Hi there! My name is Ashley McIntosh, and I’m so excited to be this month’s guest blogger on At the Table. I’m a team member at Equitas Health, a newly minted Buckeye, and a former Columbus Foundation fellow. Three things you’ve got to know about me at the top: 1) Jeni’s ice cream is my love language, 2) I aspire to be a real-life Leslie Knope, and 3) I believe deeply in the power of the nonprofit sector to create lasting change.
I was asked to share a little bit about my experience with The Columbus Foundation’s Summer Fellowship Program and how it’s given me the start I needed in my career. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly four years since I was a fellow. I really look at the experience as the catalyst for my career in the nonprofit sector. I always knew that I wanted my career to be more than a way to collect a paycheck (I think nearly everyone can relate to that), but I had no idea where that would lead me. All I knew was that I thrive when I’m working with people and solving problems. When I was in the final year of my Bachelor’s degree, this stomach-churning panic began to develop when I thought of life after college. What am I going to do with my life? How am I going to make a difference in this world? How am I ever going to pay back these student loans? (Still figuring that one out, haha).
Out of the abyss of bottomless job boards and existential crises, The Columbus Foundation’s Summer Fellowship presented me with an opportunity to get real-world experience and make an actual difference. If you’re looking to make copies and get coffee for a summer, this is definitely not the experience for you. As a fellow, you are doing hard work. My fellowship pushed me way outside of my comfort zone. I found myself matched with an amazing nonprofit, Per Scholas, compiling research on the IT middle skills gap (never heard of it? Don’t worry, neither had I until my fellowship). I remember battling imposter syndrome, getting tongue tied during talks with industry leaders, and making my fair share of mistakes. But more than that, I remember the skills I built to conquer obstacles, the teamwork it took to solve real-world problems, and the sense of confidence I developed over that summer.
I remember feeling way out of my league during my first day as a Columbus Foundation fellow. I was stunned (and continue to be amazed) at the caliber of each year’s fellowship class. Next week you’ll get to meet the 2019 class and I know they are going to knock your socks off. This program boasts some serious smarties who are passionate about making their world a better place, and I still consider myself so lucky to be a part of this program. It was easily one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I am a newbie in the workforce; I’ve been working full-time in the nonprofit sector for less than four years. I am definitely still figuring it out. But my time with The Columbus Foundation gave me the footing I needed to enter this field with confidence and competence. Since then, I have gone on to earn a Master’s degree and found a position with an organization I love. And every day I continue to learn new things about this sector. The needs of the community are big, and sometimes the funding sources are small. Sometimes the odds feel stacked against us, and the problems seem so much bigger than we can comprehend. But I have quickly learned that nonprofit leaders are nothing if not problem solvers. And I feel so inspired by that every day, to continue plugging away, even when it feels like the problems just won’t budge, even when it feels like everything is working against us. Because at the end of the day, our stakeholders aren’t expecting their ROI in dollars and cents, but in lives changed and communities transformed. This work is hard, but it is so good, and I am honored to play my part, however small.