2012-2013 Startup Internship Award winner, supported by the Neff Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowship fund
“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Ever since I can remember I have wanted to be part of the process of creating a world with equal opportunity in which individuals are given the financial and emotional support to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. I believe in sustainable development and in giving people the tools they need to work towards a better life. Since I got to Penn, I have been involved in organizations where a small group of people seek to make sustainable impact with development programs in a variety of poor communities.
I like to think that I have been working to give lemons to the community. I like to think that with a non-profit’s help, the communities will learn how to make lemonades by themselves. But even though I have always thought that a bottom up approach was needed to eliminate poverty, more and more I am convinced that a mutually beneficial relationship with a top down approach is needed.
Top down or Bottom up?
I met Charlie Javice, the co-founder of PoverUP through my roommate when she came to my room one day and saw me working on things for one of the multiple organizations I have been a part of. Immediately, she questioned what I was doing, why I was doing it and asked me if I thought that I was going to make a sustainable impact. I answered that I felt that I needed to know what the real and underlying problems were before tackling them and therefore a bottom up approach was needed, that whether I was making a sustainable impact, was the one thing that I could only hope for. It was then when I found out about her start-up and I started thinking that even though we had very different views of how to approach one problem, we could work together to solve this one, but very important, problem.
As time went by, and my commitments to the community-based-organizations continued to grow, I noticed the downfalls and the weaknesses of not only trying to run an organization from the United States in another country, in another state or in a school where bureaucracy is really hard to get by, but also the difficulties in deciding which projects to focus on, how to allocate funds and how to make our work sustainable and useful to the communities. Charlie got me interested in her platform – she is definitely forward thinking, innovative, globally conscious, and most importantly, she is interested in creating a viable and concrete change in the world.
A new opportunity
When Charlie asked me if I was interested in working with her, I immediately said yes for various reasons. First, I felt that I need to experience both approaches to be able to a have a stronger impact in the world. Second, I wanted to learn how to be able to conciliate these two approaches that work to solve one common problem. And finally, I wanted to be exposed to all of the things that I have been missing – I want to learn from entrepreneurs and professionals and pursue connections with other people like Charlie and I who want to work for the better of the world around us.
After finding out that I was awarded the fellowship and named a Neff Entrepreneurial Fellow, I understood the incredible opportunity that I was about to have. I was given the chance to get first-hand experience in the world of social impact- a facet of the business world that truly fascinates me and as a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, studying Health and Societies with a concentration in Health, Policy and Law and a minor in Political Science, this gave me some direction and idea of what my education can help me pursue in the future.
The Experience and Career Development
The internship required extensive communication and analytical skills, creativity and organization; for the exchange of ideas between other members was crucial for the development of relationships. Throughout the internship, I learned how to deal with unforeseen adversities and maintain good work ethic and communication skills, as I was not able to stay on site in the office in New York the time that I expected to. I had to travel home to Puerto Rico and continue working from there updating excel sheets, having phone and Skype meetings with professors and other social impact organizations in order to secure partnership and be able to enrich our online platform. I also worked from China where I researched and created new connections in universities that PoverUP had not explored before. I set weekly goals and always kept in contact with the main office in New York.
This experience, which tied aspects of essential communication and research skills, with aspects of international development and key topics in International Relations gave me the real world knowledge that will hopefully help me succeed in not only my academic but also future personal endeavors. The skills I learned and built from working at PoverUP was key in developing my personal strengths and my development as a professional. I look forward to continue my work with this amazing start-up throughout the year and strengthening all of the relationships that I have already fostered.