At the Ed Fund, our mission is to mobilize community resources to support all public-school students in San Francisco. We know that this work takes a community, and we work strongly together with ours through Citywide Collaborations and Fiscal Sponsorship opportunities. The Ed Fund is proud to be the 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor for initiatives and projects that work to improve outcomes for San Francisco kids.
OperationSTART, a youth-led nonprofit with a mission to bridge the opportunity divide, recently announced the San Francisco Education Fund as its fiscal sponsor. As its fiscal sponsor, the Ed Fund will provide OperationSTART with administrative support.
Read our interview below with OperationSTART’s founders, Tiffany Ian, Lilian Emelife, and Johnny Lin.
SF Ed Fund: Can each of you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background?
Tiffany: My name is Tiffany Ian, and I am currently a freshman at UC Riverside, majoring in Bioengineering. I’m the Co-Founder and Programs Director of OperationSTART; a few of my responsibilities include updating and inputting new internships and opportunities for students to see.
Lilian: My name is Lilian Emelife, and I am a freshman at the University of San Francisco (USF) majoring in nursing.
Johnny: My name is Johnny Lin, and I’m a first-year majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at UC Berkeley. I’m the Co-Founder and Executive Director at OperationSTART; some of my responsibilities include building and maintaining our online platform, writing grants, and working with our fiscal sponsor, the San Francisco Education Fund.
SFEF: How did you all meet, and what inspired you to work together to launch OperationSTART?
Tiffany: We are also part of a separate program, SEO Scholars, that focuses on getting high school and college students the education that is not taught to us in our schools. From there, we realized we had similar mindsets of wanting to find internships and opportunities during our high school years but weren’t able to find any of interest. We also realized that many internships and opportunities had to be researched on our own with little to no knowledge of what we really wanted in an internship. That was when Johnny came up with the idea of creating this platform and asked if we wanted to join in as well to help him make it come to life.
SFEF: What is OperationSTART, and who does it benefit?
Lilian: OperationSTART is a platform that allows Bay Area youth ages 14-18 to find opportunities and internships that they may want to do with the option of exploring different career paths or combining them. It allows high school students to start the first step in exploring what they might want to major in college or even their future careers.
SFEF: Can you tell us a challenge you faced when launching OperationSTART and what you learned?
Johnny: One of the biggest challenges we faced when launching OperationSTART was getting the needed funding. We had a brilliant idea that we could validate with our mentors, peers, and even school staff, but we needed to find a way to pitch it to funders. The first road-blocking challenge we faced was not being funded by the Youth Empowerment Fund (YEF)’s 2020 school-year funding cycle. However, we persevered through that and were given feedback on ways to improve. We had the opportunity to apply for the YEF’s 2021 Spring grant cycle, and received $10,000 in funding. We learned that perseverance is important because without it, OperationSTART wouldn’t be where it is today.
SFEF: How did you learn about the San Francisco Education Fund, and why did you choose the Ed Fund as your fiscal sponsor?
Tiffany: Johnny and Lilian are both Maisin Scholars and learned from their college success coordinator that the Ed Fund fiscally sponsors organizations that improve outcomes for San Francisco kids. The Maisin Scholar Award is a scholarship program of the San Francisco Education Fund which helps students overcome financial and other obstacles that stand between them and their pursuit of higher education. Upon learning that the Ed Fund fiscally sponsors qualifying initiatives and projects, the founding team explored the Ed Fund further. We learned that the Ed Fund, similar in mission to OperationSTART, supports high school students in San Francisco. We reached out and began conversations about working together. Four months later, in January 2023, OperationSTART officially became a fiscally sponsored organization by the Ed Fund. The full announcement is here￼.
SFEF: What other organizations or corporations support OperationSTART, and how did you connect with them?
Lilian: OperationSTART has received in-kind support from multiple corporate companies in most of the tools we use in day-to-day operations, including Help Scout for Good, Instatus, and the Catchafire Foundation. We currently have 100 verified nonprofit organizations on our platform, with a total of 229 approved opportunities. With the corporate companies, we reached out to showcase our work and see if they wanted to support us by providing an in-kind donation of their software. For nonprofits, we initially started adding them to our platform ourselves, then offered a way for nonprofits to add their organization and opportunities to the OperationSTART platform.
SFEF: How can youth get connected with OperationSTART and the resources on your platform?
Johnny: Youth can take the first step by creating an account on the OperationSTART website to search for enrichment opportunities they can apply for. We also have social media accounts on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter, where we further make connections with both our followers and the youth by sharing professional development tips like interview skills, the importance of taking advantage of enrichment opportunities (which we provide), and how to choose an internship. Every month the programs team sends out a newsletter that includes a reminder of enrichment opportunities that will be due that month and a message encouraging youths to take advantage of the opportunities in the newsletter. OperationSTART also publishes frequent blog posts on topics like the difference between financial aid, loans, and scholarships; how to ask for a letter of recommendation for a college application; etc. These are some of the ways that we connect with youths.
SFEF: How can organizations that want young people to know about their opportunities connect with you?
Lilian: Organizations can connect with us by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through our website by submitting their organization and enrichment opportunity provided. All submissions go through a rigorous
SFEF: Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Lilian: OperationSTART is always looking for new corporate partners, so if you’re a corporate company and want to get involved with our work, email email@example.com; we’d love to chat! We truly appreciate it if you’d like to make an individual donation. You can donate online via this link, and please consider matching through your employer.
If you are interested in learning more about fiscal sponsorship and/or pass-through opportunities via the Ed Fund, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.