Breakthrough New York pairs volunteers with college students to serve as coaches through an academic year, mentoring them towards their academic and personal goals.
Jeff Landry has been a Breakthrough New York volunteer since 2022. He is a graduate of Villanova University and has held roles in finance and operations both in the US and internationally. As a college coach, Jeff was paired with Jean, a junior at Syracuse University.
How did you hear about Breakthrough New York?
It was through an alumni channel [of Villanova University]. I do coaching through work for younger associates, and I’ve similarly been involved in some STEM programs and volunteering. I feel like I’ve been a beneficiary myself when I was younger in my career of having some coaches and mentors, both formally and informally, and I really appreciated that type of guidance. That attracted me to find out more about Breakthrough and how I could be involved.
How did you approach this coaching opportunity?
I think what’s helped is I’ve stayed active in recruitment, both for our undergrad and our MBA interns. It’s been a good touch point. It still keeps me informed of what it’s like to be a student today – some of the pressures and challenges, and how that may be different from my own experience. And then to be able to relate that to my experiences, and really think about it from that student’s perspective, and how I can be a voice to listen and guide and offer some suggestions. I recognize that everyone’s path is different.
Perhaps I’m not able to solve all the challenges, but I can be that listening ear and offer different ideas. I’ve been able to lean on that. That’s what gave me the confidence for this program.
What is your relationship like with your mentee Jean?
I feel like we connected right away. I think he knows that he can reach out to me anytime with something big or small. Certainly being able to meet in person in January [at the college social] was tremendous, because he’s up at school at Syracuse, and he’ll come back periodically to the city. That was not a barrier because we already were off and running in our relationship and in our coaching discussions.
I really enjoyed his energy and spirit. I’ve tried to stress that the college experience is very unique, and while it’s a lot of work, you also need to make sure you find time to enjoy it too. I think he appreciates that advice because he’s involved in so much that it’s certainly easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and week-to-week.
How are you able to keep such a close mentorship with Jean and make those connections?
I think we established [it] very early on. I had shared more about myself and my background and my experiences, and then took time to understand his. We’re both in this business field. Both [have] a lot of international interest and travel experiences. There’s enough commonalities despite different paths from us growing up [and] an age difference.
I think Jean also has a good understanding of the role that I’m supposed to be playing. He’s been part of [Breakthrough New York] for a while, so I think that certainly benefits [me] because I [am] new to the program.
He’s trying to choose his path and decide where to invest his time and what to pursue; I’ve been able to listen and give feedback to that. It’s the openness that we’ve established early on that has brought us to where we’re at today.
What is one standout moment that you and Jean have had throughout your coaching relationship?
When we looked at his resume together. We had an open discussion, and I think it gave him some perspective in terms of how to approach discussions with his career office at Syracuse, with potential employers, and where he has interest. He’s got so many different ideas and possible areas of pursuit that it can be a little tough to say, “Alright, what do I want to do with this? Where do I want to go?” That conversation touched on so much. It’s kind of shaped him as a person.
For anyone who’s considering joining Breakthrough New York as a college coach, what advice do you have for them?
I really strongly encourage it because I feel like it’s a program that allows you to certainly give back and assist these students who can benefit from the relationship. It’s eye opening [to see] the impact that you can have on the lives of these students and individuals. You don’t have to have just completed university. You can be [of] a different age and background. But I think a lot of it is how you approach the responsibility. It’s best to go in open-minded, and really carve out time and the commitment, and the rewards will certainly be there.
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