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Aha Moments, Hot Sauce, and Connecting the Dots

#TeamMizzen Looks Back on Year of Firsts

On Team Mizzen, we believe in reflection. Big time. It helps us glean the most from things that shine (or go awry!); connects us; reminds us of what really matters; and trues our compass for the coming year.

But this year was a whirlwind of “firsts” for Mizzen, making it both harder and more important than ever, to shoehorn in time to reflect. 


In 2023, we grew strategic content partnerships—substantially—to offer new learning experiences from The Nature Conservancy, BOKS by Reebok (now Active Kids), Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Pulitzer Center, PowerUp Fitness, ArtsConnection, and !Mpact Players. We met thousands of you in person for the first time at conferences, keynotes, and exhibit booths around the country. We convened “Mizzen Makers,” a jazz-in-OST ambassador program, and hosted national gatherings on belonging, identity, and youth leadership, featuring Mizzen’s CEO Carlos Santini, in conversation with changemakers Richard Reyes and Dr. Chris Emdin

And we went live as a new, independent nonprofit, Mizzen Education, Inc.

Throughout it all, we found new ways to partner with you and other champions for youth across the U.S., to elevate and support a field that serves more than 10 million young people.

That’s the backdrop for our reflections on a year of reaching for the stars; getting in (and out of) the weeds; learning to worry a little less and trust ourselves and one another a little more; and always coming back to community, creativity, and adventure at the center of everything we do.

We’re profoundly grateful to you for being part of it and look forward to sharing all that’s in store in ‘24!

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If I could travel back to the beginning of the year, what advice would I give myself?

#1: Savor the Adventure

“Slow down and savor the adventure. I was on the go a lot this year, and it was so fun! But sometimes I was more focused on the technical aspects of an event or making sure everything went perfectly than stepping back and reflecting on the relationships we were building, the impact of Mizzen, and being in communal spaces with people with a shared goal and passion. That’s what fuels my love for this work—and I want to savor those moments.” — Hailee Moehnke

#2 Grow, Glowor Let Go

“A wise person shared these words with me last December. I have kept them in mind, heart, and spirit as I navigated 2023 personally and professionally: ‘If it doesn’t help you Grow or Glow, then let it go.’” — Angelina Garner

“I would tell myself not to worry so much and do what I know is right. I had a rough start to 2023 and was very stressed about work and the outcomes. Now that I know how 2023 transforms and turns out, I would tell myself to relax because it all turned out so much better than I could have imagined.” — Janine Krause

#3: Pause More to Connect and Explore

“Build in a pause between big events or meetings to give space to reflect, connect, and follow-up.” — Kristin Stayer

“Start your nonfiction reading much sooner, you’ll want the time for exploring and reflecting on everything you’re learning.” — Sarah Mellon


If you could create a time capsule with items or memories from this year, what would they be?

#4: Celebrate Community

“My time capsule would have to include my keynote experience with the great people of Texas at OSTI-CON 2023.” — Carlos Santini

“I’d definitely store the Missouri School Age Community Coalition’s (MOSAC2) experience. I’d bottle up the energy, “aha’s,” and goodness of all the workshop participants and the welcoming thoughtfulness of the network’s leadership team.” — Kristin Stayer

#5 Bring Butterflies and Birthday Hot Sauce (“It’s the little things”)

“My time capsule would include a bottle of hot sauce, representing all of the Hot Ones hot sauces at my friend’s birthday party; a picture of a butterfly, to remind me of my grandma who passed away this year (she loved butterflies); and a guitar pick that stands for all the improvements in my playing.” — Kyle Swank

“I’ve had an amazing year full of adventures with friends. During one of our trips, it rained for hours and we couldn’t sit around the fire like we’d planned. So, we snuggled up under too many blankets, played games all night, and shed so many tears from laughter and silliness.” — Janine Krause

#6: Live Lifelong Dreams (“It’s the big things”)

“Feeding the elephants at the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand. It has been a lifelong dream—elephants have always been my favorite animal!—and it was just as magical and awe-inspiring as I’d imagined.” — Hailee Moehnke

“Joining the AIDS/LifeCycle and riding my bicycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Over 545 miles, 1,500 riders and 600 volunteers collectively raised nearly $12,000,000. At the finish line, my friends, husband, and everyone who came to cheer us on made me feel like a superstar.” — Janine Krause

“Snorkeling with Manta Rays in Hawaii and celebrating 50 years on this planet.” — Carlos Santini


How do you want to professionally challenge yourself next year / get outside your professional comfort zone?

#7: Never Stop Learning

“I want to continue growing my ability to lead and create strategy for a technology-based organization. When I made the leap from leading a pure OST programming organization, to one that blends OST and a technology solution, I knew I had a lot to learn over the coming years.” — Carlos Santini

#8 Cultivate Collaboration

 “I will continue to bring ‘my seat’ to the table and cultivate spaces of collaboration with new people and organizations to broaden the horizons of the voices and expertise we are missing at many of the OST ‘tables’” — Angelina Garner

“To begin reflecting my thoughts, knowledge, and insights on LinkedIn. I have been inspired by other colleagues to step into that space and intend to learn and grow to make new connections and deepen existing relationships.” — Kristin Stayer

“I would like to expand to the professional networks I’m connected to for different aspects of my work.” — Sarah Mellon

#9 Embrace Newness

“You might have seen me snapping your headshot at several conferences this year, but it was the first year that I’ve held a professional camera in my hand! I’m incredibly grateful for the guidance and mentorship from our amazing partner and friend, Gabe.” — Hailee Moehnke

#10: Connect the Dots

“A big professional challenge for me in 2024 will be to connect all the departmental dots. My role covers Accounting, HR and Operations and I want it all to be as cohesive and streamlined as possible. To do that, I will need to think on a much bigger strategic level and need to take that step back from my day-to-day.” — Janine Krause

“I want to become a better storyteller when presenting ideas and information.” — Kyle Swank


There you have it! Hotsauce to Dots: the big and tiny triumphs, lessons, and reflections from a year unlike any other, followed by our goals to keep on growing, learning, and evolving.

If you’re feeling inspired to lead your team’s own year-end reflections, here’s a Pro Tip by After-School All-Stars: protip blog

We share these with our warmest wishes for your health, joy, well-being, and rejuvenation—now and throughout the holiday season.