Remote Nation Impact Stories: Working on the Road with Nonprofit Year Up
By Catalina Todd, 12. Nov. 2021
We recently sat down with Marvin Balan, USA who is currently traveling through Latin America on Remote Year’s 4-month Ochoa program. Marvin joined us from Guatemala to share his experiences creating impact remotely as a Development Manager for the nonprofit Year Up.
In his work, Marvin supports Year Up's mission to close the Opportunity Divide by ensuring that young adults gain the skills, experiences, and support that empower them to reach their potential through careers and higher education. Year Up partners with companies such as Facebook, Salesforce, and Bank of America, with the goal of helping young adults go from minimum wage to meaningful careers. Thanks to the diligent work of Marvin and his colleagues at Year Up, young adults are able to tap into their full potential regardless of their background, income, or zip code.
Marvin’s passion for his work and the young adults he helps to empower immediately shines through. When sharing with us the direct impact that Year Up has in the community, Marvin regaled us with one of his favorite success stories-a young adult who joined Year Up’s program at 19 with no college degree, 1 year later he is now earning $120K a year.
While direct impact is at the core of Year Up’s mission, as Marvin explains, if you throw a rock into a pond, it creates ripples. Listening to Marvin, you start to see that the ripples Year Up creates are more akin to waves. After partnering with Year Up, Bank of America decided to get rid of the requirement that all applicants must hold a 4-year college degree. This incredible shift is just one example of how Year Up’s impact extends far beyond the program participants it serves. Marvin has also seen firsthand how Year Up’s young professionals have not only grown to call on others to serve but have also changed the perception of people of color in workplaces across the country.
While on the road, Marvin continues to serve as an advocate and coach for young adults across America who want nothing more than to raise their families out of poverty. His experiences on his Remote Year journey have allowed him to better understand those he serves. Many Year Up students are immigrants. During his Remote Year experience, Marvin has been able to connect with Year Up young adults on a deeper level as he learns more about his students’ backgrounds by visiting their countries of origin.
Learn more about Marvin and his experiences creating impact remotely in his own words:
What made you decide to spend 4-months traveling with Remote Year?
I decided to go through the 4 month Ochoa program because of the current state of the world. 2020 was tough on us all. I went through health issues unrelated to COVID and the hardest part was that everyone assumed that COVID made other health issues go away. Aside from my health issues, as someone who enjoys the presence of others, the isolation really took a toll on me. When I saw a program where I was able to experience different cultures while also fostering that community that I have not been able to have in the last year, I knew that I had to jump on the opportunity.
How is Remote Year changing your professional and personal life?
In my personal life, this experience has been transformative. I have gotten the opportunity to travel to different countries and live in the shoes of the locals. Though I will never be able to live or understand their experiences, I am fortunate that I get to impact their lives in a way I would not have been able to otherwise. I have been able to make strong relationships not only with the other participants of the program but also the locals.
In my professional life, I hope that this experience allows me to better connect with the students who I serve. A lot of our students are immigrants, and many are DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients. I want to be able to understand a little about their backgrounds and their countries of origin. I believe this along with learning their native languages, will help me better relate to and serve our students.
How has the Remote Year community impacted your experience?
It has really opened my eyes to how some organizations have operated. Having some diverse perspectives has helped - I’m from Massachusetts originally, and though I have visited other states, I’ve never lived in other states or lived abroad. It has been interesting to see how other places operate. Engaging with the Remote Year community has given me a deep sense of appreciation for Year Up and my work there.
How are you continuing to connect with and inspire Year Up program participants remotely?
With my work right now, I’m in a learning community of 40 Year Up students. We kick off the week every Monday connecting with our students, and we end every Friday by checking in with them and sharing feedback with one another. There’s a robust support system comprised of staff and volunteers who help to guide and motivate our students through the program. As a result of Covid, we expanded the Year Up age range, so more young adults have access to this incredible opportunity. Our young adults feel comfortable talking to me as a male person of color, since there are not that many in this space.
Catalina Todd is a Content Manager at Remote Year and the travel blogger behind Miss Adventures Abroad. She’s spent 3 years living in Italy and Spain, and has traveled while working remotely to Lisbon, Athens, Lima, and Medellin with Remote Year.
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