As a rising second-year graduate student at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, spring is met with anticipation and a bit of anxiety about finding and getting hired in the right summer business internship. When I applied for Duke’s Office of Durham and Regional Affairs’ (DARA) eight-week summer internship as a Development and Marketing Intern to El Centro Hispano (ECH), I wasn’t sure what to expect and how I could make a meaningful impact. I was hired to develop and write a five-year fundraising plan, as well as to re-write the organization’s financial manual. As a financial services professional with almost seven years in the industry, my work experience with a non-profit like ECH was limited, but my passion about its mission and the passion I saw in others within ECH was not only motivating; it was truly inspiring.
I quickly learned about the dynamic relationship that DARA and ECH have and how they accomplish amazing goals together. DARA continues to sponsor a number of ECH programs and initiatives, namely the Enlaces program. Enlaces (or “links” in Spanish) program supports Latino children from 4th to 7th grade in preventing risky behaviors and developing positive connections with teachers and parents. DARA also provides ECH with monetary support for the administrative assistant and provides Doing Good In the Neighborhood grant support for the Driving While Impaired (DWI) program.
Both DARA and ECH’s work hold a strong personal meaning in my life. Growing up in a Puerto Rican household with many Hispanic relatives and friends surrounding me, I feel a special connection and empathy to the Hispanic community and to the unique struggles they experience. I was determined then to come up with fundraising ideas that were lucrative, creative, sustainable, and representative of what ECH holds as most important: community. It also came as no surprise that from my first day at ECH I was met with the characteristic warmth and familial feeling that I love and cherish from the Hispanic community. I happily became accustomed to starting my work days with hugs and one-side cheek kisses.
Working closely with the equally affectionate Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, the CEO and much adored leader of the organization, the dedicated Financial Coordinator, Irene Avila, and the Executive Administrative Assistant, Jackie Hernandez, I quickly realized that their openness and enthusiasm would support my ideas of creating for-profit dance and cooking classes as a means to generate much-needed unrestricted funding for ECH. ECH has excelled for many years in offering both free and affordable education classes not only to the Hispanic community, but also to the wider community of Durham. I wanted to leverage the organization’s unique culture of openness and individual improvement through education by providing venues that unite the Hispanic community in both Durham and Carrboro to the entire communities through the powerful exchange of culture.
I collaborated with program directors and many of the specialists within the organization to accomplish this goal. I am proud to report that ECH is currently in development to offer these classes. I also revamped the membership program to more fully integrate and attract both Hispanic and non-Hispanics to the organization.
Though my internship is now over, my involvement with both DARA and ECH continues on a volunteer basis. I return not just because I’m a fellow Hispanic who wants to give back, but because my experience at ECH helped me realize that harmonious community has little to do with a shared ethnicity. Community reinforces what truly bonds us all: our shared humanity.