Oakwood Launches 2017-2018 Annual Fund

Published Friday, December 8, 2017
by Rebecca Gnessin


Dear Friends,

Oakwood Friends School Alumnus Rebecca GnessinIt’s hard for me to believe that it has been more than 16 years since I graduated from Oakwood.  When I talk about my high school experience with friends and colleagues who aren’t familiar with boarding school or Quaker values, I tell them how I chose Oakwood.  I found a school where I could be myself and where I could be educated in an open, inclusive environment with diverse faculty and students.  I found a place where the values are centered around integrity, community and equality.  I also tell them how I grew up at Oakwood; my experiences in high school helped to shape who I am today and I am so fortunate that I had this opportunity. 

At Oakwood, I was an athlete; I worked hard at improving my soccer skills each year, I captained the tennis team, took my first snowboarding ride down Reagan Hill and even scored my one and only three point shot on the basketball court.  I was an event planner; I helped organize the junior and senior prom with my roommate who remains my good friend to this day.  I learned to be an artist and a scholar; when I arrived, I was neither, but I had teachers who were passionate about their careers and made me love to learn.  I was a roommate; having a dorm experience starting at 15 years old allowed me to thrive in dorm life in college.  I was a volunteer; I learned the importance of giving back by being exposed to local organizations that helped the community.  My volunteer experience in particular, has become ingrained in my everyday life both at work and outside of work.  Each experience I had at Oakwood had an impact on the choices I have made since graduating.

I give to Oakwood because I want to help those who may not be able to have the same experience I had.  I feel so fortunate for my time at Oakwood, and even more fortunate that I have a group of lifelong friends who experienced this with me.  I hope you’ll join me in giving back to Oakwood this year.  Your gift will give someone the chance to have a meaningful and fulfilling high school journey.

After graduating from Oakwood in 2001, Rebecca attended Adelphi University where she continued to play tennis and lead the team as captain, graduating with a business degree.  She worked in finance for the first seven years of her career, but transitioned to the nonprofit sector, initially by serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and later by working for New York Cares. Since 2014, Rebecca has worked in philanthropy at American Express,  helping to manage leadership development and historic preservation grants and programs.  Outside of work, Rebecca serves on the Rising Leaders Council for New York Cares and the Young Professionals Group of the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation.