My initial love for nonprofit work came from my early involvement in a high school program, called Upward Bound, that worked to prepare low-income, first-generation students for college. Through the program I spent my high school summers on various college campuses, like Harvey Mudd College and Georgetown University, gaining professional skills at major internships, like at a biochemistry lab at UCSD and in the Finance Division of the Library of Congress, and honing my networking skills throughout all of these experiences.
When I graduated from the program, with an acceptance to my alma mater, UCLA, I realized how life changing that experience was, how incredibly inspired I was by my Upward Bound advisors who were all successful people of color, and how critical nonprofits are in providing major opportunities for urban youth.
With this in mind, I got involved with education-based nonprofits, like Jumpstart and City Year, providing day-to-day educational resources to youth in under resourced communities like mine through direct service. Although, I was very proud of my work and could see the impact I was making on my students, I knew that I wanted to learn more and do more beyond direct-service. I wanted to work to develop stronger programs, advise on curriculum, and develop workshops for volunteers. I wanted to reach more students at a higher capacity.
Becoming an FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow fed all of my professional desires. Through my experience with the fellowship, and my organization, I have developed many skills. For instance, deconstructing and reconstructing a Cultural Competency training for over 300 college volunteers, delivering productive and solution-oriented feedback, and simply not being afraid to have six meetings in one day over the phone (millennial anxieties are hard to kick). I have been able to take a lot of what I learned through my “on the ground” nonprofit experiences, and put them to use on an organizational level. I don’t think I could have conducted workshops on the importance of building relationships with students as effectively if I had not myself spent four years supporting classrooms.
There is still so much I don’t know, and even if I do know it, I can always get better. Still, I am willing to continue to grow as a nonprofit leader, and will continue developing valuable skills, and work hard to deliver urban youth the resources they need not only to survive, but to thrive.
Ellie Sanchez is an FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Massachusetts Generation Citizen. In her role as Program Associate, she works to increase civic-engagement amongst marginalized youth by providing training and quality assurance for College Volunteers to ensure the highest-quality action civics programming is delivered to students in Massachusetts.