"My friends call me the volunteer whore,” says Kamilah O. Dixon ’05. A pre-med biology concentrator from Lowell House, Dixon hails from Long Island, NY and is as ambitious and focused on a career in the nonprofit world as many of her peers are who have their eyes on the money. Her resume of volunteer work is impressive, with experience in several programs under her belt and a head full of ideas for new services Harvard can offer the world.
In addition to playing both Junior Varsity Field Hockey and Junior Varsity Lacrosse, Dixon is an enthusiastic member of the CityStep Program, with which she became involved during her sophomore year. This is her first year directing CityStep, which she sees as a fabulous creative outlet. “Service in general has been great for that,” Dixon says, “people really appreciate the skills you have.”
During her junior year, instead of taking the MCATs and applying to medical school, Dixon made the critical decision of postponing her plans of being a doctor and taking the road less traveled—nonprofit work, “in the long run, I want to go into medicine, but in the mean time, I don’t want to miss out on anything. I really love community service.”
Being a site coordinator for Science Clubs for Girls, an after-school program, has given Dixon a taste for nonprofit work with the added bonus of a paycheck. This made the previously hardcore, science-oriented Dixon realize that she could do what she truly loves—while also making a living out of it. And she doesn’t ven need a medical degree.
Dixon’s first stab at breaking into the world of nonprofit will be Teach for America. Although she completed her application last week, she still has concerns that the selectivity of the program might keep her from working in inner-city public schools with the support of a program. The Peace Corps has also piqued her interest, but with an older brother moving to Switzerland and a sister living in Japan, Dixon’s family-her mother in particular-has expressed some concerns, “all of her children are just leaving the country.”
Although she sees working in philanthropy as her calling, Dixon does concede that the road to personal fulfillment is not an easy one, citing a less than lavish lifestyle as a main deterrent from pursuing the nonprofit track for many, “I really wish I loved i-banking, but my mom has always emphasized doing what makes me happy.”
From the multitude of programs at the Phillips Brooks House Association to other various service projects, Harvard offers a wealth of information and opportunities to students who want to give back to the community while at the College. As a matter of fact, Dixon has had plans in the works to start her own service program, “Math and Munch,” which would teach fourth and fifth graders math through cooking. However, Dixon acknowledges that guidance in pursuing non-profit work post-graduation is not as plentiful, “at the undergraduate level, Harvard is very supportive, but otherwise, there isn’t that much information available.”
Despite the lack of resources accessible to undergraduates considering careers in the nonprofit sector, Dixon believes that Harvard still has a lot of offer those considering the field, “ Harvard allows you to think on your toes and out of the box,” skills that she believes are vital to survival in the nonprofit world. Dixon also finds that the determination and passion of her fellow Harvardians has, in fact, given her the toughness she needs; “if you can deal with the crazy people here at Harvard, you can definitely deal with those in the real world.”