"Students should pay attention to how they are feeling, recognize where they need accommodations, and ask for help when they need it. These events are unprecedented, and no student should have to navigate this alone."

April 17, 2020

I’m Tiera Diaz, and I proudly serve as a Success Team Manager for Bottom Line in Chicago. Before joining the organization in September 2019, I managed a program that delivered mentorship-based college and career readiness curriculum for girls attending Chicago high schools. Although college degrees generate opportunities for students, academic institutions can also serve as an engine of inequality.

As a first-generation college student, I needed to overcome both personal and institutional barriers to succeed in environments that were not designed with me in mind. I was very fortunate to belong to professional and personal communities that supported me as I navigated many roles, including daughter, student, and leader. I earned a Bachelor’s degree at SUNY New Paltz and a Master’s in Social Work at The University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. My experience gravitates me towards organizations that fully understand the complexities of being a first-gen student and programs that consistently adapt to meet the needs of the whole student. This has led me to Bottom Line, whose values and holistic approach aligns with the support I needed back then, and the leader I aspire to be today.

As a Success Team Manager, my core responsibility is ensuring that the Advisors on my team are equipped with the tools and resources necessary to support college students in reaching their goals. I help by monitoring outcomes so that we can meet students where they are and identify opportunities for them to achieve critical milestones. On a typical day in the office, I might facilitate a staff meeting, coordinate logistics for an event, or meet with a student.

In light of the current pandemic, we are practicing social distancing, and all work has transitioned to virtual mediums. Our team is navigating a series of challenges with students. A common concern many students have is securing a job or internship during economic uncertainty that has caused many companies to implement a hiring freeze. Internships and other early professional experience are what ultimately helps students become a competitive candidate in the job market. For graduating seniors, securing a mobilizing first position appears impossible, and the potential for economic stability is a growing area of concern.

The relationships between Success Advisors and students are the heart of our Success program. Although COVID-19 has impacted how these relationships are sustained, the integrity of this model remains and, in some ways, is even more crucial. Students are currently navigating a variety of challenges. All have transitioned to virtual learning, some have lost employment, and others will not be recognized for their achievement at a convocation ceremony. During this period of rapid change, Advisors provide consistency and serve as connectors to resources. We advise all students to be patient with themselves as they adapt to these changes. Students should pay attention to how they are feeling, recognize where they need accommodations, and ask for help when they need it. These events are unprecedented, and no student should have to navigate this alone.

Since transitioning to remote work in March, the well-being of students and team members remained my highest priority. These days my primary focus is ensuring that everyone feels connected and cared for and has access to their basic needs. Our program leadership team continues to compile resources for students, including connecting them with much-needed emergency funding. Remote work has encouraged me to become more intentional about communication, community-building, and celebrating progress. I facilitate self-care exercises and virtual social events so that team members can recharge and be present for students and loved ones. Ultimately, I’m very grateful for our team of outstanding Advisors for their hard work and to my pup, Ziggy, for making frequent guest appearances on our video calls.