Rippling change through his community
Coaching plays a supporting role as Loyola grad begins career in hometown mayor’s office
Even as a freshman at Loyola University New Orleans, Brandon Vincent knew what he wanted to do with his life. “I wanted to get into public health,” he says. Growing up on the north side of Baton Rouge, Brandon knew all too well that there were inequities in healthcare for low-income African Americans. “I lived those experiences,” he remembers. “Going to school, I was able to learn more about the systemic experiences that impacted my life.”
And now, thanks to his degree in sociology with a concentration in social justice and inequalities, he’s able to work towards positive changes. “Having knowledge of how the system works, I can bring that to the table to make actual progress.” By pairing his firsthand experience growing up with his college degree, Brandon wants to work with people who are impacted by issues related to the environment they live in, making them aware of what’s going on and what they can do to improve and advocate for their health.
Taking the power of coaching to heart
So how did Brandon go from Loyola freshman to Loyola graduate serving with AmeriCorps in the mayor’s office in Baton Rouge? Brandon recalls that when he first entered college, he was very shy. But he decided that to get to where he wanted to go, he needed to immerse himself in everything college had to offer. He gives credit to the career development and counseling center at Loyola — particularly the InsideTrack-trained coaches he worked with. In fact, in a conversation we had with him in 2019 about his reflections on his freshman year, he mentioned that his success coach helped him branch out to opportunities to expand his involvement on campus — a skill that continues forward with him. “I built a relationship with my success coach that helped push me out of my shell.”
His career coaches, also specially trained in InsideTrack coaching methodology, worked with him on taking care of the things he needed to do in order to succeed. “Changing out different words in my resume to match the specific job I’m applying for,” he recalls, “was something I wouldn’t think to do.” And he paid attention to the career advice, using it to help others on campus.
“Success coaching at Loyola has given me the access to make sure I have the opportunity to tap into available resources.” – Brandon Vincent, graduate, Loyola University
He cites his coaches for caring for the whole person, creating a holistic experience that helped him in many aspects of his time at school and carried over past graduation. “A big part of my experience was from success coaching,” he notes. “Success coaching at Loyola has given me the access to make sure I have the opportunity to tap into available resources.” And he says that working with coaches helped him to become more active on campus. “I got involved in everything,” he says. “Putting myself out there created a ripple effect.” This ripple effect began with coaching — helping Brandon gain the confidence to step out of his comfort zone — and continues on as he creates ripples of his own in the community he grew up in.
Boots on the ground
These days, Brandon works in the office of Mayor Sharon Broome in Baton Rouge. He’s currently part of Safe Hopeful Healthy Baton Rouge, the mayor’s initiative to reduce violence through a community health lens. “I never expected to get into politics,” he says, “but this has allowed me to see how I can insert myself into spaces where I can help bring progress to the community.”
Earlier this year, he helped lead the Summer of Hope initiative. “Baton Rouge is impacted by violence,” he says. “This was our way of bringing hope to our city, with opportunities for people to celebrate. Through different events, the initiative served as a conduit for people to wind down, relax, and address mental health issues.”
He was also a key part of the city’s Unity Fest, a celebration of Juneteenth. “It’s important to bring cultural awareness to the city. A lot of people don’t know what Juneteenth is all about. This was an opportunity to celebrate Black culture and unity.” As Brandon explains it, along with a good time, the event also provided a way for people to connect to the resources they need. “We were able to serve a lot of people,” he added. “I leaned in wherever I could to help with community engagement and outreach.” And even though it rained, that didn’t slow down the parade!
“The thing I’m most proud of is just that I’m doing it!”
Brandon is the first to say that his time at Loyola, including working with his coaches, led him to a place where he is able to make an impact. “I see myself as a community navigator, a community resource connector. A lot of times, I think this community is siloed. Know who you are serving. Having the lived experience of the issues I’m trying to address, I bring in cultural competency in knowing what to say and how to simplify things. If nobody understands it, it’s not serving its purpose.”
“I see myself as a community navigator, a community resource connector. Having the lived experience of the issues I’m trying to address, I bring in cultural competency in knowing what to say and how to simplify things.” – Brandon Vincent, graduate, Loyola University
For him, sociology is all about how people intertwine with systems. “Growing up, I lived in a food desert. I understand why things are like they are, why the city is designed the way it is.” And sociology, he says, gives him the foundation to help move things forward. “My degree taught me a lot. But the experiences outside the classroom are what made me the person I am today and prepared me for this job.”
“My degree taught me a lot. But the experiences outside the classroom are what made me the person I am today and prepared me for this job.” – Brandon Vincent, graduate, Loyola University
“Life throws you curveballs,” he says with a smile. “I was ready to go to grad school, to get out of Louisiana.” But when the AmeriCorps option came up and he had the chance to work in city government, “I threw myself out there to get the experience.” And it’s been a nonstop experience ever since. “I like challenges. You grow in uncomfortable settings. I’m learning on the job and learning as I go. Long term, he still plans to go to grad school in a year or so. For now, he wants to keep working to improve the health situation for different local communities and make sure people know about resources they can access. And at the end of the day, the thing he’s most proud of is just the fact that he’s “doing it!”
Advice from a younger Brandon
As he was preparing for the start of his sophomore year in 2018, Brandon participated in a Q & A where he discussed what he learned during his first year at Loyola, including connecting with support resources like his InsideTrack-trained coach. You can read Brandon’s advice for incoming freshmen here.
Now that he’s graduated, we asked Brandon to think back to his time in college. What advice would he give first-year students today?
“Get your stuff together,” he laughed. “Prioritize. Put yourself first. Write down your goals. Hold your deadlines. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t doubt yourself, just do it.”
He had a few pieces of wisdom for college seniors too. “Enjoy that last year. Make those memories. Insert yourself to be around people. As soon as you jump into the real world, life just hits you. These are the things you’ll remember when you’re having a tough time.”
Watching the ripple grow
Stories like this provide wonderful insight to the lasting impact coaches make on the students they work with. We believe that helping a single person achieve their educational goals and move on to the career they aspire to can have a lifelong impact — not just on that individual, but also on their family, their community and society as a whole. It’s a ripple that grows and grows. And nowhere is that more evident than with Brandon Vincent.