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Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s Torey Raphael recently participated in UWGLA’s Loaned Executive Program, doing her part to advance the organization’s core mission of Creating Pathways Out of Poverty for all Angelenos. Below, she discusses what this unique experience means to her and the community as a whole.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to participate in United Way’s Loaned Executive program.

I graduated from USC in 2009 and I work for Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in Canoga Park. I had heard about United Way a year ago through their PWR workplace campaign and was impressed by their research-based method for Creating Pathways Out of Poverty. I knew it would be an invaluable experience to spend three months working for such an awesome nonprofit.

In your opinion, what does our mission to Create Pathways Out of Poverty mean for the residents of this community?

It’s a beacon of hope for the people of Greater L.A., and not just the ones living in poverty. As someone who overcame the hopelessness of poverty and displacement, I can say that my life would’ve been forever changed by something as simple as financial training or educational assistance. I eventually made it through and am now impacting thousands as a Loaned Executive. Just imagine how innovative our society will be once other youths are granted the opportunity to overcome their situations instead of ending up on the streets, in jail or worse.

Describe a typical workday at United Way.

It’s so much fun! Being surrounded by other folks who truly care and show it in their daily activities is empowering beyond anything I could have imagined. They care, not only about those living in poverty, but also about each other. It shows in the smiles and laughter you hear around the office and it’s a big part of why such a small group of people can do so much good.

What was your most memorable or rewarding experience as a Loaned Executive?

The best part of this program is having the opportunity to see the impact of my work all around me. With an aerospace background, I’ve grown accustomed to waiting several years to see the impact of my daily tasks. That’s why it’s so rewarding to tell my PWR colleagues that they too can make a difference EVERYDAY by giving, advocating and volunteering.

What would you say to someone who’s interested in becoming a Loaned Executive?

If your company offers you the opportunity to become an LE, you should run with it! It’s such an uplifting experience, not to mention the training you receive while doing it. Imagine a time and place where you gain business management and leadership skills while giving countless families a helping hand out of poverty. That place is here and the time is now!

United Way is working hard to improve the overall quality of life in L.A. County with the help of its community heroes. If you were a real superhero, what would your superpower be?

To erase childhood trauma. Children are our hope, and they are also very impressionable. Their early lives shape not only their futures, but the futures of everyone around them. I would give anything to eliminate the self-doubt and paranoia that often resides in the hearts and minds of children who have been through traumatic experiences. This fear has the power to hold them back from accomplishing great things, but I want to instead see them grow into fulfilled adults who give back to their community.

*For more info on the Loaned Executive Program, please click here.