Share This Post

By Avery Huffer

As my time with the Orange County Grantmakers comes to a close, I’ve had the chance to really reflect on my experience here and all of the things I’ve learned. 

After having spent the last 10 weeks with OCG, I can say with some confidence that working at this field site has been incredible, providing me with the chance to build new skills, forge new relationships, and really get involved in my community. At OCG, I’ve been able to learn things about the world of nonprofit and philanthropic work that I’d otherwise never have been able to, and I’m so so thankful for this opportunity. 

While I’m personally a Criminology, Law, and Society and Psychological Sciences double major at UC Irvine and have never really done anything close to social media marketing professionally, I feel as though my experience with OCG presented me with the chance to develop an entirely new skills that will be applicable in all domains of my life. Being able to work on my communication and advocacy skills and adapt to new workplace environments are skills which will stick with me in any future places of work. I’m glad to have broadened my horizons. 

Apart from these skill-based benefits from working here, I’ve also come away with a greater knowledge about community engagement and my role as an individual when it comes to improving the world around me. I’d never really known just how many opportunities there are for people to get engaged in philanthropy or in efforts to improve their community, and being able to look at all the events and resources put out by OCG, I’ve had my perspective on this world completely changed, and for the better. I’ve never been given this kind of real-world knowledge in the academic space, and so coming away from this experience I feel all the more prepared for life post-grad.

Now, on to my supervisors. Taryn and Ana have been some of the greatest mentors I’ve had in a long time. They’ve beared with me while I learned how to manage all the “behind the scenes” parts of nonprofit work, and have been an ever-helpful guiding force when it comes to all the different kinds of work I’ve completed here. Working under such dedicated, intelligent, kind, and innovative supervisors, has prompted me to grow both as a worker and a person, and that is something really priceless. 

If I was going to get philosophical about my time here at OCG, a major takeaway from this experience is that trying new things is incredibly useful, and can give you insight that you otherwise never would have gotten if you stayed in the same lane your entire life. If you approach every opportunity you’re given with excitement and curiosity, you’re going to thrive and get the chance to meet new, incredible people and grow.

I’m going to miss Taryn and Ana and being able to work with an organization as incredible as OCG, but I look forward to future chances in my career to work with these kinds of community and equity-based causes. Thank you all so much for this opportunity, and a HUGE thank you to our audience who have seen my work and allowed me to be part of this team!

More To Explore

Press Releases

Internship Reflection

By Avery Huffer As my time with the Orange County Grantmakers comes to a close, I’ve had the chance to really reflect on my experience

How do we build a compassionate and inclusive America in an age of distrust? WAJAHAT ALI knows from personal experience that when we come together to be the superheroes of our own stories, we can create honest social change. The beloved TED speaker has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Atlantic about our urgent issues—immigration, politics, parenthood—with boldness, hope, and humor. His memoir Go Back to Where You Came From, one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year, follows his life as a Muslim Pakistani-American on a surprising, emotional, and challenging quest for the good life. Iconic journalist Katie Couric says that “we are all so fortunate to be on the receiving end of his intellect, his humanity, and his heart.”

Wajahat Ali

“With wit and charm, Ali delivers a masterful meditation on growing up brown in America...he gives us a clear-eyed affirmation of the country America could be.” — Mara Gay, New York Times

Wajahat Ali uses his platform to fight tirelessly for the social change we need in our country—and he isn’t afraid to get personal while doing it. The Daily Beast columnist and former New York Times writer, TED speaker, award-winning playwright, and Peabody-nominated producer of the documentary series The Secret Life of Muslims offers us his experiences of triumph over hardship as a beacon of hope and resilience in the face of life’s impossible situations. From his experiences of Islamophobia growing up as a Muslim Pakistani-American to his two-year-old daughter’s liver cancer diagnosis, Wajahat is living proof that when we share our authentic stories, we build the America we wish to live in.”

In his memoir Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American, Wajahat teaches us how to create our own superhero origin story, invest in hope for the future of America, and enact real social change. The book was called “biting and funny and full of heart” by NPR. Representative Ilhan Omar called Wajahat’s work “hilarious” and “deeply moving”, and legendary writer Dave Eggers said it was the book he’d “been hoping Wajahat Ali would write for ten years—hilarious, stylistically fearless, deeply humane.”

Wajahat is also the author of The Domestic Crusaders—the first major play about Muslim-Americans in a post-9/11 world. He was the lead researcher and author for the Center for American Progress’s seminal report “Fear Inc., Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” and served as a national correspondent for Al Jazeera America, where he told stories about communities and individuals often marginalized or under-reported in mainstream media.

As Creative Director of Affinis Wajahat Labs, he worked to create social entrepreneurship initiatives to support and uplift marginalized communities. He also worked with the US State Department to design and implement the “Generation Change” leadership program to empower young social entrepreneurs. Wajahat initiated chapters in eight countries, including Pakistan and Singapore. For his work, he was honored as a “Generation Change Leader” by Sec. of State Clinton and recognized as an “Emerging Muslim American Artist” by the Muslim Public Affairs Council. 

He has given keynote speeches around the world such as TED, The Aspen Ideas Festival, Google, the United Nations, and The New Yorker Festival. His writing appears regularly in the New York TimesThe Atlantic, the Washington Post, and The Guardian. He’s a Senior Fellow at The Western States Center and Auburn Seminary and co-host of Al Jazeera’s The Stream.