Transformed by Service: The Power of Corporate Partnerships

By Leo Jacobo

Leo Jacobo is a consultant with PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers). In the spring of 2023 he participated in PwC’s Partnership Program with buildOn and ARISE High School in Oakland, CA

After a hectic morning in the PwC office at 405 Howard Street this past winter, with my body still adjusting to East Coast work hours on my West Coast internal clock, I found myself glumly regretting an afternoon community service commitment with buildOn, a not-for-profit committed to uplifting communities nationally and globally through service and education. My exhaustion seemed to outweigh any sense of duty. I barely managed to gather enough energy to welcome approximately 10 eager students from Oakland’s ARISE High School in the lobby.

Leo Jacobo from PwC with Dyana from ARISE High School and Jenny Nguyen from buildOn Oakland

ARISE High School is a small school that nurtures a diverse body of students, many of whom are learning English as a second language, harboring the dreams of immigrant families and first-generation students. In this loquacious crew, I met Dyana, a dynamic teenage student whose parents were raised in Guatemala. Dyana and I were paired up for afternoon classwork.

At first, Dyana seemed guarded, perhaps uncertain about interacting with a groggy adult from Planet Corporate. However, as we moved past introductions and participated in activities, she began unveiling her cool little world: a job at Shake Shack, a lively sister, and two loving parents. Her narrative evoked memories of my own experience as a Filipino child naturalized in the United States just before entering high school, juggling the responsibilities of academics and extracurriculars with the occasional french fry alarm.

Dyana’s command of English, her second language, awakened memories of my childhood during which I had painstakingly honed my speech to fit in with my American peers. Her stories, painted against the vibrant canvas of Oakland, elicited a sense of nostalgia, reminiscent of the raw charm city-ness of my native Baltimore. 

This ordinary afternoon unfolded into an extraordinary experience as I had the privilege of assisting Dyana in crafting her first resume. It was as though I was provided a window into her aspirations while transposing them into a useful document. It was such a delightful revelation to discover Dyana’s academic prowess. In a twist of serendipity, I discovered she was applying to the University of Pennsylvania, the very institution at which I have the honor of teaching. Our mutual experiences spun an invisible thread, stitching our generational gap together to create a present-day tapestry of shared life and shared immigrant dreams. 

Organizations like buildOn provide us with an opportunity that goes well beyond donating money. Through them we get to realize the ambitions of families and children like Dyana. Work, like life itself, is a vehicle for giving in its very best form. I’m grateful to PwC and buildOn for such an extraordinary experience and look forward to more afternoons with buildOn and meeting more friends like Dyana.

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