Editor’s Note — This is part of a conversation series highlighted as part of Native American Heritage Month on the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Medium page. The series will feature students who are making impacts on campus and beyond.
For Drew Baldridge, a passion for giving back to communities around the world has been a constant since he was little. Now, the advertising and public relations major from York, Nebraska, is continuing to be a “champion of people” on campus and beyond.
Talk about your passion for nonprofit work and giving back to the community. Why are you passionate about it? Was there anything that sparked it?
My passion for nonprofit work and giving back to the community has been a lifelong journey that was nurtured by the values instilled in me from a young age. Growing up in a loving and supportive family, I was taught the importance of helping others. Empathy is at the heart of my passion for nonprofit work, and it allows me to recognize that collective challenges require collaborative solutions.
I have been granted the opportunity to give back to others in many ways. At this time last year, I was in Haiti to assist in an eye care and general healthcare clinic as well as help in food security efforts. On a more local scale, I helped plan the Lincoln Arts Festival for thousands of people to support the Lincoln Arts Foundation’s goal of arts advocacy and accessibility to the community this past summer. I am currently working for the Foundry by coordinating the Intern Foundry Program. Through this role, I will be supporting 30 interns from the UNL Honors program in their placements with nonprofits and purpose-driven businesses throughout Lincoln. These are just a few of the very fulfilling experiences that have fueled my passion for nonprofit and purpose-driven work.
You recently shared how your family has an oral history. Can you talk about that and how the importance placed on storytelling has informed what you currently do?
I think storytelling is the greatest art. People are connected through shared experiences and emotions. Stories foster empathy, and they drive change by shedding light on critical issues. Great advertising is great storytelling. It recognizes where the audience is and engages, resonates and forms a lasting connection with them. I get to practice the art of storytelling through advertising in my internship with Bailey Lauerman as well as my role in Jacht Agency as a PR specialist, and soon as the director of communications and public relations. For so long, the advertising industry was one of many that misrepresented the stories of others. So, I am incredibly grateful to be a part of organizations that strive toward accurate depictions and stories for our audiences.
What drew you to become a peer mentor for the College of Journalism and the Honors Program?
The transition to college life can be one of the most challenging hurdles many incoming freshmen have ever faced. With all this uncertainty, it is nice to have a mentor to help guide you through this transition. Last year, I was a peer mentor for the Honors program and CoJMC, and this year I was a lead peer mentor for the CoJMC. Through these positions, I have had the opportunity to learn about my mentees’ passions and help guide their educational and professional trajectories. My favorite part of being a mentor is getting to see student growth. Seeing my mentees find their passion and learn how to navigate uncertainty is a very gratifying experience.
Is there anything you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
One of the greatest accomplishments for me would be tapping into the intersection between my passions and work. I am driven by being a champion for those in need, advocating for human rights, environmental protection and pursuing equality. I want to be a champion of people. Life is hard. If there is any way I can alleviate that burden for someone, I will. So as long as I am involved in work that allows me to create real, lasting change, I will view this as an accomplishment.
What or who inspires you?
The most inspiring person to me was my grandfather. He faced a great deal of adversity in his life. He was sent to a training school when he was 9 years old where he was beaten for using his native language and taught to forget his culture. However, it is one that I am proud to be a part of today. Despite these hardships, among many others he faced in his life, he had a steadfast dedication to maintaining a positive outlook and providing the best life he could for his family.
You’re passionate about finding ways for students to grow and/or become more globally aware. What is your advice to other students looking to do that?
For students seeking to expand their horizons and embrace a more global perspective, I’d suggest starting by stepping outside your comfort zone. If you want to truly grow and learn, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Find ways to meet new people and seek out information beyond your immediate surroundings. The journey toward global awareness is about openness, exploration and a willingness to learn from the diversity our world offers.