“Pursuing a Life of Justice: Personal Reflections from the Non-Profit Careers Conference” -Delaney Walch ’24

The greater Worcester area is home to over 5,000 nonprofits employed by passionate individuals who devote their careers to pursuing social justice. My experience with a few of these non-profits, including Worcester Public Schools Transition Program and Summit Campus, has exposed me to the supportive communities that nonprofits build. While I hold these organizations close to my heart, I can’t help but reflect on why there are so many nonprofits in Worcester, and how this informs us about the lack of justice in our surrounding community. My experience participating in the Non-Profit Careers Conference these past two years has helped inform my awareness of structural barriers that nonprofits face in the pursuit of fulfilling their missions, such as lack of funding or increasing demand for social services. Although these barriers are daunting and the path towards justice is uncertain, these are some experiences during the conference that affirmed that the nonprofit sector is the right fit for me:

  1. In the session titled “Vocation and Discernment,” associate chaplain Emily Rauer Davis asked us to reflect on our childhood passions to help us discern what gifts we have and how we can utilize these in our careers. At first, I couldn’t see how my childhood dreams of becoming a veterinarian, biologist, or FBI agent could highlight how I hope to live my life. Once I reflected on the skills and passions required for these jobs, I realized that throughout my life, I’ve held the desire to care for others, constantly learn, and seek justice through problem solving. Through working with nonprofits, I would have the opportunity to constantly learn and connect with different communities to understand how to help minimize societal barriers to success. 
  2. A primary component of the conference is the case study, where teams work with a local nonprofit to offer recommendations for an issue they are facing in their work. The community partner my team was assigned to was Summit Campus, which is a nonprofit that provides a living and learning dormitory experience for neurodiverse adults ages 18-26. My team was tasked with designing curriculum, program length and cost, and marketing techniques for a pre-college preparation program named “Summit Summer.” Throughout my case study experiences, I struggled with feeling unqualified and nervous to offer my advice to a nonprofit that holds extensive experience in working with neurodiverse young adults seeking career opportunities. However, my team’s conversations with the Summit team reminded me of the value of outside perspectives for small nonprofits who may not have enough staff or time to develop new programming. The suggestions we offered included enhancing summer programming by offering competitive pricing, providing preparatory services such as self-advocacy and college essay workshops, and collaborating with Holy Cross to utilize campus resources. The chance to brainstorm tangible recommendations to Summit’s program idea affirmed that I enjoy pursuing the goals and challenges that nonprofits take on in their efforts to support social causes.
  3. To wrap up the week, Frank Karthesier, the founder of the Mustard Seed Catholic Worker Community, visited to lead a session titled “From Charity to Justice.” Frank intended for the Mustard Seed to be a place for sharing and community, and quickly recognized the urgent need for food and social services in the Worcester community. Frank emphasized that charity cannot exist without efforts to seek justice, since “having a soup kitchen in the wealthiest country is an embarrassment.” While nonprofits and charities are essential for providing immediate services to meet community needs, increasing awareness about the lives of those on the societal margins and  advocating for policy change will enact long-term change and ideally eliminate the need for nonprofits. I was motivated by Frank’s stories about the importance of organizing to gain power in numbers, since “when it comes to accountability, counting matters”. In the nonprofit sector, I hope to help enact change on a charity-level through providing needed services, but also a justice-level, through uplifting the voices of the marginalized and gathering community support to advocate for justice.

 

The Non-Profit Careers Conference continues to be one of my favorite Holy Cross experiences, as it provided me with the hands-on opportunity to experience what nonprofit work entails. As a result, I feel ready to begin my career journey in 4 short months knowing that I’m following the path that will allow me to live out my passions for standing with others, building community, and advocating for equitable access to resources to help individuals live their best lives.

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