by Julia Cash

Hey! I am Julia and in my first-year at Drake. I am double majoring in Multimedia Journalism and Strategic Political Communications with a minor in Marketing.

I have been very involved with nonprofit work for many years. My first experience started when I was 12. My family and I started a nonprofit organization that teaches immigrants and refugees English in Nashville, TN. As this was not something that you would expect a “normal” 12-year-old to be doing, I was more than happy to do it. It set a good foundation for what I wanted to do for the rest of my life which is to help others. Throughout my teenage years, while my peers and friends went out on the weekends, I chose to volunteer. I wanted to make a difference in my community, and I think that is very vital in having a well-rounded community.  

I am currently in the Engaged Citizen Corps (ECC) program here at Drake which allows me to continue nonprofit work at Polk County 4-H. Polk County 4-H is an organization for youth, inspiring them to reach their full potential. In other words, they aim to develop leaders and responsible citizens through experiential learning programs. The four major project areas are healthy living, communications and arts, STEM, and leadership and civic engagement. I help on the media side of the organization. Some things I have done and am working on currently are creating social media posts and videos and taking photographs. Polk County 4-H is currently working on making the organization more diverse in their programs and students.

What I have learned from being an ECC member and serving at Polk County 4-H is to expect the unexpected. Your purpose is to be there to help, so anything can get thrown at you at any time. The key to being an active steward for the common good is to be adaptable. Going into nonprofit work, I would say you are more likely going to do what you did not expect you would be doing than doing what you expected. When it involves helping others, you will learn a lot about people themselves, your community, and organizations.

An example of something unexpected happening is COVID-19, the year when everything had to go virtual. For nonprofits, they had to find a way to make what they were doing virtual. This was a struggle because it is hard to help others from a distance. For nonprofits teaching classes, they moved the classes online which was not an easy transition, but it was doable. What about those nonprofits trying to get food for people in need of providing a home for people? It was hard for those nonprofits also to make accommodations from COVID. Being in nonprofit work, you must be able to take what is thrown at you and figure out a way to overcome it.

As an active citizen, you must understand that you may not be able to change the world on your own all at once, but you can make a change in your community and someone’s life. People may have a set goal to change the world all at once, but it turns out to be not as they thought. If I have learned anything through this experience, is that the small acts matter just as much as the big ones. Changing just one person’s life still makes a massive difference.

I know it sounds scary at first, but I promise you, it is not a scary thing. Nonprofit work is an amazing thing to do, and I highly encourage you to take a step forward and do it! If you have a passion for change, investigate volunteering or even start your own nonprofit organization! Get involved in your community! Nonprofits are advocating for a better world, and we can get there a lot faster if we work together!

Together, anything is possible.