So let’s start at the beginning; In order to meet the requirements for graduation to obtain a bachelor’s degree, all students were mandated to take a Career Capstone class. The class mostly consisted of one group project that required finding a professional, in any field, to come speak about designated topics. Most of the time the students would procrastinate until the last minute to find a speaker and result in the class having to go through the pain of another monotone assistant manager from Starbucks. This usually meant doodling in my notebook for an hour, up until the day Ms. Marshall spoke. Jenn knew the only way to get these college students attention was to keep them on their toes. She would call on people and keep the lecture very interactive. These students were just drawn to her as if she was the treasure chest with all the hidden career secrets. Jenn gave so much vital information on her topic “Networking” that was she was asked repeatedly to speak again. After her lecture, multiple students stayed to speak with her in private. I made it a point to wait my turn. I told her I had a serious career changing interview coming up. I assumed she would just give me her email and send me some helpful tips but not Jenn Marshall. She told me to email her and we could set up a meeting to review some material. We set to meet a week later over breakfast.
I remember the first morning we met as if it was yesterday. It was raining, I got lost on the way and truthfully I wanted it to be the quickest breakfast in history. I always hated meetings with teachers, counselors, or authority figures. I dressed in my finest jeans and blazer in order to be professional. When I arrived Jen was already seated, wearing a T-shirt and jeans. At first this threw me off but looking back now it makes complete sense. She wanted me to feel comfortable. I walked in and sat down with my professional binder with my talking points inside, ready to fire the questions at her, eat a quick breakfast, and get back to bed, since eight AM was not any college students ideal hour. We spent four hours talking that morning. When I finally left the diner, the sun was shining and I felt better than I had in months.
Prior to meeting Jenn, I was a mess. I found myself on the cusp of not graduating from college, while trying to mentally break myself away from a physically abusive relationship, and had a family that was falling apart 2000 miles away. My friends tried to help where they could but they had their own lives unraveling in front of them. It was a very lonely point in my life, I had even tried school counseling, but nothing seemed to work. I spoke to Jenn for four hours that morning and everything seemed so clear. It was the first time in my life I had met an adult that was so positive about life. She told me “Life should be fun, if you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.” I went home to my roommate with a big smile of my face and she asked how it went, and I replied “She’s a rock star”. This was one of the first things Jenn ever said to me which at first confused me because who calls themselves a rock star. She later explained to me how young adults, especially women, have a negative self-image of themselves when in reality they are just not appreciating the positive qualities about themselves instead honing in on the negative. To this day, I call myself and the people I love around me, a rock star. It sounds trivial but you would be surprised how those five words affect people.
After meeting Jenn, I felt as if it was my duty to tell all my friends how truly incredible she is and after meeting with her they too confirmed, she is rock star. You may at this point in the letter be asking yourself why, which is definitely a justifiable question but so difficult to answer. One of Jenns’ most wonderful qualities is her nonjudgmental empathy. She has a way of completely understanding what you’re going through and giving you realistic advice while remaining absolutely open-minded. I have been through therapy my entire childhood, due to an alcoholic father and brother suffering from mental/behavioral health disorders. I had given up on guidance from adults, until I met Jenn.
Life coaching is a great description of Jenns work. She makes you feel as though your life is within your control and as young adults with so much change being thrown at you all the time, an idea like that is so simple yet powerful as well as crucial to have. I assumed after I met with Jenn and she gave me interview tips we would stay in professional sporadic touch through various emails, but she was with me every step of the way. Before I left for my interview, in Chicago, she came over and helped me put an outfit together and prepped me with questions while reminding me to always remember about nonverbal communication or body language. She also called me once I got there to see how I was doing. I ended up receiving a position with a hotel management company. They offered me restaurant manager position at the Downtown Richmond Marriott, which meant I had to relocate from Colorado to Virginia.
My life started to come together, which it tends to do once it falls apart. I was graduating from college and about to move to Richmond, Virginia, to start my career. With my family so far away, I really had no one to help me plan my move across the country, which is when Jenn stepped in. She printed out directions, found people from her network that would be in the area that I could meet; she even researched apartments for me to look at and helped me develop a monthly budget for myself. Two days before my departure UHAUL told me they could not set up my trailer because of rust on my car. I called Jenn in tears because I thought there would be no way I could go. She told me perseverance is everything. She gave me an address and told me to meet her there the next morning. It was her mechanic. He looked at my truck and found no rust where the moving company said it was. Jenn then took me to another UHAUL location, spoke with a manager, and had a discounted hitch and trailer put on within three hours. These examples just scratch the surface of how dedicated and supportive she is as a mentor.
At first “mentor” was a strange word to use in my vocabulary but I openly tell people and introduce Jenn as my mentor because I am truly proud of it. I now look at the word very honorably. I never realized how important it is to have a positive non-related role model in your life. I say non-related because as a developing adult you need stranger interaction that proves life is only as hard as you make it for yourself. My mother and I are extremely close and I value her opinion more than anyone in my world but she raised me. I know her ideals and beliefs on issues at hand whereas a positive outsider to your world gives you a different perspective. Terrible situations happen every day in life but it is how you react and move on from those situations that define your character and mold you into who you will be become.
Jenn Marshall taught me so many valuable lessons that will stick with me for the rest of my life. She taught me how to truly be a great friend and what type of people I want to surround myself with in order to be in a positive environment. She would call it “weeding your friend garden”, which just meant to have people in your life that truly care for you as much as you care for them. She also taught me to own who I am and the great qualities that set me apart from the rest of the world. If there was ever such a thing as a guardian angel, it would be her.
~Kelsey R (Young Adult)