As a UNC Greensboro undergraduate student, Joshua Leeper was an active volunteer. When he learned he could make that kind of work his career, he jumped at the chance to start his own nonprofit.
In 2015, he started Raise ’Em Up Mentoring, a nonprofit for under-served adolescents that offers tutoring, mentoring, enrichment activities, and afterschool programming at three Title I Guilford County, NC, schools.
As his nonprofit grew, he realized he needed the credentials and education to ensure his organization’s sustainability. He enrolled in UNCG’s online Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management (NPM), a program that can be completed in one to two years. Leeper will graduate in August.
Following His Passion
Currently a teaching assistant at a Raleigh charter school, he has been steadily building his nonprofit.
“That’s always been a passion of mine, providing youth with pathways and access to various resources that I might not have had growing up, being a listening ear to see what they actually wanted to reach their dreams, and working to provide that for them,” he says.
Learning the Business Side of Nonprofits
Realizing that nonprofit work could be a career opened up a new world for Leeper. The NPM certificate has helped him understand the ins and outs of running a nonprofit.
“It kind of just made sense to go into the program to get a better sense of the business side of nonprofits,” he says. “I have the passion and I can see the vision as far as the impact I want to make, but to make it actually possible, I had to put the work in. It’s a great program, so I’m glad I made the decision.”
He’s gaining skills he can directly apply to Raise ’Em Up — social media campaigns, creating a budget, grant writing, networking, and recruiting volunteers to be sustainable in the long run.
Working with others in the program who’ve been at established nonprofits, who have more experience, provides Leeper with opportunities to learn from their skill sets and get valuable advice.
How Far Can You Grow?
Leeper sees the potential for growth for his volunteer-based nonprofit, hoping he’ll one day make his career out of it. Volunteer and service hour numbers have grown each year. He’s expanding into another school next year. He’s excited to learn more in the NPM program to help the nonprofit develop even more.
“Seeing the big picture of how far I could take this and the impact we have made thus far with limited resources allowed me to realize I can realistically expand the program into different cities and states with the proper know-how,” he says.
His nonprofit is making a difference, exposing kids to inspiration and new experiences. He sees it in the way the kids in Raise ’Em Up have grown — how they see themselves, how they talk, and what they want to do.
“Once you move outside your environment, you’re open to different things and the more places you go, the more you realize what really matters in life and what’s important,” he says. “Giving kids the opportunity to see that, figure out what that passion is for themselves so they can follow their dreams — I just want everybody around me to do something they love to do, to be able to provide for themselves, their families, and give back to their communities in a meaningful way.”
For more about the online Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management, download a brochure.