Program allows students to shadow nonprofit professionals

Briana Harris

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If working in the nonprofit field piques your interest, then the Community Service Center’s Nonprofit Protégé Program might be a good fit for you.

The eight-week program, which began last semester, pairs students interested in the nonprofit field with a nonprofit professional. Students and their mentors meet weekly and discuss topics like risk management and fundraising in the nonprofit field.

Rachel Edington, assistant director of the program, got the idea from a similar program that was implemented at her graduate school in South Carolina.

“I thought it would be a great idea to incorporate that here, especially since the tornadoes happened,” Edington said. “It helps students to see what goes on behind the scenes in the nonprofit spectrum and especially during a busy time when the city is in more need. The students get to see how much effort goes into recovering from a natural disaster.”

The program provides a workbook of topics to cover, but the students end up doing a lot of work outside of what is in the workbook, Edington said.

“A lot of the time, the mentors will take [students] to board meetings or take them to an event that they’re having on a Saturday,” Edington said.

At different points during the program, Mary Lowrey, assistant director at the Career Center, talks with the participants about what they are learning, not only about the organization they’re working with, but also what they are learning about themselves, she said.

“I talk to the students about their interests in the nonprofit sector and what they hope to gain from the program,” Lowrey said. “We talk about ways to make a professional impression and about their next steps, including continuing the professional relationships they made.”

Samuel Nathews, a student majoring in public relations whose mentor was Walt Larisey, CEO of the YMCA of Tuscaloosa, said he did things with his mentor that went far beyond what was provided in the workbook.

“During our first meeting, I asked him some questions, but after that, I kind of did away with that and just shadowed him and saw all the things involved in running a nonprofit,” Nathews said. “I got to sit in on budget meetings, and I even got to participate in the budget meetings. I also got to help write press releases, design posters and help with radio ads.”

Nathews said he learned invaluable lessons during the eight weeks that he participated in the program.

“This is not meant to sound bad, but before this program, I wanted to start a nonprofit to help high school kids with drug and alcohol addictions,” Nathews said. “But this program helped me figure out that before I am capable of starting a nonprofit, I need to be established and have some money saved up. It is one of those things where you have to be able to help yourself before you can help other people.”

The program is currently taking applications for students who would like to participate this semester and is also looking to expand into the summer for students that reside in Alabama, Edington said.

The plan is for students to be able to get matched with an organization from their hometown area if they are going home for the summer, she said.

Students can find an application online at The deadline for applications is Feb. 14.


Fast Facts

Nonprofit Protégé Program pairs students with nonprofit professionals

Applications are due Feb. 14

Visit for more information