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In conversation with Mai Miksic

United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey recently welcomed Mai Miksic to the role of Managing Director, Early Learning & Education.

Learn a bit more about Mai and her journey at United Way:


What drew you to United Way’s mission?  

I come from an immigrant family that fled to the United States as refugees. Poverty was very much a part of my upbringing, but so was a sense of ingrained social justice and the belief that we can change communities and societies at large if we can come together. I was drawn to United Way because of its long-standing commitment to breaking the cycle of poverty, starting with our youngest children. Early learning is at a critical juncture as we come out of the pandemic, with the historic staffing shortages, mental and behavioral health challenges, and a reckoning with its history of systemic racial inequities. This is a prime opportunity for United Way to take the lead in thinking about innovative approaches to improving early learning systems so that it serves more children in the poorest neighborhoods and sets them on the right path to success.  

what are you most passionate about in your line of work? 

I am passionate about the impact early learning can have on children’s life trajectories. Early education capitalizes on one of the most critical periods of brain development in an individual’s life. Experiences and relationships that young children have during the early learning years impact them well beyond young adulthood. Research shows that investments made early on reap greater rewards not only to the individual but to society as well. Beyond that, I absolutely love young children. Even before becoming a mom, I was inspired by children. They are so fun, inquisitive, and, as the Whitney Houston song goes, they are our future.

What’s something that you wish more people knew in regard to your work?

First and foremost, I’m an optimist. I’ve chosen to work in the nonprofit world because I believe we can make a difference in people’s lives. However, I also believe that we can’t get anything done alone, so I’m also committed to working in coalition with other organizations that share our vision for a world without poverty.

Do you have a favorite book or inspirational quote that resonates with you?

Both the book Handmaid’s Tale and the movie Children of Men envision a world in which children have disappeared or are disappearing from the world, and both depict a bleak society as a result. They remind me that children bring a very special joy to our world, and we need to take care of them. Not just on an individual level, but from a macro level through sound public policy and programming.  

Do you have a hidden talent?  

After living in NYC for so many years, I’ve gotten unusually good at finding street parking in big cities. In my entire ten years of working and living in NYC, I’ve only gotten a parking ticket once! I also love to knit as a way of de-stressing and enjoy crafting gifts for family and friends.  

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