SLU Students in Action: KenDell Jackson

KenDell Jackson is a graduate candidate in the URB MA program, and recipient of a 2019 University Student Senate Graduate Peer Mentor Scholarship. KenDell was interviewed by SLU Advisor Samina Shahidi.

What is the University Student Senate Graduate Peer Mentor Scholarship, and how did you get involved with it?

The University Student Senate Graduate Peer Mentor Scholarship is a recognition for students that have shown academic excellence, scholastic dedication and overall contributions to the improvement of student life.

The CUNY SLU advisement team provides frequent updates on upcoming activities and opportunities. Like many of us being so busy, I ignored many of the previous emails suggesting that students apply for Graduate Mentor Scholarship opportunities. I hadn’t considered the Scholarship as a viable option. I was certainly wrong. I decided to submit an essay describing my journey and how working with youth via Track & Field is my unique contribution to improving my community. It started with just training my daughter and it blossomed into working with over 50 young people in the Bronx.

Mentoring youth while enrolled in a Graduate program has helped shape my perspective on community and urban needs. It’s also great to inspire both youths and their parents that if Coach K. can manage work, school and coaching, they can too.

Just a few months later I received notice that I had been selected as a scholarship recipient. I recommend to my fellow students: don’t be fearful of taking a chance on yourself.

Talk about your coaching relationship with your daughter.

I have been a Track & Field coach for the past five years with Velocity Track Club in the Bronx. During that time I have had the pleasure of working with over 50 young athletes. Among the athletes is my daughter, Tiarra Jackson, a six-time Track & Field Youth All-American. It’s been extremely fulfilling to act as a mentor to my community’s youngsters. Many of the kids I have encountered have started with a very low level of physical fitness, and it’s been wonderful to see them improve. As a coach I have a responsibility to not only help develop them physically but mentally. I constantly remind my athletes on the importance of education, and looking at me as an example of someone that has to multi-task. My daughter has been extremely successful with Track & Field and she has stated much of it is based on how she is able to multi-task and develop her mental toughness.

Why should students connect to coaching and peer mentoring scholarships, in contrast to other kinds of scholarships?

Coaching and peer mentoring of any kind develops a way to engage with people in a much more grounded way. We all should take the time to utilize this gift we have from our education, a chance to put what we have learned into practice. The greatest thing you can give someone is your time.

What advantages and benefits does the peer mentoring relationship impart to the mentee, and—a surprise for some—the mentor?

Some of the greatest advantages and benefits are being challenged on things that we think we know. At times we are so sure about a community or people based on what we may have studied or heard, but it’s a refreshing shock to the system to be surprised. For me, I was shocked with the amount of positive community support that my track team has received, in terms of local politicians, local news and even now the Amateur Athletic Association has named Velocity Track Club on of the Top 100 teams in the Nation.

What advice would you give a SLU student who might be interested in applying for this program?

Mentoring comes in many forms, don’t feel intimidated in sharing your contributions. It’s important that fellow students are aware of the social impact that we can have as graduate students. The process is completely online, so no stamp required.

URB MA graduate candidate KenDell Jackson is working on his Capstone thesis this semester. Learn more about the University Student Senate Peer Mentorship Scholarship here.