The Challenge Program, Inc. is a non-profit organization that builds sustainable business/education partnerships while motivating students to develop the good habits required to succeed in school and in the workplace. It is also my place of work and the organization that changed my life. When I was brought into this organization as an intern a few years ago, I thought I would be able to learn something about marketing and get the opportunity to run their social media accounts which was exactly what I wanted to do for a career. I had no idea on my first day of work that my life was about to be forever changed by The Challenge Program, Inc. (TCP).
Above is a list of words that described me when I started working at TCP.
Most of the time, you hear stories about non-profits from the outside, and believe me when I say that we have plenty of those at TCP, but this story is coming from the inside.
My job at TCP is marketing. I find stories and tell them in compelling ways whether it is in my blog, on social media, or in marketing pieces. The first time I remember not feeling so lost anymore is when I had the opportunity as an intern to attend a meeting with students who were hired by their business partner through TCP. I did a story on them titled, 18 and Living the Dream, because these two young men were hired right out of high school into their dream jobs. Seeing the pure joy on their faces while talking about how TCP helped them into these positions with their business partner was all I needed to know that I wanted to work here forever.
I was in a constant state of fear and confusion when I got here at the ripe age of 22. Fear of failure, fear of not doing enough, fear of being stuck somewhere doing something that has nothing to do with my degree because those are the horror stories you hear from people who graduate college. When the President of TCP called me into her office to tell me that they wanted to hire me full-time, I was brought to tears and I truly believe the tears were the years of fear exiting my body, never to return again. After this moment I felt believed in by people, besides my family, who had no obligation to believe in me. I started to let go of the toxic things and took some chances that allowed really great things into my life because I finally felt I deserved it.
I was anxious from a young age. You hear anxiety talked about often today and society seems to have accepted it as something that many people deal with. I used to make myself sick over everyday things like going out to eat, sitting in a movie theatre, or driving a car. When I came to work here those things were all still true and I didn’t think I would ever be able to go out to eat without being nervous or buy a car to drive to work. This program gave me opportunities to attend networking and fundraising events filled with people. It taught me that there are things in this world that are so much bigger and better than being afraid to sit in a large group of people. Slowly, over time I had this desire to go out and meet students so that their stories could be told and their lives could be changed. Since I had the opportunity to do that, I was not going to pass it up. So I worked day in and day out to save up for a car and learned techniques to calm myself down when I started to feel anxious. Thanks to this program I was able to buy a car and tell my grandmother (who wanted me so badly to get over my anxiety for years and buy a car) that I finally did it. That is the last thing I got to tell her before she passed and that will forever mean the world to me.
This year I met a student who felt TCP changed his life so much that he entered our Student of the Year Competition. He told his touching story of how TCP made him feel okay to be different and made him want to keep going. I felt that his story related to mine so imagine my delight when I got to work with him to tell his story to thousands of people and watch him be named Student of the Year. Before he won, he came up to me and told me that I changed his life. I never thought anyone would say those words to me but in that moment I felt fulfillment. Like all of the worrying, fear, and confusion no longer mattered. It disappeared.
It is not often that you hear people say their place of work helped them work through their anxiety, helped them buy a car, or inspired them to giveback but mine has and still does. I believe in my heart that TCP is filled with magic and once you are in, you never want out. From the thousands of students TCP inspires each year to be better, to the students they help secure jobs with their business partners, there is no way this organization should be unknown to anyone. This is a story of giving. This Program gave me things I will never be able to say thank you enough for. Now I will do my best to make sure I give back to others in this Program and help them tell their inspiring stories. Below you will see a list of words that describe me now after being involved in this program for almost three years. This is my story but it will not be the last story that I tell.