Interpretive Center Re-Opening Update: Our staff is working diligently to fully re-open just in time for our newest exhibit, POOL. More.


The Fairmount Water Works depends on a host of volunteers, advisors, and supporters to keep the (now metaphorical) wheels turning, but at the center of it all is our wonderful staff!

Karen Young

Executive Director

Karen is responsible for the building operations and maintenance, and stewardship of the historic Fairmount Water Works along the bank of the Schuylkill River. She shepherds the organization’s mission – to foster stewardship of our shared resources by encouraging informed decisions about the use of land and water through creative, collaborative, and innovative programming and exhibitions that educate citizens about Philadelphia’s urban watershed – its past, present and future – and to instill an appreciation for the connections between daily life and the natural environment. An educator, communicator, and entrepreneur, Ms. Young has over 20 years of experience developing and implementing urban environmental programs, with an emphasis on informal/experiential learning.

As the small business owner of KYoung & Associates, The Environmental Educators, Ms. Young worked with city agencies, non-profits, and museums to develop programs, lessons, and materials focused on urban water supply systems and resource management for students in grades 4–12. Karen is well known for creating programs and materials that engage both teachers and students in interactive, engaging experiences, that seek to take participants outside the classroom and/or neighborhood to explore the natural environment. Karen has developed successful public education and public awareness programs for Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth; the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy, and the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Karen is a graduate of Temple University and as a life-long learner continues to study industrial psychology, photography, music, and the culinary arts. Ms. Young serves in an advisory capacity to the United Nations Association of Greater Philadelphia – a nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage the citizens and communities of Philadelphia in strengthening the United Nations and promoting a constructive US role within it through education and advocacy. UNAGP programs increase public awareness, knowledge, and skills to encourage and inform participation in addressing global issues.

Karen has also served on the Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Women for the Water Works Committee, a group of champions of Fairmount Park organized to restore, enhance, and promote the historic Fairmount Water Works complex, and continues to support the Philadelphia Global Water Initiative, a collaboration of organizations and individuals committed to increase global access to safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services, and the Fund for the Water Works.

Ellen Freedman Schultz

Associate Director for Education

Ellen has been with FWW since 2004. Her responsibilities include developing the organization’s education programming for school-age audiences and managing our team of environmental educators.

Ellen’s career in education began in her high school years, when she gave tours to school groups at the Museum of the City of New York. She’s lived and worked in Washington, DC and East Hampton, Long Island before coming to Philadelphia, where she pursued her graduate studies in Historic Preservation.

Ellen’s consulting business, Preservation Partners, completed the New Jersey Women’s Heritage Trail Project. Prior to that, she served as a Director of Education for a nonprofit organization with a focus on architecture. Ellen also taught at Bucks County Community College as an adjunct professor in the Historic Preservation Program. She was the associate producer of a documentary about Italian Americans in World War II, which aired on PBS.

In her role as Director for Education, Ellen enjoys being creative and innovative in developing programs for young people, and working with teachers. “I love making connections for people related to history and the things that make us all connected as human beings – like water”, she says. “I enjoy watching the light bulb go on, and seeing people get excited about learning.”

She adores her two children Sally and Will. When she’s not showcasing her dry sense of humor, Ellen enjoys reading and photography.

Interesting fact: “I love to dance and embarrass my kids.”

Dionne Watts-Williams

Communications & Special Events Manager

Dionne started in 2014, and oversees PR efforts including social media, branding, media relations, special events, and marketing materials. She also coordinates use of our facility for private events.

A Philadelphia native, Dionne has more than 14 years of experience in public and media relations, promotions, writing (print and web), and special event planning. She’s a graduate of Chestnut Hill College, where she earned a B.S. in Communications & Technology. She also has a Master of Journalism degree from Temple University. She has worked with and for various for- and not-for-profit groups including publishing companies, communications firms, tourism agencies, literacy organizations, law firms, and international organizations.

“I thought I knew just about all there was to know about this city, until I learned about the Fairmount Water Works’ history and significance,” Dionne says. “I enjoy promoting our work and positioning us a more well-known attraction and historic landmark.”

Dionne’s special interests include: writing poetry, reading (especially the works of Toni Morrison), singing, listening to music, spending time with family, and adding to her massive shoe collection.

Affiliations include: International Association of Business Communicators, National Association of Professional Women, National Association of Women Business Owners, Urban League of Philadelphia, and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

Interesting Fact: “I’m obsessed with interior decorating.”

Garrett Selby

Building Manager

Garrett oversees janitorial services and security. He’s a native of Philadelphia and has been with FWW for seven years. When asked about his work and colleagues, Garrett says, “No matter what, we always get the job done. We make it happen!” Prior to his time with FWW, Garrett was employed as a site supervisor of a Center City Philadelphia high-rise.

The most rewarding thing for Garrett is the opportunity to always learn something new. He also enjoys how fun it is working at the Fairmount Water Works. Garrett loves technology, and volunteers at Graduate Philadelphia, where he helps people find ways to continue their education. He is also a member of the Black Data Processor Association, where he works with high school students interested in obtaining a degree in information technology.

Interesting Fact: “I love cats.”

Rene Johnson

Community Initiatives Coordinator

René recruits and trains volunteers, and shares FWW’s various opportunities with community groups and service organizations. She’s been with the water department for more than five years, and helped develop FWW’s Lunch & Learn series, marketing it to senior living facilities in the tri-state area.

Prior to working for the City of Philadelphia she was a sales professional in the telecommunications and medical equipment industries. She also has an extensive background in Marketing and was the manager of Marketing for Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s department of Radiology. She has a BS from Lincoln University in Political Science and Business Administration, a Masters in Business Administration, and a Master’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice.

René says, “I love my job, because I get to interact with people in an effort to hopefully make a difference in how they view one of our most valuable resources – water.” She brings much enthusiasm to all that she does.

René loves to travel, read, cook, and spend time with her family and friends. She believes that laughter is essential to the soul.