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SMASH helps change students’ lives. Working there changed his.
Andy Arenberg was at a crossroads in his professional life. After 35 years handling strategy and marketing in the financial services sector, he craved a different experience. He was reading The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50, and thinking more about a second career doing good.
At 57, Arenberg could see firsthand how his two teenage daughters were benefiting from a good education. Leveling the playing field, so more young people had the same kind of academic opportunities as his girls, felt like a worthy cause.
So in September of 2019, Arenberg began an Encore Fellowship with SMASH — an Oakland-based nonprofit that helps students of color prepare for STEM college studies and careers. The organization’s flagship program, SMASH Academy, places high school students at 10 different university campuses across the country for five weeks of tuition-free study each summer, surrounded by relatable mentors.
Arenberg worked part-time for SMASH, spending two days each week with the team in-person, helping with various marketing projects. When the pandemic hit, he transitioned to working entirely from home.
“2020 has been the most tumultuous year we have experienced at SMASH,” says the organization’s CEO Eli Kennedy. “Our whole educational model was forced to change due to the Covid-19 virus. We also had thousands of young people looking to us for leadership after the senseless police violence that rocked Black communities. We needed to communicate the changes in our program to our students, families, funders and instructors. And we needed to empower our community to fight against racial injustice.”
Arenberg played a big role. “Andy led us in developing a powerful statement on the murder of George Floyd, helped us convene an online event attended by over 700 members of our community, and helped us keep our stakeholders and families aware of the changes that occurred at SMASH this summer. His work helped strengthen our community.”
SMASH had a big impact on Arenberg, too. “As I reflect on my 12 months at SMASH, my most powerful personal moments were due to my proximity to an incredible group of people — a group I would not have ever had the chance to meet if not for the Encore Fellowship program. I learned so much from people who had different backgrounds than me.”
SMASH has helped more than 1,000 young people across the nation manage the college application process, land summer internships and find mentors as they pursue STEM college degrees and careers.
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