Breakthrough New York pairs volunteers with college students to serve as coaches through an academic year, mentoring them towards their academic and personal goals.

Nick Tedesco is a Breakthrough New York volunteer who works in private equity. After living in various countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe, he settled in the US four years ago. He became a college coach in 2022, and was paired with two mentees: Derek from Hamilton College, and Jeremy from CUNY Hunter College.

How did you get involved with Breakthrough New York?

I’m a first generation college student. My parents didn’t go to college, and I was in a similar program in Australia a long time ago, helping high school students get into good universities in Australia. I was researching an initiative with a mission similar to what I was looking to do. Upon reading up on Breakthrough and hearing their stories, watching some of the videos, I just had to get involved.

What drew you to the role of being a college coach?

I felt like I could be helpful to someone that was in the same position as me. I thought it’d be a good platform to develop some communication skills and a little bit more patience. It’s different than a job where you can be directed; this is a lot more collaborative.

How did you start your mentorship?

[Mentee Derek] was living in New York City at the time. We just got lunch one day. It’s easy to meet in person and get to know each other, and we basically talked about soccer and work for most of it. This is to get to know each other on a personal level before we had [regular] calls.

How did your mentorship develop out of that?

I think because it started in person, it makes everything seem a little bit more real, and you can see me as more of an individual. For example, Derek is really big into soccer, and so when the world cup was on a few months later, it’s really easy to get sidetracked and talk about it, and be more like a friend. But it’s also very easy to create that relationship early on from that point of view. I think that helped us when we went to talk about more difficult conversations because we have that baseline.

What have you learned throughout this mentorship?

Personally, I definitely have a type A, linear personality. So I’m like you do A, you get to B, whereas in this process you get to let them go on their own journey and figure out what’s best for them. How I see things – it’s just my personal experience. It also teaches me to be more empathetic, and to see the world from their shoes, even though it was like five or ten years ago for myself.

For anyone who’s considering being a college coach, what advice do you have for them?

Try to think about what they’re feeling or thinking from their perspective, which is going to be very different to how you might be in that situation. That’s one thing that has been very helpful to me. For example, I work in finance now, and [Derek] wants to do that. Just because we have the same goals doesn’t necessarily mean that we have the same idea of how to go about it. Taking a step back, knowing what you know about them, has been helpful but also challenging at the same time.

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