Employ Your Creativity with Venture For America

By Adam Rashkoff
Friday, November 16, 2012

Now is as good a time as any to start thinking about post grad employment opportunities, especially if you’re a senior (what up fellow seniors!). However, for many of us, the job search yields mostly discouragement and dismay. Ideally, we want to support ourselves financially, to learn valuable skills, to fall in with supportive peer groups, to think creatively, and to work toward social good, yet the number of opportunities that allows us to do all of these things is dishearteningly low. That being said, one new nonprofit organization is aiming to provide us with precisely such an opportunity.

This school year I am working as a Campus Ambassador for Venture For America. VFA aims to match high-achieving college students with full-time jobs (read: not internships) at start-up companies in cities across the country. Students who are accepted as VFA Fellows attend a summer training program in broadly applicable business skills before spending two years working at a placement startup, which they are matched with based on their individual skills, interests, and experience. Through this model, VFA aims to provide bright young people with both the hard knowledge and the hands-on experience that will enable them to be successful entrepreneurs and to maybe even start their own businesses one day.

Additionally, while many recent grads tend to flock to cities like New York, Boston, or San Francisco, VFA matches Fellows with jobs in cities that are low-cost and struggle to attract top talent, but also have emerging start-up ecosystems — communities of new entrepreneurs who actively collaborate with each other. The idea behind this set-up is that Fellows will have the opportunity and the support to contribute to job creation and economic growth in cities across the country, effectively putting creativity and business skills toward social good.

Last year, VFA accepted three Wesleyan students for its inaugurual class of 40 Fellows, giving us the highest per capita representation of any college. One of these Wesleyan alumni, Josh Levine ’12, will be on campus on Monday, Nov. 26 and Tuesday, Nov. 27 to meet students and speak about his VFA experience. Josh, a Government major and a former member of EON, is currently working in Las Vegas at Downtown Project, a collective of leaders in arts, healthcare, education, and business that aims to transform downtown Las Vegas into the “most community-focused large city in the world” (from downtownproject.com). His main job with Downtown Project is working with physician-rapper Zubin Damania (aka ZDogg MD) to improve healthcare through the creation of an innovative primary care clinic; thus far they have made informational music videos and held a flu shot clinic along the way. I encourage you to come hear from Josh about his work at Downtown Project and his VFA experience in an information session on Monday night at 7:00 in Usdan 110, and on Tuesday from 11:00-2:00 at the tables in Usdan.

I for one would love to see the high level of Wesleyan representation in VFA continue, as I believe the abundance of creative, dynamic students on our campus stands to thrive in the VFA program and in the start-up world. If I have piqued your interest and you want to learn more, check out ventureforamerica.org, and feel free to send me an email at arashkoff@wesleyan.edu. I would be happy to respond to any questions you have either electronically or in person!

Adam Rashkoff is a member of the Class of 2013.