Denae is a consistent, hardworking young woman who jumps right in to any work task thrown her way. She has a can-do attitude and displays a strong commitment to personal excellence. Whether she is writing thank you letters to customers, researching organizations that serve foster youth, or representing Doing Good Works on a college campus, Denae exudes a desire to improve lives through her work.
What is your position with Doing Good Works?
I was a Mission Ambassador, which means I promoted Doing Good Works’ branded products on a college campus. But right now, I am writing thank you notes to people who have made purchases from Doing Good Works. I also research new ways we will reach out to college campuses now that things are less typical with COVID-19. I have been working with Doing Good Works for a little over a year — I started during my junior year of college, in March 2019.
How did you come to work at Doing Good Works?
James (Doing Good Works’ Director of Education) reached out to the FYRE (Foster Youth in Resilience and Excellence) program at UCI and was close to Janet who worked there. FYRE provides many resources and hosts different events every week for students who experienced foster care. One event was with Doing Good Works and that’s how I got involved.
Doing Good Works is founded on the mission that every young person aging out of foster care deserves an equal chance to succeed and access to the networks and tools that can empower them. What does this mission mean to you?
Well, they reached out to me and they have been able to help a lot. Working with Doing Good Works has allowed me to be in a professional environment without ordinary obstacles that might weigh me down. The environment uplifts us in ways I have not felt in other work environments. Being open about my background and surrounded by peers with similar circumstances is enormously helpful. They also embrace that I was a college student. In previous jobs, all these things worked against me. Doing Good Works found ways around those obstacles that worked for everyone involved.
What did you study in college?
I just graduated in Spring 2019. I double-majored in Public Health Policy and Urban Studies. Right now it’s difficult finding jobs because many corporations are not hiring for entry-level roles. Ultimately I would like to combine structural injustice with health policy — community and individual health.
What are your career goals, now or for the future?
I hope to work with non-profits and community organizations. I would like to work in administration. My goals are similar to what Doing Good Works does, in some aspects.
Can you share one example of how mentorship has made an impact on your life?
Growing up I just wanted to get through school and college for financial stability. But I was also dealing with imposters syndrome — something I didn’t even know about. Fortunately, I had mentors who believed in me and saw me in a certain favorable light. That really helped me rise above my circumstances and strengthen me to aspire to more. Janet, who runs the FYRE program at UCI, helped me a lot during my freshman and sophomore years. Even though I had financial aid, I was paralyzed with fear about paying rent. I worked full-time and had preexisting health issues and injured my back as a result. After that, I had to stop school for a quarter and explained how I was feeling to Janet. I just felt really low, thinking, “Well I tried and here I am back at square one. Will I always be plagued with health issues?” She gave me health resources and helped me see I was better off than I realized. She also told me to snap out of it! I ended up performing better than before I injured my back. I studied abroad in Paris and graduated with honors — and I never thought I was going to be able to do either of those things.
How do you look to make an impact either through your work or in your life?
Through my work, I really hope to help people who have experienced similar circumstances to me. I want to help kids reach their potential — whether that is through helping with nonprofits or giving them resources. I’m not exactly sure yet, but I know I want to uplift people and affect change.
What are your hobbies and outside interests — what do you like to do when you are not working or not in school?
Recently, I picked up playing the guitar and I read a lot. I have been bugging all my friends to start a book club!
Are there any recent accomplishments you are proud of that you can share — (anything from learning how to boil an egg to purchasing your first car!)
I was able to graduate from college and buy my own car! I got it second hand through the app, Offer Up. I never thought I would be able to do that. I thought I would be riding the bus for the next twenty years!
What is your favorite book, tv show, or movie and why?
I really like the show Shameless because it shows that there can be comedy in some of the worst circumstances. It shows the core values of sticking with family, staying true to yourself, and doing what you have to in order to get by. One character gets into M.I.T. but has to balance helping his family out. I really like how that was portrayed — they didn’t make it cushy.
What is something unusual, surprising, or funny that people may not know about you?
That I have a cat named Ian? I got him off of Craig’s List and he’s just a very large, obese cat. When I got him, he ate all of his toys and anything off the ground so now I can’t leave anything lying around!
What does Doing Good Works mean to you?
Community. I know that I am only one of many involved with Doing Good Works, but they really reach out and care. They help us out in ways above and beyond the programs offered in college.