Paulina Mendez is a volunteer at Asheville Latin Americans Achieving Success. Through mentoring, training and scholarships, the nonprofit works to help develop leaders within the local Latin community.
How long have you been volunteering with your nonprofit, and what inspired you to do so?
I’ve been involved with ALAS in some capacity since 2007. ALAS’ mission is different than any nonprofit I’m aware of, and they are actively working to address gaps created by our educational institutions that create barriers to access to higher education. If our systems aren’t working for us, we have to find ways to thrive despite the challenges, and I love how ALAS walks the walk.
What have you learned about the individuals you serve?
The individuals we serve are talented, smart, dedicated and overall just wonderful people.
What has been the greatest reward?
The greatest reward is knowing that the scholarships are available to students who may not otherwise qualify for scholarships despite their excellence due to issues outside of their control.
What advice would you offer those thinking about volunteering?
Be sure your values align with the mission and values of the organization, don’t try to “rescue” but instead walk alongside the population you’re working with and find joy in the work.