I Finished High School… Now What?

By Abhayroop Pawar

I had an irregular high school experience. When I needed something from the staff, I got it, when I had questions, they were answered, and most critically, I could tell that the staff wanted me to succeed and would do what was needed to make sure that happened. My best friend’s experience, however, was the complete opposite. It felt like the school gave up on him without giving him a chance. I later realized that many of my other friends had similar experiences and that support for young adults could be hard to find, especially after high school. This is why I want to highlight my internship experience because I discovered a new world of mentors whose sole mission is to uplift us young adults and provide us with avenues to a career.

My name is Abhay. I am an incoming freshman at the University of Oregon and will be pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Business with a concentration in Marketing. Ultimately, I plan on pursuing an MBA with the same concentration. Knowing that marketing is quite a competitive field, I tried to find out what I could do to better prepare myself for my professional life, and this is when I found out about Connected Lane County and its Elevate program. Through this outstanding program, I was able to get an Internship with ShelterCare, a non-profit that provides housing and mental health services to unhoused individuals. 

A wall with ShelterCare’s vision statement
The break area at ShelterCare’s main office

ShelterCare is an extremely unique organization to me; in a town that has the highest concentration of nonprofits IN THE COUNTRY, ShelterCare is able to consistently hit and exceed fundraising goals and create a measurable community impact. This can be partially attributed to the amazing Development and Marketing team. Just as a side note, I say “team” but I really just mean two people…yeah, that’s not a typo, two people do all the marketing for a top-performing, legacy nonprofit, y’all will always have my respect. Anyway, I had never really thought about the fact that a nonprofit needs a robust marketing plan, as they cannot simply fall back on a product or brand recognition. Marketing is how many donations are procured, and without donations, there can’t be services. Although critically vital in all industries, marketing in the nonprofit world takes on a different level of importance.

Art created by program participants in the art therapy group is displayed on a wall at ShelterCare’s main office

Interning for ShelterCare has really given me a crash course in a lot of the standard procedures of marketing. For instance, in my short time here, I have already made email advertisements, created a social media campaign from the ground up, and have been a part of many workplace meetings. My absolute favorite part of this internship is the networking. Connections are everything – this is a lesson I was taught pretty early on, so once the scope of ShelterCare’s network became apparent to me, I got pretty excited. An assignment I am currently working on is interviewing different business professionals around town. I feel this experience is unique to ShelterCare as their network is just so vast; 50+ years in the community will do that.

I voiced my interest in networking during my initial meet-up with Alyssa, ShelterCare’s Development and Communications Coordinator, during the Elevate internship orientation. This is a sort of four-day boot camp that all the interns must attend. The orientation is intended to allow interns to make new connections, as well as teach critical information about finance, workplace safety, and interpersonal control which is necessary in preparing us at multiple levels for a real workplace environment. The Elevate program provides high-school-aged youth with a paid summer internship among other great career-connected learning opportunities to a broader age range. Because it is a paid program with limited capacity, youth must apply and be accepted into the Elevate internship program. From there, the Elevate team contacts their local businesses partners to match students with businesses that cater to their interests. As a participant, this process was not difficult at all and the amazing staff made sure communication was reliable and swift.

Interns listen to Dan Lombardi, past Elevate project coordinator, during the first day of orientation

This experience has been defined by the people; everyone helps, and everyone cares. On the first day of orientation we were met by a jubilant and eager staff, which honestly might have been a little much for a bunch of teens at 9 am on a summer day, had it not been for the fact that we could tell they were being genuine. Monica, a member of the Elevate team stated, “I have a soft spot for youth. I wasn’t able to have my own so in a very motherly way, this is my way of leaving a mark on the next generation.”  This was in response to the question, why do you do what you do? Shimea, another member of the Elevate team responded with, “I was an underserved youth, and helping underserved youth in this way, in this capacity, feels really good.” These aren’t answers that were memorized and recited to me, they came from their hearts. Everyone has a passion, something they could do for hours and still not be tired or bored – for the Elevate team, this passion is helping youth succeed. 

A close-up of the break area at Connected Lane County’s, Spark at Booth Kelly facility

The staff at ShelterCare are no different – a project that really highlighted their individuality to me was a video interview project. I would ask staff questions and get back very thoughtful responses, which really helped me get to know everyone better. Even though the marketing department is a little secluded, staff stop by all the time just to talk or wave bye on the way out. ShelterCare was also eager to take in interns. I asked Alyssa what her favorite part about working with interns was, she said, “I love that I get to help students find their direction, what they like and don’t like.” In my short time here, I have learned enough to really get a feel for my likes and dislikes within my field which is necessary in pinpointing what it is exactly that I want to do in life. Overall, these local nonprofits have given me a rare opportunity to prepare for my future and have done so for many others. They are truly worth supporting!

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