In May of 2014 I graduated with my Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. During my last semester of school, I was fortunate enough to land an internship with a local non-profit called Green Our Planet (GOP). GOP works closely with the local school district to help raise money for and build vegetable teaching gardens at elementary, middle, and high schools. I was brought on to help with grant research and writing. Since I was emphasizing my studies in non-profit management I jumped at the idea of helping out at a start-up organization.
I was even more fortunate as along with the internship, my boss led me to the Mentor’s Foundation and I was able to work with a mentor on a regular basis. My mentor is Cyndy Ortiz-Gustafson, CEO of Strategic Progress, LLC. Cyndy is a powerful force in the non-profit sector in our community and very knowledgeable about grant writing and strategic planning. When she agreed to work with me throughout my internship, I couldn’t have been more excited. I was going to gain experience in more than one way.
I began working for GOP at the end of February of 2014 and will be finishing my time with them at the end of October. I have to admit that it was a rollercoaster of a year. I have learned a tremendous amount not only about the non-profit world from a hands-on experience, but also about myself. During my time with GOP I have had to opportunity to work on a number of grant applications, coordinate events for the schools such as Farmers’ Markets and Garden Conferences, but also learned how to build and nurture community relationships. However, the most important thing that this time at GOP has taught me was what I learned about myself. I was never quite sure “what I was good at” or “what my passion is” and although I may not have found my passion, I have learned what I am good at communicating, speaking in public, creating new contacts and making lasting relationships. I have learned what skills I am not so good at as well and what areas I need to improve on.
All the while, I was grateful to have my mentor guiding me along the way. Cyndy was always there for me when I needed advice; whether it was technical advice on how to go about a project or personal advice when I wasn’t quite feeling confident enough. I also have to thank Ciara Bryne, CEO of Green Our Planet. She helped me realize where I need to focus my time and has always brought me up when I was getting too hard on myself. The Mentor’s Foundation gave me the overall support to spend a summer working on projects that I didn’t know I was capable of being successful at.
Now that my time with GOP is coming to end, I am looking forward to beginning a career. I am constantly job hunting and networking with local community members to find where I will fit best and be able to apply everything I have learned this summer. I want to continue my connections with GOP as well. With such a strong connection to the school district here in Las Vegas, I hope to continue my relationship with one of our schools and their garden. I want to pass along the gift of mentoring to children and I think working through the garden will be the best way to do so.