An indigo blue, revolving chair, the endless stacks of paper on a desk at any one given time, and an overly zealous receptionist stationed at the corner of the office paint a clear picture of the 280 hours I spent interning at AYE. Endowed with a generous grant from the Bank of America, I had the privilege of filing an incessant flow of paperwork, making phone call after phone call, and battling it out with the consistently unreliable copy machine on a daily basis.
For just over seven weeks, I worked at the Archdiocesan Youth Employment Services, a non-profit organization that provides job opportunities to the youth of Los Angeles, and despite my sardonic description, I couldn’t have imagined a better way to spend my summer.
To my surprise, my role at AYE extended beyond scanning documents and phone calls, although I did perform such tasks frequently. I had the amazing opportunity to interact with the people in need of our services.
Each single day, I assisted high school students, young single parents, and college graduates with finding employment. By explaining the many internship programs AYE had to offer, discussing the different aspects of a program application, and informing our employees of the work readiness workshops we held on a weekly basis, I was able to lead the diverse group of people who came through our doors one tiny step closer to their uniform goal: employment.
In fact, it was because of the interaction that I had with the young people participating in our programs that I came to truly enjoy my internship. I became so well-acquainted with our participants that I could now discern certain voices and identify employees by their penmanship alone! Admittedly, the long hours I spent working at AYE left me perhaps too much free time. Nevertheless, I came to genuinely care for the people we serviced.
Knowing that I could, in some small way, alleviate the issue of employment among the myriad of problems our participants were facing made waking up early in the morning a tiny bit easier. Ultimately, the compassion I came to develop made it all the more devastating when I found out that one of our most popular and widely-known internship programs, a program which we had enrolled over hundreds of people in, would not be funded.
The following days after receiving the terrible news, my co-workers and I couldn’t help but feel we were at fault for something that was simply out of our control. Indeed, we affirmed, time after time, that we would be funded a hefty amount of money for this particular program just like AYE had in previous years. We had no possible way of knowing that due to a lack of funding on the county level, we would be unable to service the young people who had come into our offices with hopeful expressions at the thought of new employment opportunities. The people who heavily relied on the programs we offered were apologetically informed that we weren’t granted the funds and those coming in thereafter seeking to enroll in that exact program were unfortunately turned away.
But with a resolve like none I’ve seen before, the employees of AYE went above and beyond what was required of them to assist the youth who had fallen through the cracks due to a of a shortage of funds. I was subsequently instructed to enroll all the applicants into any other program AYE happened to provide, and received funding for, to ensure that those who were in desperate need of a job were presented, at the very least, with other employment opportunities and although the resulting paperwork was horrendous and the work tedious, the extra mile AYE went was more than admirable.
With an earnest and unrelenting desire to service its participants, my co-workers at AYE did all they possibly could to assist the youth even when facing a financially-related catastrophic setback and I was more than happy to assist in any way I could.
A few weeks later, as I was attending a closing dinner, my internship supervisor said that the financial setbacks we faced this past summer aren’t specific to AYE alone. Indeed, thousands of non-profits with innovative ideas and great services have to make do with a shortage of funds all the time but I couldn’t possibly imagine facing these drawbacks with any other non-profit than AYE.