Non-Profit Careers Conference Reflections

I heard that the Non-Profit Careers Conference (NPCC) is worth the early return to campus, so as I senior, I finally took the plunge and signed up. As a Community-Based Learning (CBL) Intern, I thought that even if I did not have a great time, at least I could have the experience to share with my fellow Interns and CBL participants. I packed whatever business-casual clothes I could find and headed back to Mount St. James a little more than a week before my final semester of classes would begin. I am not kidding when I say that by the end of the conference, I was texting my roommates and telling everyone who asked me about it that it was by far one of my best Holy Cross experiences yet and that everyone should try to participate in it at some point during their four years here.

I am not a person who typically has so many positive things to say about experiences like this one. I am super picky and judgmental, so the fact that I loved every moment of the NPCC should be a testament to how incredibly organized and insightful it was. The participants, presenters, non-profit organizations, and conference organizers are some of the most generous, insightful, and down-right fun people that I’ve come across in my three-and-a-half years here in Worcester. The thought-provoking conversations, reflections, and spiritual insights gave me the boost that I needed to finally narrow down what should come next for me.

As a Deaf Studies and Psychology major, I’ve been struggling with my parents’ decision that I should either be an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter or a teacher of the Deaf. As someone who prefers being the speaker instead of the conveyer of information, and as someone who definitely does not want to teach (sorry, Mom!), these two paths do not fit my personality or my goals, at least at this moment in my life. At some point in the next few years will I consider them again? Absolutely. However, right now I need to make decisions for this upcoming year. That’s where the NPCC comes in.

After a week at the NPCC, some serious research, and a lot of reflection on my past internship and work experiences, I realized that I had never given any thought to public policy. How did I come to realize this? Well, anyone can do non-profit work, so I’ve learned. I thought you had to fit a certain mold and have a certain degree. I was wrong. Anyone can work in the non-profit sector, as long as they have a skill and a passion for helping others. Accountants, tech experts, data analysts, public relation coordinators, etc. all have a place in non-profit work. I didn’t know this prior to attending the conference.

Learning about the inclusivity of non-profit work made me realize that being involved in the Deaf community involves the same idea – as long as I am passionate about the cause, I can bring whatever skills I have and use them to help others. There is no specific mold or certain type of person necessary to create good, useful work. We are all capable.

I’ve performed two years of research relating to Deaf education and educational policy. My capstone for my major focused on the social implications of Deaf ASL users in mainstream schools. I always thought that this meant that my only path was to be a teacher, but now I’m realizing that there are more ways to be involved in Deaf education and the lives of Deaf students without being at the front of the classroom.

I’m not saying that if you go to the NPCC, you’ll then know exactly what your life’s work should be. I’m saying that your mind will be open to new possibilities, new opportunities, and most importantly, new ways of thinking that will change the way you approach the dreaded question: What are you doing after Holy Cross? So, if you’re a scared freshman, sophomore, or junior (sorry seniors, you’re toast!*), consider the NPCC as a great way to start the process of discernment as you consider your options for post-grad life. Whether it is a year of service, graduate school, or working in the trenches, you will find the way.


*You’re not toast. Far from it. Stop by the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning in Fenwick 321 and 322 and ask to talk to Michelle Sterk Barrett or Isabelle Jenkins. Or go to Career Planning and ask to talk to Maura Sweeney or Megan Chester. I can practically guarantee you that a conversation with them will quell your worries. It did for me.

Reflections on the Non-Profit Careers Conference by Emily Breakell

Put simply, the Non-Profit Careers Conference (NPCC) exceeded my expectations and was a productive way to spend part of winter break. Every speaker and contributor to the conference demonstrated an outstanding passion and interest in their work, which is truly amazing and comforting to see as a student considering what a fulfilling post-grad life might look like.

I was specifically interested in community organizing and political engagement, and hearing directly from a community organizer exactly what it is like to work with and advocate for others on the local level was fascinating and reinforced my interest in the relationship between non-profits and politics. Although I am in just my second year of college, the NPCC gave me a lot of insight into the benefits and challenges of working in the non-profit sector and into the diversity of opportunities available.

I have a lot to consider moving forward, but arguably the most important experience that NPCC provided me with will help me as I make important decisions: the awesome privilege of making connections with a number of students and faculty that are deeply invested in leading mission-driven, meaningful lives. It was truly outstanding to meet other Holy Cross students who engage in the community in such important and influential ways and who are considering futures that will be marked by a certain capacity for empathy.

I am impressed by the work of the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning in continuing to challenge students like me to lead lives conscious of the needs of others, and I am extremely grateful that I could attend such a well-planned, productive, and inspiring conference.