When asked to explain what she does, new WBO member Tonda Bean often says, “I get students ready for college, career and independent adulthood.” Working mostly with groups, she presents seminars for community and college groups, scout troops, after school programs, etc. “There is a basket of skills that people need as soon as they graduate from high school, but which are not taught in high school,” says Tonda. “My company, Wisdom In Minutes, LLC, provides life skill training for teens and emerging adults on topics such as time management, communication, and resume building. There are also strategic parenting workshops that give a goal-centered approach to taking children from ordinary to extraordinary.”
Tonda aims to show high school and also middle school students how to “make your education support your dream.” Tonda has been doing this type of work for about seven years and working at it commercially with more structure for about two years. She left a well-paid position so she could learn about our educational system while navigating her own children –“public school children, K-12”– through the school system. She’s proud of her determination and knowledge of the system that resulted in eventually having one daughter enrolled at New York University and another daughter who is a Harvard University graduate. “I learned a lot,” says Tonda, “and I want to pass that on to others.”
Tonda’s undergraduate degree (Howard University) and her Master’s degrees (University of Wisconsin and American University) have helped her focus on applied behavioral science with a management and business orientation, as well as organizational development. Although Tonda works mainly with high school students, she also helps middle school students choose the right high school. Suggesting that students take the most rigorous classes available, Tonda gives them a process for identifying which classes to take and helps them identify those that would complement their career choices. For example, she may suggest that a student with law aspirations should take a great deal of English and history; hopeful medical school students need lots of biology, etc.
A Girl Scout leader for over 10 years, Tonda proudly notes, “50% of my troop earned the Gold Award, the highest award in girl scouting (the equivalent of the Eagle Scout Award). Nationally only 4% of the eligible girls earn that honor.” Additionally, all of the girls in her troop went on to college.
“My message is a call to action, applicable right now,” Tonda says. “I like “seeing the lights go on” for students and parents when I say something that applies to them and which they had not previously considered. Most people just take an academic approach, but kids need to start exploring careers from middle school to high school, trying to experience as much as they can to prepare themselves in general for getting the tools they will need for what they hope to do later. You need a general direction. Too often we don’t say this to kids early enough,” says Tonda, who suggests that kids ask themselves questions like What makes you happy? What are you interested in? Exploring the answers can lead to new paths.
Tonda gets kids to think about the process and tries to open their minds to possibilities they had not previously considered. This gets them thinking. For example, she suggests that they try volunteering and other ways to “try out” a career possibility. Tonda says, “When their minds open to possibilities, they are able to explore with purpose; they become empowered and they are able to begin to learn how to evaluate their path ahead.” She believes that if they keep narrowing their thoughts, they will eventually gain a better sense of what they’d like to do and learn now to present themselves better at the end of college. While Tonda agrees that there are relatively few people who do what she does, this is a different approach to career preparation.
A fairly new WBO member, Tonda loves the energy of our meetings. She enjoys hearing what people are doing and seeing the variety of our members’ expertise. She calls our group “a very interesting group of women who talk about interesting things.”
Tonda is a native of Washington DC who moved to Montgomery County 30 years ago. When she is not working, she is learning to hand dance (a kind of social dancing). She also likes singing and enjoys spending time with her family.
Tonda notes that her “workshops consistently incorporate experiential learning with an engaging delivery style based on the best practices of organization development and experience as a parent.“ She is also a published author. Visit Tonda’s company, www.WisdomInMinutes.com and learn how Tonda can help to empower the students in your family (ages 12-22), teaching them to “expand education beyond academics and launch the life of their dreams.” If you know students who can benefit from this approach, call Tonda Bean at 240-200-4433 or email her at TBean@WisdomInMinutes.com.
Ellen R. Cohen is a free-lance writer and editor whose “editorial advertising” helps her clients advertise their goods and services in a variety of ways. She can be reached at (301) 984-7444.