« Back to news

ASU Student Started as an Intern, Leaving as a Lifelong Education Advocate

by Emma Sounart

By Emma Sounart, ASU student intern

As I struggled to navigate through the parking lot and to find the correct building of our office, I strolled into my first day at Expect More Arizona as the youngest intern on a team of now 16 people.

I wasn’t sure what to expect (no pun intended). I grew up going to school in the Paradise Valley Unified School District with my mom as a third grade teacher and then as a middle school math teacher. Education was always important in our household. I came in on my first day with no clue what I was doing, but I did know I had a passion for education and a drive to know more about how a nonprofit functions with marketing and communications.

The first two days were a lot to take in. There was a lot of information and a lot of meetings, but I knew the on-boarding training was necessary, and I really enjoyed meeting everyone on the team within their element.

Ironically enough, the meetings at Expect More Arizona became my favorite part over the course of the last five months. I loved getting our entire team together and seeing everyone’s passions shine through our discussions. Going into this organization, I was amazed to see the extensive reach they had with such a small team. Being inside those meetings brought the impact full circle. Expect More Arizona knows how to get things done!

My favorite thing I’ve learned thus far is the structure of how a nonprofit works. I used to think tasks like making name tags and packing boxes were so small, but the more I experienced the impact they had on our organization and how such seemly minute tasks exemplified our values, the more I realized how significant the small tasks are, even in comparison to the larger ones.

Projects like printing name tags and compiling materials for shipping seem so insignificant compared to organizing a panel for an event or launching new web content. However, printing and organizing name tags largely contributed to the organization of our event, telling attendees where to sit and allowing them to easily identify one another for networking purposes. Compiling materials seemed so repetitive until I realized the impact these resources would have once they arrived at the school districts that requested them. Parents, teachers, partners and members of our team were all impacted by these small tasks, some of them in big ways.

I’ve also gotten the privilege to attend meetings with partners outside our organization and to observe the relationships between us and others. One event I attended was the Principal For A Day at Genesis Academy. Growing up near Cave Creek and going to school in PVUSD, I had never been exposed to an alternative high school and I was blown away by the incredible work that they do helping students who have dropped out or been turned away from other public schools to stay in school and graduate prepared for postsecondary education and career life.

I attended a School Connect event that surprised me with the amazing ways people from all sectors were working toward prioritizing and progressing education in Arizona. Many influential businesses and organizations from the community attended and showcased their interest in partnering with schools in a way that benefits both sides and allows them to get more involved in advocating for education in Arizona.

From tackling projects like tagging our Excellence Tour stories to helping at multiple events, my time at Expect More Arizona has been exciting and inspirational. I’m humbled and motivated by learning about how fortunate I was in my education to be pursuing a postsecondary degree at Arizona State University well equipped by my academic support system, both inside and outside of schools. I am also inspired by the teachers and students whose situation presents a lot more challenges and barriers than my own because they continue to persevere and to find new ways to work toward high-quality education in their community, whether that be in creating a mentorship program to help retain teachers or developing a system to encourage students to strengthen and retain math skills.

I’m looking forward to the rest of my time with the team and am so grateful for how much I have grown in my knowledge of nonprofits and education advocacy. I feel so fortunate to have worked on this team and know I will be able to turn to the coworkers I have met here for resources later on in my career.

Thank you, Expect More Arizona!