We asked the Apprentices in nonprofit Management to tell us more about themselves, their work, and their future plans. What follows are one apprentice’s reflections on what the program has been like so far.
What attracted you to the apprentice program?
I have had an interest in the nonprofit world for a long time. Many of the things I care about most- equitable community and rural development, sustainable international development, and social justice- are achieved through the work of nonprofit organizations. As a result, I see myself working in nonprofits in the future and think the Apprenticeship Program provides valuable experience working in a nonprofit environment. While my office doesn’t function exactly like most of the nonprofits in town (being a Grinnell College office instead of an independent entity), many of the things we do are similar. We manage programs, build relationships with other local partners, and provide support for initiatives that improve the quality of life in and around Grinnell. The chance to learn these skills in a hands-on fashion is really meaningful to me, especially as I move out of my college years and attempt to find a full-time job.
Why are you doing the program?
I am doing the program to learn about nonprofit management, pursue professional development experiences, and give back to the community that has taken me in during my four years at school. I really like the close relationship that the program fosters between me, my director, and the other employees in our office. I don’t think it’s typical for a student employee to get extended access to the day-to-day operations of an office like ours and the chance to develop personal projects over the course of a year.
What background or skills do you bring to the program?
I think that I bring a strong interest in community development and town/gown relations; the ability to interact with a diverse group of individuals and engage many different groups; and strong oral and written communication skills (I end up writing something almost every day I am at work).
What about your office’s mission inspires you?
Over the past few decades, town/gown relations have improved substantially, something that long-term residents of Grinnell can attest to. In recent years, my office has had a lot to do with mediating the relationship between the community and the College and I think that the actions of the employees in the Office of Community Enhancement & Engagement have made a big difference in the improved relationship between the college and the town. Building the town/gown relationship is very important; it helps people collaborate on projects that enhance the community for everyone, college-affiliated or not.
What drew you to your organization?
I was drawn to the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement because it offered a means to understand more about the role of the College in the town. As a student, I was very curious about the way that people in town regard us and the way that the College acts to break down “the bubble” that people think surrounds the school. Our department is very much at the heart of that process and has allowed me to learn more about the community, the school, and our partners in ways that are meaningful to me as a member of the student body.
What kinds of projects do you do?
I do all kinds of projects depending on what is going on in the office on any given day. I handle the small gifts, donations, and sponsorships requested from my office; write small press releases or speeches when needed; help edit grants and award nominations; explore new program ideas for on-campus, such as expanding our volunteer initiative and payroll deduct programs to include students; and do more typical office work — update the website, respond to emails, make copies and do the filing. All of these projects, large and small, help me understand the day-to-day functions of an office that specializes in philanthropy.
What kind of skills have you been learning?
The apprenticeship has produced a diverse skill set already (it’s only been three months!). My apprenticeship has been pushing my writing skills, especially in areas like speech or press-release writing that I don’t normally use. I have also learned to use Drupal (for managing the website) and In Design (for managing the electronic forms that my office uses), so my computer skills have improved. I also make decisions on small sponsorships and donations. While I don’t make any major funding or budget decisions, I have learned about the importance of having criteria for giving and being creative in fulfilling funding requests. Most importantly, I have learned a lot about the importance of networking and engaging partner organizations for successful programming. The office’s work is really based on successful relationships with people — knowing who to call for what, balancing interests, and including everyone who needs to be involved in projects. That is probably the number one lesson I have taken from my apprenticeship thus far.
The Impact Her Apprenticeship Has Had on Her
How has having a close working relationship with your director impacted you and your future education plans?
I think learning skills such as budget management, InDesign, grant-writing, and networking is extremely valuable and will be applicable to my career in the future. Monica Chavez-Silva(my director) and Melissa Strovers (the other employee in our office) are both great role models and have a wealth of experience. I learn from them constantly. For example, whenever we create anything for our office, we try to make it in a way that will allow us to use it for the future as well and creatively apply it to other areas. That way, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every new project. I think that helps us work efficiently and effectively. That type of work philosophy and seeing them carry it out has really impacted me. Also, the networking that occurs may very well produce a job or future collaboration partner in my life after the program! The apprenticeship is a great experience for me because it feels like meaningful work. I think my office creates positive change in this community with their collaborations and partnerships and I can tell that I am learning a lot being there. I haven’t yet figured out how the program has impacted my future education plans. I still want to work in a nonprofit someday and think that the practical education from my apprenticeship is a big step in the right direction, but both my directors have very different backgrounds than I do, so I don’t yet know where my path will lead me.
How has the apprenticeship program changed your perception of Grinnell? Nonprofit work? Your future?
I had no idea what any of the area nonprofits did before I started working for my office. The learning curve was pretty steep for the first month — figuring out who did what and who worked for who — but I have really appreciated getting to learn more about the local nonprofit network and understanding the role that all the organizations play in town. There are so many organizations that contribute quite substantially to life in Grinnell and I think we as students don’t often get a chance to understand how much effort people put in to making Grinnell such a nice place to live.
The apprenticeship has strengthened my desire to work for nonprofits in the future. Having seen the way that the different apprentice organizations function, I think I will really like the types of jobs that are available in this sector. The work is really varied and dynamic and everyone gets to work with so many people in their day-to-day tasks. At the end of the day, I really like going to work. The tasks are enjoyable and my coworkers are all great. I feel like I learn a lot and contribute to the office and its mission. All of that has convinced me that I will probably end up in the nonprofit world again soon.