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Ideas on Entrepreneurship and Leadership
August 4, 2017 | Cara Lee

7 Lessons Our Interns Learned From Two Nonprofit Startup Leaders

Internships are an effective way to gain exposure to new fields and deepen one’s knowledge base. Echoing Green’s summer internship program immerses college students in the wide spectrum of Echoing Green's work, resulting in hands-on learning, exposure to supporting social impact work, and what it takes to create meaningful positive change.

This summer’s group is supporting early-stage social entrepreneurs, training corporate professionals passionate about social impact and nonprofit board leadership, fundraising, and messaging the importance of our mission to thousands around the world. Their majors vary from international business to the evolution and development of flowering plants. Some are aspiring social entrepreneurs, and each is on a journey to match their passion to their hustle. As an addition to their day-to-day work at Echoing Green, we arranged for our interns to have an up-close experience with Echoing Green Fellows whose work to change the world is happening in New York City.

Our first visit was to How Our Lives Link Altogether (H.O.L.L.A!) in Brooklyn. There, we were greeted by H.O.L.L.A! co-founder Cory Greene '16, who led our group of interns and staff through a healing justice workshop. In it, we examined how each of us could show up in our daily lives to resist oppression and challenge privilege. We carried this powerful experience with us to Manhattan where we met up with Daquan Oliver '15, founder of WeThrive. Daquan introduced WeThrive's entrepreneurial mentorship programming and shared advice on what it takes to begin an entrepreneurial journey.

After a meaningful and inspiring day, our interns had plenty of thoughts about what they learned from Cory, Daquan, and their teams. We’ve distilled their reflections into 7 universal takeaways that are applicable to any career path:

1. We can do more.

"The workshop with Cory helped me realize how little I do for the social justices I care about. I will put more effort into helping those in need." -Emmanuil Simkhayev, Search & Selection Intern

2. Don't accept the status quo.

"Both H.O.L.L.A! and WeThrive are organizations generated from a deep desire to solve problems that were unique to each of their lives with both of them making a conscious decision to create something that would change the status quo of their immediate environment." -Hash Sesay, Communications Intern

3. Pursue your passion.

"Go for something you’re really passionate for, whether it be for your own good or for others. The workshop with Cory was an eye opener, and I really enjoyed the space that was created to just say what you needed to say without any judgements." -Eva Galvez, Individual Fellow Support Intern

4. To understand, listen. Really listen.

"While I know the difference [between empathy and understanding], it was in this showcase of H.O.L.L.A!’s work on group healing that I was reminded of the importance of listening in order to grow empathy and the importance of recognizing our Fellows' uniqueness—the confluence of skills, background, and vision—they, like Cory and his team, have in finding solutions." -Olivia Kivel, Direct Impact Intern

5. Expecting to succeed is expecting to fail.

"You can’t be afraid to fail. To overcome your failures is succeeding. Both H.O.L.L.A! and WeThrive’s desire to overcome the odds has driven them to open a new world of possibilities for others in the community. Their personal experience, their honesty, and hunger for change are unique attributes that have built organizations that continue to thrive and improve the lives of youth." -Jennifer Acevedo, Programs Intern

Our interns with the H.O.L.L.A! team.
6. Find your people.

"The members at H.O.L.L.A! inspired me because I saw how they were each other's backbones. Cory seemed like he picked a good team for his organization, and choosing the right people who share your vision only helps the organization grow more." -Serish Saeed, Development Intern

7. Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution.

"Cory and Daquan have shown that the best way to fight the system is to understand how it works and to be the people who won't put up with it. They help the youth who find themselves in similar shoes, and help mold them into something they would have wanted to see when they were younger." -Mauricio Toscano, Knowledge Intern

Our 2017 summer interns with 2015 Fellow Daquan Oliver
Go Deeper

"While the Fellows appear amazing, brilliant and talented on paper – nothing compares to seeing them truly in their element. What I have always loved about Daquan and Cory in particular is that they are always authentic to who THEY are. They don’t change depending on the audience – they represent their work, their communities and their team true to them." 

-Tiffany Thompson, portfolio manager for Echoing Green's Black Male Achievement Fellows