With nonprofit services needed more than ever, Nonprofit Leadership Alliance seniors finish strong amid pandemic

With nonprofit services needed more than ever, Nonprofit Leadership Alliance seniors finish strong amid pandemic

NLASA Seniors 2020

By Troy Hill, ASU Lodestar Center

May 6, 2020

The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Association (NLASA) at ASU held their annual Senior Celebration on April 27, 2020, marking the end of their journeys at ASU and the start of their careers as Certified Nonprofit Professionals (CNP). But this year, they held the entire ceremony online in order to accommodate social distancing guidelines.

The event was held over Zoom so that the dozens of family members, faculty, community partners, friends and alumni could attend. Members attended remotely from a wide range of locations, as close as downtown Phoenix and as far around the world as the Philippines and France.

Jonathan Koppell, dean of ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, and Robert Ashcraft, executive director of the ASU Lodestar Center, both spoke at the beginning of the event, followed by the keynote speaker, Susan Tomlinson Schmidt, president of the national Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. Awards were given out to students, and then graduating seniors were able to give a short speech about their time in the NLASA and working towards their CNP credentials.

Meredith Clements, the event coordinator for the NLASA and a junior nonprofit leadership and management student, said it was important that they still recognize the graduating seniors amid the epidemic, even if it had to be online.

Earning the Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP) credential requires two years of classes, an internship and 200 hours of certified field experience.

“I think it's still important to recognize them for all the hard work they've done,” Clements said, “and knowing the seniors I want them to be recognized as well.”

When the event is held in person, a major component of it is the presentation of the cords. However, the fact that the event was held online this year made distributing the cords problematic.

Instead, they allotted that time for each of the 10 graduating seniors to give a two- to four-minute speech about their time in the NLASA.

Ebonee Robinson, one of the seniors graduating with a degree in nonprofit leadership and management, said the event was amazing and better than she was expecting.

She also said listening to everyone’s speeches and recounted memories was her favorite part.

“[The event] felt really intimate, like I was actually there with everyone,” Robinson said.

Camille-Fleur Moraux-Pizano, another one of the graduating seniors, said she was very excited for the speeches at the event.

“This is the last time we have the chance to express ourselves and share something, be thankful, or pass something on to the next NLASAers who will graduate [next year], and hopefully, not have this type of experience,” Moraux-Pizano said.

Stephanie Pham, a junior studying nonprofit leadership and management and the ASU NLASA president for the last year, and ASU lecturer Anne Kotleba, the program coordinator for the NLASA, drove out to many of the local seniors’ houses the day before the ceremony in order to still present their cords in person.

“It was good to see them in person, and we still were practicing social distancing,” Pham said.

Pham said it was a lot of fun, a lot of people cried, and that it brightened many of their months.

Moraux-Pizano said the ASU NLASA group is very unique because of how close and friendly they are.

“The NLA is the most unexpected thing that I could ever have stumbled upon because I thought I was alone. And here we go, a bunch of other people like me.”

Because of this strong unity, Moraux-Pizano said she never even considered the possibility of canceling the event.

“It wouldn't make sense for them to because they always celebrate accomplishments, celebrate progress, and celebrate failures because they will lead to later accomplishments,” Moraux-Pizano said. “Of course they will celebrate it, just because the NLA is proud of their members.”