When giving a resume workshop to a group of young adults a person told me, ‘You’re just like me man, just a regular person doing big things, I want to do that.’ That statement was powerful and it’s the reason we do what we do.Cornelius Conway MBA Candidate, Accelerator Fellow
The following segment highlights Cornelius Conway. Cornelius is a first year MBA candidate who co-founded the D.C.-based nonprofit Pen to Paper Foundation. He is working with the Do Good Institute as an Accelerator Fellow for the summer.
Cornelius Conway was working for a Chicago homeless shelter when he noticed a glaring trend among shelter residents: many were Black and Latinx members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“Some of the common themes were that they were thrown out of their house early, or suffered from mental illness, or they just were not able to get the necessary job training that other groups might have,” he said.
When Conway moved to Washington, D.C., he became immediately aware of the affordable housing shortage and how it especially impacted Black LGBTQ+ youth.
“Black Americans within the LGBTQ community, they face racism and anti-gay, anti-trans discrimination from in the Black community and out,” Conway said. “That often materializes in deadly violence. In combination with high costs of homes and high rates of unemployment, lack of affordable health care, it's basically like a potent brew that’s holding back Black LGBTQ youth who are underhoused.”
While working at the shelter, Conway witnessed many of these individuals struggling to gain employment, mostly due to a professional skills gap that stemmed from a lack of resources. These disparities prompted him to co-found Pen to Paper Foundation, a D.C.-based nonprofit that offers career support and preparation to LGBTQ+ community members.
Pen to Paper launched in the spring of 2021, and currently offers resume workshops, LinkedIn workshops, writing tutorials, interview training, and FAFSA workshops. The organization also plans to run professional clothes drives this summer.
Conway identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and describes Pen to Paper as a “for-us-by-us” organization. His identity offers him and his fellow leaders unique insight and empathy toward the people they serve, he said.
“When giving a resume workshop to a group of young adults a person told me, ‘You’re just like me man, just a regular person doing big things, I want to do that.’ That statement was powerful and it’s the reason we do what we do.”
This summer, Conway is working to scale up Pen to Paper’s impact as an Accelerator Fellow with the Do Good Institute. Conway started as an Accelerator Fellow in spring 2021 and developed Pen to Paper’s LinkedIn workshop and resume workshop. Now, he intends to expand Pen to Paper’s social media presence, launch a website, and recruit more volunteers. He said that one of the greatest benefits of the Accelerator Fellows program is the one-on-one mentorship and workshop offerings.
“Being able to participate in those workshops really gives you a good idea of what's going on in the nonprofit sector, not only in the DMV region but across the US,” he said. “It’s a good way to get your feet wet and a good launching board.”
When asked about igniting change in the future and growing Pen to Paper, Conway stressed the importance of inclusive workplaces and advocated for businesses and organizations to hire underhoused LGBTQ+ people of color.
“The best way to carry that out is just working with local shelters,” he said. “Reach out to local trans shelters, youth shelters, and say ‘Hey, we're willing to give some of these kids a shot.’”
For those who don’t have the power to hire LGBTQ+ people, Conway recommends they consider donating to or volunteering with LGBTQ-centered organizations.
“Anything you can do … you don’t always have to give money, but you can give your time and your skill set.”
Want to get involved or have questions? You can follow Pen to Paper on Instagram and Snapchat @pentopaperdmv. To find ways to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.