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What do you do with a Chance?

By Noelle Paiement

In 2021, I had the opportunity to participate in Kristen McGee’s (Fellowship Class of ’05) Business Communications class at Colorado Mesa University. Every semester, Kristen wraps up this course by reading What Do You Do with a Chance? by Kobi Yamada.

In the book, Kobi Yomada writes: “One day, I got a chance. It just seemed to show up. It acted like it knew me, as if it wanted something. I didn’t know why it was here. What do you do with a chance?”

Kristen found her passion for the education sector during her time in El Pomar’s Fellowship. Her journey from nonprofit work to education was sparked by an experience she had as a 2nd Year Fellow. She directed the El Pomar Youth in Community Service (EPYCS) program, which helped high school students understand the importance of service, philanthropy, and the nonprofit sector, while empowering them to directly make an impact on their communities through grant making. Through being able to manage her peers, she fell in love with encouraging their critical thinking, innovative problem-solving, and open-mindedness. Although initially leaning towards the nonprofit sector, her heart was drawn to teaching, leading her to serve on the board of directors for UCCS’s Chancellor’s Leadership Class and beginning her teaching journey.

Post-Fellowship, Kristen received her master’s degree from Colorado State University and decided to take a pivotal step and teach at Colorado Mesa University. Her passion for teaching young adults and interest in professional development stemmed from her experiences as a Fellow. She found a calling in guiding her students to similar lessons in self-improvement and self-discovery. Her experience teaching her first course was transformative and led to her pursuing a full-time position as a professor.

In What Do You Do with a Chance?, the main character proclaims, “I now see that when I hold back, I miss out. And I don’t want to miss out.” This is Kristen’s advice to young professionals: don’t be afraid to try. Despite not having a degree in education, Kristen continues to make a lasting impact on her students, including myself. Through taking a chance and following her passion, she is currently pursuing her Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in strategic leadership with a completion date of Fall of 2024.

“Prove to yourself that even the scary things can be accomplished through hard work,” she said.

When asked about the connection between nonprofit work and teaching, Kristen responded by saying that “the bridge is people.” Helping students discover success outside of the classroom directly aligns with helping others in need and improving relationships, she said.

“So, what do you do with a chance?” the book reads. “You take it…because it just might be the start of something incredible.”

Hearing Kristen’s story, her reasoning for reading What Do You Do with a Chance? aloud to all her students becomes clear. She took a chance in her own life and can now share the wisdom she has gained with her students as they embark on their career journeys.

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