Pawn Nitichan, 2021 Outstanding Women in Business recipient
Pawn Nitichan is the Executive Director of City Year New Hampshire
Pawn is a tireless advocate for education equity and empowering young people to serve their communities.
She is a founding member of City Year New Hampshire, an education-focused volunteer service organization founded on the Seacoast 20 years ago.
It was 10 years ago, under Pawn’s direction, City Year New Hampshire uprooted to Manchester where schools have the highest dropout rates.
She has worked closely with local elected officials, business leaders, the superintendent, school administrators and the mayor, to demonstrate the value of placing near-peer City Year AmeriCorps members in Manchester schools.
The organization started with a small team of 20 AmeriCorps members and six staff members. During the pandemic, the organization has grown to 60 AmeriCorps members and 14 staff members serving in six schools (5 elementary and 1 middle school) across the district, through a combination of in-person and virtual service.
Pawn was also one of the founding members of Manchester Proud, an initiative that aims to unite the community in building a stronger Manchester by improving the schools. Pawn advocated for the inclusion of students of color and the families to ensure they were being heard.
Thanks to Pawn’s relentless dedication, City Year New Hampshire has tripled its service capacity and is having a real impact on students’ lives.
What sparked your interest in the work of equitable education?
From early childhood, I had a deep sense of the importance of justice and fairness from my father, who worked in the justice system in Thailand. He also dedicated himself to making law more accessible to all through his magazine columns. Both of my parents valued education highly for me and my siblings. It was very clear to me even before I moved to the USA, how education can make such a big difference in people’s lives. It also seems fundamental to justice that those who are worst off should receive the most support and opportunities.
From the very first time I learned about City Year, I was struck by its vision and its model of harnessing the strength and idealism of young people to bring greater support and opportunities to people and communities; and when City Year narrowed its focus to educational equity, that was even more exciting to me.
How does City Year New Hampshire impact education delivery?
City Year’s vision is that, alongside our partners, we will advance educational equity, ensuring that all children are provided the opportunity to succeed in school and in life. Research shows that providing students with positive, caring, adult relationships, individualized academic support and opportunities to develop social-emotional skills (like self-management, optimistic thinking and decision-making) can keep students on track to high school graduation and success in college and careers.
City Year recruits a diverse group of young-adult AmeriCorps members to serve in schools full time as student success coaches. These City Year AmeriCorps members form positive developmental relationships with their students, enabling them to deliver integrated academic and social-emotional support to students who need them most.
You’re known as a bridge builder. What approach have you taken to successfully earn the financial support and involvement of businesses as well as community and government stakeholders?
I truly believe our greatest success as individuals, organizations and communities depends on our collective common desire to create a more just and prosperous society. Our ability to collaborate, find common ground and put ourselves in other people’s shoes, is key to realizing that common vision. My approach is believing that I have something in common with everyone I come across, that everyone has an ability to contribute, and that we can all be winners together when we find pathways to collaborate. Seeking first to understand, rather than making assumptions, has also been my approach in working and collaborating with others. Secondly, it is certainly important to having a proven track record of substantial impact. Solid track records help open doors. It is a must to be passionate about the work. I am.