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The following is an interview with one of my supervisors at my non-profit. Janice is the Development Manager at Year Up Puget Sound. Here, I ask her about the work she does and how her role relates to larger concerns of social justice.
Q: How did you first hear about this organization?
A: I discovered it while searching for jobs online.
Q: Before working here, did you ever envision yourself working at a nonprofit?
A: In college, I taught ballet at a youth sports and academic organization. Then, a few years out of college, I ended up getting recruited to the management team. After I moved to Seattle, I included nonprofit work in my job searches because I was qualified to work for them.
Q: What do you do as a development manager?
A: I am responsible for a large piece of the revenue for our organization. I do this through managing our grants program. I execute grant applications with the support of grant writers. Typically, I work with individual donors in the $1-$10,000 range.
Q: What is the hardest part of your job?
A: The most difficult part of my job is asking people for large amounts of money.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: I love the part of my job that involves working with students. In my program role as part of staff, I have the opportunity to advise students.
Q: What is social justice?
A: Justice exercised within a society. Eradicating systemic and institutional inequalities. So when you talk about social justice, you talk about systems within society (government, business, healthcare, etc.) that perpetuate inequalities.
Q: What social justice issues does your organization tackle?
A: Our mission is to the close the opportunity divide. The divide exists because certain students grow up in certain zip codes or their parents earn a certain amount of money, and as a result the children are not afforded the same opportunities as children from more fortunate backgrounds. It is built into the framework of the country. Everything puts them at a disadvantage. Even if they have ambition, they don’t have the resources.
We address this issue through the program that we offer. Year Up is a year-long education and training program for youth ages 18-24 who hold a high school diploma and GED, and who are serious and motivated about getting on the track to success. In the first half of the program, we teach our students marketable skills that make them valuable assets in the job force. These lessons include both hard skills (IT, financial operations) and soft skills (writing, professional skills), which they then apply in the second half of the program, which they spend at a corporate internship. We provide them with the resources and support they need to succeed, but they are responsible for pushing themselves and taking advantage of these connections. It requires a great deal of hard work and dedication, but the students who graduate are prepared for careers because of it.
Q: How do you define success?
A: The metric we use to define success is the percentage of students who hold a job or are enrolled full time in school within 4 months of graduation from our program. Our success rate has been 85%.