Non-Profit Grant Writer
Class of 1994
By Tyler Thornhill
Maile Horita is the Development Director (Grant Writer) and Service-Learning Coordinator for the Rogers Park Community Council in Chicago. The organization she works for was founded in 1952 by a group of community organizers working to motivate and empower community members to take action against various threats to their neighborhood’s well-being. It has evolved into an organization that provides a variety of social services in the fields of youth development, senior initiatives, affordable housing, domestic violence victim’s advocacy, and landlord and tenants rights. With this change, the Rogers Park Community Council now serves a large population of the community as well as individuals from other areas of Chicago. Maile has found that the immigrant/refugee youth she works with are most grateful for the opportunities that they have, which is not so much the case with native US-born youth.
She likes working with community-based non-profits because of the richness and diversity of the work and the people that she works with. Everyday is a learning experience and she feels like she’s working from the heart and not just for a paycheck. She also feel that she’s very fortunate to always be given the autonomy to create programs that bring about change and never feel like she’s stuck doing something that she doesn’t agree with. She believes that people should find out what they love and find a way to do it everyday. This philosophy differs from societal pressures to do whatever it takes to make the most money.
Maile also works with other youth workers as a Service-Learning Coordinator. She socializes with, tutors and mentors high school age youth during their after school hours. She’s gaining new ideas and resources on how to empower youth and create youth-led programs. She usually works Monday-Friday from 10:00am-6:00pm, but is able to vary her hours and work from home. The entire organization relies on her to obtain funding through research, grant writing and reporting.
She thinks Chicago provides excellent opportunities for anyone who would like to work in the non-profit sector. Since it is such a large city, many nationwide non-profits are based here, in addition to many non-profits that serve the immigrant population. She chose Chicago after being in Bolivia with the Peace Corps because she wanted to live in an ethnically diverse city with good food, an array of interesting neighborhoods, a great pool of employment opportunities, and where she didn’t have to buy a car and could rely on public transportation (The El). She also had a few friends living here.
Maile can’t credit one person for sparking her interest in working with non-profits, but thanks her parents for funding her college education for 6 ½ years. Her one constant is her desire to do what she loves despite the difficulty in finding profitable work. She finds happiness in what she does because she’s always learning about things that interest her.
After graduating from Waiakea as a member of the class of 1994, Maile attended the University of New Mexico, where she received a B.A. in geography and Spanish. After graduation, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for a small neighborhood organization in San Bernardino, California. She was interested in this because part of the project pertained to water rights issues, which were related to the water resources management focus of her geography studies. She highly recommends AmeriCorps for anyone interested in non-profit work. She became quite knowledgeable in the field of community development and considers her experience there as the best yet most difficult learning experiences of her life.
After that year of service, she moved to San Diego, where she worked as an Outreach Coordinator for the Citizens Water Quality Monitoring program, which is part of the California State Water Resources Control Board. She was able to use the knowledge she had gained from her geography studies and volunteer experiences with a non-profit group, Heal the Bay in Malibu. She then worked in the field of landscape architecture and community and regional planning and learned how the built environment impacts human behavior. Her last job in California was with the Greater Golden Hill Community Development Corporation assisting with community revitalization efforts and overseeing grants and program evaluation for their various social service and community interest projects.
She has traveled twice to Oaxaca, Mexico to volunteer as a grant writer with the U.S.-based non-profit, Puente a la Salud Comunitaria, an organization that promotes the consumption of the native grain, amaranth, in rural indigenous communities. This experience familiarized her with international grants and funding and the Mexican government’s social programs. Her interest in duplicating that group’s efforts led her to a stint as an Environmental Education volunteer with the U.S. Peace Corps in Bolivia, where she lived in an indigenous Aymara community in the Bolivian Altiplano until last fall.
As a strong believer in the value of alternative medicine and wanting to be able to provide low-cost treatment to more people, she is planning to begin training to obtain a certificate to practice acupuncture. She hopes to establish a private practice focused on women’s health, the elderly and the terminally ill.
School was not her forte. Her grades were awful until her senior year, when she realized she wouldn’t be able to get into college with a lousy GPA. She didn’t particularly like high school and certainly wasn’t there to learn, but to socialize. She really appreciates her Spanish teacher Mrs. Kay Shimoda, who was intense in her teaching and dedicated to the language. She also remembers her senior English teacher, Mr. Karl Hees, who advised the class to learn to speak up, something she really appreciated after being told to be quiet for most of her life.