Profession: Nonprofit Development Manager
Hometown: Chicago, IL
What are you doing now?
I work as a development manager at a nonprofit called VOCEL (Viewing Our Children as Emerging Leaders), where we work to help young children thrive in Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods by supporting the adults who shape their lives: parents and caregivers, teachers and school leaders. My role focuses on nurturing and expanding our community of supporters through fundraising, marketing and event planning.
How did you get there?
My interest in nonprofit fundraising began the summer before my senior year, when I interned with a development team at a prominent nonprofit theater in Chicago (thanks PCIP!). When I graduated in 2020, I was invited back to the theater company for a fellowship with their teen education program.
Due to COVID, the fellowship was postponed, and I decided to start working as a caregiver to a three-year old to keep busy and make ends meet. I ended up staying with his family for almost a year, and during that time I gained a whole new appreciation for the earliest years in a young person’s life. Soon after I learned the fellowship was permanently suspended, a college mentor happened to forward me a job posting for VOCEL’s development team. VOCEL’s mission rooted in education equity completely aligned with my newfound passion for early education, and it’s incredible to have found an organization that deeply values both my fundraising expertise and my caregiving experience.
VOCEL was an unexpected destination, but I like to think I landed exactly where I’m meant to be.
How did Pomona prepare you?
My time at Pomona shaped me to thrive in fast-paced and multi-disciplinary environments. While my major focused on directing and performance, I took classes across multiple disciplines—international relations, philosophy, history, music theory, logic, genetics—and I find myself still applying the transitional skills learned all the time in my critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Thanks to Pomona, I know how to wear multiple hats simultaneously, which gives me a huge boost when working in nonprofit spaces that require flexibility and creativity day-in and day-out.
It’s also worth noting that the only reason I became interested in fundraising is because I worked at the Office of Annual Giving’s Star47 program, Pomona’s student call center, where we connected with alumni and fundraised for the annual fund. As a student on scholarship, I knew those dollars raised supported students like me and helped Pomona grow to be a more diverse and inclusive community. After four years of working on and eventually managing that team, I had lots of rigorous fundraising experience to bring to VOCEL. People always ask me how I can enjoy “asking for money,” but I’ve always valued storytelling as a means of building community and understanding. In my mind, fundraising is another way I can advocate for others and amplify their stories—and Pomona’s stories were the first I learned to tell.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Still working towards educational equity through organizations like VOCEL. I seek to merge my passions for theater and early education by starting a program that provides free theater and art classes for young children in black and brown communities. By making these types of opportunities accessible from an early age, I hope more young people from all backgrounds grow up knowing the power storytelling can have in helping them explore their own identities, build community and advocate for their dreams.
Any advice for current or prospective students?
Find the spaces where you feel inspired and grounded by the people around you. At Pomona, I was so lucky to be surrounded and supported by incredible students, professors and staff from all walks of life—and that made a huge difference in nurturing my creativity and capacity for empathy, which I believe are key traits of developing leaders. Pomona was also the first place I was really exposed to theater: I took an acting class my first semester and loved working with the department’s professors and students so much I ended up diving head-first into the major, completely tossing my initial academic plans out the window. And I don’t regret it for a minute! I truly believe that if you’re working and growing alongside the right people, you’ll always find meaning and joy in what you do, and that makes all the difference.