Putting a Smile on Our Faces: How One PCC Student is Making a Difference
Noy Chatoyan, a business administration student who began his college career during the pandemic, shared his insight as a young entrepreneur and why he recently chose to give back to the PCC community.
Being a student, how did you come to be a PCC donor?
In 2014, my brother and I launched a charitable organization called Smiles in a Box, which created little clay cubes with smiling faces on them that would be donated to St. Jude’s Hospital or LA Children’s Hospital. Our goal was to change the world one smile at a time, although we halted the project last year during COVID and, instead, focused our energy on mass-producing face masks. For every mask sold, we’d donate $1 to Feeding America, and every dollar would create 10 meals. To date, we’ve been able to create over 47,000 meals. And after learning about what the Lancer Pantry was doing to combat food insecurity at PCC, we had the idea to donate $200 to the program in October 2020.
Why was it important for you to donate to the Lancer Pantry?
From a very young age, I was taught about the value of giving back, about donating—whether that was donating your money, your time, your work—all of it is meaningful. My grandfather would make art for people, and when I asked him why he wasn’t selling it, he told me it was better to just give it to people. For him, it was always about helping others and making a difference in the lives of others. He’d say, “even one smile is a small difference in the world.” And that always stayed with me. Giving back to the Lancer Pantry seemed like an obvious way for us to help make a difference.
It sounds like your grandfather was a major influence on your philanthropic endeavors.
He absolutely was. My family has always believed in helping others. I grew up being very involved in my community. We’re Armenian, and Armenians are close with each other. My family was—and is—incredibly supportive of me. They’ve always prioritized my education and encouraged me to be involved in school programs. For instance, I joined the choir and theatre programs in high school and discovered that I really like to sing; I compose my music on the piano. It’s a way for me to connect with people through art.
What made you want to attend PCC?
Originally, I planned to go to a 4-year college. But when COVID hit, I decided to take a step back and reevaluate things. I figured all my classes were going to be online, at least for the foreseeable future. So it made more sense to enroll at PCC.
What was the 2020 college experience like?
It’s been interesting, that’s for sure. I obviously haven’t experienced college in any normal capacity; I haven’t even been on PCC’s campus really. Everything’s been remote. But I will say all my professors at PCC have been very helpful. It’s been a great community experience—I’ve been able to join the Armenian Students Association at PCC, and I even cofounded my club, the PCC Corporate Finance Club. Even though it’s all been online, I feel quite attached to the College.
Tell me about the PCC Corporate Finance Club.
The club looks at case studies of different businesses. For instance, our first case study was to consider the business model for Trader Joe’s and think about how it started, how it expands, how it handles competitors, such as Walmart. The whole thing was interesting because the club’s co-founder and I were new students, and we were trying to cultivate this business community completely remotely. We attended virtual meetings; we reached out to some of our business professors to get ideas on how to attract more members. Creating a new club at a new school during a pandemic was challenging, but it was worth it.
What’s next for you?
I’m planning to transfer to the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation in the Fall. I’m very interested in the business side of things, but I also do a lot of graphic design and freelance work. My goal is to one day start my own business, but I also want to merge my interest in art with my interest in the business. Whatever that ends up being, it will be centered around helping others.
How can people support your charity organization?
Visit us at smilesinabox.com. We’re still peddling face masks, and we’re always looking to create more smiles in the world.