My name is Laura Rentler and I am interning at the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management this summer. Currently, I am a junior at Robert Morris University where I am majoring in Marketing and Hospitality and Tourism. I will also be receiving a certificate in nonprofit management through American Humanics. To receive this certificate, students must complete a 300-hour internship with a nonprofit, attend a conference, and take two courses on basic nonprofit information. A few of the BCNM staff members were in charge of teaching the class at Robert Morris University, which is how I got this great opportunity of working here for the summer.
I remember in my junior year of high school I told my Mom that I wanted to be an accountant. She was shocked and knew that I had a different calling in life. Well, she was right. My senior year of high school, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at a luncheon for the Highmark Caring Place. My family and I attended the Caring Place in 1998 after my father passed away. The Caring Place helped me grow as a person, so I was honored that they would ask me to speak in honor of them. After I delivered my speech, one young high school student came up to me and said, “I know how you feel. I lost my father and I haven’t gotten help for it.” You could tell this particular audience member was really touched by my story and could relate in some way. After that moment, I instantly knew that I wanted to be working in an environment where I could make a difference in people’s lives. I can’t tell you what came over me that day that possessed me to choose the nonprofit field, but I knew that this was my calling.
When I got home from the luncheon, I told my Mom that I wanted to work for nonprofits the rest of my life, and she was thrilled. I told other family members and friends and kept getting the same comments and questions: “Why would you want to work for a nonprofit; you are not going to make any money.” To this, I would always say that I want to make money to pay the bills and provide for myself, but I also want a job that I love doing. I want to be one of those people that comes home from work and says, “I love my job!” Let’s just say that I didn’t get the reaction out of them as I did from my mom, but then I do come from a family of financially oriented people.
Overall, I feel happy with the direction I’m taking, but I still have questions:
- Will I find a job after I graduate?
- I know Pittsburgh has a large amount of nonprofit organizations, but many agencies it seems have small staffs that tend to be loyal.
- Is there opportunity for career growth in the sector?
- It seems like it is more difficult to progress into a higher position since many organizations are small and folks seldom leave. Of course, I realize that most sector professionals had to start somewhere, but I don’t want to put in years of energy to realize there was a glass ceiling all along.
- Will I have a salary even if the organization is struggling?
- What happens to an agency if it raises less and less money every year?
I don’t think my concerns and questions are any different than other college students as they near graduation.