I Dash So I Can Advocate: Meet Grad Student and Non-Profit Founder Cindy C.

Dashing helps support me financially as I study for my master’s degree and advocate for causes I care deeply about.

11 min read
Dx Blog - I Dash So I Can Advocate: Meet Grad Student and Non-Profit Founder Cindy C. - text of title

“Why do you dash?”

It’s a question that many seasoned Dashers are asked, and their answers are always uniquely personal and inspiring. Sometimes, it’s the flexibility of working within their own schedule. Other times, it’s because their earnings let them focus on other passion projects and creative and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Cindy C. is a Dasher who doesn’t just bring meals to households across her hometown of Brooklyn, New York — she also delivers life-changing literacy and mentorship programs to women and youth in underserved communities. Now, she’s pursuing her master’s in social work at Columbia University so she can amplify her impact.

Why higher education is important to me

A few years ago, when I got my acceptance letter to pursue graduate studies at Columbia University, I couldn’t help but think back to how my journey began as a little girl in a small Guyanese village, barely able to read, and unequipped to pass my Caribbean Examination Council exams. Determined to rise above, I dedicated myself to education and literacy, and discovered just how transformative they can be. I was able to turn my life around and eventually moved to New York and earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology. I always maintained my goal of creating programs and services for children experiencing the same systemic poverty and lack of opportunity I was faced with when I was young.

From volunteering for UNICEF and Children of Promise to being selected as a Mentor Coach for America Needs You, I’m proud of the fact that I’ve always been purpose-driven — but 2019 was a pivotal moment for me when I founded Kupanda Sisters, my own non-profit organization that empowers women and children. From there, the next logical step as an education advocate was to continue my own studies with a master’s in social work — but the path was far from straightforward.

Dashing my way through obstacles

Just as Kupanda Sisters was hitting its stride, the global pandemic shut everything down — including my funding. At that point, I didn’t know how I was supposed to balance earning a living for myself, finding financial support for my non-profit, and managing the organization’s day-to-day needs. Then, one sunny Saturday afternoon, I was waiting in the car for my friend, and the thought of delivery driving crossed my mind. Before the pandemic, I had always been too busy to try it, but now I had an opportunity to test it for myself — and I opted for DoorDash. This proved to be a smart decision for four particular reasons. 

1. Onboarding was seamless

There were no barriers to prevent me from signing up to be a Dasher. I simply uploaded the necessary documents and was approved fairly quickly. It was somewhat surreal to suddenly be part of a platform I’d heard so much about.

2. It was easy to earn money

Upon gaining access to the DoorDash Dasher app, I started exploring the app’s features — and I accidentally accepted a delivery in Queens! I had no idea where I was heading, but I decided to treat it as a trial run, picking up the food from the restaurant and getting it to the customer. My first dash, with tip included, earned me $20 in 15 minutes and motivated me to continue dashing as a side gig.

3. I could work when I wanted

The flexibility of dashing really appealed to me. Creating my own schedule was incredibly convenient while I was also running my non-profit organization.

4. There was time for reflection

Dashing helped me keep Kupanda Sisters from folding and, therefore, helped me stay aligned with my greater personal and professional goals. For me, the ability to stay productive during a stressful and precarious time was important, and those hours spent driving in peace and quiet allowed me to reconnect with myself and my priorities during some difficult moments.

Dx Blog  I Dash So I Can Advocate: Meet Grad Student and Non-Profit Founder Cindy C. - ability to stay productive

Embarking on my graduate studies

Having sustained my non-profit initiatives through 2020, I set my sights on my master’s degree in social work in 2021, applying to the Silver School of Social Work at NYU and the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Though NYU accepted my application, my confidence was shaken when the Silberman School rejected me. The night after I found out, I felt like I was that little girl failing my exams all over again — but then I thought back to my semesters at Borough of Manhattan Community College as a new undergraduate, and its slogan played in my head like an old favorite song: “Start here and go anywhere.”

Soon, I was remembering the time I’d visited Columbia University with a friend who was studying there — she had to sneak me into Butler Library because I didn’t have a student ID of my own — and I was so captivated by the campus’s majestic buildings and immaculate lawns. At the time, I didn’t feel that I belonged there — but a lot has changed since then. I had worked tirelessly to champion literacy and equity, and I had proven I had what it took to study at a prestigious institution. 

So I applied to the graduate program — and not only did I get in, but I also received multiple scholarships to cover my tuition! And it was all possible because I was able to keep my non-profit organization thriving while supporting myself and setting my own schedule. When it comes to finding workfor graduate students or earning extra income to supplement a graduate student stipend, gig work like dashing is invaluable.

Dx Blog  - I Dash So I Can Advocate: Meet Grad Student and Non-Profit Founder Cindy C. - at the time

What it takes to be a successful non-profit founder

Fulfilling your dreams while earning a living can be challenging. A traditional work schedule may not leave you with enough time or energy to devote to your passions, or you may face resistance from friends or family who may not understand or encourage your drive to do something unconventional. This can definitely take a toll on your motivation. My advice to overcome these challenges centers around three core tips.

1. Set achievable goals

Explore your passions, and when you discover what truly excites you, identify opportunities to generate income through for-profit or non-profit initiatives. From there, create short-term and long-term goals that can yield tangible outcomes — setting actionable tasks for each goal can help make the process more straightforward and less overwhelming. 

2. Nurture your network

Build bridges with like-minded individuals in your industry and surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed. Conferences, networking events, and online communities provide opportunities to create professional connections, and these can lead to collaborations, partnerships, and potential streams of income.

3. Be a lifelong student

Never stop seeking opportunities to cultivate new knowledge and skills, and embrace a mindset of continuous learning! I recommend signing up for courses or workshops that can enhance your expertise, as well as seeking mentorship opportunities with people you admire.

Dx Blog  - I Dash So I Can Advocate: Meet Grad Student and Non-Profit Founder Cindy C. - ability to stay productive

My advice for Dashers 

Nothing worth doing is ever easy, and my advice for other Dashers is to be prepared for setbacks and possible disappointments in life. But remember that challenges are learning opportunities, and as long as you remain resilient, determined, and adaptable, you can conquer them.

When I didn’t know whether my non-profit would survive, dashing provided the flexibility, stability, and autonomy I needed to see my organization through the tough times. Now, I’m less than half a year away from graduating from Columbia University with my master’s degree in social work. I’ll soon be starting work on a memoir, and I’m still going strong in the fight for social justice with my team at Kupanda Sisters. “Kupanda” is a Swahili word that translates to “rise” or “climb” — and it’s onwards and upwards from here! Kupanda Sisters - Together We Rise!

Learn more about Cindy’s non-profit organization, Kupanda Sisters, here.

Ready to be your own boss? Sign up to be a Dasher today.


Cindy C.

Cindy C.

Dasher & Advocate