Hello Westmont 2004 alumni!
I hope this email finds you all doing well! As your new Class Agent, I'm so grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with you. I have the pleasure of writing a series of quarterly newsletters for our graduating class, in order to help you stay connected with your fellow alumni and keep you informed of the latest news and events occurring at Westmont. My hope is that you remain an active member of the ever-growing Westmont community and find your place of involvement in the ongoing life and mission of the college.
As someone who likes to think in big pictures and overarching themes, I'm planning to focus each of our newsletters around a certain theme. Homecoming 2010 is fast approaching and has the motto of "All roads lead to Westmont." I started thinking about the class of 2004 and wondering where our journeys have taken us after graduation. If our paths are leading back to Westmont, what stories and experiences will we have to share with one another?
In this first newsletter, I'd like to give you an update on Justin Zoradi and the journey he's taken since leaving Westmont. Justin began the non-profit organization These Numbers Have Faces in order to provide educational opportunities to South African students, helping them learn the skills they need to fight the generational poverty in their communities.
1. Give us a brief update on some of the recent activity going on with These Numbers Have Faces (TNHF).
Some big news is that I'm heading to Cape Town in October to hire our brand new Director of Operations and Director of Programs. We're at a great place now where there is so much interest in our program, both at home and in South Africa that we need more staff to manage it all. In the past we ran things on the ground with some very part-time help and committed volunteers. It's honestly mind-blowing for me that this little project I started on my couch in my apartment 3 years ago is now hiring full time staff, opening up an office, etc.
We've also launched our Women's Empowerment Fund this year to build a fund exclusively for women's education and empowerment in South Africa. So far it's been a huge success and we're thrilled for the 6-8 new women's scholarships it will provide for starting in January 2011. It's my job to fundraise nowadays, so people can check it out at thesenumbers.org/women.
Gearing up for 2011, we're looking to have about 20 students in our education and leadership programs for next year. It's shocking to me that it's growing at this rate.
2. When you first began brainstorming the idea of TNHF, the organization looked very different than it does today. How would you describe your journey with TNHF?
After I actually realized that my parents had paid for my Westmont education and how that set me on a trajectory toward success, I had to reevaluate how I wanted to give that back to others. It was 2007 then and I was in grad school in Portland with all these resources, connections, and advantages at my fingertips. One day I was sitting on a bench in downtown Portland and I heard God say very clearly to me, "Justin. Will you deny for others what you demand for yourself?" I was like, oh crap. I actually have to do this thing that I've been trying to avoid for the last few months.
I got a C- in microeconomics at Westmont, so I knew I needed tons of help if I was to be successful. So I went out and bought a book, "How To Start and Build A Nonprofit Organization" from Powells Books in Portland. Basically, I had no idea what the hell I was doing and we made some stupid mistakes early on. I had some really bad ideas about bringing kids from South Africa to college at schools like Westmont. Thankfully, some really smart friends told me both how dangerous and expensive that would end up being.
The journey of TNHF is great in that it's constantly evolving. One of the things I've learned most about both leadership and international development is that I have to be ok with things not working out like I want them to. This type of work is messy because we're dealing with real people who can't just be upgraded into better forms of their former selves. International aid has had some disastrous effects on places like Africa in creating cultures of dependency and corruption. Specifically with our students, they are under the weight of gigantic issues we can't even fathom: poverty, disease, conflict, broken families, psychological trauma from the apartheid days, etc.
One of my greatest strengths has been celebrating small achievements and simply showing up every day. That's really the secret to success. Just being present. I've put one foot in front of the other for the past few years and that hard work is starting to pay off.
3. When you think back to your four years at Westmont, what have you taken from that time and applied to your work with TNHF?
I've been pleasantly surprised as to how much my Communication Studies degree has impacted my work with TNHF. The power of language and meaning is such a huge part of my daily life and I learned a lot of writing skills at Westmont that play out on a daily basis. From how we market large fundraising campaigns to which words we choose in our Facebook & Twitter updates, it all matters. And public speaking too. I'd rather not do it, but it's become a part of my job. Westmont made all this possible.
Because Westmont is so relationally driven, much of that has bled over into TNHF as well. Not only in the relationships we have with our students on the ground in South Africa, but also in the relationships we have with our donors, supporters, and community in Portland. Westmont taught me to value intentionality and the humanity in every person.
4. What do you miss most about Westmont?
It's cliché, but the relationships, living in the dorms, eating in the DC, chapel, basketball games etc. It's just the best four years ever. I love my job and am very happily married now, but there are times I kinda wish I could just start over in Page and do it all over again. Europe Semester was also an amazingly transformative time for me with all my best friends. So I miss that.
5. If you could encourage the 2004 class with one message, what would you say?
The greatest way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others. I think Gandhi said that. I wouldn't trade what I do for all the money in the world.
6. How can the Westmont student body (both current students and alumni) support TNHF?
Rather than just support, we want people to participate in our work. That's really one of our greatest strengths, the way people feel connected and very involved with our work in South Africa. For some people that means contributing financially. Our average donation is about $19 a month and we'd obviously love to have lots of people giving monthly. But more than that we'd love Westmont people to look at our work and think to themselves, "What is my greatest strength and how can I contribute it to this project?" We've had people ask this in the past and the results have been fantastic. Folks traveling to South Africa to do photojournalism, graphic design, writing articles, putting on events in their living rooms, financial consulting, grant writing, spreading the word online, linking their businesses and churches to us, etc etc. The possibilities are endless.
7. Favorite Spring Sing Memory:
Without a doubt, winning best skit my sophomore year with Legos and Lincoln Logs. I remember VK was our big rivalry because they had all these Spring Sing heavy hitters and talked a big game. After we won, I think Doug Patterson drew a chalk line on the street between Armington and VK and wrote "winners" on one side, and "losers" on the other. It was pretty epic. I hope Derek Jones reads this.
Homecoming 2010 is October 1 & 2
All paths lead to Westmont for Homecoming Weekend. The schedule and registration details are online at westmont.edu/homecoming2010. RSVP by September 24 and save $10.
Facebook for 2004
You may already be a member of our group called "Westmont College Class of 2004," but in case you aren't, here's the link.
Fall 2010: Adams Center and Winter Hall are finished and open for class
After nearly 2 years of construction, Adams Center and Winter Hall are now complete. Together they offer nearly 80,000 square feet of new space for students and professors. Read More...
Westmont Impact tells the story of us!
Why is the world different because Westmont College exists? For the answer go to westmontimpact.org.
Westmont and your job search
WestmontLink is Westmont's free online job site for alumni. Sign up to search for jobs. Or if you'd like to share an opening with Westmont alumni, click here.
If you have any questions or would like further information, please reply to this email. Take care, and I hope to see you at Homecoming weekend!
Grace and peace,
Alair Conner, M.A.('04)