From Alex to Cochabamba to the World

Hi my name is Alexander Bloom and I am a Sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in Finance and Business Information Systems while pursuing minors in Mathematics, Economics, and potentially Statistics.  Academics have always been a key aspect of my life, as I strive to learn as much as possible by taking rigorous courses.  Outside of academics, I have developed a strong sense of who I am professionally through a professional business organization, Phi Beta Lambda.  I am heavily involved in this organization, as I currently serve as the treasurer and will be the next president starting in April.  Through my position as treasurer, I have gained many skills (teamwork, mediating conflict, and more) that will be beneficial in the rest of my time at the University of Pittsburgh and in my life after college.  Also, Phi Beta Lambda focuses on professional development, where alumni and guest speakers give presentations on resume help, advice when talking to recruiters, how to pick the correct major, and more.  Through taking many courses in the College of Business Administration and my experience in Phi Beta Lambda, I have gained many of these professional skills.  Additionally, I will be interning at UPMC this summer in their corporate finance department.  I have always wanted to work in healthcare and would not have this opportunity without the University of Pittsburgh or Phi Beta Lambda.  Outside of my academic and personal life, I love watching and playing sports. In addition to sports, service has always played an important role in my life.  In high school, I was involved in many service projects and have continued this trend in college.  I have attended Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Pitt Make a Difference Day both of my years at the University of Pittsburgh, cooked dinner at the Ronald McDonald House, and many more.  I was also fortunate to study the coffee supply chain in Costa Rica for two weeks last summer.  This was an amazing experience that I will never forget, and hope to feel the same way about Bolivia!

During the Spring semester of my sophomore year, I will be participating in a Service Learning project that includes a study abroad experience in Cochabamba, Bolivia during Spring Break.  Throughout the semester, we learn all about service learning, how this class closely relates to the real world, and gain valuable consulting skills.  The project we are working on this semester is a consulting project with an organization called Ceoli, which is in Cochabamba.  This organization works to provide a better life for individuals with disabilities.  Ceoli provides a school for these individuals, and a main part of the school is to help these children and young adults cope with their disabilities through drawing greeting cards.  However, Ceoli is currently having financial difficulty, and it is our job to help them rise above this.  There are three aspects of our project that we will attempt to help Ceoli generate revenue through.  The first, as mentioned above, is to help facilitate the selling of the greeting cards and make this a sustainable source of revenue for Ceoli.   We will also help Ceoli with two of their other projects, which include a community pool and water purifying system.  We will conduct more research and analyze whether these two projects will provide a sustainable source of revenue for Ceoli in the future.  We will also be working closely with an organization called Amizade.  This organization works with many nonprofits around the world, including Ceoli, and has an office based in Pittsburgh.  Currently, they store the 16,000 greeting cards that were drawn in Bolivia but have yet to be sold.  Amizade is a valuable resource and will be our main point of contact throughout the project.

There are two main reasons why I decided to participate in this project.  First, as a member of Phi Beta Lambda, I heard the stories of everyone who worked on this project last year.  I saw the passion and impact this experience had on their lives, and everyone who went on the trip had an outstanding time.  They shared how much fun they had, the benefits of going on the trip, the real-world experience and consulting skills they acquired, the impact that the individuals in Bolivia left on them, and the impact they left on Ceoli.  Everyone shared how important it was to see that what they did had a real impact on Ceoli, and how the organization takes their ideas and report into consideration.  I want to create a similar experience to the students’ from last year, and be able to develop a meaningful connection with Ceoli and help the organization as much as possible.  Second, I chose this project because I have always had a deep connection to working with children with disabilities.  Throughout my four years of high school, I worked at an organization called Kids Plus Inc., where I taught children with disabilities how to play basketball.  Seeing the smiles of joy on these children’s faces is an image I will never forget.  I hope to make memories similar to these by helping the individuals in Ceoli’s organization.

If everything goes as expected, I hope to gain many things personally, academically, and professionally throughout this project.  First, I want to gain a unique experience that I can share with my family and friends.  After hearing everyone’s stories from last year, I want to create an experience like theirs that I will remember for a lifetime.  Additionally, I want to leave a lasting impact on Ceoli and bring happiness to the individuals we will be working with while we are in Cochabamba.  Academically I have already gained a wealth of knowledge about service learning through class discussions and the articles we have read.  I learned the differences between service learning and community service, and all of the benefits that service learning provides.  For example, one area where I can improve academically is my writing skills. As I have already learned, service learning helps to develop an individual’s writing skills, and I hope this happens for me.  Also, a large focus in the College of Business Administration is group work.  I hope to gain and further develop many team work skills that I can use both in the rest of my time at the University of Pittsburgh and after graduation.  Finally, I would like to gain consulting skills for my professional future.  I have constantly considered consulting as a career choice, and I hope this experience can further show me if consulting is the right path for me.  The skills that I will gain from this project will not only be helpful if I choose consulting as a career path, but I will be able to apply them in any job I have in the future.

I cannot wait to see what the rest of the semester and my time in Bolivia has to offer!