Storytelling As Leadership: Building Trust in your Cohort

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Braven cohort posing with a sign of their cohort name "Team Bounceback"

By: Martin Tran


Braven’s Storytelling As Leadership (SAL) is the first major event in the Braven experience for Fellows at San José State University. Although Fellows and their leadership coaches encounter mixed emotions throughout the event, SAL is the foundation for the strong bonds that they will build during the next 15 weeks.

In the spring semester of 2017, I participated in Braven’s SAL event. I was very excited to become a Braven Fellow at SJSU, but at the same time, I was nervous because everyone in my cohort was new to me. As the event went on, we engaged in small group discussions and I heard other peoples’ stories which made me feel comfortable sharing my own story of resilience.

A group of Fellows was brave enough to share their stories on stage. One of the key parts of SAL is creating a name for your cohort. We named our cohort “Team Bounceback” which was inspired through our ability to respond to challenges and find a solution. I was very glad to join other hopeful SJSU students in a strong community to learn leadership, networking, and develop professionally throughout the day.  

Because we shared our stories and chose to be vulnerable, SAL built trust within my cohort, taught us to overcome challenges together, and encouraged us to work with peer leaders and coaches. I was able to build a close bond with my cohort that would last the rest of the semester.

To date, I have volunteered at SAL three times. It’s always exciting to see new Fellows who have an appetite to build the skills, networks, confidence, and experiences needed to pursue strong jobs or internships. Even though I have to arrive early in the morning to prepare for the event, I don’t mind the sound of my alarm going off because I get to reconnect with my classmates. I plan to volunteer again to reunite with the Braven staff and welcome a new wave of students who are trying to achieve their career goals.

I’m not the only one who was impacted by SAL. I interviewed Gabi Bilbo, Spring ‘17 Fellow and SJSU grad, about her experience.


Were you nervous and excited during SAL?

Gabi: I was nervous to open up and share my own story with people I didn’t know that well. I was excited to meet other students, though, and learn about the careers they wanted to pursue.


What was a highlight for you?

Gabi: A highlight from the event was connecting with my team on a much deeper level than I expected. As soon as the first person really opened up and shared their story, the rest of us felt more comfortable getting closer with one another. There were emotional parts where we all felt what the storyteller was explaining.


What did you take away from the experience?

Gabi: It’s so important to listen to others and hear about their experiences, especially when they’re different from our own. People come from all different backgrounds and different experiences — understanding and accepting that is so important to form a strong, dependable team.


Were you able to build a bond with your Leadership coach?

Gabi: YES. I absolutely love my leadership coach, Joy Dahlen. She was such a great mentor and helped me realize what my passions are and how I can turn them into a career. I loved how she listened to everything we had to say and truly believed in every single one of us.