A Summer at Casa Durango

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Bryan Mena-Martinez, WH ’18

I’ve always been interested in applying the skills that I’ve learned in Wharton into giving back to my local community, but I’ve never fully understood the best to do so until I took my Nonprofit Sector class under Ashley Swanson. Over the course of semester, the class showed me how much of an impact charitable organizations could have on their local communities, and this inspired me to pursue a summer opportunity with Federacion Duranguense USA’s Plaza Comunitaria Casa Durango.

The general mission of Casa Durango is to help first-generation immigrants succeed in the United States. The immigrants the organization serve often do not have the connections or education to equip them to succeed in the United States. Casa Durango is located in Huntington Park, California, United States less than 5 miles from where I grew up. The neighborhood is made up of over 95% Hispanics/Latinos, many of whom are first-generation immigrants. Casa Durango is concerned specifically with classes that target the following areas: literacy, elementary school, middle school, the GED, computer skills, English, and preparation for the US Citizenship Naturalization Test. These classes were chosen because they have a large amount of relevance specifically for the target demographic of first-generation immigrant.

While I was in Casa Durango, I tried to apply the skills that I learned from Wharton to try and optimize and streamline the operations. There were many challenges that non-profits faced that seemed simple – for instance, one of the classes I taught didn’t have enough markers, which meant that I had to bring markers from home. But I realized that simply bringing all of the markers myself wasn’t sustainable, and that I could tackle this problem with the skills that I learned from Wharton on a systems-level basis, and I started thinking of ways to solve all these practical problems that I never realized non-profits faced.

After graduation, I hope to apply the knowledge and business acumen I have acquired throughout my experiences and my time at Wharton to provide meaningful resources to low-income students and immigrants so that they may contribute to their families and communities. By understanding the entire system of how organizations work – from the financial side to the operations side – I can better solve the practical problems that non-profits face and. I am grateful for the funding that allowed me to hone in on my passion and for allowing me to discover how to apply my education to positively impact my community in the future.

Author: Student Perspective

Views and opinions from current Penn students.