OFN’s seven interns have been a wonderful addition to our two offices this summer. The interns bring new ideas, an excitement to learn about our work, and a desire to help OFN and CDFIs grow. Every year their contributions are remarkable. I asked each intern to take some time to interview one another in an effort to learn more about the role they play at OFN and as future ambassadors to the CDFI industry. This is the first in a three-part series to cover our seven OFN interns.
Meet Katherine Castillo by Jonathan Pizzutti
Katherine pictured with Senator Dick Durbin
A long-time resident of Washington D.C., Katherine Castillo is spending her summer in the city’s Historic Downtown area as a Public Policy intern for OFN. A rising junior at the University of Pittsburgh, she draws from her education in political science and history to navigate the U.S. legislative system and promote the CDFI industry.
Having demonstrated an interest in public policy for years, Katherine organized her high school’s first Hispanic Heritage Celebration. During this month-long event, she introduced 350 students to the DREAM Act to support undocumented immigrants who are seeking opportunity in the United States. She continued to promote causes close to her heart as she interned for the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and participated in OFN’s Advocacy Day for the past two years. Through her internship and work with Advocacy Day, Katherine was able to network with Liz Lopez, OFN’s Executive Vice President of Public Policy, who encouraged her to spend her summer in the CDFI industry.
As a Public Policy intern, Katherine closely follows legislation related to OFN. Of note, she has assisted her team in defeating the Duffy-Marino amendment that would have cut $20.7 million in CDFI funding from the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2017 (H.R. 5485). In her role, she has learned to remain flexible, prioritize her responsibilities, and manage her expectations. Given the complex nature of the field, Katherine has also gained valuable insights into the intricacies of the legislative process, and how seemingly small factors can make a large impact. In addition, she enjoys the opportunities to network with other professionals, learn from her OFN colleagues, and obtain esteemed experience on Capitol Hill.
Going beyond her work this summer, Katherine hopes to further pursue career options in law, lobbying, and public policy. Eventually, she wants to go to graduate school and earn a dual degree in public relations and business. In the meantime, she is happy to learn from OFN’s public policy work, develop her own interests, and continue to build a foundation for a successful career.
Meet Grant Ebbesmeyer by Katherine Castillo
Grant Ebbesmeyer, a small town man from German Valley, Illinois, is one of seven interns this summer working with OFN. Grant is a rising senior at the Rhodes college in Memphis Tennessee. As a double major in urban studies and history, this small town native of about 450 people, has traveled a long way to immerse himself in Philadelphia’s University City. According to Grant, this summer he hoped for “something different”. Moving to a city populated with over a million people, and working with the leading national network of CDFIs, is definitely something different!
Grant is spending his ten-week internship in Development, assisting in developing and implements strategies to raise OFNs funds—including both grants and investments—that support financing to Members, industry initiatives, capacity building opportunities, and much more. However, this sort of non-profit line of work is not all new for Grant. In college he worked on The Bridge Street News Paper, a nonprofit program that was run by the students of the school. Bridge Street’s mission is to help homeless men and women earn money for themselves by selling the newspaper to locals on the street. Grant’s role at the time was to secure funding for the program though grants, donations, and working with local partner. Grant is continuing to develop his skills as he works closely with the Development team, including his role working with sponsors for the 2016 OFN Conference this October (24th-27th, Save the Date).
So far, Grant’s favorite day during his internship has been the site visit to FINANTA, a CDFI and OFN Member in the Philly region. His internship has been a learning experience; building on his work at The Bridge Street News, and applying his knowledge on a larger scale, as well as learning to maintain contacts. Grant appreciates how wonderful the OFN staff are to work with, he says, “everyone has been so nice, and I am never scared to ask for help.”
Grant’s fun facts are that his first job in the small town of German Valley was working as a cheese salesman at his local farmer’s market and he has a cat named Turtle.
Meet Jonathan Pizzuti, by Grant Ebbesmeyer
Jonathan Pizzutti, a rising senior at Villanova University, has long been interested in economic development. Originally from Pittsburgh, Jonathan is an Economics and Peace and Justice Studies major, which he designed independently. He is excited to have the opportunity to expand his knowledge of the CDFI industry as a part of the strategic consulting team at OFN this summer.
Jonathan’s internship at OFN is not his first experience in the field of economic development. Two years ago, he participated in a fellowship through Villanova’s Center for Global Leadership working with Lux-Development in Nicaragua. He helped to start a partnership with a bank (Banpro) to provide low-interest loans to businesses there, and he assisted the businesses after they received loans. Last summer, Jonathan had experiences both with asset servicing at BNY Mellon and supporting worker-owned cooperatives through the Thomas Merton Center, a local non-profit in Pittsburgh.
After hearing about OFN and the internships available through a posting on Villanova’s career website, Jonathan was very interested in applying. In addition to wanting to stay in the Philadelphia-area for the summer, Jonathan thought OFN would provide a good opportunity to combine his interests. Additionally, although he already knew about the substantial role CDFIs play in economic development, he wanted to learn more about the industry.
As a part of the strategic consulting team, Jonathan has had the opportunity to participate in a variety of different projects. He has assisted with the final report for Task Order 16 with the CDFI Fund, and is working to help survey and obtain feedback from CDFIs that participated in the program’s User Groups, Workshop Cohorts, and 1-1 Technical Assistance sessions. He has also worked with the department’s Small Business Initiatives, underwriter training, and the BBVA Leadership Program.
In his time at OFN so far, Jonathan has especially appreciated learning more about the history of the CDFI industry and different types of CDFIs, as well as how OFN interacts with its Members. He hopes to continue learning from the people around him and continuing to expand his knowledge of the role of CDFIs in economic development. His favorite parts of the internship so far have been seeing OFN’s day-to-day operations and getting to know his fellow interns. In the future, Jonathan hopes to continue working in the field of economic development and helping out his local community.