Editor’s note: Monroe Elementary Assistant Principal Kyle Schulte offers this reflection on serving as a Leadership Coach with Braven, a nonprofit with a mission to increase the numbers of first-generation college graduates landing strong first jobs. Here, he reflects on his work and how he has grown professionally as a mentor and leader.
What do you wear to a job interview? Should I include my high school on my resume? How do I search for a job opening? Do I need to have an internship before I graduate college?
These are just some of the questions I have helped answer while a Leadership Coach with Braven. Braven partners with universities to provide a course that focuses on empowering promising college students with the skills, confidence, experiences, and networks necessary to transition from college to a strong first job.
As an educator in Chicago Public Schools for the past decade, I know firsthand the impact and benefits that a strong mentorship has on our youth. I have taught for seven years, coached multiple sports, ran summer school, volunteered for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and currently am in my fourth year as an assistant principal. A common theme I have encountered throughout my experiences working with children and young adults is that they all need someone to have their back, guide their passions and interests, help them develop skills, and most of all, believe in them.
We need these same supports as adults! As the first to attend and graduate from college, I would not be where I am today without the mentoring I received throughout college and my professional career. When I think of my mentors, one idea keeps resurfacing: mentors listen more than they give advice. This has influenced how I mentor. I listen and guide individuals to discover their truths. I recognize that we all have our own belief systems and core values and that asking probing questions often allows others to answer their questions themselves.
As a Braven Leadership Coach, I lead a cohort of nine students enrolled in the course at National Louis University in Chicago. All of the students in my cohort are first-generation college goers and come from a variety of backgrounds. English is the second language for two of them, with Arabic and Spanish being their first languages. Most of the students in the cohort come from the South Side of Chicago.
Braven Fellows Discover Their Strengths and Find Their Inner Answers
I facilitate discussions so that all voices are heard and Fellows discover they have had the answers all along, a connection that is very motivating for the students. I encourage them to add their experiences and backgrounds to the rich discussions we’re having in class. Fellows are able to provide insight and answer their peers’ questions or wonderings from their unique lens.
At first, the students in the cohort I lead looked to me to answer their questions, but they soon discovered they knew the answers all long, including the answers to the four questions related to the job search.
The cohort has also discovered that some of their perceived weaknesses are actually their strengths. One student whose first language was Spanish was worried about his English-speaking abilities, despite having great ideas and being eager to participate in class. We have been working on the pace of his delivery and have talked about his ability to speak two languages as a strength that will help him in the hiring process. Another student, who is working two jobs that are not related to her major while going to school full-time, realized that her experience demonstrates work ethic and time management–skills employers are seeking.
All of us Can Teach and Mentor Every Day
Teaching and mentoring occur everyday within our lives whether we recognize it or not. It may be a short tip to a coworker to make them more effective at their job, helping someone with directions when they are lost, sharing a family recipe, or providing information to someone traveling to a place you’ve already been.
We all have unique skill sets to share and help people. I’ve been fortunate enough to have these experiences on a daily basis. Whether it’s volunteering as a mentor or simply offering advice in your day-to-day interactions, I encourage us all to think of ways to give back by sharing our knowledge and skills with others. Even the smallest time investment can change someone’s life.
To learn more about volunteering with Braven, click here.