“Thanks to PULSE, I was able to take a chance on an opportunity outside of my comfort zone, and my career took on a completely new trajectory as a result… Not only did I develop strong friendships in our house, but I made many friends and professional connections in the larger PULSE community. That network is what really sets PULSE apart from many other similar programs.” Tara Covelens, PULSE ’04-’05 alumna
Tara Covelens is a 2003-2004 alumna of the PULSE program. Tara credits the trajectory of her career in fundraising on her experiences with PULSE. Not only did PULSE assist in the development of community ties but, the program allowed her to extend her professional network in a unique way. As a self-proclaimed “life-long learner,” the seminar component of the PULSE program was a major attraction for Tara, who continues her service with PULSE through mentorship and event attendance.
How were you impacted by your PULSE experience?
I am where I am today, professionally, because of PULSE – no doubt about that. When I came to PULSE, I wanted to do something totally different as a year “off” before I went back to school to become a college professor. Rather than choose an opportunity in education, I chose to work with a local nonprofit. What I found in my year of working with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank was that nonprofits were a great fit for me. Because of PULSE, I was able to get a job working at the Food Bank, and I stayed there for seven years. I eventually moved to the development department and really fell in love with fundraising. Now I work for the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, raising money for cancer research and patient care. Thanks to PULSE, I was able to take a chance on an opportunity outside of my comfort zone, and my career took on a completely new trajectory as a result.
What was the best part of your PULSE experience?
The best part of my PULSE experience was connecting to the PULSE community. I think I can safely say that in the present tense – it continues to be the best part of my PULSE experience. Not only did I develop strong friendships in our house, but I made many friends and professional connections in the larger PULSE community. That network is what really sets PULSE apart from many other similar programs.
How did PULSE prepare you for what you are doing now?
Absolutely. As I mentioned above, I credit PULSE with setting me on my current career track. Not only did my experience with GPCFB benefit me professionally, but learning about all of the other placements in the house also gave me a great introduction to Pittsburgh’s thriving nonprofit community.
What about the PULSE program was attractive to you?
Quite honestly, I had fallen in love with Pittsburgh on my first weekend visit out here when I was in college. I knew I wanted to do a year of voluntary service after college, and I knew I wanted to live in Pittsburgh. PULSE was the best option for bringing those two ideas together. There are two reasons I chose PULSE over other voluntary service options. First was the emphasis on community. The idea of moving to a new place and starting your career after being in some sort of school for 15+ years can be intimidating. I really liked the idea that PULSE provided a support network, not only with the seven other people who lived with me, but the network of PULSE alumni and friends who really helped me plug in to Pittsburgh. The second reason PULSE really attracted me was the seminar concept. I am a life-long learner, and, if it was practical, I’d probably still be in school! I really enjoyed the opportunity to continue learning in a structured environment. The diversity of experiences and subject matters in the weekly seminars had a strong impact on my first year in Pittsburgh.
What did the PULSE experience teach you about yourself?
PULSE taught me some good and some hard things about myself. By living in community, I learned that I needed to be more patient and more forgiving – and more laid back! I learned that moving to a new city requires being brave, but that having a community behind you makes it easier. And I learned to dance! I have great memories of many of my housemates joining a dance class at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts with me. There was a lot of laughter (and maybe a few missed steps).
How have you stayed connected with PULSE?
I have served as a mentor for current PULSErs, which I really enjoy. I enjoy attending events such as PULSEations – not only to see old friends, but to learn what new PULSErs are doing to make our city a better place.
What kind of work do you do now?
Fundraising – I raise money for cancer research and care at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.
Story by PULSE intern Emily Fecile.