When the PwC Charitable Foundation invested $1.3 million in the Points of Light Civic Accelerator — the first-ever 12-week incubator combining for-profit and nonprofit social ventures — the Board of Trustees never imagined one of the participants would also be an incoming PwC Advisory associate.
During his sophomore year at Cornell, PwC Advisory Associate Zach West, who joined the firm in August, had a poignant conversation with a friend, Karim Abouelnaga. “For me, the recurring question in high school was ‘Where are you going to college?’” said Zach. “At Karim’s school, the question was ‘Are you going to college?’” Karim went to an inner-city school where only half the kids graduated and even fewer went to college. Clearly, the dialogue was very different at their schools, and Zach and Karim wanted to change the conversation. They enlisted the help of four other friends and founded Practice Makes Perfect (PMP), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that pairs academically struggling elementary and middle school students with older, higher achieving mentor peers from the same inner-city neighborhoods, all under the supervision of trained college interns for a six-week, full-day academic experience.
PMP’s success over the past few years is impressive. This past summer, its goal was to eliminate summer learning loss. They not only met this goal, but reported learning gains – six percent in reading and seven percent in math. And, 93 percent of students enrolled attended the program, demonstrating their high interest in participating. In addition, PMP interns, mentors, many of the younger students, and young professionals gave over 200 volunteer hours performing service events outside of the classroom, including a clothing drive, park cleanups, gardening and planting.
PMP has garnered national attention for its work in New York, and was named one of the top 16 most dynamic commitments worldwide at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative University Conference. When PMP was chosen to be a part of the Point of Light Civic Accelerator this summer, Zach was thrilled. “Seeing The PwC Charitable Foundation as one of the founding investors of the Civic Accelerator reaffirmed my excitement and conviction in choosing to work for PwC — a leader in business and social responsibility,” he said.
The innovative, 12-week Points of Light program provides funding, mentoring and networking opportunities to social entrepreneurs, and is a pioneer in its focus on early-stage civic ventures. To date, the Civic Accelerator has incubated 19 organizations and involved more than 20 PwC employees as mentors and volunteers. The program helped Zach and Karim flesh out PMP’s organizational structure, and was a good team building and networking experience. In fact, Zach had the opportunity to meet PwC Charitable Foundation President and Washington Metro MMP Chris Simmons at one such networking event in Washington, D.C. “Seeing Chris in this informal setting allowed us to experience his hands-on leadership style and understand his commitment to building the community,” said Zach.
Zach currently serves as a director on the governing board for PMP. In this role, he maintains the organization’s online presence, implements analytical tools to measure success, and works to develop key partnerships with organizations to help fund and improve PMP. He plans to continue to advise PMP in addition to his full-time work with PwC. “The skills and values I’ve learned with both organizations are transferable,” Zach said. “Right now, I’m building out PMP’s 2014 strategic plan, and I’ve been inspired by PwC’s philosophy of goal setting. I’m also applying the Agile methodology principles I’ve been learning on my engagement.” Zach plans to apply for the PwC Foundations Dollars for Doers program to help support PMP, and is looking forward to getting involved in other service activities with his PwC team members.
“I was thrilled to meet Zach and be introduced to Practice Makes Perfect at the Civic Accelerator pitch event at the Points of Light Conference,” Chris Simmons said. “The PwC Charitable Foundation supports the people of PwC and innovative nonprofits focusing on education and humanitarianism – we never expected to be able to do both at the same time. Zach represents exactly the type of talent we hope to attract at PwC — innovative and socially minded.”
The PwC Charitable Foundation, Inc. is a section 501c3 organization that supports the people of PwC in times of financial hardship and disaster through the People Who Care Fund and makes grants to nonprofit organizations that support and promote education and humanitarianism. To learn more about the Foundation, please visit our Web site.
This article was featured in PwC news on October 18th, 2013.