Building a Strong Foundation for Children in Honduras
October 20, 2022
UW Tacoma Professional Development Center student Wendy Jackson shares her story of making her Nonprofit Management Certificate count for children in Honduras.
In October 2019, when the news was flooded with stories about caravans of immigrants from Central America being detained at the U.S. / Mexico border, PDC student Wendy Jackson was moved to action.
“Many of the immigrants were unattended children. Many were placed in cages. And that broke my heart. It was so difficult for me to see the children suffering so I knew I had to do something,” shared Wendy, who is originally from Honduras. It was then that was when the idea for the Thriving Youth Program came to her confirming her calling to serve in youth ministry.
Thriving Youth Program sponsors children (11-18) by providing educational opportunities and scholarships so they can finish school in Honduras. “Many of the children that we help are being raised by single mothers, grandparents, or older siblings or they are homeless children who survive by panhandling on the streets. These are families with less than $250/month in household income. We provide them with school supplies, uniforms, shoes, backpacks, scientific calculators, and monthly internet access,” Wendy said.
Although Wendy was clear about the mission of her program, she also knew that she needed to gain more knowledge and understanding about how to run a nonprofit organization if she was going to be successful. She registered for the Certificate of Nonprofit Management from UW Tacoma’s Professional Development Center. On top of her full-time job with Tacoma Community College in Adult Basic Education as a data consultant, Wendy started the program in the winter of 2020.
“I was excited to find something that would give me the tools and the learning that I needed fast and economically. It was something I could afford on my own without getting into debt. “
“I was interested in every single topic. My background is in criminal justice, so every nonprofit management concept was a brand-new arena for me. I felt like a sponge. I was trying to absorb all the knowledge possible not just from my instructors but also from my classmates. “
“Being a founder and director of my own program, I needed to make sure that it was created with the right foundation and also a pathway for a great future. Nonprofit Leadership was a very heavy class because we were talking about ethics, laws, and regulations, as well as how to search for board members. We were looking at how to create the foundation that is going to be everything for the future of your organization. Finding the right board members who not only believe in me but believe in what I am going to do and the mission of the organization was important.”
“During the program, I created a website, a board of directors with 10 members (not just myself), fundraising events, a YouTube channel with professional videos, and a 5-year plan. I also hired a grand writing agency, a professional bookkeeper, and a social worker based in Honduras. I applied everything I learned in the classroom which has helped the program grow so fast.”
Over the past three years, the program has experienced exceptional growth. Starting with 17 students it now serves 50 and has a 98% retention rate.
“There are so many more children I want to help. There are so many kids that drop out of school for one reason or another. I want to be there. I need to be there. For me to be able to reach that level, I feel like I need more knowledge, education, and experience. The certificate is just a little piece of everything, but now I want the big cake and to go on to get my master’s in nonprofit management. “
Completing the Certificate helped Wendy find the purpose for her life and caused a redirection of her career. “I was in the criminal justice field for 14 years. It was a good job and I am very grateful and thankful because it helped me pay my bills, but now that I am working all my free time as a volunteer with my nonprofit I find that can be doing it all day long and I don’t get tired. It fills me with joy and satisfaction and it's very rewarding. It gives me happiness, peace, and a sense of pride. And just looking at the smiles on the faces of the students makes me feel complete.”
“I want the program to grow and expand. That will require more of my time and more education for me. Whatever it takes from me to make sure that the program is successful, I am willing to do that. It feels like it’s only on level one right now and I have 99 to go.”
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