When my morning meetings wrapped up yesterday I slid into the office after lunch and sat next to Josue. He runs our central study space now and helps students whenever they get stuck. I stopped while opening the mail and bit my lower lip for a moment as the memories came flooding back.
I first met Josue three years ago when he finished high school, and have known his older brother Javier for four years now. This is the third week Josue’s worked for us at PelotonU, and I was moved not only by his maturity in a complex role, but by the sudden realization that a third of our team now are students.
Of eighteen folks who work at PelotonU (which is crazy enough — almost twenty people are on our payroll), six are students. We’ve always believed alumni and active students could serve their peers best, but somewhere along the way of worrying about making rent, submitting late night grants, and chasing inbox zero I got stuck thinking we were still a three person coffee shop start-up. But we’re not anymore, not by a long-shot.
I’m humbled not only that those who know our community best want to work alongside us (earning over $80,000 so far to support their families), but that we’re beginning to build a community that’s student-led.
As I’ve thought over the past week about what I’m grateful for in our work, this has stood out the most. I know Karen has taken over from Josue tonight and will keep our central study space safe and supportive until she closes the office at 9p. I know Saul, who just got engaged last weekend (how stinking exciting is that) will do the same for students at our south study space.
I know this week Wendy and Evelyn, two students who’ve earned their Associate’s with us and are now serving as peer coaches for students just starting their Associate’s degree, will meet with forty students in person to offer encouragement and support for academic journeys that are just beginning.
I know Rodolfo — an entrepreneur himself leading a non-profit on nights and weekends — will step in for Navid (who adopted his daughter this week and started parental leave) by talking with students through calls, text, and web chat about their college options and if PelotonU is the right next step in their educational journey.
At every point, our work is made better by the students who stand alongside us serving their peers and the Austin community.
If that’s not enough, our organization’s also led by students. In two weeks I’ll facilitate an orientation for 2020 board members, and Kelsey will be there serving as the student on our board, leveraging her expertise from the HR team at Bumble to improve how we integrate student input into our decision making process.
Before Kelsey, two other students served in the same role. Before the six students on our team, two more — Briana and Kat — were on our team, and they paved the way for their peers while teaching us how to build a supportive staff culture.
Eleven students in total. What a thing, as we’ve gotten used to saying around the office.
As we have grown more quickly it’s become harder for me to know the new students who start each month. That makes me cherish even more the privilege to work alongside the students employed at PelotonU.
It won’t be long now until our alumni serve as coaches and join our leadership team to bring their lived experiences and programmatic expertise to the next chapter of our work.
And one day, in the not too distant future, it will be a student writing you as Executive Director, sharing the new lessons they’re learning about serving working adults and gratefulness they feel for the Austin community of friends, donors, and supporters who makes our work possible.
Thanks for believing in our students, they’re my heroes this year.
What a thing,