Inspire Fellow Finds Support + Guidance to Jump Sectors (and You Can Too)

Maurice Matthews, Inspire Fellow

Guest post contributed by Maurice Matthews, Inspire Fellow.

Do you want to know how to make the jump from the corporate sector into the non-profit space?

The short answer is: there is no one way to make the jump, but it can be a great experience if you take time to understand yourself and find the right opportunity.

I am currently working at Year Up through the Inspire Fellowship.

Career beginnings

Before this, I served in the Army and worked as an analyst servicing ultra-high-net-worth individuals at JPMorgan. I know there are many others like me, with hopes of enacting social change but who are either unsure how to make the switch or nervous to leave a healthy paycheck.

After wrapping up my career with JPMorgan and spending time with Harlem Children’s Zone, I pondered what my next step would be. I learned about the Inspire Fellowship, a program geared to take the best and brightest young minds from the corporate sector and bring them into leading non-profits.  I applied last year and was ecstatic to be accepted into the 2010 class.

Year Up

I am working as a Fellow at Year Up National Capital Region. Year Up is a one-year, intensive training program that provides urban young adults 18-24 with a unique combination of technical and professional skills, college credits, an educational stipend, and a corporate internship.

At Year Up I wear several hats. My official title is Special Projects Manager, but I do a mix of finance, operations, special projects, and serve as an advisor for 3 students in the program.

Typical day

I really don’t have a typical day. Usually I’ll sit with my advisees for about 30-45 minutes to discuss their week and any issues that may have arisen. I spend the rest of my day doing work associated with my functional responsibilities.

That may include working on our site’s budget, meeting with an architect about expanding our current office, or hosting a conference call with senior leadership to discuss programs that are funded by social investment organizations.

Advice to Sector Switchers

My advice to future sector switchers is to do your research. There are so many opportunities in the non-profit sector, each with different missions and visions.

  • You have to be honest with yourself in order to find the right fit.
  • Find your passion and connect with it.
  • Look for roles where you can leverage your skills and learn new things.
  • Be genuine with your motives.
  • Be prepared to listen deeply and understand that you will not go into a non-profit and become their savior.

To be successful, you should be adaptable, feel comfortable with ambiguity, bring your ideas to the table, and take initiative to make things happen. If you are wondering whether you could make the jump, the answer is yes.

ProInspire & the Inspire Fellowship

In addition to everything I am learning at Year Up, I meet with my Inspire Fellows class once a month for an all day training that prepares us for future leadership roles in the social sector.

Our seminars have covered topics like situational leadership, project management, becoming powerful communicators, and having great presence. Our workshops are so insightful that they should be mandatory training for leaders in any sector.

Ready to switch? Apply for an Inspire Fellowship

ProInspire is currently recruiting for the 2011 Inspire Fellowship.  If you are interested in making a switch into the nonprofit sector, you should consider applying. The first round deadline is February 25th. Learn more at our website.

Maurice Matthews is an Inspire Fellow at Year Up, a nonprofit that is closing the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. He previously worked as a Private Banking Analyst at JPMorgan and served 2 years as an infantryman within the US Army. Maurice has worked with a number of non-profit organizations throughout his career, including Harlem Children’s Zone, Harlem Charter School and Columbia University’s Community Impact. Maurice graduated magna cum laude from Florida A&M University with a B.S. in Political Science and Economics.

Battle in the House over the Continued Existence of AmeriCorps

Will the House kill the Corporation for National and Community Service?

The battle

According to Voices for National Service, this week the U.S. House of Representatives begins consideration of H.R. 1, a Continuing Resolution that will fund the last 7 months of Fiscal Year 2011 and eliminate AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Learn & Serve America and the Volunteer Generation Fund.

More info

The youth worker newspaper Youth Today posted:

And The New York Times’s columnist David Brooks wrote more about the budget mess last week.

Take action

Voices for National Service is urging people to contact their Representative and let them know how national and community service programs have made an impact in their lives and communities. From Voices for National Service:

Talking points for Calling the House of Representatives:

  • I am calling to urge you to vote NO on H.R. 1.  Please do not shutdown the Corporation for National and Community Service or eliminate AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Learn & Serve America or the Volunteer Generation Fund.
  • The CR will decimate vital services in our communities when millions of Americans need food, shelter, healthcare, job training and educational support.
  • Communities are counting on national service participants and community volunteers to meet the increased demand for services.
  • Provide an example of your local impact and what will be lost if your program is eliminated.  Example: My organization has 140 AmeriCorps members serving in 10 Boston Public Schools.  They are providing targeted and school-wide interventions in literacy, match, attendance and classroom behavior.  If Congress eliminates AmeriCorps, nearly 2,000 high-risk 3rd-9th graders will no longer receive this additional support in the classroom.
  • The CR will only push unemployment rates up.  Unemployment numbers — particularly for young people, veterans and military spouses, older Americans and people of color-remain alarmingly high.
  • For Americans who are struggling to find work, national service programs offer participants the opportunity to earn a subsistence-level stipend, develop skills, and create pathways to future employment.  Eliminating programs like AmeriCorps will result in jobs lost for the corps members and the staff who supervise them.  Example: If Congress eliminates AmeriCorps, our 140 AmeriCorps members and the staff that supervise them will be out of work.
  • The federal investment made in faith based and community organizations through the Corporation for National and Community Service leverages $799 million in matching funds from companies, foundations and other sources.
  • If you defund the national service programs, whole organizations will shut down and most will not be able to reopen again even if funding is restored.

