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Volunteer Spotlight on Melanie Sojourner

Thank You For Being Such A Vital Part Of Our Team, Melanie Sojourner! We Look Forward To Sharing More About You So Others Can Get To Know You Better!

What or who inspired you to pursue your major/career?

My inspiration to pursue a career in the non-profit industry stems from a lifelong desire to contribute positively to the world around me. Growing up, I was always drawn to causes that aimed to make a real difference in people’s lives. Witnessing the impact that dedicated individuals can have on those in need left a lasting impression on me. Beyond my desire to help others, I’ve always found fulfillment in working collaboratively towards a common goal. Non-profit organizations often foster a strong sense of community and shared purpose, which resonates deeply with me. I believe that by combining my skills and dedication with the work of passionate individuals in the non-profit sector, I can make a meaningful contribution.

What is one thing you are most proud of achieving in your life?

One of my proudest moments is graduating from college as a first-generation student. The journey was filled with challenges, from navigating the application process to adjusting to a new environment. However, the unwavering support of my family fueled my determination to succeed. Earning my degree not only opened doors to new opportunities but also set a precedent of higher education within my family. It’s a source of immense pride for both myself and those who supported me along the way.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My journey in the non-profit sector wouldn’t be possible without the incredible individuals I met while volunteering at the Oppia Foundation. These individuals there were more than just colleagues; they were mentors who played a crucial role in shaping my path. They patiently guided me through strategic planning and partnership management which have become essential tools in my professional toolbox. Their encouragement and guidance during a pivotal time in my life helped me build my confidence and solidify my desire to pursue a career in the non-profit industry. Witnessing their dedication to helping others left a lasting impression, and I hope to emulate their kindness and mentorship by supporting aspiring volunteers in the future.

Why did you choose to be a professional volunteer for Educate. Radiate. Elevate.?

One of the core values that truly drew me to volunteer at Educate. Radiate. Elevate., is the organization’s unwavering commitment to cultural responsiveness. In my experience, traditional educational approaches often struggle to connect with students from diverse backgrounds. These one-size-fits-all methods can create a barrier to learning and fail to acknowledge the unique strengths and experiences each student brings to the classroom. The organization’s emphasis on cultural responsiveness, valuing students’ cultural heritage and learning styles, deeply resonates with me. I believe fostering this kind of understanding is crucial for building trust, rapport, and ultimately, enabling students to thrive academically. I’m eager to learn from experienced volunteers and staff, and most importantly, to play a role in supporting these young people on their educational journeys.

What about the Educate. Radiate. Elevate.’s Purpose, Mission, and Core Values speaks most to you and why?

What truly resonates with me about the mission is the unwavering commitment to strengthening the educational success of underserved students, particularly students of color. This dedication to educational equity is deeply inspiring. I believe that education is the great equalizer, and unfortunately, many students face significant obstacles due to their background. Your organization’s mission to level the playing field and empower these students aligns perfectly with my lifelong passion for ensuring all students have the chance to excel. I’m excited to be a part of an organization that shares these values and makes such a tangible difference in the lives of young people.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering?

While the desire to make a positive impact is a driving force behind my career in the non-profit sector, the joys of volunteering extend far beyond that. The opportunity to see the direct impact of my efforts, whether it’s helping a single person or contributing to a successful community project, is incredibly rewarding. Every volunteer experience provides a chance to learn new things and develop new skills, fostering personal growth alongside the cause I’m supporting. Volunteering also connects me with a community of like-minded individuals who share a passion for giving back. Building these relationships and fostering a sense of community brings a unique sense of fulfillment. Ultimately, volunteering allows me to use my skills and time to help others, creating a sense of satisfaction that comes from contributing to something larger than myself.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I’m all about embracing new experiences! Whether it’s exploring a hidden gem in my city, like a new hiking trail or a local museum I haven’t visited, or trying a new cuisine, I find joy in stepping outside my comfort zone and expanding my horizons. Recently, I’ve been particularly enjoying pickleball. It’s a fantastic way to stay active, both physically and mentally, while learning a new skill that’s surprisingly fun and social. Plus, it’s a great excuse to meet new people and have some laughs while we’re all figuring things out together.

The road to success is difficult and requires tremendous dedication. What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

For a young person aspiring to enter the non-profit sector, my advice would be to cultivate a deep passion for the cause they want to support. This passion will be the fuel that keeps them motivated and dedicated during challenging times, because let’s be honest, there will be challenges. The non-profit sector can be demanding, and there will be moments when the path seems unclear. However, remember why you started – the cause you believe in. Hold onto that passion, and it will guide you through.

But passion needs to be paired with continuous learning. The non-profit sector is constantly evolving, so staying informed and developing new skills is essential. Look for volunteer opportunities in different organizations, take relevant courses, and attend industry events. There’s always something new to discover and skills to hone. Finally, building strong relationships is crucial for success. Seek out mentors who can offer guidance and support, connect with colleagues who share your interests, and build rapport with the clients you serve. These connections will create a rewarding network within the non-profit community and open doors to new opportunities.

By combining passion with continuous learning and a strong network, young people can build a fulfilling and impactful career in the non-profit sector. Remember, the journey may not always be smooth sailing, but the dedication to a cause you believe in, coupled with the skills and connections you build along the way, will help you navigate the challenges and ultimately find success.

Melanie Sojourner

What are you most passionate about? Can you share a story?

I’m incredibly passionate about helping underserved students gain access to the educational tools they need to succeed. The reality is that many students of color face significant disadvantages in the current system. This lack of access to essential resources hinders their ability to reach their full potential. Witnessing these challenges firsthand has fueled my desire to bridge this equity gap. Ultimately, I hope to leverage my skills and experience to advocate for educational equity and create a future where every student, regardless of background or race, has the opportunity to thrive.

Please share your favorite Life Lesson quote. How is it relevant to your life? 

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated” – Maya Angelou

This quote by Maya Angelou is a powerful mantra that I carry with me in all aspects of life. Setbacks and challenges are inevitable, whether it’s a personal goal we’re striving for, a difficult situation at work, or obstacles faced during volunteer work. However, Maya Angelou’s words remind me that these defeats don’t have to define us. Instead, they become opportunities for growth and learning. By embracing perseverance, analyzing what went wrong, and picking ourselves back up with renewed determination, we emerge stronger and better equipped to overcome future challenges. This unwavering spirit and commitment to keep moving forward, even when faced with setbacks, is a crucial life lesson that allows us to navigate the inevitable difficulties of life and ultimately achieve our goals.

Thanks, Melanie! We Are So Lucky To Have You On The Team!

Be like Melanie and volunteer! learn more here.

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