KPIX 5 Students Rising AboveBy Christin Ayers

by Christin Ayers and Jennifer Mistrot

(KPIX 5) — Any recent college grad knows searching for that first job can be really tough. But for Students Rising Above scholars and alumni, it can be a bit easier thanks to the organization’s post-graduation networking events.

For recent college graduate and SRA alum Kiara Collins, a chance meet-up at a recent SRA event proved to be the pathway to her future employment.

LEARN MORE: Students Rising Above

It all started with a conversation; just a few words at a SRA mixer hosted by design and engineering software company Autodesk. Collins met fellow SRA alum LeJon Butcher and the two quickly realized they had much in common. Both grew up in violence-plagued Bay Area cities. Both had pushed through tough childhoods, the loss of family, health issues and academic struggles. As teens, Collins and Butcher were both named Students Rising Above Scholars. At different times, both would go on to become sociology majors at Sonoma State University.

It was just around the time of her graduation that Collins would attend the Autodesk mixer. She was discouraged, trying to figure out her next step.

“I had literally applied to, like, 100 different places,” said Collins.

She had had no luck getting a job. Butcher, a recent Autodesk hire, said he knew exactly how she felt because just the year before, he had also been in a job search. So Butcher decided right then, without letting Collins know, he would try everything he could to help her find that first job.

“She mentioned that she was looking for opportunities,” said Butcher. “She was graduating pretty soon. I kind of took powers into my own hands and said ‘all right, let’s see what I can do.'”

Just a few months later, Butcher said he was approached by business software firm New Relic. The San Francisco-based company was looking to hire a talent acquisition coordinator. Butcher knew just the right candidate. He referred Collins for the position and she got it.

It’s the kind of success story that Queen Denchuku says Autodesk strives for in its partnership with Students Rising Above.

“It couldn’t be any better than this. This is what we call success,” said Denchuku. “There is a connection that is made and you can collaborate in the future.”

Both Collins and Butcher said the experience wasn’t just about a successful job interview. It was also about a new outlook and motivation for the future.

“I can have such an impact just by doing just the simplest thing.”

It’s a realization seconded by Collins.

“Just keep pushing,” encouraged Collins. “You’re going to make it.




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