Taheerah’s Story: This is How We Break the Cycle
Taheerah McKinney, a buildOn student at Coliseum College Prep Academy in Oakland, participated in buildOn’s Partnership Program during the 2017-18 school year. buildOn’s Partnership Program pairs buildOn students with industry professionals to share skills and serve together. Taheerah recently shared how Anand Swaminathan, her coach in buildOn’s Partnership Program and a Senior Partner at McKinsey & Company, impacted her life. Anand’s story can be read here.
I’ve always had big goals.
I have these big goals because of my family, especially my grandma. She kept my sister and me out of danger when we were growing up in deep East Oakland. During those years there was horrible gun violence and drugs, and she was there for me when other important adults in my life couldn’t be.
So my goal is going into business because to me that means a good life—a bright future, a big office, and a nice salary so I can take care of family, like my grandma, who took care of me. But while I have these big dreams, I didn’t know how to get there until I met Anand.
Above: Anand and Taheerah work together during buildOn’s Partnership Program. Of Taheerah, Anand says, “She is already a leader, and she’s brilliant. I realized within a few minutes of meeting her that she would teach me far more than anything I could teach her.”
Anand was my coach through the Career Readiness track of buildOn’s Partnership Program. In the time that he coached me, he taught me about different career paths, how to be professional, how to ace an interview, and how to write a resume.
I also learned about Anand’s life, and I see his story as one of success. He’s gone through ups and downs by building a new life in the United States, and he’s persevered by staying optimistic. He’s shown me that the road to success might not be an easy one, but that I can get there by using what I’ve learned and working hard, just like he did.
He’s shown me that the road to success might not be an easy one, but that I can get there by using what I’ve learned and working hard, just like he did.
And I was able to teach Anand these things that I know. I showed Anand and the rest of the coaches about what it’s like on the other side of the Bay Bridge. How through grit and resilience as we deal with issues like low incomes, racism, and immigration scares. And I told them what service means to me.
Above: As part of buildOn’s Partnership Program, buildOn students toured McKinsey’s offices in downtown San Francisco.
I told them about one of my first service projects with buildOn at the elementary school next to my high school. How, instantly, I fell in love with it. The kids always wanted my help with homework, calling over to me by yelling my nickname and wanting me to sit in those little kids chairs. The kids were from low-income families, and a lot of their parents didn’t speak English so they couldn’t help them with homework. I told them how, for the first time in my life, I knew what it was like to have a purpose.
…for the first time in my life, I knew what it was like to have a purpose.
But I didn’t just tell Anand and the other coaches about service. I also showed them what it meant to give back when we served in solidarity at a program to help keep kids off the streets. By serving together we all had one thing in common—we wanted to give kids in Oakland a safe and healthy place to play.
Above: Anand and Taheerah served in solidarity at the East Oakland Boxing Association to help give children a safe recreational facility and community garden in their own community.
I feel really special and important having Anand as my coach. I want to thank Anand for encouraging me to take on new challenges and to be ambitious. Thank you for telling me you believe in me. More than ever, I feel like my big dreams can become a reality. One day, I plan on working my way up to the IT department at McKinsey.
More than ever, I feel like my big dreams can become a reality.
I want to thank all of the McKinsey and Jones Day coaches for taking the time to help us out. I wish I could do the Partnership Program again with all the same people.
I also want to encourage people who are thinking about becoming a coach in buildOn’s Partnership Program to do just that. There are students here who would love to learn from you, and who could open your world a little bigger. Right now, I’m already serving the next generation in Oakland by doing service with buildOn, and one day, when I am just as successful as Anand, I’ll continue that work by coaching buildOn students from Oakland in the Partnership Program. That’s how we will break the cycle.