Social Impact Internships: Aron Qiu (’25)
My name is Aron Qiu. I am a rising junior majoring in architecture and finance (Course 4 and 15). As a part of the PKG intern program this summer, I am working with Homeboy Venture Capital Fund, an unprofit investment group under its home organization Homeboy Industries. The task that I spent most of my time working on during the internship, is building the business model for a 145-acres of property that could serve as a nature retreat and rehabilitation center, commercial hydroponic agriculture farm, and home to several other social enterprises.
At Homeboy Industries, my host organization, we confront the intricate challenge of mass incarceration, addressing the diverse spectrum of social and economic inequalities that profoundly affect the populations in Los Angeles areas. These disparities, often stemming from deeply entrenched systemic issues, create a cycle of disadvantage for individuals entangled in the criminal justice system.
A primary concern Homeboy has is the substantial barriers to employment that individuals with criminal records face. The stigma surrounding their past record frequently leads employers to turn away from hiring them, resulting in a dearth of job prospects and financial instability. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty and economic disparity that becomes difficult to escape. In addition, Homeboy identifies that inadequate access to quality education for incarcerated individuals further exacerbates these inequalities, as educational opportunities within correctional facilities like Homeboy are extremely limited. The tangible consequence is the challenge to obtain the necessary qualifications for sustainable employment upon release. The plight continues into housing, where formerly incarcerated individuals often grapple with finding stable accommodations due to discriminatory housing policies and practices. This may lead to homelessness or severely constrained housing options, intensifying the difficulties of reintegration. Such concerns demand substantial social change that is unlikely to unfold in the near future.
Our host organization is also dedicated to mitigating these disparities and championing social and economic equity. One of the most effective strategies under the Homeboy Ventures and Jobs Fund involves investing in businesses willing to hire and train individuals with criminal
records, effectively dismantling the barriers to employment. By fostering such opportunities, we create stable jobs that offer income security, benefits, and avenues for professional advancement that signals upward mobility. Consequently, we actively contribute to the reduction of economic disparities within the marginalized populations.
Education and skills training are also recognized by our organization as pivotal in addressing these inequities. We ardently support businesses that facilitate educational programs within correctional facilities, granting incarcerated individuals access to quality education and a variety of vocational training under the organization. Additionally, our organization has established a robust educational system to equip incarcerated individuals with the essential skills needed for gainful employment upon their release. By focusing on this strategic approach, we effectively tackle the educational disparities that contribute to the cycle of incarceration.
Throughout my engagement in the effort to address mass incarceration, I’ve garnered invaluable insights by being part of the investing process and meeting with program participants. The paramount role of employment in diminishing recidivism rates has
crystallized before me. Steady employment not only ensures financial stability but also nurtures a sense of purpose, dignity, and stability, all indispensable facets for successful reintegration. My host agency’s support for educational initiatives within correctional settings effectively equips individuals with the tools they need to thrive beyond incarceration. The action of investing in businesses that provide job opportunities for incarcerated individuals has also provided additional support for job market re-entry.
The ethos of my host agency—that everyone merits an opportunity for redemption, rehabilitation, and a brighter future—has profoundly shaped my perspective. Through my contributions, I endeavor to aid in building a society that values second chances, curtails recidivism, and champions the triumphant reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals.