Kyle in Taos and Honolulu

Kyle is a junior President’s Scholar majoring in biology, individual studies in applied scientific computing and human rights in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. Kyle is participating in Engaged Learning and also was awarded a Maguire and Irby Family Foundation Public Service Internship from the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU. During summer 2013, he interned at two nonprofit organizations: Taos County Economic Development Center, where he examined how economic development corporations can help nonprofits empower communities, and Ke Ola Mamo Native Hawaiian Health Services, where he examined how one local nonprofit is able to work directly with the community.

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New direction

In Taos, poverty rates among high school graduates is almost 10 percent above the state average.  For TCEDC, that means that most clients simply cannot afford to pay at cost for the services that TCEDC provides.  As a result, TCEDC heavily subsidizes its services, making it largely dependent on grant funding.  I soon recognized an opportunity to use my skills and experience to maximize my impact at TCEDC by addressing its need for grant funding.

Grant funding is something I have dealt with since high school, having written grant proposals for a struggling nonprofit organization in Hawaii (I ultimately helped them to win two grants!) and organizing grant-writing services for other nonprofits in need.  Although TCEDC needs no help with grant writing, thanks to the two expert grant writers who run the organization, a review of their grant proposals last week revealed a deficiency that I realized I was prepared to address.  In their grant proposals, they repeatedly mentioned their impact on the community but had little way to demonstrate it.  By putting on my “academic researcher” hat, I am in a position to help.

By conducting an academic research study, I can easily document TCEDC’s impact on the community.  In conversations around town, I already know that most people familiar with TCEDC strongly support it.  By conducting formal interviews, I can collect invaluable qualitative data on TCEDC’s impact – personal accounts and anecdotes that inform grant funders – and provide it as a tool for TCEDC’s future grant proposals.  Better yet, if I can work with a professor to get this research published, TCEDC can cite the publication as a credible source in any of their future grant proposals.  This is an idea that maximizes my skills and experience as a social scientist (I was doing anthropology research here in Taos just last year!) and achieves my goal of learning about the role of a nonprofit in building a community.  I’m excited to turn my internship in this direction, and expect it to go well!

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