Spotlight on a Young Philanthropist: Nicole Castillo

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Tell me a little about yourself.

I grew up in Pueblo, Colorado. Most of my family is from Southern Colorado and/or Northern Mexico so it’s a pretty big deal that I’m in the Northeast. I attended the University of Colorado Boulder, where I studied Philosophy, Women and Gender studies, and Religious studies. I then moved, first to Ithaca where I worked at a domestic violence shelter, and then to Boston to pursue a Master of Divinity Degree at the Harvard Divinity School. My focus was on community organizing and advocacy from the perspective of engaged Buddhism. After that, I went on to study Public Policy at the McCormack School at UMass Boston in their Gender, Leadership, and Public Policy program.


What led you to advocacy work?

It was a family value. I grew up in a Catholic home and my parents were really active in social justice work. During the summer, for example, my parents wanted me to volunteer and not work at a part-time job. It sounds strange, but they didn’t want me to get a “taste for money” and then spend it on things like some teenagers do, but they still wanted me to have the type of responsibility that usually comes with a job. So, I volunteered full-time at a children’s museum, and I was involved through our church in working with U.S. sanctions in Iran. My parents taught me that my volunteer work should be just as important as my nine to five.

I had always known that I wanted to do some type of advocacy work related to social change, but it was really the experience I had when I was working in Ithaca that confirmed it. I started as a volunteer doing random duties at the shelter. First, I trained to be a hotline volunteer, then they were piloting a medical advocacy volunteer role and I trained to do that. It was through doing that work that I was led to want to do more. When I moved to Boston in 2009 and started school, I started volunteering as a medical advocate for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), where I supported survivors of sexual violence while they had a forensic exam.

It was easier for me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life once I knew that my work needed to have a social justice mission. If I wanted to get involved with an organization that I wanted to work with, the best place to start was to volunteer my time there. I gained valuable insights into how organizations were run, and was able to work in many different roles.


How have you combined your career with your advocacy work?

It’s been about two months now since I left my full-time position at Newton-Wellesley Hospital as the coordinator for their Domestic and Sexual Violence Program to be a consultant and entrepreneur, starting with helping build BeVisible. I essentially wanted to bring together the experiences I had had working in the non-profit world with the emerging work I was doing with the tech community. So, for example, now I train people on technology safety. Last week, I led a training workshop on technology safety to the Massachusetts Office for Victims Assistance (MOVA). I help providers learn how to work with their clients on increasing technology literacy and safety, and using social media for social change.


So… advocacy AND tech?

When I was in the public policy program I took an internship with Latinas Represent where I learned how to do work on social media, content creation, podcasts, and leading digital campaigns. One of the blog posts I wrote for them was picked up by Andrea Guendelman, one of the founders of BeVisible, and I got asked to help run their millennial board.

BeVisible is an online career platform for young Latinxs that connects them for collaboration in work, education, and mentoring. It’s a social platform in addition to being a place where you can find jobs. It’s like Facebook mixed with LinkedIn for young Latinxs.


How did you first learn about TPC?

In all of my work, philanthropy was becoming a main feature. Particularly, as a Board member for Exhale ProVoice and Jane Doe Inc. I felt that I needed to both up my own skills as a philanthropist and meet other young philanthropists. Infusing boards with millennial voices is something I feel really passionate about. Volunteer work is really important and the on-the-ground skill work is necessary, but raising money is also really important and it’s not a skill that comes naturally to people.

Eager to meet other young philanthropists, I googled and found out about TPC’s Young Philanthropist Conference.


When did you realize you really wanted to join TPC?

In one of the panels at the Young Philanthropist Conference someone mentioned a statistic about the number of dollars going into non-profits that target Latinx and other minority communities. I don’t think people realize how disproportionate it is. It reinforced how much I want to have a say on where this money goes.

I was really impressed with how much TPC has been able to aggregate contributions through the giving-circle model, and how giving works in the organization, especially the review and evaluation process. I’ve reviewed grant applications for other organizations and I think there has been too large a disconnect between donors, reviewers, and grantees. I also want to be part of this movement to engage millennial philanthropists. It’s, of course, going to be different than how we currently engage high-level donors and I’m really happy to be one of the people working on this.


Other than TPC work, what are you most looking forward to in 2017?

Starting a few new projects! I’m learning Javascript right now. I got a scholarship from Lesbians Who Tech to do a coding intensive project and I’m excited to work on that. I’m looking forward to continuing to figure out how tech and coding fit into the larger socio-economic justice piece of my work.