Outcomes of the course
At the end of the course, students entered their portfolio in a classwide competition, and the two winners received a Dropbox-sponsored scholarship to become design-certified through IDEO U. Chris Givens and Lemuel Inyang started working toward their certificates this month.
Apart from the portfolio submission, many students expressed strong interest in continuing to work in design. They learned to think critically about problems before jumping to solutions, and they took ownership of their app redesign projects. They learned to be open-minded and to explore their creative spark, imagining what could be.
The greatest outcome of this course was the newfound confidence in every student. Many started off shy, but over time I saw each student speak up and express their opinion. I saw them smile more and be openly vulnerable with each other. One of the students said, “I’ve never felt like this about any class that I’ve taken,” and it was one of the most touching moments because we all felt that way—like family. Confidence grew because we supported each other and wanted each other to grow.
Having the opportunity to teach Bayview’s first-ever design program felt like falling in love. It was the perfect blend of design and social impact. Though it often felt magical, it was also a challenge that ultimately pushed me to be more compassionate and to truly understand what it takes to be an advocate for BIPOC communities. This program has been a remarkable experience, and I’d love to share my top takeaways that you can apply to any mentorship opportunity you have with low-income, BIPOC, or underserved people.
Takeaway 1: Underserved and BIPOC communities often have external circumstances that affect their learning
Many of our students could not focus solely on the program because they had family to care for or needed to work full-time. I’ve realized that having time to focus on education is a luxury. We learned to adapt to the circumstances of our students and be empathetic. Hearing stories of sacrifice that were different from my own both humbled and pushed me to be more compassionate and understanding. It’s important to give students enough time to work effectively.
Takeaway 2: Building confidence creates a sense of ownership
It is difficult to feel confident when those who look like you aren’t in positions of authority. It’s especially debilitating when society holds certain biases that make you feel as if you’re not smart or good enough. All of these together can lower the confidence of minorities. One of our students, for instance, struggled to stay motivated because he was scared of failing and kept questioning himself, even though he knew the right answers. By continuously encouraging and challenging him, I saw him develop confidence in his ability to learn more. It’s common for disadvantaged individuals to doubt their abilities, compared with their wealthier counterparts. Talent and skill are generally not the issues—it’s the way society suppresses confidence, so it’s up to us to lift each other.
Takeaway 3: Establishing and maintaining trust is paramount
For the communities that we serve, everything is centered around trust, and it’s important for instructors and mentors to be dependable. When a person grows up without a support system or with others failing them, it becomes more difficult to trust someone new. For example, a mentor in our program missed several 1:1 meetings with a mentee, who ended up feeling that her time had been disrespected and her trust had been broken.
It’s important to consider how a mentee might feel about a missed meeting, rather than how you and a friend would react. Perhaps your friend would easily dismiss the absence, but be more sensitive and mindful when working with someone who doesn’t share time with you in the same way.
Takeaway 4: Fun and playfulness lead to more-engaged learning
Learning is not easy, especially when you don’t feel confident that you’re capable of learning. Hands-on and playful activities can make learning feel more personal than having an instructor talk at you for several hours.
To make lectures more entertaining, we used interactive slides through Kahoot! We conducted gamified pop quizzes at the beginning and midpoint of the lecture to help students review what they had just learned. This helped create friendly competition within the group, and it helped them focus and avoid distraction from cell phones, because the presentations required students to be engaged.