Introducing the 2018 Summer Fellows!

Introducing the 2018 Summer Fellows!

This summer, we've been lucky enough to take on our biggest Fellow class yet! Eight smart, passionate and talented young people have joined the Believe in Syracuse team.

Find out what drives them to help make Syracuse a better, more positive place to live.

Fellow Class of Summer 2018

Marketing Team Profiles


Gene Wang

             Lead Marketing Fellow

Born and raised in the Bay area

     Syracuse University graduate

          Worked with nonprofits with OrangeSeeds

     As a recent graduate from Syracuse University with a major in Public Relations, I’m excited to be leading the BiS Fellowship program’s marketing team. I’ve always been conscious of the fact that, as an SU student, my experience living in Syracuse was very different from many other residents around me. Attending one of the U.S.’s most expensive private universities while living in an area with the highest rate of poverty for a mid-sized city made me feel compelled to find a way to reconcile these two extremes. As a result, I made an effort to engage with the surrounding local communities whenever I could; through the SU first-year leadership program OrangeSeeds, I worked with local nonprofits to plan and participate in community service initiatives to improve Syracuse. I’m excited to have the opportunity to use my education in order to continue to give back to a city that I feel has given me so much.

   My primary initiatives in BiS includes delegating work, acting as a liaison between the team and John and creating a communications plan.


                                                                           Yanrui “Ray” Jiao

                                                          Leading Marketing Fellow,Social Media Manager

                                                       Born and raised in China, attended high school in Pennsylvania

                                                                Sophomore at  Syracuse University

                                                      Likes dancing, playing the guitar and traveling

      I am a  sophomore from School of Information Studies, majoring in Information & Technology Management. After a school trip exploring Syracuse University, I was amazed by how many companies and startups locate in downtown, and how many opportunities and resources out there for us. I enrolled in fellowship program because Believe in Syracuse is doing the right things to promote City of Syracuse, benefit our community and bring people together.  I am the Social Media manager and my jobs are currently editing and designing company’s website, overlooking and promoting traffic on website in order to attract more sponsors and people interested in BiS. I enjoy doing my work because it allows me to use the technical knowledge apply for real life problem solving. In terms of my background, I was born and raised in China. I went to high school in Texas for a year and spent the rest of my high school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I like dancing, playing the guitar and travelling.

   So far, my duties in the program have been primarily in working on the web design; I’m in the process of redesigning and refining aspects of the Believe in Syracuse website.

Michael Sizing

Marketing Fellow

Rising senior at JDHS

Born and raised in Syracuse

Does swimming, cross country, and track

       I am currently a high school student at Jamesville Dewitt High School. As senior year approaches, more and more great opportunities open up to me. I typically wouldn’t reach out and take part in such a program, but I’ve made it my goal to get out of my comfort zone and explore as many great opportunities as I can. One of the reasons I am in the Believe in Syracuse fellowship program is to do just that - to explore the world around me and gain beneficial experience that will help me in the future. I have lived in Syracuse all my life and I figured it’s time to give back to community for everything it has done for my family and I. As for my interests, I thoroughly enjoy math and science in school and am looking into the medical field as a possible career choice. I am also very passionate about art and drawing and partake in it frequently as a hobby. I am involved in my high school’s swim team, cross country team, and track team. I am excited about the positive impact my efforts will have on the local community through Believe in Syracuse as well as the amazing experience I will gain from this program.

       My role in Believe in Syracuse is mainly in social media. I have created FaceBook and Instagram posts and helped plan the calendar for the Syracuse Sizzles campaign.

Melquea Smith                            

                                                                                Marketing Fellow

                                                                  Born and raised in Syracuse, SAS grad

                                                                            Graduated from OCC

                                                                     CEO of PrettyKittyCommissions

    If it’s creative, then I’m all over it.

    Hi there! My name is Melquea Smith. I am a local illustrator and I serve as Believe in Syracuse’s Graphic Designer.

    I was raised in Syracuse, spending my high school career at Syracuse Academy of Science, to graduating OCC. I now own an illustration business called PrettyKittyCommissions ( where I sell my work at various shows and events. I teach everything I know online, through social media and Youtube and I love doing what I do.

