Loreal Latimer & the Infinite 8
Loreal Latimer and the Infinite 8: A Reflection on the journey to Become a PeerForward Coach.
In 2014, eight young professionals embarked on a journey of learning and leadership together. They came from around the nation to dedicate themselves to serving low-income communities with passion, purpose, pride, and power. They committed to ensuring that every student they interacted with understood that they had love and support in their corner; they served so that Peer Leaders – the high school students who train on how to get to college and how to help their classmates do the same – understood there’s a college for everyone.
Loreal Latimer, who grew up on the Southside of Chicago, knew what it felt like to be one of the rising high school seniors that she would soon inspire during PeerForward workshops. Loreal was one of nine children in her family. Despite her parents doing everything in their power to provide her with an outstanding education, they found that their zip code was an obstacle too big to overcome.
After a brief year in private school, Loreal transferred to a public school where she found herself facing more challenges, “I noticed the inequity immediately, and that was a game changer for me.” Despite her school’s 300:1 student-to-counselor ratio, Loreal found college access resources through OneGoal and eventually earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois – Champaign. It was through OneGoal that Loreal would later be connected to PeerForward’s Coaches-in Training program, “I was referred by another former Coach, Mark Haggerty. I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”
What Loreal would go on to experience was a three-year professional development journey overseen by PeerForward Coach Loubert Senatus. Initially overwhelmed by how close-knit the organization was, Loreal felt like an outsider: “It was difficult for me to find my place initially because I internally needed to choose to let go of my own anxieties about not fitting in because I did not have the same experiences as my teammates.”
As many can attest, PeerForward is an open space where others are eager to connect. “My team quickly embraced me, and it was in a way that I had never experienced before,” Loreal said. It was this connection that would allow Loreal to explore the intrinsic power of PeerForward Coaching model: “Never have I been celebrated, challenged, affirmed, and encouraged to grow into myself so authentically. The relationships we built, in addition to growing professionally as facilitators, tremendously impacted the person I developed into, and I am forever grateful for my team, my trainers, and all of the Coaches who came before me.”
Loreal walked away with renewed confidence and skill, in addition to a new, powerful connection – her cohort of new PeerForward Coaches – the Infinite 8. “My teammates and I made the intention of being close and having an everlasting bond. That has translated to us showing up for one another at weddings, funerals, late phone calls, random road trips. We will forever have a bond. We hold one another accountable, we encourage one another to grow, and we genuinely want the best for one another.”
As a result of their ambition, skill, and dedication, the Infinite 8 would all go on to dedicate themselves to service. “Together we are counselors, health specialist, actors, educators, social workers and people who care about people. We’re changing the world. Our Coach’s training experience supported us in leveraging facilitative techniques to tap into the potential of youth.”
Every member of the Infinite 8 is now exploring a variety of ways to serve their surrounding communities.
Kimesha Patterson, an MSW Candidate at Marshall University, is currently working on initiatives to provide wrap-around social services for at-risk youth with Necco Foster Care Agency in West Virginia and conducting a research project on the quality and service gaps in after-school programs. When asked about her experience with the Infinite 8, Kimesha proudly expressed her gratitude “I am so very proud to be to say I am apart of Infinite 8! We have all accomplished and are still accomplishing some very huge milestones. I mean it when I say PeerForward literally saved my life. Thank you Peer Forward for providing a space for personal and professional growth with like-minded, compassionate, and loving individuals. I would not be where I am today had it not been for my team support.”
Kaneisha Wheelock, who now resides in Philadelphia, PA, works as a Social Worker at the Mental Health Urgent Care Clinic and on the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Clinical Team at the Department of Veterans Affairs. In the pursuit of her current dream job, Kaneisha -affectionately known as – has earned her Master’s at the University of Buffalo through the Arthur Schomburg Fellowship and was selected to the Center of Excellence in Substance Addiction Treatment and Education (CESATE) Interdisciplinary Fellowship at the Puget Sound VA Healthcare System in Seattle, WA. KeyKey is firm in her beliefs that Infinite 8 is more than teammates, “We’re family,” she said. Infinite 8 has played a pivotal role in showing her what accountability, coaching, and raw feedback looks like “in the spirit of love.”
Antoine Tate is writer, actor, and director based in L.A. He’s found his calling in high-energy entertainment and comedy. He uses his platform to connect with young people of all kinds and spark conversations that reveal our perspectives and biases. His career pursuits used to be a source of insecurity, but with the Infinite 8, Antoine was able to challenge those feelings, “PeerForward transformed my life and gave me the confidence and courage needed to pursue my creative endeavors. For that, I am forever thankful.” He looks forward to accepting an Oscar in just a few short years, “If I do, I will surely thank the academy, his parents, God, and PeerForward.”
Abbas Khalid is a dedicated servant of his community in the Bay Area. He has served as a re-entry counselor for Contra Costa County, a movement organizer for Black Land Initiative, and an organizer for community-based events across the Bay Area. He is currently in Aviation School at the Oakland Flyers Club to become a pilot. Abbas described his learnings from the Infinite 8 training: “The universe responds to our innerverse.” His training has helped him affirm his dedication to the things he loves, “traveling, hiking, drawing, cooking, and having a good time with his loved ones.”
Ana Reyes, a Ph. D candidate at the University of North Texas, spoke tenderly about her experience, “To this day, I carry each of my cohort members with me in everything that I do. Having the opportunity to learn and grow with them has been transformative and life-affirming.” When she isn’t learning, advocating, or caring for her partner, her horse, or her two dogs, Ana volunteers with Movimiento Cosecha to fight for the rights of immigrants residing in the United States.
Malherbe Felix is a Fitness Professional living in L.A. He prides himself on being a loving husband, a gentle father, and a disciplined business owner. As Malherbe grows in new roles, he credits PeerForward in helping him evolve into the person he is now, “I thank PeerForward for the investment they made in me as an alumnus and coach.”
Terralyn Mosby works at her Alma Mater, Lionel Wilson College Preparatory Academy (LWP) in Oakland, Calif. as the Student Activities Coordinator. She also serves as a Case Manager/Community Support Team member on the Behavior Wellness Team. Terralyn describes her journey through coaching as a period of self-discovery: “I had to learn how to love all of me and listen to constructive criticism.” When she speaks of the Infinite 8, it’s full passion and pride: “We’ve had good days, and days we’ve struggled together, but something that never changed, was our bond.” Terralyn avows. “Even to this day, we are all busy with life, but if we need to vent, cry, or get advice, I know that we’ll drop whatever we’re doing at that moment, and support one another.”
Kimesha noted something about her team, “we’re all diamonds.” When asked to elaborate, she gave an almost perfect description of the power of the Infinite 8, “Everyone needs someone to believe in them and to push them when they don’t believe in themselves. You can’t be a diamond if you can’t withstand the pressure. You can’t withstand the pressure if your threshold is weak. Infinite 8 is my pressure and my threshold support.”