Coaching Students Through First-Hand Experiences

Renee Michelle Chalmers has walked in the shoes of her students. She had a bachelor’s and two master’s degrees and held two jobs but she was still struggling to make a living wage. She was doing work that she loved, but she was underemployed and living in poverty.

Chalmers is a FastForward Career Coach at Central Virginia Community College, and in her role, she spends her days interacting with students, developing bond with them and sharing her story in an effort to connect on a deeper level.

“For many years, even with my degrees, I found myself underemployed. But this job, as a FastForward Career Coach, has pulled me out of poverty,” she said. “I didn’t have a career coach to guide me along. This position is personal to me because of my experience. This role is near and dear to my heart.”

Day in and day out, Chalmers talks to students to help them solidify their career plans and helps them figure out how they can achieve their goals through training.

“I do a lot of outreach in the community with presentations and other events,” she said. “One of my goals is to help people get out of poverty and into a career field where they’re earning a living wage. I’ve partnered with local properties around the area to reach out to residents and spread the word that way.”

When students approach her about pursuing career training through FastForward, Chalmers is ready to be their guiding light through the process.

“A lot of times, students are fearful of the unknown. Sharing my story, and my vulnerabilities, helps,” she said. “I’m here to provide customized coaching and training for them – we’re going to take this at their pace. I don’t want students to be afraid of the possibilities. These programs are changing people’s lives.”