No. 96: Underground Education

Freedom University graduates its 10th class of undocumented students, and San Diego activists try to take power – literally the power company – into their own hands.

No. 96: Underground Education
Photo by Joshua Sortino / Unsplash

We all have our hopes and dreams for a brighter future, but for a particular group of students, their chances at higher education are stunted by their undocumented status. We're taking a look at Freedom University this week: a nonprofit focused on giving undocumented students a hand as they prepare to enter college.

If you're the kind of employee who loves employee experience, you'll want to check out this week's featured role at a company that measures what matters. That job and 10 other social impact superhero slots await us below. Shall we?

~ Greg


What we're reading

Freedom University, a program that provides college prep and college-level courses to undocumented students, recently celebrated its 10th graduating class. (The Guardian)

  • It seems obviously in hindsight, but until reading this story, I hadn't thought about how "dreamers" couldn't access financial support to go to college. Freedom University helps offset that by offering free courses to undocumented students and prepares them to transition to college.
  • They've had roughly 300 students graduate so far, and more than half of them have gone on to college. That's on par for the percentage of students who transition to college in general – impressive stuff for a group of people who have historically found themselves at a disadvantage.
  • I love this idea, and I'm glad Freedom University exists. I kind of wish it didn't have to though, you know?
    • First off, although 300 graduates is impressive, it's a drop in the bucket compared to the total number of undocumented students in the United States. There are over 1 million undocumented youth in the United States and more than 400,000 enrolled in higher education.
    • There are all sorts of government services that could be accessed by undocumented immigrants, and it's worth debating whether some services should be universal and others more restricted. I tend to think that education is worth the investment.

Activists in San Diego are petitioning to establish a nonprofit power company. Similar efforts have taken place – and often failed – in other states around the country. (Grist)

  • By turning the power company into a municipal entity, they hope to reduce rates and improve service. In effect, they want to remove the incentive to prioritize investor outcomes.
  • I'd offer that part of the problem isn't the public/private responsibility, it's the lack of competition. I'm not sure you solve that problem by going public if the nonprofit is still the only game in town.
    • It seems to me that you have multiple layers: the power source where electricity is generated (solar farm, wind farm, coal-powered plant, etc.), the transport layer (arguably "the grid" itself), and increasingly, the storage layer (batteries that harness daytime energy for nighttime usage).
    • Someone needs to be responsible for making all of the pieces work together: an integrator, for example. You would need rules for how it all connects – and I suspect those rules are already in place – not to mention the inspectors who double check the work. Maybe that's the role the city and nonprofit could play.
    • As for the constituent pieces, that's where I'd vote for competition. See who can supply energy to the grid at the most competitive prices; see who can lay the infrastructure with the highest quality at the best value; see who can make the most reliable batteries with the smallest footprint.
  • What say you: Shall we start a power company? ⚡

Job of the week

Last week, I talked about how emissions from landfills are largely going unmonitored – and that got me thinking about Watershed, which is a software platform that helps major companies develop and manage climate programs.

They have hubs in New York, San Francisco, and London, but they sometimes have remote roles. This one is based in their San Francisco office four days a week, and it sounds like a blast if you're a people person. They're looking for someone who will be responsible for internal communications and employee experience as part of the people team. Watershed is a growth-stage startup with about 300 employees, so this is a fast-paced, high-energy opportunity to drive impact at enterprise scale.

If your persuasions lie outside the people function, take a look at their overall careers page. You'll find opportunities in marketing, engineering, sales, and more.


Community roundup

  • Melinda French Gates announced that she plans to invest $1 billion dollars into women's rights and gender equity over the next two years, with $200 million already earmarked for the United States. (USA Today)
  • If you've ever had a nightmare that your teeth fell out, there's good news: the first human trials for a tooth-regrowing drug have been approved. This seems like an improvement over dentures or implants – who wouldn't prefer real teeth? (Engadget)
  • The First Step Act was signed into law in 2018 to provide a pathway for low-risk inmates to reduce their prison sentences by earning "time credits" for participating in counseling and rehabilitation programs. In some cases, those time credits have not been honored, and inmates are remaining in prison longer than they should be. (NBC News)
  • Grist is running a series on how climate change is affecting reproductive health, including how higher temperatures are increasing the number of preterm births. More than 50 countries have reproduced this research, whose data starts in 1999 – essentially, this is a trend that has been in place long before everyone started paying more attention to climate change. (Grist)
  • We're all full of microplastics at this point, but what you didn't know is that they might be more colorful than you realized. Plastics with brighter colors degrade more quickly under ultraviolet light, contributing more to microplastic pollution than tamer colors. (Euronews)

Hot job opportunities

Hiring for mission-driven talent? Post a job for free on our job board.

Looking for a job? Submit your resume to our talent pool, and let social impact companies come to you.


Resource of the week

The news this week about Melinda's $1 billion pledge got me thinking: who else is hiring in that line of work? A lot of people, it turns out.

Check out this job board from Philanthropy Northwest. I found a bunch of mid- and senior-level job openings across a wide range of functions. You've got your typical Development and Grants roles, sure, but don't overlook openings in marketing, communications, event management, and research. You might even find a company worth following long-term to keep an eye on their openings.


Test your knowledge

Last week proved even more educational than expected, because there are a lot of states with some sort of claim to women's suffrage. The first state where women could vote – without being revoked later (I'm looking at you, New Jersey) – was Wyoming in 1869. They were closely followed by Utah in 1870, but the next state, Colorado, would take another 23 years(!) to give women the vote, and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution wouldn't come until 1920.

For this week, I figured we'd check in on our states' renewable energy efforts, especially since I've written about a number of efforts to expand energy infrastructure in past newsletters.

Which state produces the largest percentage of its energy from renewable sources? This is not to be confused with the state that produces the most renewable energy – I'm looking for the state closest to eliminating energy from non-renewable sources.

Email me your guess, and I'll send one lucky winner a couple of One Work stickers!


I tried the tango. I tried the salsa. I tried the cha cha. My rain dances finally worked, and my backyard grass is expected to make a full recovery. You can find me on LinkedIn and Threads.


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Jamie Larson
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