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The Journey to Class: Bradley’s Story

What does 16 miles mean to you? It’s almost three 10K races. It’s more than half a marathon. If you were to walk the entire length of Manhattan, one end of the island to the other, you still wouldn’t have walked 16 miles.

Now think about it in terms of time. If the average person walks a mile in 20 minutes, walking 16 miles would take more than five hours.

Sixteen miles round trip was the distance that Bradley, a community college student in Selma, Alabama, walked to school every day. But he only mentioned that to his InsideTrack coach Hayley when she checked in with him after receiving a notification that he might fail a particular class.

“I said to him, ‘it looks to me like you’re not passing. Why?’ And he said to me, ‘I can’t be in class because I can’t get there,’” she recalled. In Bradley’s program, missing class was grounds for failure.

“That’s when I found out he was walking eight miles there and eight miles home,” Hayley recalled.

InsideTrack coaches support students’ success by helping them overcome roadblocks inside and outside the classroom. For Bradley, issues like transportation and finances — not having a ride to school and not being able to pay for one — were keeping him from completing a course he needed to graduate.

Hayley couldn’t fix Bradley’s problem by finding him a ride. But she could do something even better: guide Bradley in learning how to solve the problem for himself. The first step was helping Bradley recognize his own determination to surmount challenges that stood in the way of his education.

InsideTrack coaching is strength-based, she explained.  She asked him, “‘if you’re having a hard time making it to class, but you’re making it to class some of the time, what’s working for you?’”

“Calling out all the successes that he had was important,” Hayley noted.

Through coaching, Bradley was able to appreciate that his determination to persist in school despite difficult circumstances showed that he was able to stay focused on working toward long-term goals. Empowered by the realization that completing his degree mattered to him, Bradley identified specific changes he could make that would enable him to continue in class.

The biggest change was understanding that he could seek out help when he needed it. He had never considered speaking with the professor about something like transportation, and he was apprehensive about it. But Hayley didn’t let him feel intimidated for long. Her practical approach brought the prospect of that meeting back down to size.

“I just tried to say, ‘what good could come from it? What bad could come from it?’” Hayley said.

Running through different scenarios that explored all the possible outcomes of the conversation, Bradley developed a new toolkit of communication strategies that allowed him to overcome his misgivings. In the end, he found a way to complete the course.

Not having gas money or a vehicle to commute back-and-forth to class can be one of the biggest reasons that some students drop out of school, Hayley said. When that happens, the institution may assume that the student was simply unprepared. But because InsideTrack coaches have the time and the tools to explore what goes on outside of class, they can help the student — and the school — find a new path to graduation.

Student name has been changed

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