From SolarCorps Plebe to Outreach Coordinator Extraordinaire


September 24, 2018

Attending a world-renowned research university, UCLA, has pushed Nicole Vences to continue to challenge herself. Post graduation she followed her passion of working in the educational realm. As an AVID tutor and afterschool instructor Nicole learned the work needed to mold and motivate young minds. Although she loved working with children, she felt that there is little room for growth without a master’s degree in education. Not ready to commit to a huge educational and financial commitment, Nicole decided it was time to explore other interests such as the nonprofit sector.

Fortunately, Nicole’s best friend, Stephanie Ochoa, had experience in the nonprofit world through GRID Alternatives SolarCorps program. This 13-month fellowship boasts the opportunity for intensive hands-on training to develop a variety of skillsets to thrust one into their career field of choice. Stephanie felt that GRID was the perfect stepping stone to her next move in life. In addition to this, the benefits, mission statement and equity, inclusion, and diversity (EID) training were all components that made her love working with GRID. She encouraged Nicole that this fellowship would help her tremendously too.

Nicole applied for the 2017-2018 SolarCorps Outreach fellowship position in June of 2017. After three intensive interviews and two months’ time, Nicole received a phone call in the late evening from Executive Director Bambi Tran, “congratulations Nicole! We are offering you the fellowship position.” Nicole exclaimed that she would be happy to be part of the GRID IE team.

The first week of work was exciting. Nicole was flown out to GRID headquarters, located in the Bay area. There she met other IE SolarCorps fellows along with fellows from various GRID regional offices. This orientation week set lofty expectations, which reinforced GRID’s goals and mission, and gave a sense of a tight knit community.

After orientation week, Nicole was prepared to serve her regional office. The first few weeks of work were intense. There were multiple trainings, many acronyms to learn, and learning to community with home owners. By her second week in the office Nicole was already prescreening and booking clients with the goal of securing 200 application appointments a week!

Nicole’s SolarCorps year was a rollercoaster ride! From building client relationships to troubleshooting in-house processes to internal and external changes and the volatile nature that is the nonprofit world, Nicole embraced the challenges and learned a lot. In just a short time, she gained valuable work experience.

As Nicole’s term came to an end, her manager, Bambi, offered her a permanent position with GRID IE as and Outreach Coordinator. Although her first year was filled with many obstacles of navigating new waters, Nicole is excited to stay on board. She accepted the offer because she sees that there is an opportunity for growth and a chance to take charge of new projects.

Nicole said she will always cherish her time as a SolarCorps Fellow. “My favorite memory is having the opportunity to meet and work with five other fellows at the office.” Aaliyah, Jasmine, Michael, Miguel and Nathan all have grown to be so close with Nicole and they are all ready to embark on new endeavors.

To those interested in the fellowship Nicole said the experience is invaluable especially if you are truly committed to helping people no matter what the task may be (scanning, doing mailers, cold calling etc.). The benefits can help long term including the $600 in professional development funds. Ultimately, “doing a year of service is an act of giving back to the community and challenging yourself.”

If you are interested in the SolarCorps Fellowship or pursuing a career at GRID Alternatives visit to view current openings.