After receiving a BA in psychology through Vanguard University’s professional studies program, Jamaal Lee ‘18 went on to receive an MS in coaching and exercise sciences from Concordia University and was later hired at Orange Coast College (OCC) as the Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach and Athletic Mentor Faculty for Student Equity. Jamaal coaches and mentors students of color, ensuring they have the care and support needed to succeed in college and life.
“The main thing I teach is, ‘give yourself a chance.’” said Jamaal. “A lot of students of color are stuck in survival mode because they don’t get process…they need to know somebody is in their corner. They learn from someone who has experienced what they have – it proves that, no matter what they have experienced, there’s a future of success for them and they can do more than just survive; they can thrive.”
Thanks to Jamaal, many student-athletes have graduated from OCC and received scholarships for their sport from universities once far outside their realm of possibility or expectation. His passion for encouraging students to reach for and achieve their personal, emotional and mental goals no matter their circumstances stems from Jamaal’s knowledge that he wouldn’t be where he is today without a community who championed him throughout his journey.
“I know that the reason I can connect with these students and help them succeed is because I used to be them. I know what it’s like to feel unsupported and destined for failure, and more importantly, I know what happens when you have someone who believes in you and changes your own expectations of yourself. Your future opens up in an instant, and you won’t stop until you’ve achieved every dream you have.”
When asked how the Vanguard community can support him, Jamaal’s answer was simple: believe in students who look like him. “I want people to see that someone like me – who is from the inner city, has been to jail and overcome a lot has something to offer if given a chance – graduated from Vanguard and had a tremendous experience there because they were supported and believed in. Vanguard students sometimes look like me, and I want the whole community to know that.”