Tuesday, May 7, 2019
Kenneth Jacobs ’10 is dedicated to cultivating leaders and embracing his alma mater
by Diane Cornell
As a first-generation-to-college student, Kenneth Jacobs ’10 embraced the help he received at Rider from the Student Support Services program, a federally sponsored initiative for disadvantaged students.
“They really encouraged me to get out of my shell and go outside my comfort zone,” he says. “I had no family in New Jersey so having people who I could go to and strategize with and talk to about next steps was incredibly helpful.”
Today, he returns the favor to other young people as the founder and executive director of a leadership development institute for high school students in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area. The institute, along with his full-time job as a legal assistant at the United Negro College Fund, allows him to fulfill a personal promise he made when he was at Rider to be of service to others.
What He Likes About His Current Job
I like that I work for an organization that focuses on providing scholarships and programs for black students and to advancing historically black colleges and universities in the U.S. The great thing is, because I work in the Office of General Counsel, I am continuing to work within a legal setting but in addition, I am able to merge it with my enthusiasm for student engagement. I enjoy my job overseeing testamentary gifts to our Legacy Portfolio and hearing stories of why people are giving back to our organization.
How Rider Helped Him Find His Footing
Student Support Services was like home base for me. I knew that if I needed some type of encouragement, or if I needed help with a particular assignment and I didn’t know how to approach it, that they would be really helpful in directing me. They were also instrumental in helping me to create a game plan for each semester, talking to me about how I was going to approach the semester academically, professionally — if I was looking at any internship programs — and encouraging me to explore extracurricular activities. They really pushed me and I am very grateful. They were able to provide me with assistance and advice where my family members weren’t necessarily able to do that because they didn’t have college experience.
What He Misses Most About Rider
I was just back on campus recently to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Student Support Services and as I was waiting for an Uber to take me to the train and back to Washington, D.C., I saw students hanging out, just chatting. I realized how much I missed that — just being so close to my friends and having a good time with them and be able to speak to them about everything. That time is so carefree and filled with so much opportunity and potential. It’s hard not to miss that.
What He’s Passionate About Now
When I was a student at Rider we had what were called community value statements and the one I still remember almost 10 years later is “True leadership is derived in service to others.” It is something that really spoke to me and something that I continue to live by today. That statement inspired me to become the founder and executive director of the nonprofit ULEAD Institute, which stands for Urban Leadership Education and Development. We recently hosted our fourth summit for 25 students to inspire tomorrow’s leaders.
Why He Gives to Rider
I loved my Rider experience and credit the University for helping me achieve my greatest potential. A driving force for me in donating to the University is that I am helping Rider to continue to advance its mission of educating students. I also give back in other ways too. I am an active alumnus. When asked, I am willing to come back to campus to speak, because as a student, I wished for more involvement and interaction with alumni, particularly alumni of color. I wanted alumni who looked like me to visit campus and paint a picture for me of what was possible. I also have the pleasure of serving as the chair of the BOLD Alumni Council's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee — ensuring that our engagement of Rider's most recent alumni is purposefully and intentionally inclusive of ALL our BOLD alumni.
His Advice to Current Students
Don’t be afraid to try new things and get out of your comfort zone. This is so important because all potential is achieved outside of the comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to learn new things and explore new cultures and embrace new opportunities — and continue to do that into adulthood. There is so much you can do if you allow yourself to keep learning.
Students greatly benefit from financial support from alumni. Students benefit equally from alumni engagement, advice and mentorship. Consider volunteering on campus or in your local community to help spread the message of Rider's mission to the next generations of Broncs. Email [email protected] to express your interest in getting involved with the Rider community through volunteerism.