How She Got There: Lisa Chan, President of The Strive

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Name: Lisa Chan
Age: 20
Job Title and Description: CEO and President, The Strive
College/Major: B.A. Sociology, University of California, Berkeley
Website: www.thestrive.org
Twitter Handle: @thestrive
 

Her Campus: What does your current job entail?

Lisa Chan: Running The Strive requires me to be able to stretch myself across many tasks at any given time, and sometimes, all at once. From acquiring inspirational stories about teens making a difference in their community to building corporate partnerships, being CEO of The Strive, like any other non-profit, is a full time job. Most importantly, aside from the usual tasks, the most important requirements that my job demands is the passion, courage and dedication to improving the lives of youth in low-income public schools – making sure every student gets a chance at excellence.

HC: Is there such a thing as a typical day?  
LC: There is no such thing as a typical day running a non-profit. One second I may be at a radio station promoting a contest we have for teens and the next I could be test tasting cupcakes (I can’t complain about that one!) Though my tasks vary from day to day, making nothing typical about the days in my week, there is a common ground that I always keep in mind… the very reason I founded and continue to work so dedicatedly with this cause:
The Strive exists as an organization to strive towards addressing a social problem: inadequate K-12 Public Education nation-wide (through this 3 step cycle). And every day, I do my very best to act as a microphone to make people aware of this and give them an opportunity to help change it.
With budget cut after budget cut, The Strive works to supplement gaps created by empty promises from the government. We work in hopes of providing as many students as we can, the foundation that they need to reach their full potential.

And so, I remind myself of our mission statement at the very beginning and end of every day: The Strive, formerly known as The Bay Area Strive, is a 501 c(3) Non-Profit geared towards improving public education and creating young leaders nationwide. We accomplish this by providing K-12 Public School students with the educational resources, leadership encouragement/ foundation and inspiration (i.e. our goals: education, leadership, empowerment) to be successful, make a difference, and reach their professional dreams as a scholar and community leader.

HC:What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?
LC: This was my very job in the non-profit world and I achieved it by dreaming big! With guidance from Daly City Councilmember, David Canepa along with much encouragement from family and friends, I was able to formulate the problem I wanted to target, how I wanted to do it, and most importantly, why! I continued to go on with this endeavor with thick skin, learning from mistakes and taking criticisms with a grain of salt.

HC: What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
LC: One thing I wish I knew about working in the non-profit sector when I first started out that I know now is how powerful social media really is to raising awareness and gaining supporters! In the past year, I learned about more online outlets to raise awareness about our organization and our cause than I had known about when I first founded the former, Bay Area Strive in 2007. Nowadays, people live through the web, it moves fast and once one gains presence via the web, that very well translates into an increase in supporters and volunteers (extremely necessary for any non-profit to thrive). Though we are still in the process of mastering our presence through online media, we are determined to do so.

HC: Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
LC: Rani Singh, San Francisco Assistant District Attorney, has undoubtedly changed my professional life for the better. She quickly grew from a supervisor as I worked as a legal intern in the SFDA office, to a best friend, mentor, and someone who I can comfortably call family. Extremely established herself, her achievements in her career, along with the passion she has to help the kids in Juvenile court, are undeniable. Her positive attitude in life, honesty, frankness, charisma, and generosity has shaped the image of who I strive to become in my own professional life. From Rani, I learned that a job isn’t just 9-5 and isn’t just a mere occupation: a job carries into your life, so you better love it! Before meeting Rani, I was on the fast track to applying to Law School and then becoming a corporate attorney. Now, I have chosen to do something that makes me truly happy. In August, I will be applying for Teach for America, to put the mission of The Strive to work in my own life.
 
HC: What words of wisdom (well-known quotes, an anecdote from your boss) do you find most valuable?
LC: The words of wisdom that keeps me going every day, and has kept me doing what I do, was uttered by Jackson H. Brown, “No matter what the odds are, do what in your heart you knew you were always meant to do.” I live through the essence of this quote. Seriously!

HC: What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it? 
LC: I have made many mistakes along the journey of creating and developing The Strive. Though they may have caused me agony and many sleepless nights, I have accepted the fact that there will inevitably be mistakes when creating an organization, but in order to get up from the fall, you have to learn why you made the mistake and remember never to do it again! One mistake that really sticks out in my mind is giving important tasks to unreliable people. Though commitment is sometimes difficult with teenagers, there needs to be accountability! With non-profits especially, people are relying on the help that the organization is providing. When such assistance does not follow through, even if it is just volunteers showing up for an event, not only does that let people down, but it also creates a bad image on behalf of the non-profit.

HC: What is the best part of your job?
LC: The best part of my job, hands down, is to see the faces on the kid’s faces when we hand out new school supplies, books, awards, and scholarships. Those very moments will stay with me forever and make all the hard-work worthwhile.
 
HC: What do you look for when considering hiring someone?
LC: We are a complete youth run organization. With that having been said, we are looking to hire executive board members and student directors under 25 that show a passion for positive change in their communities and higher education. We are currently on the search for extraordinary teens interested in inspiring others and improving public education! Find more info by visiting the site [ www.thestrive.org.]
 
HC: What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
LC: My advice is simple. Do what you love and the rest will eventually fall into place. Keep trying until you succeed, don’t get discouraged along the way and never be afraid to take risks – your passion and dedication will shine through and you will make a difference in someone’s life.
 

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About The Author

Gennifer is a Hofstra University graduate and communications assistant currently living in Brooklyn. Previously she was the How She Got There editor at Her Campus after helping to launch the section in 2011. During her college career she interned at Cosmopolitan, O, The Oprah Magazine, Town & Country, Seventeen, Floor Covering Weekly, and the authors of "Be Your Own Best Publicist." She also freelanced for Glamour, assisting with their annual Amazing Young Women contest.