You might not think of it this way, but boot-strapping your way to the American Dream can cause unintended anxiety and self-doubt, along with other complications.
That’s exactly what Rey Faustino observed during his childhood overseas and eventually in the U.S.
Born in Manila to Filipino parents, he grew up low-income, then middle-income, in the Philippines, Hong Kong, and southern California. In an interview two years ago, he recalled his family having less and knowing less about American life—making fewer friends outside their community, not using local non-profit or social-service resources—than a lot of families who worked toward or achieved middle-class status.
“We essentially kept to ourselves because we were immigrants here, and we didn’t want to rock the boat or cause any trouble,” Faustino said. “…I wonder if we had taken advantage of some of the resources that were out there, would our lives have been easier?”
At the University of Southern California, Faustino studied entrepreneurship, then went on to work with non-profits that nurture low-income high-school students as they approach college, such as by helping them develop and launch their own businesses. Though he soon realized that these students needed more support than well-intentioned mentors could provide. Some students faced homelessness, hunger, the incarceration or death of a family member—problems far bigger than a college application.
Faustino wished that schools and non-profits would collaborate on trying to alleviate these and other poverty-related challenges. Treat the symptoms of poverty to promote education and social health: Now that would boost the kids’ chances for success.
So he founded One Degree in 2011 and also serves as its CEO. The non-profit helps lower-income families locate the community resources they need via an online database. Think of One Degree like a Zagat or Yelp guide to social organizations: The website includes reviews in such categories as clothing, food, and personal goods and services and medical, mental-health, and addiction-counseling treatment.
He and his team plan to completely overhaul the One Degree platform by this fall, presenting a brand-new, mobile-first site to better serve lower-income families who primarily search for resources via their phones. He also wants to expand One Degree’s listings for San Francisco and add services in Oakland and Silicon Valley by the end of 2014.
To expand the non-profit and upgrade the listings, Faustino is rallying to raise $15,000. You can support One Degree and follow updates about the company on its Rally page. One Degree’s listings and service reviews are available here.