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Change Through Action: TFAS Programs Inspire Courageous Leaders to Make a Difference

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What does it mean to make “change through action?” The Fund for American Studies (TFAS) programs in the U.S. and abroad place an emphasis on giving young leaders the tools and knowledge to make the world a better place. Whether it be through leadership training, internship experience or advice from esteemed faculty and speakers, students leave TFAS with a renewed perspective on the problems facing the world and the resources to achieve their goals.

As an alumna of the TFAS D.C. Academic Internship Programs’ Journalism + Communications track, Alisha Forbes ’13 realized she wanted to channel her storytelling skills as a journalist into making a difference in her community.

Alisha Forbes ’13 sits at a news desk in front of the U.S. Capitol building during her TFAS summer in Washington.

Born and raised in Palmer, Nebraska, Forbes grew up without many of the same resources as her peers. She attributes her passion for giving back to people in need to her childhood. After being accepted to Doane University in 2010, Forbes decided to pursue a degree in journalism and media with minors in political science, history and economics.

She began her philanthropic journey in the Usambara Mountains of Tanzania, writing a story for the Doane University student newspaper on freshwater wells installed by a nonprofit organization. It was there that she realized she wanted to turn her passion for giving back to her community into a career, but she didn’t know what steps she needed to take to make her dreams a reality.

“It was a huge moment that touched my soul,” Forbes said of the experience. “I realized that I not only wanted to make an impact by telling people’s stories, I wanted to make change through action in this world.”

PASSION DRIVES SUCCESS

Throughout college, Forbes gained perspective by traveling the world and immersing herself in different cultures. She hoped to gain even more perspective by traveling to the nation’s capital for the TFAS D.C. Academic Internship Program in 2013.

Being a part of TFAS expanded my knowledge and created a lot of thoughtful discussions that I believe should be taking place more often within communities.” – Alisha Forbes ’13

TFAS D.C. Academic Internships offer college students the opportunity to build connections, learn economics, and hear career advice from esteemed leaders in business, journalism and government through a series of guest lectures and professional development seminars. It was at TFAS where Forbes gained the confidence and learned the steps she would need to take to turn her passion for helping others into a career trajectory that would make a positive change in the world.

Forbes hosts an event showcasing Mid-Plains United Way’s fundraising progress.

“Participating in the TFAS program was one of the best decisions I made,” Forbes shared. “I learned so much in Washington, D.C., and it was actually one of the guest lecturers that said something that carried with me ever since. He told us that it’s never too late to discover your passion, and that made a huge impact on me and my career in the nonprofit sector.”

Until December 2020, Forbes worked as executive director of Mid-Plains United Way in Nebraska, where she helped draw in thousands of donations to support local nonprofits that improve education, health and financial stability.

Since leaving Mid-Plains United Way, Forbes has ventured into the world of entrepreneurship. However, she remains involved in several organizations in her community through volunteer service, including the Lincoln County Community Development Corporation, the Rotary Club and the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation.

She says that her experience in the TFAS summer program, as well as in a philanthropy-focused TFAS Curriculum of Liberty Seminar in 2020 – a weekend program for TFAS alumni leaders to come together and discuss ideas – taught her the value of having important conversations on issues that can change a community.

“Being a part of TFAS expanded my knowledge and created a lot of thoughtful discussions that I believe should be taking place more often within communities,” Forbes said.

“The knowledge I gained through TFAS programs empowered me to be a better servant to my community,” she continued. “I think TFAS alumni can agree that the discussion, thoughts and knowledge we’ve gained through TFAS has changed our lives. In turn, we can go out and make a change in the lives of people around us.”

TFAS LAUNCHES CAREERS

Another one of the countless alumni transformed by her TFAS experience is Lucero Sondakh-Dorantes ’14.

When she was a junior at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, Sondakh-Dorantes was selected to spend two months in Washington for the TFAS D.C. Academic Internship Program in 2014. Sondakh-Dorantes participated in the former philanthropy and nonprofits-focused program track, and after her experience in the program, she knew she wanted to establish a career in the nonprofit sector.

Sondakh-Dorantes assists TFAS Senior Director of Collegiate Programs Joseph Starrs (right) at move-in day 2015.

“I can’t imagine not working at a nonprofit,” Sondakh-Dorantes shared. “The TFAS team placed me in an internship with an organization dedicated to improving the lives of people in the D.C. community, and that set a solid foundation for my future and made me realize that I wanted to give back through my career.”

Sondakh-Dorantes’ internship, Everybody Wins D.C., is a D.C.-based nonprofit that works with schools and other community partners to deliver free reading programs for underserved children in the area to encourage future growth. After completing her internship in July 2014 and graduating from college in December, Sondakh-Dorantes joined Everybody Wins as a program assistant with the help of her TFAS advisors. She then decided to give back to TFAS as a summer program advisor in 2015. The following fall, she joined TFAS full-time as a development associate.

After leaving her full-time job at TFAS in 2016, Sondakh-Dorantes worked for several nonprofits focused on community development, including the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Cristo Rey Dallas Corporate Work Study Program. She was also named a member of the 2020-21 Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy cohort for the Communities Foundation of Texas. Sondakh-Dorantes now serves as the director of development for the American Heart Association’s Dallas branch, where she continues giving back to people in need.

EDUCATION SPARKS ECONOMIC INNOVATION

David Delgado ’20 agrees that his experience with TFAS encouraged him to make a difference in his community.

Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, Delgado joined the TFAS Santiago program in January 2020 with an open mind. After two weeks in courses on political economy and liberty, Delgado was inspired to take his new knowledge back to his community to make an impact.

Delgado takes a tour of the city during TFAS Santiago 2020.

“When I returned to Venezuela after participating in the TFAS Santiago program, I came back with the notion that I wanted to be a part of the economic and political development of my country,” Delgado said. “I spoke with two friends from school, and we are now in the process of creating a social venture called Espacio EDUCA.”

Espacio EDUCA aims to provide training programs in coding, data science and computer software for young people in low-income Venezuelan communities to better equip them for the job market. The overall goal of the organization is to tackle youth unemployment in Venezuela as the country continues to cope with a complex humanitarian situation and economic crisis.

TFAS has been such an important part of my college experience because I’ve always had an interest in the economic development of my country. TFAS helped reinforce that interest for me. When I returned to Venezuela from the program, I knew even more how much I wanted to be a part of important change.” – David Delgado ’20

“The poorest communities face the worst part of what’s going on in our country,” Delgado said. “We want to help young people not only achieve their short-term goals but give them the opportunity to join the workforce of the future.”

A student in business and economics at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, Delgado also works as a financial analyst at Diageo, a global consumer beverage company. He says that participating in TFAS strengthened his interest in economics.

Delgado (left) and his friend Federico Perez (right) co-founded Espacio EDUCA to provide young people in low-income Venezuelan communities the opportunity to gain technical skills to later join the workforce.

“TFAS has been such an important part of my college experience because I’ve always had an interest in the economic development of my country,” Delgado said. “TFAS helped reinforce that interest for me. When I returned to Venezuela from the program, I knew even more how much I wanted to be a part of important change.”

These leaders represent the countless TFAS alumni around the world who continue to give back through their careers in government, business, economics and the nonprofit sector.

TFAS collegiate programs expose young leaders to the ideas of economics and the principles of free societies – including the role that humanitarianism plays in both. TFAS professional-level fellowships in public policy, journalism and law continue to reinforce these important ideals by encouraging conversations on how honorable leadership can make the world a better place.

Join TFAS in developing courageous leaders and agents for “change through action” who are passionate about making a difference in their communities by supporting life-changing TFAS programs.

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