    My relationship with BiS started with 2016’s Come Home to Syracuse event. That event allowed me to becoming a vendor and selling my work during the BiS 4th and 5th Birthday Party. I started becoming increasingly involved which lead me recently a participating artist in the 2017 - 2018 Creativity Crates. I am thrilled to discover and participate in more artistic opportunities Syracuse has to offer.

   As Believe in Syracuse’s Graphic Designer, my job is to hone in on the style and brand of this organization, while staying true to the mission and message of promoting Syracuse as a great place to live.


Fundraising Team Profiles

Isabella Lay

Team Lead Fundraising Fellow

Born in Syracuse, graduated from CBA ‘17

Worked at CBA’s annual phonathon

Goes to school in Washington DC

    Hi! My name is Isabella Lay and I am the fundraising team leader for Believe in Syracuse! I’ve spent all my life here in syracuse, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I went to Most Holy Rosary for elementary school and graduated from CBA in 2017. I’m currently a rising sophomore at  the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. I stayed active in my high school community through sports, clubs, and even our annual phonathon! Working at CBA’s annual phonathon gave me a lot of great fundraising experience that I have been able to carry forward here at Believe in Syracuse. It’s such an honor to be given an opportunity life this. My goal for this summer is to show my civic pride and give back to the community that I owe my whole life to. We have an amazing team of fellows this year and I’ve greatly enjoyed working with each and every one of them. So far we’ve made over 200 calls to businesses and corporations in the Greater Syracuse Area, researched potential grants, and grown relationships with new organizations. Our team has really hit the ground running this summer and I can’t wait to see all the great things we continue to do as an organization.  

Alan Gao

Fundraising Fellow

Rising Senior at JDHS

Born and raised in Syracuse

Officer of MUN and student gov

My name is Alan Gao and I am a rising senior at Jamesville-DeWitt High School. I have always loved staying active within my own school community through student-run organizations such as Model United Nations, student government, our school’s building level team, and sports such as cross country and track. Recently, I have been fortunate enough to start making an impact on my community through employment at the YMCA and Maple Downs Retirement Home, and my experiences working there have reminded me why I love Syracuse. Having lived in Syracuse for my whole life, I felt like it was time to give back to the place where I had come to love. Becoming a fellow for Believe in Syracuse was the perfect outlet for this. Using my experiences in fundraising as an officer of my school’s Model United Nations and class government, I make phone calls and reach out to potential sponsors for Believe in Syracuse, helping secure funds necessary for our daily operations. I hope raise lots of funds for BIS by the end of the summer!

Nicole Blidy

Fundraising Fellow

Born and raised in Syracuse, CNS graduate

Graduated from the University at Buffalo

Worked as a New York public affairs intern for BerlinRosen

     My name is Nicole Blidy and I am a fundraising fellow for Believe in Syracuse. I grew up in the Syracuse area, graduating from Cicero-North Syracuse High School. I then went on to further my education at the University at Buffalo (UB). I stayed very active within my community at UB, serving as the Public Relations Manager of the UB Student Association, co-founder and vice president of the Undergraduate Society of Feminists (SoFem) and an active member of the Alpha Alpha chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta. After returning to Syracuse, I have remained active in my own community, volunteering for the Vera House, where I work as a sexual assault victim advocate. I’ve also worked as a New York public affairs intern at BerlinRosen in New York City, where I developed many skills that will help me be effective in my role as a BIS fundraising fellow. I love Syracuse and everything about it, so I was thrilled to get the chance to work as a fellow for Believe in Syracuse! I’m so excited to work with my great team of fellows to improve the place that we all love so much.

Charlene Bluto

Fundraising & Photography Fellow

Lived in Syracuse for approx. 30 years

Cazenovia College Graduate

Is a freelance photographer and graphic designer at Charstar Designs

     Hey there! I’m Charlene Bluto, one of the fundraising and photography fellows at Believe in Syracuse. I graduated from Cazenovia College this past May 2018 with a Bachelors in Graphic Design and Minor in photography which are two of my great passions in life. I look forward to spending time hiking, taking pictures and enjoying time with people in the community. There is so much to offer here for the arts as well as its historic buildings and beautiful upstate landscapes and waterfalls. These are reasons why I believe in Syracuse.

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