Natasha’s experience taught her “resilience, confidence, and made me one fierce leader!”
For our 25th anniversary, we are celebrating the alumni of our program who have continued to make meaningful and positive impacts on their communities long after workshops. Anyone familiar with PeerForward or College Summit is keenly aware of the crucial role our alumni play in our organization. They uplift, energize, and guide Peer Leaders along their path to postsecondary success; they are the role models who prove that college is an option for everyone and there is no limit to their dreams.
Natasha Bailey is well-known in the PeerForward/College Summit network. You may have known her as a Peer Leader and Alumni Leader from the New York region; it’s possible that you crossed paths as you prepared for another workshop season as a
volunteer or staff member. She is an alumna deeply familiar with the importance of every role at a workshop because she was often behind the scenes coordinating it all. Natasha Bailey, a proud graduate of Penn State University and Rutgers University, continues to have a long-lasting impact on hundreds of low-income students in Southeast Washington, D.C. through her career. PeerForward caught up with Natasha to highlight her work in fighting back against education disparities in underserved communities.
What inspired you to pursue your current career?
In 2015, I started my career at PeerForward, then known as College Summit, and managed the community engagement program by recruiting volunteers and staff members to serve at Workshops across the country. I loved being able to interact with so many amazing people from all walks of life! During this time I was trained in the planning and operations of Workshops and I fell in love! Everything from booking flights for staff members, to ordering t-shirts for Peer Leaders, or building a Workshop schedule from scratch and seeing it all come together was the most amazing feeling. I was able to craft the student, staff, and volunteer experience by carefully planning all the small details like banquet decor, meals, supplies, rooms, transportation, etc. It was one of my greatest experiences and I learned so much! From there I continued in Operations work at Teach For America as an event planner and currently at Ingenuity Prep as the Director of Operations. As the Director of Operations at Ingenuity Prep, I manage technology, facilities, food service, procurement of curriculum and supplies, arrival/dismissal, school-wide events, accounts payable, and more.
What impact did PeerForward have in your life?
PeerForward really pushed me to believe in myself and gave me the opportunity to shine! I remember the first time I was considered for the role of Workshop Director I asked my manager Onuka Ibe “Why me? I’m not sure I’m ready to lead an entire Workshop yet!” He laughed and said, “Trust me, you’ve got this!” It was then that a youngster fresh out of college started to truly believe in her ability to be a leader and do the hard things she was afraid of. So much of the personal and professional confidence I have now comes from being entrusted to lead 200 people at multiple successful College Summit Workshops and I don’t think I would’ve had the opportunity to do so anywhere else. My mentors Nicole Thomas and Rennee Tribbett played a big role in developing my operations skills. Today, I’m helping young Black girls build confidence through my after-school club, intentionally directing financial resources to Black-owned businesses in our community, and sitting at the leadership table where decisions that impact the education of over 750 students from low-income communities are made. I’m so grateful for all the ways I was pushed to grow at PeerForward and they continue to help me today.
PeerForward also gave me some of the most amazing life-long friendships! My closest friends to this day are individuals I’ve met through College Summit! I’ve watched them earn degrees, start new jobs, start businesses, get married, have children, and so much more! My biggest mentors and supporters are volunteers I’ve met and still keep in touch with regularly. My sources of motivation are the younger generations of alumni I get to see doing amazing things through social media and continuing the legacy of PeerForward! To say PeerForward has impacted my personal life is an understatement. There is nothing quite like two adults sharing a college dorm room, surviving on not-so-tasty cafeteria food for a week, or reviewing dozens of pages of personal statements at midnight to bring you closer together. I’m forever grateful for the relationships I’ve built and how they continue to positively impact my life. I can’t wait to give the College Summit shout-out at my wedding!
What drives you to positively impact others?
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have found a career I’m good at and also passionate about. The individuals who do the not-so-sexy work behind the scenes are the unsung heroes of education. The late nights packing student supplies and early mornings checking classroom temperatures are hard work but in order for my teachers to do their job well, I need to do my job even better! I am driven by the idea that my work in school operations allows educators to focus on delivering the best education possible to students! By making sure that they have enough pencils or that their classroom technology works, I’m making a direct impact on how students learn and grow.
I serve on the leadership team of a school in Southeast Washington, D.C. Neighborhoods like this across the country have long been neglected and not given a fair chance at a quality education. I don’t believe students from low-income communities should let that stop them from pursuing postsecondary education. My education has opened doors for me that members of my own family haven’t even pushed through. I’m the first in my family to attend college and the first to receive my Master’s degree. Everyone tells you to be the first and how doing so will change your life! Trust me, they weren’t kidding! I knew the type of life I wanted to live and I continue to put in the hard work to achieve it. Like so many students from low-income communities, my parents struggled financially and I knew very young that I didn’t want that for myself or for future generations of my family. I also wanted to be able to take care of my parents and make them proud. After graduating college, I moved to a new city to start my career, earned my Master’s degree, and purchased my first home at 25 years old. I have plans to see the world, build generational wealth for my family, and provide scholarships for Black and Brown students attending HBCUs! My postsecondary education is what allowed me to break generational patterns, give back to my community, and decide my future for myself!
My PeerForward experience taught me resilience, confidence, and made me one fierce Operations leader! As a Peer Leader from a low-income community in New York City, I took what I learned at my Workshop in 2010 and owned my educational experience at Penn State University. As a PeerForward staff member, trying to change an education system that was never designed for Black and Brown students to succeed took strength and flexibility. We all worked incredibly hard to support students from low-income communities and show them that a postsecondary education was attainable no matter their family background. To do that work took passion, grit, and creativity. Building those skills early in my career has allowed me to face any challenge with a can-do attitude that never falters in the face of adversity and an eye for operational excellence that ensures student success!
In the heart of every Peer Leader is the innate need to help others succeed. We see that same Peer Leader spirit in Natasha. Through her career, Natasha is building the support and resources available to students of color to ensure their success and a more equitable future. Way to #PeerForward, Natasha!