Ball State student Levi Todd recounts the incredible opportunities he had interning at The Poetry Center of Chicago. Levi worked at The Poetry Center, an office located in downtown Chicago, where he served as Social Media and Programming Intern for this organization.
Like any college student, I’ve gotten pretty familiar with my career elevator speech that I can pull out when returning home, meeting new people, and for general small talk. It sounds like this: “I want to work for a literacy nonprofit that offers creative writing education to youth.” I’ve also gotten pretty familiar with people’s responses to this. Most often it’s a concealed grimace, like they’re holding back from saying “Oh, you poor thing.” Other times it’s people flat-out asking, “So you’re okay with not making any money?”
I’m not sure who started it, but there seems to be a false notion of working in the nonprofit sector. I think most people’s conception of a nonprofit organization is flickering lights in a church basement, where the staff is foregoing their third paycheck so that the children they serve can receive a library. We consider nonprofit workers to be doing good work, but not “successful” by our traditional definitions.
Whenever I meet these cynics, I want to introduce them to the Chicago Literacy Alliance. The CLA is a collective of 90+ nonprofit organizations devoted to various aspects of literacy. The organizations share resources and information to set up a city-wide alliance with the common goal of bettering Chicago’s literacy. Each organization does something different–Infiniteach creates technology that allows businesses and organizations to make their spaces more accessible to those with autism. Injustice Watch exposes institutional injustice and better equips journalists to write about inequality and social change. The organization I interned for, The Poetry Center of Chicago, gets public school students reading and writing poetry, and creates paid professional opportunities for Chicago poets.