Category Archives: Nonprofit Fellows

INTS 331-The Nonprofit Sector

By Natalie Wolf

My name is Natalie Wolf and I am a junior here at George Mason University, graduating in May of 2018. I am a Sociology major with a double minor in Nonprofit Studies and Women and Gender Studies. I hope to work with nonprofits in the DC area bettering my community around me with a focus on social justice. In addition I am studying American Sign Language, and hope to continue my love for the language after college.

For my nonprofit sector class, I choose Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS) as my service site. I went to the GMU Service Fair on September 9th and meet two wonderful NVFS representatives, who I now work under. NVFS is a private nonprofit organization that has been running since 1924. NVFS works to create sustainable financial and social independence for families and individuals in Northern Virginia. This organization is the perfect service site for Mason students as NVFS programs help a wide variety of needs. Some programs include, Anti-Hunger, Homelessness, Housing, Child Placement, Health and Mental Health Services, Legal Services, Multicultural Center, Early Childhood Services, and even Workforce Development Services. I worked with the development team, specifically with programs that help families in the holiday season.

The first main project I worked on was Operation Turkey, a program that provides Thanksgiving meals to more than 800 families in Prince William County. I am so grateful that NVFS let me take such a large hand in helping with this drive. On my first day I was the person who contacted all Prince William County schools in their participation for food donations, and every week I would follow up on the processaa. I was able to see all of the development team and my own work come together for such a successful event that fed so many families this Thanksgiving. I also worked with our program Empty Bowls, a national event that educates on local hunger and helps those less fortunate. One of the final projects I worked on with NVFS was Gifting for Families which ensures more than 2,100 children in Northern Virginia receive gifts for the holiday season.

I was fortunate to have an internship with a nonprofit this Fall semester that had such large programs to take on. NFVS is a wonderful place to reach out to for a service site as they work so well with your schedule and making sure what you are working on is something that will benefit your future. As an organization that has been running for almost 90 years, it’s an honor to work with such a successful business that has continually helped improve our own community. The service site is perfect for a nonprofit minor, as it connects to the course lessons. As we discussed things such as managing staff, grants, or marketing, I was able to connect it to my own service site. I cannot imagine a better service site that I would work with, NVFS treated me like an employee and taught me wonderful experience.

Go to Power with Power: United We Stand

Guest Blogger: Nonprofit Fellow, Laquasia LeGrand.  Laquasia is a Sophomore, majoring in Accounting, from Brooklyn, New York. Her internship is with Mason Hillel.

“Go to power with power.” A simple statement with such a significant meaning. Often, individuals do not realize the capacity of power they have due to societies misconception of the definition and requirements of power. Age, wealth, race, religion and titles are often factors associated with the term power. However, after engaging in in-class discussion with community organizers Jessica Sarriot and Amy White, from VOICE, I realized that power is an asset everyone has access to. There is power in ones presence, appearance, confidence, knowledge and strengths. One is deemed powerless, due to one’s use of power. I am confident that in order to impact social change, one must be confident to go to power with power.

Prior to enrolling in the nonprofit fellows program, I must admit that I viewed myself as a leader, but not an individual in power. Funny right? What is the actual difference between power and leadership? I believe leadership is a mindset, not a position. I also believe power is a mindset as well. As a college student, I believe I often forget the capacity of power I have. However, the nonprofit fellows program forced me to revaluate myself, and the different resources I have to facilitate change. As a student affiliated with many organizations with multiple networks in different offices, I am confident I can utilize my leadership and power as a student to impact others. However, I am a firm believer, that individuals are more powerful as a unit. “United we stand, divided we fall,” is a powerful statement I always connect to whether I am trying to impact change or complete a group assignment. Thus, leaders become influential, not because of their talents, but because of their ability to utilize their power to empower others and facilitate change.

I no longer doubt myself. I no longer limit myself. I no longer utilize the words “I can’t.” I am optimistic. I am confident. I will facilitate change!

To have a state of change, we need a change of state. Their stories.

Guest Blogger: Nonprofit Fellow, Jacqueline Steinkemp.  Jackie is a Senior, majoring in Government & International Politics and Affairs. She is from Warwick, Rhode Island and her internship is with the National Peace Corps Association.

I took a journey to discover the root of homelessness, only to discover the vast complexity of the matter and why it has yet to be solved, especially at the rudimentary level. I realized to truly grasp and understand the reasons behind homelessness; the best answers would be from those who experience it. I approached individuals I found who were presently in the state of being homeless, and hear their stories. We all have hardships with some having more experiences in this than others. The photos I captured don’t include the faces of these individuals for a simple reason. The image a photographer takes of the individual certainly does not define who they are, and the photographer’s mind when looking at the picture taken will most likely revert back to the homeless individual.

These photos of the locations of where others temporarily live will be a constant, vivid reminder that they are fortunate—at that moment, in that time. Anyone could be sitting down next to that lamppost in Vienna, the escalator next to the steps of Union Station, or the cold park bench inside Franklin Square. The state of the individual in that photo is of a specific moment, where as a picture lasts forever.

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What is your current state?

For me, I am warm. I am at my computer. I have access to the Internet. I have heat in my room, but I am also restless— restless at the idea that some one else is not. Three times a week I walk by these locations and see different individuals stuck in a state that they don’t want to be in. I know this because I talked to them. At this moment in time, I feel small in a world so big. What can I do? I wanted to ameliorate poverty through serving as a resource advocate in some way. After many hours of thought and research, I’ve come to the conclusion that plain and simply put, in order to have a change of state, we need a state of change.

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In a city so vibrant, why are we so apathetic towards our human counterparts? When learning about the resources out there like government assistance and food stamps (what is now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), it is simply not enough. The individuals I spoke with told me this. Food stamps don’t cover hot meals, and are limited to certain types of foods in stores, and limited to the amount of stores that will accept them. If that person does not have a kitchen, or a place to store the food, how does that help them in the best way it can? Millions of dollars are spent for hotel rooms for individuals who are homeless if the temperature drops below zero. We should spend more money on prevention than aiding the symptoms. We need more affordable housing and we need more empowerment and job training programs that help get individuals on their feet and obtain sustainable jobs. Unsure of how realistic that is?

D.C. Central Kitchen is a prime example of making that work- with countless amounts of successful stories. They empower individuals with training programs and help get them jobs in positions where many have been promoted after a few months.

We didn’t begin this way. Things that are “done” can just as easily be “undone.” Why are we prematurely judged and subjugated by birth? We may not get to choose how we enter into this world, but we get to choose how we will leave it. I don’t know about you, but I can’t walk down a path living my life in serenity and happiness when standing next to me is another life that doesn’t get the opportunity to. We have resources available, but we need more policy changes to make real change happen. We are conscious of what’s around us and we’re making attempts to reduce the cognitive dissonance of our surroundings, but there’s a dire and obvious need for policy change.

Prioritizing Mental Health

Guest Blogger: Adeeba Rasoli.  Adeeba is a neuroscience and psychology double major interested in global equality, healthcare, and humanitarian aid.

Mental health is one of the most important things to focus on—where would we be and what could we achieve without a healthy mind? Yet, as students, we don’t place this at the top of our priority-list. I believe this needs to change immediately.

In order to have a healthy mind, we have to learn to allot time for relaxation and let ourselves feel comfortable straying from ‘work’ and ‘school’ to do something personal for ourselves. This is something I’ve spent years working on. Coincidentally, we’ve discussed this subject countless times this semester in our Leadership and Change class.

From what I’ve learned as a psychology major, people don’t really make drastic changes until something drastic happens to cause that change. Also, the first step to change is realizing that change needs to occur.

I used to feel that if I wasn’t doing something ‘productive’, then I was wasting time and straying from the goals I had set for myself. Over time, being a workaholic had a negative effect on me. It wasn’t until I began having panic attacks and other health problems that I decided I needed to change something. I spent more time than I’d like to admit thinking about what I needed to do to feel happier and more satisfied. It occurred to me, at some point, that maybe doing things I actually wholeheartedly enjoyed would bring me some level of joy…and maybe that would affect how I felt overall?

I began allowing myself personal indulgences until I felt comfortable with straying from work without feeling anxious about doing so. This became possible after I redefined the words ‘success’ and ‘productivity’.

To keep our minds healthy, we have to alter our definitions of ‘success’ and ‘productivity’ to include activities that benefit our personal-selves. This will make it possible to sensibly prioritize mental health thus maximizing quality of life. Also, this will allow us to amplify the quality of work we complete because a healthy mind will be able to think more clearly and efficiently. It’s a win-win situation!

Skipping Meals, for Deals

Guest Blogger:  Nonprofit Fellow, Gaby Peda,  Gaby is sophomore at George Mason. She enjoys short walks on the beach.

Photo by Gene Han

Thanksgiving 2014 started with a bang when the clock struck midnight and online sales began at Wal-Mart. Major corporations have been nudging their way through the door for decades and it looks like they have finally managed to steam roll through.  Statistics of this years Black Friday shopping results are being calculated and soon we’ll see the big numbers having half of the nation shaking their heads, while the other half begins wrapping their 25% of holiday presents. A federal holiday that has been celebrated every year since 1863 is having difficulty serving its purpose.

