“This experience really changed me. And after changing me, just one person, I’m able to change at least 100 different lives here in Brazil—just with the free courses that I took online.”

Laís, Brazil

When she was 16 years old, Laís Fulgêncio, a shy and quiet teenager, moved back to her hometown of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, after living away for years. Looking to meet new people, she joined a co-ed youth scouting group, an activity-based club focused on building character through hands-on learning outside of school.
More than a decade later, Laís, now a communications and marketing manager at an IT firm, has remained involved with 21 Grupo Escoteiro Mangabeiras, or Scouting Group 21, as an adult leader and mentor. Yet with interest and enrollment dwindling in recent years, Laís and other leaders started to become worried the group would no longer offer the same invaluable opportunities to youth she once had. Looking for solutions, Laís found Philanthropy University and enrolled in all seven courses.

Through her coursework, Laís worked with her team to identify Group 21’s biggest challenge: a lack of cohesive identity and specific programmatic goals appropriate to participants. While children from both wealthy and impoverished neighborhoods participated in scouts, the group struggled to serve both while building camaraderie between them.

“Exchanging ideas with people from all over the world gave me a more open view of the issues I was working on,” Laís said.

Lessons in leadership, nonprofit strategy and organizational capacity provided the foundation her team needed to develop a new mission and vision for the scouts. Advice from the fundraising course also helped the group secure a donation of the 10 tents needed to take all 50 scouts on a recent camping trip. For some scouts, the trip was the first opportunity they had to travel outside of Belo Horizonte due to limited family resources.

Today, Laís is a member of the group’s managing board and is planning for the future—the scouts’ and her own. Partnerships with the local school district and community organizations are broadening offerings to include a debate club and other activities, and her team has a plan in place to double the group’s enrollment within the next two years. For herself, Laís is already “re-thinking her life plan,” with a goal of transitioning full-time into the nonprofit sector.

“Before this whole thing, I thought it was impossible, that I was crazy, that I would never be able to actually earn my living helping others earn theirs,” Laís says. “This experience really changed me. And after changing me, just one person, I’m able to change at least 100 different lives here in Brazil—just with the free courses that I took online.”