Sarah Landy has had a pretty great career so far.
Straight out of Skidmore College, she interned and assisted at Nickelodeon during the nascent days of the now-iconic Blues Clues, Several divisions and promotions later, she is vice president of preschool production and development, regularly flying out to collaborate with Nick’s animation teams in LA and partnering with production companies in Toronto, Vancouver and Dublin. The smash hit Blaze and the Monster Machines and the upcoming animated Butterbean’s Café are two shows she oversees as executive in charge.
As with any successful career, however, it began somewhere. And Landy traces that somewhere back to a network of counselors, relatives and mentors who supported her from a young age. Her parents set a life framework that all but guaranteed she would attend college. A sequence of advisors led her to choose Skidmore through an immersive college application and selection process. A college professor connected her with Dr. Alice Wilder, one of the head researchers behind Blues Clues and the person who helped Landy score her first internship.
“I realize I had a lot of help along the way identifying what would be a good fit, guiding me through the application process, encouraging me to go visit – and I can’t imagine my life without it,” Landy recalls.
Unfortunately, not everyone receives such robust support. So when Bottom Line, an organization that helps low-income first-generation students get into and graduate from college, arrived in New York City from Boston five years ago, Landy knew immediately that she had found her cause.
“I have a passion for students and equal opportunity, and it felt like a really good match,” she said.
With resources scarce at many public schools, organizations such as Bottom Line, which has been showcased at the White House and featured in The Wall Street Journal ($), can play a vital role in connecting promising but underserved students with the support they need to navigate a process that can often seem foreign and distant to them. The group employs full-time counselors who provide one-on-one support that begins with guiding students through the college application process, applying for financial aid, and choosing a college that’s a good academic, financial, and social fit. Uniquely, that one-on-one support continues throughout students’ entire college career to ensure that they earn their degree and pursue a meaningful, career-relevant role post-graduation.
Here’s a bit more about what Bottom Line does:
“Nowadays, there are often like 500 students to one counselor, so it can be extra challenging to pick a school, go through the entire application process, and figure out how much you can afford,” says Landy. “And, getting into college is only half the battle – an even bigger challenge comes once you’re on campus.”
Landy started on Bottom Line’s associate board, a group for young professionals, and eventually joined the New York regional board, which ensures that Bottom Line – New York is securely positioned to fulfill its mission. Providing fundraising support to raise the annual budget for this regional office is a key responsibility of the board, and one of Landy’s main initiatives is the annual fundraising gala at the Loeb Central Park Boathouse.
Landy supplements this material assistance with resources dug from her own deep network, forging a relationship between Bottom Line and Viacom’s College Relations team that includes mock interviews, resume workshops, career panels, and even internships.
“Even just to come to the building is a really big deal for the students. To see where you could potentially work after they graduate and what it’s like is really inspiring for them. It’s amazing how Viacom is willing to support the New York City community.” – Sarah Landy
By uniting Viacom’s vast reach with students in need of guidance, Landy is creating a supercharged version of the support network that was so pivotal to her own growth. This partnership has expanded to include Viacom sponsorship of Bottom Line’s annual spring event.
These experiences can be transformative for students. Many of them are amazed to discover all the different job opportunities available in media.
“Even just to come to the building is a really big deal for the students,” Landy says. “To see where you could potentially work after they graduate and what it’s like is really inspiring for them. It’s amazing how Viacom is willing to support the New York City community.”
Employee enthusiasm has been no less robust than institutional support. Employees often stay after work to meet with students and host workshops. “When people at Viacom hear about this, they get really excited and want to know how they can help. There’s a genuine interest to help people out, especially when they hear student’s stories.”
Everyone seems to unite most fervently around a spring event that unites Bottom Line staff and volunteers with the students in a reflection and celebration of their year. Students tell their stories, and this is when it is most obvious how impactful Bottom Line’s resources are; you hear about students who are working full time, or struggling to take care of their parents and siblings, or who don’t have anyone to turn to for guidance through the stressful finals season each semester.
“The energy in the room is amazing,” Landy says. “We see what we’re working toward all year.”
Now in its 20th year Viacommunity, our social responsibility umbrella, has become more than just something we do – it is part of who we are, a core value of our company. To underscore how deeply embedded giving back is to our identity, we are profiling 20 employees who embody the Viacommunity spirit in their everyday lives.