by Christie Garton, Founder & CEO of 1,000 Dreams Fund
We’re officially more than halfway through 2020, and I think we can all agree that this year has served us some sour lemons — with the coronavirus pandemic still sitting comfortably at the top of that list.
The impact of COVID-19 is global and far-reaching, but it also hits close to home. It has personally affected the plans of many young women we work with at 1,000 Dreams Fund — from high school to college students, recent graduates, gamers and beyond. And, this disruption has unquestionably led to stress, disappointment, and uncertainty about the future.
But, what I want to tell you today is this: Pandemic or not, dreams often shift, evolve, and change. And, despite the recent challenges you might be facing that look like canceled internships, postponed events, job and financial concerns, and more, there are many ways you can still make some very sweet lemonade and achieve your goals — and you might just discover a new, better path along the way!
The COVID-19 Ripple Effect
We first started seeing COVID-19’s impact on our organization with the overwhelming interest from college-bound students in funding. In fact, we just announced our 2020 scholarship program recipients and, this year, we saw more than double the number of very worthy applications.
Then, I started hearing from the young women of our Student Advisory Board that their summer internships were being canceled. Likewise, finances are even more strapped and students are now making plans to transfer out of their universities, move home, and take online classes to save money.
As these ripples become waves, we’re all pivoting, readjusting, and exploring new, innovative ways to support the advancement of young women — because the pandemic’s impact is going to continue.
How We’re Making Lemonade at 1,000 Dreams Fund
COVID-19 has forced us to evolve our thinking at 1,000 Dreams Fund to better serve our community — and, as incongruous as it may sound, these changes are both beneficial and exciting!
One immediate shift we made is with our Project: Girls On The Rise initiative. This program has long been focused on providing funding for college visits — which obviously aren’t happening right now — so we’ve given students the ability to use those funds for other college enrollment costs like tuition or books. It was an “a-ha” moment for us — a forced decision because of COVID-19, but one that we’re permanently implementing.
Another program we’re evolving right now is MentorHER. We’re entering our second year of the initiative in October and we’re focused on virtual experiences and lining up companies who want to engage and mentor our community of young women.
Finally, as we all continue to adjust to the effects of COVID-19, our BroadcastHER Initiative is no exception. Our BroadcastHER supporters are no strangers to virtual events and online opportunities, but we are working on something very special coming later this Fall, stay tuned!
We’ve been able to transform these three programs to more effective and efficient platforms — while positively impacting more young women with big dreams. This is our lemonade fix.
How You Can Make Lemonade, Too
At first brush, I know COVID-19 may seem like nothing short of a dream crusher. But, there are still so many strategies for success and new ways of thought that I want you to consider.
For example, one of our partners recently came to us with a virtual seminar opportunity about how graduates can get a gig there. And, other Human Resources departments are following suit and getting creative about reaching aspiring students and graduates. If you have a dream company that you want to work for, I encourage you to send a quick introductory email to their HR contact. You never know what could happen!
If you had an internship lined up with a company that’s now on hold, suggest a virtual internship or start with some informational interviews by phone or Zoom with the people who work there. If you’re currently looking for an internship, think about “social distancing” as a new channel to a huge pipeline of opportunities with companies you’d never normally consider because you don’t live anywhere near their headquarters.
Many universities and colleges are also getting in on the game with virtual campus tours and other ways to “experience” student life from afar. And, before you let financial concerns derail your top-choice schools, here’s a thought: Just ask for a break on costs. This recent Wall Street Journal article proves that negotiating college tuition during a pandemic is definitely on the table. Never does “it can’t hurt to ask” ring more true.
Finally, I know some of our gamers and broadcasters were disheartened by the cancellation of TwitchCon 2020, but keep a lookout on that conference and others like them. The gaming industry knows a thing or two about virtual reality — and you never know what kind of opportunities might be in store.
So, here’s the moral of the story: Your dreams aren’t getting scratched off the list just because a piece of your journey has changed. There’s more than one way to reach your end goal and the effort is worth it — it could even put you on a path to learning something new or discovering something better that you might not have otherwise.