Student Pursues Passion for Nonprofit Work

November 30, 2010

While her classmates were selecting Lady Gaga and Lindsey Lohan for their semester-long public relations projects, senior Laura Sidla chose ‘Save Darfur' as her client in Professor Jack Jackson's Public Relations II course at Stonehill.

Encouraged to be a volunteer by her parents, Sidla has never thought of helping others as work, but rather fun and rewarding experiences. In fact, by high school she was organizing highly-successful charity art shows throughout New England.

However, until her arrival at Stonehill, she wasn't so sure she could make a real career out of nonprofit work since few colleges and universities offer undergraduate degree programs in nonprofit management.

"There isn't really an undergraduate program anywhere that teaches you about nonprofits but The Center for Nonprofit Management (CNM) and its Developing Fundraising Leaders Institute (DFLI) at Stonehill have been amazing resources for me," says Sidla, who, thanks in part to her experiences with the CNM, dreams of one day creating her own nonprofit which would support youth and the arts.

"No other school has these types of opportunities," she adds. "When I have interviewed for nonprofit internships, people are so impressed Stonehill has such a center. It's something they've never seen before."

Established in 2003, The Center for Nonprofit Management is a model for undergraduate engagement in social responsibility. The Center has grown in stature and reputation as it continues to build the management and leadership capacities of community-based nonprofit organizations throughout southeastern Massachusetts and northern Rhode Island.

For students interested in developing fundraising skills, DFLI offers mini fundraising "boot camps" at the nonprofit center and semester-long cross-departmental training in Stonehill's Advancement Division.

"Laura has a certain spark that strikes you the moment you meet her and it all derives from her sincere desire to help," says Georgia Antonopoulos, director of the Center for Nonprofit Management.

"As a DFLI participant, her persistence landed her in the fortunate situation of having to choose between several internship offers."

In the end, Sidla chose Plan USA for her summer internship, an international development organization in Rhode Island.

"It was the best experience I've ever had since it was so hands-on but without the DFLI Program I never would have found that internship," notes Sidla, whose tasks at Plan USA included engaging donors and conducting research.

She also spent the summer working for Development Researcher Erin Ambrose in the College's Advancement Division, assisting with implementing a newly structured prospect research filing system.

This semester, Sidla is expanding her impressive resume, assisting the College's Special Events & Stewardship office by creating profiles on the 175 restricted and endowed scholarships awarded to Stonehill students.

She is also interning in Boston's Catholic Charities Development Office, where she is working to expand its Friends Feeding Families Program.

"It's exciting because, like many of my other internships, it's so hands-on. I get to go to events and talk to donors," says Sidla.

Sidla also serves as a Community-Based Learning Student Leader and participates in Stonehill's AmeriCorps Leadership through Service Program.

She recently was awarded the 2010 Student Scholarship Grant from the Boston Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). The recipient represents a student with strong potential to be a contributor to the communications industry in the future.

"Among this year's candidates, she stood out in her passion for the field of PR and her desire to apply it to the arts and to nonprofits," says Jackson, a past president of the PRSA Boston Chapter.

Sidla was the first college student to receive an Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Rhode Island Chapter Community Award recently as well. As a senior in high school, the AFP awarded her the Herbert M. Kaplan Youth in Philanthropy Scholarship.

"The awards are products of my Stonehill experience," says Sidla, who has received numerous other awards as well. "The professors here and the Center for Nonprofit Management have transformed me into an up and coming communications and nonprofit professional."

"I know the impeccable quality of Laura's work from her superb efforts in my Public Relations II course last fall. I can affirm that her interest in public relations, her commitment to communication, and her passion for charitable organizations are 100 percent heart-felt," Jackson notes.


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