This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the buildOn 36 Hour Immersion alongside Jeffrey Bornstein (GE CFO), a number of executives, and other leadership program members. It was an extremely eye-opening experience as we got real insight on what it’s like to attend high school in one of Boston’s most under-served areas.
For those of you who don’t know, buildOn is an organization that aims to end the cycle of illiteracy through service and education. They have international and domestic programs. The international programs send volunteers on a trek to lay foundation for primary schools in third world countries. I will be going on a trek to Senegal in October. The domestic programs work to give high school students after-school options that make positive impacts on the community through service. It also aims to keep the students from making negative life choices by giving them alternative activities once school is finished for the day.
The 36 Hour Immersion (https://www.buildon.org/corporate-partners/36hours) is a program designed to connect business and community leaders to buildOn students. On the first day, each GE member was paired with a CASH (Community Academy of Science and Health) student. These were to be our buddies for the rest of the 36 hours. My buddy’s name was Sonya. She is a well-spoken, confident young woman. I later found out the Sonya struggled with homelessness for the majority of her life and recently moved to Boston to escape the unlivable conditions of her home in NYC. Sonya was an inspiration to me as she is so passionate about giving back to the community when she has very little to her own name.
Alongside the CASH students, the GE employees participated in two service projects. We also received a tour of their community and sat through a student panel where the high schooler’s revealed to us what a day in their life was really like. They deal with unimaginable issues such as gangs, violence, and drugs every day. Somehow, they are still making the active decision to join buildOn and give back to the community- choosing another, better way of life. I believe that this touched all of us who were attending from GE in a very real way.
The 36 Hour Immersion humbled me and also made me extremely proud to work at an organization like GE. How many people can say they work for a company where several executives would take two full days out of their busy schedule to be completely present and engaged at a volunteer event like this? It really showed me the value of giving back to the community and reiterated the importance of the GE culture prioritizing volunteerism.
Another highlight of the week was my transportation home. Ironically enough, Jeff Bornstein and I were both headed back to Greenville, SC on the same day. He graciously invited me to join him on his private jet! I was so excited! Jeff and I spent the 2 hour flight talking about a lot of topics spanning from Women in IT and early career decisions, politics, GE owning NBC, family, and more. It was truly an amazing experience and one that I will remember for a long time to come. This taught me the importance of getting involved outside of your day job. As an early career employee, this experience spoke volumes. It made me appreciate the value of doing things outside of your comfort zone (like joining buildOn) and the importance of being prepared for anything!
From seeing headquarters, learning more about buildOn, becoming more compassionate for those less fortunate, and getting to pick the brain of our CFO, this week in Boston was one that will stay with me forever. The founder of buildOn and former FMP, Jim Ziolkowski, told me that serving through buildOn is always a two way street. He said it’s interesting how you always seem to get back more than you gave and, at least to me, this week was no exception. Please, reach out if you have any questions or want to get involved with buildOn.
Donate to the DTLP Senegal trek here: https://act.buildon.org/fundraise/team?ftid=99268