Even before she stepped onto the Macalester campus, Cecilia Martinez-Miranda ’13 (Manila, Philippines) had cofounded a nonprofit devoted to giving child scavengers in Smoky Mountain—a garbage dump outside Manila— access to education.
Mac’s Educational Studies Department, which explores how politics, economics, and globalization affect education, drew Martinez-Miranda to the college. She has since declared a major in that department. One class in particular, Education and Advocacy, taught by Professor Tina Kruse, spurred her on to once gain make a difference outside the classroom.
That class incorporates an internship into its curriculum, and Martinez-Miranda had a good idea of who she could ask about finding that internship. The previous semester, in her class Schools and Prisons, Ramsey County juvenile corrections administrator Michael Belton had been a guest lecturer. Martinez-Miranda asked Belton about internships that use the arts to work with youth and he suggested Old Arizona.
Located in Minneapolis, Old Arizona is a nonprofit center for the arts whose café, theater, and lounge donate all their profits to youth social entrepreneurship, arts, and development programs for girls.
Despite its substantial goals, when Martinez-Miranda began interning at Old Arizona it lacked funding: Its budget had been slashed due to the bad economy and government cutbacks and it had thus lost most of its staff except for its cofounders. “It was difficult,” Martinez-Miranda says, “They had no staff, no nothing.”
“The grant gave them the leg up they needed to continue youth programs and sustain themselves.”
During the internship Martinez-Miranda stepped into a variety of roles, even bartending at the group’s annual fundraiser. Her most notable contribution, however, was serving as a grant writer. She spent 20 hours looking through databases seeking grants that fit with Old Arizona’s mission: to create a space for girls to express themselves, feel safe, and create something.
Ultimately the Otto Bremer Foundation granted Old Arizona $20,000 to supports its Petal Pushers program, a social entrepreneurship program that installs girls in a small South Minneapolis flower shop and teaches them life, leadership, and employment skills. Profits go back to the nonprofit. Notes Martinez-Miranda, “The grant gave them the leg up they needed to continue youth programs and sustain themselves.”
She reflects that the biggest challenge was “stepping into a situation in which there was so much uncertainty.” The circumstances required her to trust in her abilities and then step up and accomplish something meaningful. Fittingly, interning at a nonprofit designed to increase young women’s self-esteem deepened her own. “The space is really intentional about women feeling empowered,” she says. “It’s a wonderful space.”