On March 16th, 15 first year students joined a handful of CCE staff for site visits to Teach for America’s (TFA) New York City offices and DoSomething.org’s office as part of the Columbia Exploration Externship program.

Teach for America Site Visit

Mission, History, and Passion for the Organization

At TFA, Liza Lucky, Director of Recruitment for Columbia and Barnard, hosted the group. She radiated enthusiasm for the organization and her passion for educational equality was evident. She began her career with Teach for America as a corps member teaching 8th grade reading in a rural school in North Carolina. Transformed by the experience, she decided to dedicate her career to Teach for America and their mission to pursue educational equality for all children. 

Teach for America was founded in 1990 by Wendy Knopp, then a senior at Princeton. Her goal was to create a non-profit that would place high-performing college graduates in high-need urban and rural schools. Currently, Teach for America aims to recruit corps members from diverse backgrounds. The current CEO, Elisa Villanueva Beard, is a former corps member who comes from a family of immigrants and is balancing her role at Teach for America with raising a family. There are now more than 56,000 alumni of the corps program, 10% of those in the New York City area. 

How to Stand out to TFA Recruiters

In her presentation, Liza emphasized the commitment and passion of current and former Teach for America corps members. Many alumni of the program have gone on to found successful social entrepreneurship/social justice organizations. In fact, the Teach for America offices now house a number of social justice organizations such as Teach for All, Breakthrough Collborative, Success Network and Practice Makes Perfect.

Teach for America focuses their recruitment efforts on students who:

  • believe in children
  • demonstrate humility
  • possess strong critical thinking skills
  • have a record of academic achievement

Teach for America recruiters scan online profiles of students, searching for those involved with social justice, nonprofit or educational organizations at their schools. Liza suggests that Columbia and Barnard students get involved with Community Impact

DoSomething.org Site Visit

The Power of Young People to make a Difference

Sam Arpino, Talent and Culture Manager (aka: “Head of Fun”) welcomed Columbia Students to DoSomething.org, a non-profit that helps young people (ages 14 — 24) create activism campaigns to empower them to see themselves as change agents.

Sam was a first-generation college student who studied Women’s Studies and Communications at SUNY Albany. She started her career as a teacher with Teach for America and then was hired at DoSomething.org as a Campaign Lead for their Sex, Violence, and Relationships Campaigns before moving into her role in Human Resources with the organization.

Examples of current campaigns include:

  • gun violence prevention
  • bone marrow registration
  • Aid for Puerto Rico
  • Self Esteem
  • Illegal Ivory Trade and Poaching
  • Supporting Friends
  • Tobacco

Not Your Average Non-Profit

DoSomething.org is connected to TMI Agency, a strategy consultancy that uses DoSomething.org’s data to help companies and other clients build Corporate Social Responsibility programs and understand what engages and motivates young people to rally around companies and causes they care about.

The culture of DoSomething.org feels like that of a technology/startup firm with conference rooms named after super-heros (including the newly named Wakanda Room), brightly colored walls, couches for alternate work spaces, and a gong which is hit whenever a new corporate partnership is secured.

How to Stand Out In Your Internship Application

Internships at DoSomething.org are quite competetive, with around 1,500 applications recieved last year across all positions. Interns came in with a diverse set of academic backgrounds from Engineering to Liberal Arts, emphasizing that there truly is a place for everyone at DoSomething. org.

Sam’s tip for those applying to DoSomething.org internships?

Customize your cover letter! They do read it closely and are looking for something who demonstrates an understanding of their organization and culture and can articulate why they would be a good fit.

5 Tips for Career Success from DoSomething.org’s Interns and Staff

The group met with interns and staff members from a variety of teams, including Campaigns, Product, Marketing, Startegic Consulting, Events, Community Impact, and Technology and they had a lot of advice for the group:

  • Look for positions that will provide an opportunity to learn.
  • Take initiative for that learning, however, once at the organization. Ask to shadow people and volunteer for projects above and beyond what’s required.
  • Look for a place where you can show your personality and be your authentic self.
  • Recognize that internships aren’t always what you expect or may not be the perfect fit. It’s still up to you to fulfill your commitment and take initiative to talk with your manager about what your learning goals are. Come to the table with solutions, not complaints. This is a skill you will have to use again and again as you move up in your career so why not start practicing it now as an intern?
  • If you don’t meet all of the qualifications for an internship or job but you are super passionate about it, apply anyway! Be ready to articulate what you bring to the table and ask for resources for learning where gaps do exist.


Learn more about the Columbia Exploration Externship program and check the Events page for more information on upcoming site visits.