How to Contact Your Member of Congress:

  • If you need help determining the members of your congressional delegation, visit www.congress.org. This database will provide you with contact information for your elected officials.
  • You can call your Representatives directly or be connected through the House Operator (202-225-3121).  Once connected, identify yourself as a constituent and ask to speak to the Legislative Assistant in change of national service and education issues.
  • Given the severity of the cuts proposed by the House, you may experience some difficulty calling the Capitol.  It is important that you keep trying.  If you can’t reach your representative by phone, please send a fax communication to their office.  This is time sensitive ask.  Emails or mailed letters will not reach the decision makers in time.  It is critical that our lawmakers hear from the constituents directly impacted by their decisions.

Voices for National Service also highlighted the many weeks this year when the House plans not to be in session, in honor of district “work weeks” when Representatives will be in their home districts. If you’re part of a national service corps, consider inviting Representative(s) for your region to visit service sites, meet with corps members, and see first hand what your program is doing in communities.

It’s hard to imagine that if Congressional Representatives knew what AmeriCorps members actually do, that they could turn their backs on communities in their own backyards by yanking such cost-effective, grassroots, direct & indirect support.

Sargent Shriver, 1915-2011

I was so sad yesterday when my husband let me know that Sargent Shriver had passed away. Shriver has been one of my

Sargent Shriver, from SargentShriver.org

personal heroes, representing to me boundless energy, open mindedness, and voracious intellectual curiosity.

In addition to his creativity in leadership, and his passion for his varied work (which varied greatly — from working in the Navy to managing buildings to heading up exciting government agencies), Sarge impressed me because of his ability to combine public service with family life.

He and his wife Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver maintained a robust family life while creating innovative programs that have made a lasting impact here and abroad. As the mother of two little kids (and the grandchild of a dyed-in-the-wool public servant), I’m learning to juggle family, service, work, and life, and I have been deeply moved and inspired by the example of the Shrivers and want to pass that example onto my children.

Here are the thoughts of Pete Hessler, a writer who was another Peace Corps Volunteer in China, about his impressions of Sarge, printed on The New Yorker site.

And to the Shriver family, I’m so sorry.

Blue Engine Accelerates Academic Achievement in High Need High Schools – and it’s Recruiting Now!

Guest post by Alison Fedyna, Blue Engine 2010-2011 Fellow, teaches individualized algebra instruction to a small group of high schoolers daily in New York City. Blue Engine is currently accepting applications for its 2011-2012 year.

A few months ago I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was a recent college graduate on the verge of unemployment, and spent most of my free time obsessively browsing Idealist.org for socially-conscious job opportunities.  Sound familiar?

Alison Fedyna, Blue Engine Fellow

Now, I am in a classroom, looking up at the group of five students that I am working with today. I see four students smiling up at me, thumbs raised to show me they understood the lesson our lead teacher just taught.

I glance over at my fifth student, who is bashfully looking down into his lap. His thumb is pointed down, and is barely visible underneath his other hand that is trying to hide his difficult admission: I’m lost.

As I was rushing back and forth from the one side of the table to the other, trying to keep both the students who were ready to move on with the lesson and the student who needed some remedial work intellectually engaged, I realized something.

If this learning disparity is keeping me this busy with just five kids, how could a teacher with a classroom of 30 possibly do this on his or her own?

It’s simple. She couldn’t. This is how students fall through the cracks. They have learned to just smile and nod and pretend that everything is fine, when in reality they might be completely confused. When a teacher has behavioral issues to deal with, and students are calling for help in ten different directions, the student with his head down who appears to be working diligently is left alone. No one checks to see if he has done the work correctly and no one notices anything is wrong until an alarming test or quiz score shows up. But by then, it is too late.

This is where Blue Engine comes in.

Blue Engine is a new education non-profit based in New York City. Eleven other recent graduates and I are engaging in a year of service as Blue Engine Fellows, working as full-time teaching assistants in a public school.  We conduct small group tutorials alongside experienced classroom teachers, helping entire grade levels of students, from those who need extra help to those who can be pushed to excel, make dramatic progress in core coursework and become prepared for college.

I joined Blue Engine to help students, students just like the ones I was working with today, succeed.  Even though life as a Blue Engine Fellow can be crazy at times, I have the amazing opportunity to see my students growing in both their academic and personal endeavors each and every day.

It is that daily feeling of impact, that wonderful realization that our students are steadily increasing their academic achievement that for me makes all of the effort completely worth it.

It is the end of class, and again I ask the students in my group how they feel about the material we learned today. I glance at the student sitting farthest away from me, and I smile when I see his thumb proudly pointing up for everyone to see.  A few months ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Now, it is moments like this that make me realize I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

To find out more about becoming a Blue Engine Fellow, check out our website or contact us at admissions@blueengine.org.