dollar Coach.’
How do you stay organized and focused every day?
Sometimes you end up working more hours when you’re at home, and end up being on call 24/7. At our organization, we talk a lot about wellness, mindfulness, taking time off and mental health. We are taking initiatives corresponding to that.
One thing I’ve learned during this process of dealing with the pandemic is that each person navigates and manages things uniquely, and so there’s no one size fits all. The impact of the pandemic is different on everyone but none of it is positive.
So, stay in touch with your colleagues and employees, think about their wellness and always stay connected and go the extra mile on communication. That’s what I have been practicing.
Who or what has shaped you into who you are today?
So, only second to my parents were some of my early bosses. They treated me with respect and integrity and that really had a huge impact on me. I am constantly reminded of that now that I manage a lot of people. It’s such an important role. Especially for young people when they’re starting their career, you have to not only be their boss and manager, but be a friend and a mentor.
That is all great advice. Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?
Yes! I mentioned earlier that I was first a volunteer at PENCIL then joined the executive committee and now chair the board of directors. So I have first-hand experience of how powerful the journey is. I welcome anybody who has thought about public education here in the city, and would like to learn more about PENCIL to contact us. There are so many playbooks about how executives and others in different organizations have worked with PENCIL to partner with individual schools and principals and teachers and children.
It’s very rewarding and very impactful. So, please, come join the PENCIL partnership club!
Thank you, Christopher!