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Center for Professional Development
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Dartmouth College
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Alumni Stories: Paul Holzer '00

Helping Disenfranchised Youth Succeed

by Alina Gonzalez '08holzer

Paul Holzer, Class of 2000, personifies the socially-conscious, business-savvy Dartmouth alum who wants to improve the world. In Paul´s case, his overarching aim is to enhance the educational options for disadvantaged students interested in college. No small goal, maybe, but he underscores the importance of community and networking in reaching one’s professional ambitions.

“I’m using the help of everyone I know,” Paul says. He credits support from his father and his fiancée, a life coach and Dartmouth graduate, as invaluable to the success he has achieved to date.

These days, between applying to business school, planning a wedding in Ecuador, and overseeing the Higher Education Department at the Latin American Youth Center in Washington D.C., Paul has a lot on his plate. But he enjoys the challenges and the rewards that come with realizing one’s purpose after leaving life at the Big Green.

His best advice for undergrads? “You have to use the people who want to help you,” he says, “especially if you don’t know what is going to make you happy.¨ He also encourages students to utilize priceless resources like Dartmouth’s Center for Professional Development.

“It’s an incredible facility, and full of dedicated people whose job it is to help you figure out your career path,” he says.

While at Dartmouth, the English major was lucky enough to know what he wanted after graduation, and staying committed to his dreams remained his number one priority. He said this laser-like focus prevented him from feeling pressure to conform.

“I saw myself as blessed to have had such opportunity and such a stellar education [at Dartmouth], so I wasn’t going to do something that wasn’t going to make me happy” Paul says. “Instead of feeling like I had to follow an already-existing career path, I saw myself as a pioneer.”

Paul has been trailblazing ever since. After graduating from Dartmouth with secondary school teaching certification in English, he took part in a fellowship with the Common Ground Community in Manhattan where he became part of an extended nonprofit network. As the Special Projects Manager for Common Ground, he trained formerly homeless adults as employees of a Ben & Jerry’s “Partner Shop” operated by the Times Square Jobs Training Program.

In 2002, Paul moved to Washington, D.C. and started work at a charter school creating college preparatory programs and curriculum. At his current position with the Latin American Youth Center in D.C., Paul oversees several different college preparatory programs that help at-risk minority youth prepare for entrance to and completion of higher levels of education.

A typical day for him involves running staff meetings, managing different projects, hiring teachers, and publicizing opportunities for higher education. Paul directs the Upward Bound Program in D.C. that prepares seventy students in grades 9-12 for college. On a daily basis, he advises the program’s staff of guidance counselors, assigns tasks, gives leadership opportunities, organizes college tours, to name several of his myriad duties.

Paul’s plans for the future involve doing what he is doing now, but on a grander scale.

“I am going to business school because I want to start something that will allow me to hit more schools, more youth, and cultivate more staff” he said. He hopes to become a much better business leader by learning different strategies for how best to galvanize disenfranchised youth through dynamic organizations.

“Whether its non profit, for profit - I want to learn the best business model for raising money and starting a social enterprise,” he says. Ultimately, this knowledge will come full circle and provide him with the ability to establish the “right outlet” for the professional development of young people, Paul says.

“I really want to help people that want to get into social enterprise,” he says. “Something like Teach for America…which is on a national level, and which hires the nation’s best.”

But Paul also says that several of his friends have shared one drawback with both the highly-lauded Teach for America and the Peace Corps programs - burnout.

“People typically do it for two years, satisfy a craving to help people, and then become burned out,” he says. He wants to create opportunities for young adults to give service for longer periods and to avoid the two-year fatigue factor. “I’d like to establish a more sustainable program that provides long-term fulfillment,” Paul says.

But whatever their passions or interests may be, Paul wants young people to have flexible mind sets when entering the career world.

“People crave security, and they are afraid of uncertainty, but you have to try new things” he says. “If you create your dream, your job does not have to be a means to an end."

Last Updated: 10/9/13