Alumni Spotlight: Sarai Velasquez

Sarai Velasquez joined Enterprise for Youth as a member of the Pathways program in 2012. After completing Pathways, she later participated in the Summer Employment Program, and she interned for Kaiser Permanente in their Public Affairs Department. Once she graduated from the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts High School in 2013, she went off to pursue a degree in Sociology from the University of California, Merced. She completed her degree in 2017 and is currently assisting with daily operations at a summer camp for youth. She looks forward on gaining more professional experience working with nonprofits in the near future.

Helen: Can you please share your experience at Enterprise for Youth?

Sarai: It prepared me a lot more than I thought. I didn’t expect it to be so in depth in terms of preparing me for interviews and teaching me all these professional skills, which benefited me a lot. Overall, it definitely helped me in terms of opening my eyes to the professional world at a younger age. I wouldn’t get that experience otherwise. It was a really great experience.

Helen: What do you think is the most important thing you learned during your CEP internship?

Sarai: I interned at Kaiser in San Francisco at the Public Affairs Department. Most of my work was office assistant work – inventory, stocking, filing, copying, faxing, preparing paperwork – they also gave me the opportunity to go and visit other departments at Kaiser and get to know what they do. It let me learn what Kaiser does besides just being a medical facility. I also got to work with the foundation part of Kaiser, seeing what they did for grants and how they chose the organizations that they would give money to. I also did a little bit of event planning. Kaiser had an event with the America’s Cup when I did my internship. They brought out the kids from the city and taught them about healthy choices for foods, how to exercise, and gave them a whole fun day while watching the boats race. It was pretty fun!

Helen: That was a fun summer, I remember that! During your internship at Kaiser, what’s one mistake you made or something you were embarrassed about that turned out not to be a big deal?

Sarai: There was something I wish that I had pushed myself to do. At Kaiser, my boss gave me the opportunity to write for the Kaiser page. I had another job on top of that, so I just wasn’t fully motivated and didn’t really feel like doing it, so that’s something I regret now. I could have said, “Oh, I have something published with Kaiser,” but I didn’t do it. So take the opportunities that are given to you because it can help you out further along the way.

Helen: I think the overall theme is take all the opportunities you can get.

Sarai: Yeah, take what you can get, because you never know how they can help you.

Helen: In what ways did your experience at Enterprise shape your career interests?

Sarai: I always knew that I wanted to help people, but I wasn’t exactly sure the best way to do that or how I would be happy in doing that. When I came to Enterprise and got to work at nonprofits or other organizations, it definitely opened my eyes and showed me I can help people by giving them funding or by working at an organization that provides some type of service for them. So it definitely helped me see that my passion lies within nonprofit work and doing something to better the life of someone and support them the best that I can.

Helen: What is one challenge you faced when applying for jobs or college, and how you overcame that challenge?

Sarai: Being a first-generation college student, you don’t really know how to apply or where to go or how to get waivers because you have to pay for an application That was a big challenge for me, because I had no one to kind of guide me through that. I had to learn that it was okay to ask for help when you don’t know how to do something, like looking at the resources that are provided either at your school or around you in the city. That way, you can afford to apply to all of these colleges without having to ask your parents, who may not have the money to help you out. I applied for jobs I felt like I might not be completely qualified for, which I still kind of deal with, but thinking, “Well, what’s the worst thing that they could say? ‘No, you don’t have the qualification,’ but at least I tried.” It pushes me to apply to jobs that I may not be fully qualified for.

Helen: Do you have any advice for youth preparing for work or higher education?

Sarai: My advice would be to look around you to see what you really have in terms of resources, and don’t be afraid to use them. Figure out what you have around you as a support system to help you meet your goal.

Alumni Spotlight: Sarai Velasquez