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Serving DeKalb County, IL Since 1993

YEP Alumni – Where are they now?

Meet Karsten Larson, former Youth Engaged in Philanthropy (YEP) Chair and a 2011 graduate of Sycamore High School. Serving in the second year of the YEP program as Chair, Karsten provided valuable leadership and helped pave the way for the program. Karsten is the daughter of past DeKalb County Community Foundation Board Member and President Donna Larson (Sycamore representative).

So where is Karsten now and did the YEP program provide any takeaways for life after high school? Let’s find out!

Meet Karsten Larson

(Q) Who are you and where did you go to school?
(A) My name is Karsten Larson, and I went to Sycamore High School, graduating class of 2011.

(Q) How many years were you in YEP?
(A) I was a member of YEP for two years and had the opportunity to serve as Chair

(Q) Where are you now and what are you up to?
(A) I’m currently living near Waco, TX working at SpaceX’s rocket test facility as a fluid systems engineer. SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

(Q) What’s a recent accomplishment you are proud of?
(A) By far the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of was SpaceX’s first Falcon Heavy launch in February of 2018. It was surreal to watch the success of something that so many people had worked so hard for. For the first time in my life, the entire world seemed to be as excited about space as me! Learn more about this event at https://www.spacex.com/news/2018/02/07/falcon-heavy-test-launch

(Q) How did YEP shape what you are doing now?
(A) I try to be more aware of my community and more willing to put in effort to make it a better place. This can be hard when moving to a new city, but even little things like supporting a local business or donating $5 to a charity can make a difference.

(Q) What were some of your greatest takeaways from YEP?
(A) YEP taught me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It can be daunting to take on a large responsibility. It can be awkward to disagree with your peers. It can be difficult to say no to a good idea because there is a better one. These are skills that aren’t easily taught, but are necessary in any career. I think YEP does a good job of teaching this to not only the students involved, but also the groups proposing the grants.

(Q) How are you currently (or plan to in the near future) giving of your time, talent, and treasure?
(A) I currently volunteer with middle school STEM groups in my community, particularly trying to show other aspiring female engineers that math and science are awesome.

I also started a donor advised fund at the DeKalb County Community Foundation in 2012. My parents created a unique opportunity for me regarding college tuition. Since they agreed to pay for my college, any money I received by way of scholarships would be given to me to keep as my own. Feeling motivated with this offer, I applied for and received a number of scholarships. In the end I decided the best place for this money was to put it to work giving back to the community where I grew up. So on August 11, 2012, the Karsten Larson Fund was created.

(Q) If you could pass on any knowledge or advice to current YEP members, what would that be?
(A) YEP is such a unique opportunity to learn about philanthropy and your community. It does more than just look great on your resume, it teaches you personal and professional skills that are applicable throughout your entire life. Take advantage of this experience and get to know your community from a new perspective!

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