There are two major entities at fault, large corporations and the consumers purchasing from corporations. So whose moral obligation is it to end the madness before Thanksgiving is gone? Here’s the thing, businesses want money, and most stand by the socially accepted rule that stores would not be open on Thanksgiving. However once one opens its doors its not before long before others are on board as well. Despite the Thanksgiving day backlash, retailers are still opening their doors early to get first dibs on shoppers money. How can we expect people to steer away from these deals, when they don’t have the money they need to provide their families with a proper holiday?

Black Friday Shopping Stats

Here’s the reality: a traditional day that has been around for centuries, one that provides us a connection to the things we love most in life is deteriorating. Thanksgiving is a federal holiday celebrated with no religious, ethnic or age affiliation. The entire American Nation is included. Families, friends and even strangers come together to be thankful. How often do we see that in our culture? Not enough. Leave Thanksgiving alone and allow people one day to be thankful for the people that make them happy.

Too Little, Too Late

Guest Blogger: Nonprofit Fellow, Povneet Dhillon.  Povneet is a quiet girl with a loud opinion, which she plans to use to create change in the criminal justice system.

Starting on November 19th, possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana will be considered a noncriminal violation​ in New York. The violation will be treated similar to a traffic ticket; individuals will be issued a summons to appear in court. In other words, arrests will only be made if an individual possesses more than 25 grams of marijuana or is smoking it in public. This new policy is an attempt to fulfill Mayor de Blasio’s campaign promise to curtail the racially skewed marijuana arrest rate and the excessive use of stop-and-frisk by the NYPD. Some of the benefits of issuing citations for possession are that individuals will not have a criminal record that can hurt their employment, housing and student loan opportunities.

This is not groundbreaking news. New York already passed legislature against arresting individuals for minor marijuana possession when they decriminalized marijuana in 1977. The problem is that the decriminalization of marijuana legislature lost its gusto when officers began exploiting a loophole. It became custom for officers to demand an individual empty their pockets and deem any newly exposed marijuana to be in “public view,” which is an arrestable offense. The results of this widespread misconduct were that marijuana arrest rates rose from the 1000s in 1990 to the 50,000s in 2011.
Until all of the layers of injustice the stop-and-frisk policy has created are unearthed, New York’s criminal justice system makes no sense. Even with this new policy in play, NYPD will still be required to fill summons quotas. The pressure put on officers will cause them to continue to use the stop-and-frisk policy to illegally search for drugs, regardless that it only permits frisks for weapons. Men and women will continue to be groped and sexually assaulted, although a frisk is legally defined as a patdown of outer clothing. The same individuals will be repeatedly victimized. Many summons will turn into bench warrants and then arrests– undermining the goal of this policy– because individuals simply cannot keep up with all of the pestering. Individuals will be forced to appear in court even if their summons was illegal because summonses are not afforded prosecutorial review. There will be no way to measure this policy’s disproportionate effect on minorities because the summons court does not record the race of individuals. The Mayor will misrepresent the absence of statistics as his victory. And, children will still grow up with the daily reminder that they are powerless against racial profiling and harassment.

How do self-perceptions and internal community dialogues affect how nonprofits interact with the community?

Guest Blogger: Nonprofit Fellow, Marciel Rojas Rosario. Marciel is a Senior at George Mason University. She is pursuing a Global and Community Health degree with a concentration in Global Health. You can follow Marciel via twitter on @marcielrosario or Facebook @Marciel Rosario

The Cable Advertising Bureau (CAB) features an article on its website, ReachingBlackConsumers.com, that explores the important but little discussed issue of variation and diversity within the viewpoints and internal dialogues of minority communities. Many businesses and non-profits make the mistake of viewing a given minority community as a homogenous unit that can be reached with a single, unified marketing message. The reality is that each community has its own differences and subdivisions. There are noticeable differences in worldviews along generational lines, as well as gender and political lines.

I’m currently interning with the American Heart Association. Their mission is to reduce cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20% by 2020. During my time there, I’ve learned that Blacks and Hispanics are at higher risks of cardiovascular disease and stroke. The American Heart Association is doing a wonderful job of making important information on these risks available to minorities. As they move forward, they will need to continue to refine and tailor their messages and outreach efforts to reach target audiences more effectively.

This particular article compares the generational differences in worldview among the African American community and points out that the Black community is not homogenous. The problems that were once important to the baby boomers are not necessarily the current generation’s main concerns. In order for nonprofits to reach their target audiences, especially blacks and other minorities, they need to be more aware of the nuances within each community and do the research necessary to make sure that the messages they are putting out are on target and relevant to the entire spectrum of the communities they are trying to reach.