Once Walla Walla thought that it had overcome all of the inches of snow last December that resulted in a joy of the arrival of winter and the stress of driving in it, it was in for a surprise for the second hit – which was precisely on the day of our graduation ceremony at Mercy Corps Northwest. During the frenzy of setting up for the graduation ceremony of our students, I was running back and forth coatless between buildings at the Walla Walla Community College during the snowy night. Despite the unpredicted snowy weather, we celebrated the success of all of the students from Mercy Corps in launching their own business for the spring of 2020.
Our graduation ceremony for Mercy Corps has been the highlight of my fellowship thus far. Some of our list of newly created businesses in the area include an aviation repair shop, patisserie shops, preschool for bilingual children, a mobile car wash, and many more! During the ceremony, we had Norma Hernandez, the newly elected mayor of College Place, share with us her powerful story of how she was able to find vocational success despite a rough upbringing. This served as a motivational driver for our Hispanic speaking clients, who come from a marginalized in the United States. After the ceremony, we transitioned to the exhibition of our clients’ products and services. Both events were open to the entire Walla Walla community to come and support local businesses.
One of the clients from this cohort that stood out to me was Belinda. Her family had recently moved from Ecuador where she was an accountant. Due to restrictions on being able to apply her accounting degree here in the United States, Belinda had to start over and begin with a new career. During one of our consulting sessions with aid for her business plan, Belinda confessed to me that despite not being able to practice her accounting degree, she was glad. Belinda shared that during her time in Ecuador, she loved spending time with her nieces and nephews. This made her realize how much she enjoyed educating children. After living in Walla Walla for a while, Belinda noticed the shortage of child care for immigrant parents. With her school, Belinda said she would strive to create a bilingual program that would maintain the language and culture of Latinoamerica for her students. Overall, witnessing her ambition to craft her business launch was inspiring to me as a student who pursues to study business in graduate school.
It’s worth noting that for this specific demographic of students, it was no easy task to finish all of the requirements for the completion of the M.B.A. (Micro Business Assistance) program. The business classes took place at night and lasted for a duration of six weeks – many of our Spanish speaking clients had to balance the role of a parent, student, and employee. Socorro, a mother of three, is a prime of a parent that strived through to finish the night classes offered by Mercy Corps to launch her Mexican pastry business.
The accumulation of revising Mercy Corps Northwests’ student business plans in Spanish throughout most of the fall semester paid off. Seeing all their ambition, pride, and relief in making it through the business classes made me feel privileged to have been part of the project. Without the support of the Student Engagement Center, this opportunity wouldn’t have been made available to me. Through the leadership of Mitzy Rodriguez, I have been able to utilize my Spanish Major with the Walla Walla Hispanic community.___________________________________________________________________________________
Experiences like Christian’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez