#ProofPointDay: How We Can Help Grow Next-Generation Leaders

How We Can Help Grow Next-Generation Leaders

As a volunteer leadership coach with Braven, I had the privilege of working with talented undergrads—many of whom were first-generation college students—who were eager to make their mark on the world. These students told courageous stories of what it was like to navigate college on their own.

Today, on #ProofPointDay, when we celebrate all first-generation college students and graduates, I wanted to reflect on what I learned from some incredible young people through Braven. They taught me a lot. Three big takeaways that matter on #ProofPointDay:

1| College is a big experience, no matter who you are. But for first-generation college goers, college can feel especially weighty.

College is essential to launch and grow a successful career, but career success is about far more than good grades. It also hinges on what students do outside of the classroom, including extracurricular activities, internships, and more. Too often, students from disadvantaged backgrounds lack access to the “extras,” making success beyond college even harder.

2| The challenges that first-generation students face daily are intangible and immeasurable.

Like going to campus and not seeing people who look like them. Like going to student activities fairs and being unfamiliar with all of the activities (while everyone else seems to know what’s going on). Like dealing with assumptions from peers and teachers about taking vacations, owning cars, or other experiences that aren’t a part of their lives.

College is an important launch point for many young leaders, yet adjusting to the unfamiliarity of the environment and navigating its complexities also mean that these bright, ambitious young people need a high degree of support to excel in higher education and beyond.

3| The support systems that first-generation students need are not always readily available or visible to students.

Without critical support, vulnerable students struggle and fade out of the system, or fail to see themselves as effective leaders. As a result, so much potential is squandered.

But so many people and organizations refuse to accept this status quo. Here are just two from our EP network:

  • Believing that the next generation of leaders will emerge from everywhere—every race, gender, religion, geography, income level and otherwise—Braven is creating a movement to capture and realize this lost potential.

After thorough research and two years of pilot programs, CEO and Founder Aimée Eubanks Davis (also an EP Board member) and her team created a model to solve the education-to-employment gap and identify leaders from underrepresented backgrounds. They named it Braven, to reflect the resilience of their Fellows and the strong community they form together.

Read more about Braven’s work.

  • EP Alumna Alexandra (“Alex”) Bernadotte founded Beyond 12 in 2009 to dramatically increase the number of low-income, first-generation, and historically under-represented students who graduate from college. A first-generation college student herself, Alex struggled with the transition as an undergrad, and wanted to ensure that other students didn’t struggle as she had.

Since Beyond 12’s launch, it has been named a finalist for the $5 million Robin Hood College Success Prize, selected as one of the top 10 in the 2014 Bay Area Google Impact Challenge, and named one of the world’s top 10 innovative companies in education by Fast Company.

Want to get involved? Learn more about supporting Braven and Beyond 12 on their websites, and visit #ProofPointDay to support and celebrate all first-generation students and graduates.

Alex Hemmer is an Associate, Collaborative Systems for Education Pioneers where he supports Alumni initiatives and communications, and helps coordinate EP’s use of The Exchange, an online networking, resource, and job sharing platform. Alex joined Education Pioneers to make sure that everyone has access to the resources and support necessary to succeed. He served as a Braven leadership coach in the 2014-2015 school year.


Join the Conversation

Commenting Policy

Education Pioneers does not discriminate against any views but reserves the right to remove or not post comments that are off-topic or contain obscene language, threats, or defamatory statements.