As a Millenial living in Asheville with its eclectic yet laid-back vibe, I have often gotten labeled as a “Hipster” (for those not familiar with the terminology, “hipster” refers to the anti-mainstream, pretentiously materialistic social clique that many young adults have taken to define our generation as outfitted by the Hipster mecca, Urban Outfitters). While I do enjoy wearing high-waisted shorts, practicing yoga, drinking tea instead of coffee, listening to “indie” music and attending music festivals in my free time, I choose to ascribe to a different type of hipster: the philanthropic, socially-conscious, Latina leader and North Carolina fellow for the transnational non-profit organization Hispanics in Philanthropy, or HIP for short.
Based in Oakland, CA and with offices in Mexico and throughout the United States, HIP aims to strengthen Latino communities by increasing resources for the Latino and Latin American civil sector; increasing Latino participation and leadership throughout the field of philanthropy; and fostering policy change to enhance equity and inclusiveness. As a Political Science major with an interest in International Relations, I did not think I had any interest in the non-profit sector, but I did know that I was interested in learning about how an international organization worked and learning more about the issues facing the Latino community. I applied to the Z. Smith Reynolds foundation’s Non-Profit Internship Program (found while scrolling through Rockylink), which funded this paid internship and I was matched with HIP.
Since this was my first internship experience, I did not have any expectations. I assumed that at most, I would be making copies, answering the phone and doing data entry-essentially paper pushing. I figured this internship would serve as a resume stuffer, especially since I had no future career plans dealing with the world of Philanthropy or non-profits. After all, I was determined to be a Civil Service Officer working at U.S. embassies throughout the world. But here’s what I came to find out: HIP is just one unique nonprofit experience. My supervisor would often tell me, “You’ve seen one non-profit, you’ve seen one nonprofit. No two non-profits are the same.” And she’s right.
From the very beginning, my supervisors made it clear that I would not be doing any paper pushing. They took the time to get to know my interests academically, my career goals, they assessed where I was in my professional development and sat down with me to develop a work plan that not only gave me the most in-depth experience of a non-profit organization, but also challenged me to step outside my boundaries and take on projects that I had no previous exposure to, while also reserving time to develop hard skills such as public speaking and interviewing that will serve me throughout my professional career. I came to learn a lot about the ins-and-outs of grantmaking and grant writing. HIP is unique in that it focuses on capacity building grants (if you are wondering what capacity building is, make sure to send me a google invite for at least an hour so I can properly explain it and all its nuances!)
But perhaps most importantly, I got a great look at what the Latino population is like in North Carolina and what barriers and struggles they face. Did you know that between the 2000 and the 2010 census, the Latino population nearly doubled in North Carolina, making North Carolina one of the states with the highest growth in Latino population (accounting for a 120% change between 2000 and 2010)? As a Latina and a first-generation immigrant, it was fascinating to learn that I was part of this population boom. As a treat to my political interests, my supervisors sent me out to Raleigh to work alongside some of our grantee organizations as we spent the day lobbying our lawmakers on behalf of Migrant Workers’ rights as well as access to higher education for Latino students. Not only did it feel like a real life House of Cards episode (no Kevin Spacey, but all the drama was there!) but I felt like I was working towards something big. UNC Asheville has been very good to me the past two years offering me all the transitional help I needed as a first-generation college student, connecting me with the Multicultural Center’s Peer Mentoring program to ensure my success in that critical first year, and on top of that giving me the generous gift of the Board of Trustees scholarship. I want to work to ensure that such opportunities and mechanisms are available to all minority students.
Lastly, what I found truly fascinating about HIP is its ability to adapt to the current sociopolitical climate. Whether instituting a special grant round which funded organizations that would be helping Dreamers get DACA or facilitating discussion and gatherings with national funders to address Philanthropy’s reaction to the current humanitarian crisis of the immigrant children at our U.S. borders, HIP’s work is ever changing to meet the needs of the Latino Community.
In conclusion, my time with HIP has truly been a monumental experience that has directly led to me becoming a stronger leader, a better communicator and a more understanding individual. The lessons I learned in the office and out on the road with my supervisors have truly impacted me. Being surrounded by the many strong, motivated women that make up HIP has given me examples of th e type of woman I want to be. Although I still aspire to be a world traveler working at U.S. Embassies throughout the world, I am now confident that I have experience and interest in the non-profit sector and I am definitely considering it as a career. My advice to anyone looking for internships is to remember that internships are about the experience and lessons learned rather than what it looks like on a resume. Don’t be afraid to go beyond your interests and try something different, you may just find that it becomes the new thing you’re passionate about.