By Meital Caplan
December 2, 2016
Brandin LeBlanc serves as Westchester Academy for International Studies’ mathematics and science teacher. A OneGoal Program Director in his second year delivering the model (Y2), Brandin now finds himself equipped with the tools and knowledge to help not only his Fellows apply to college, but any students that seek his guidance. Here he gives us a glimpse into his experience. [Update: we checked back in with Brandin two years later (fall 2018) after finishing his third year to learn what it meant to complete the OneGoal program and what impact he’s seen in his cohort.]
OG: Why did you choose to work with OneGoal?
BL: I jumped on the opportunity to work with OneGoal because I wanted to continue to have a positive impact on the lives of my students in a tangible and lasting way. Thirty five years ago, in the school district I now coincidentally work in, teachers took care of and believed in my dad even in his fifth year of high school and helped him to change the course of his life by motivating him and getting him to college. I’m a witness to the importance of a college degree and how confidence and skills affect the life trajectory of a student. I want my students to experience what life can be like with real opportunity and guidance, and I can’t wait to see them decades from now.
OG: What skills have you found to be the most helpful for you in this role?
BL: I’ve learned the most important quality a Program Director can have is the willingness to give their time. We serve smart kids who want to succeed and sometimes all they need is someone to sit with them and tell them how awesome they are.
OG: How has working with OneGoal impacted your students and yourself?
BL: I can already see the confidence and achievement levels of my Fellows increasing because of their involvement in OneGoal. Additionally, my work with OneGoal has extended my reach within the school and district, and my kids trust me and call upon me to help their friends who aren’t in the OneGoal class or may not even go to our school. Meeting more and more kids and their families and helping them through the daunting college preparation process is something I didn’t know I would enjoy so much when I began this OneGoal journey and has now become the greatest joy for me. While I am nowhere close to being an expert, I appreciate the constant support and knowledge that the OneGoal staff provides me. I learn more and more each day about how to better serve my students.
Update from BL: Following their senior year of high school, 93% of my Fellows enrolled in and persisted through their freshman year of college. Today, 100% of my original cohort of Fellows plan to enroll in the fall of 2018 to begin their sophomore year or start their college journey.
I highlight these numbers for two reasons:
OG: What have been the greatest and most challenging parts about teaching the OneGoal model?
BL: This can be a really challenging job at times because it is such a detail-oriented endeavor. Every Fellow has a unique story that you have to fully understand to best serve them. It is challenging to learn how each student’s past and current situation leads to the decisions they are making for their future and how you should best guide them on the path to success. But all the exhaustion and stress is worth it. As my Fellows have started to receive acceptance letters to colleges, I have cried tears of joy, and honestly, have never been more proud.
OG: Describe your relationship with your cohort.
BL: I have been able to build strong relationships with my Fellows, and they know I can be reached at any time to serve them in any way possible. I consider them an extension of my family and I know many of them feel the same.
Update from BL: My communications with my Fellows over the course of their first year after high school only grew our relationship. While we didn’t see each other on a daily basis like we had for the previous two years, we had the opportunity to come together to celebrate their successes this summer. I had my almost all of my Fellows over for a dinner at my house and it was great time of fellowship, full of laughs and storytelling. We will forever be connected and I know I’ll stay in touch with many of them for years and years to come.