Why I Coach—Sabrina Elouardi

Sabrina E., an expert Leland coach and Senior Associate at Nike, outlines why she chooses to coach and what it means to her.

Sabrina E.

By Sabrina E.

Posted January 10, 2024

If you take the Blue Line to Wonderland Station, where the sea breeze of the Atlantic meets the smoke of Kelly’s Roast Beef, you’ll find a seaside city that lives just within the shadow of Harvard and MIT: Revere, the inner-city, a deeply impoverished underbelly of greater Boston.

In Revere, dreams and reality are always conflated. Why? The ability to dream is not guaranteed to everyone. At Leland, I aim to rewrite that narrative.

Growing up in Revere—and born to Moroccan, Muslim immigrant parents—the past was a rollercoaster of competing truths trying to come up like fish in water. I had always dreamed of building a connected world, of marrying my cultural identities, of telling the stories of others like me, but those dreams were often silenced. Never American enough for the Americans, never Moroccan enough for the Moroccans, never Muslim enough for the Muslims, and never Western enough for the West, with the damning identity of “poverty” slapped onto it all, my life became a rhythm: a rhythm of inner-city violence, diminishing returns, and numbing anger that translated into a low-performing high-school career and little promise for the future. I was not seen, not heard, not recognized, not wanted. The invisibility was deafening.

In these types of environments, I learned, you have to choose whether to sink down into the shadows, or rise above the fray. I chose the latter.

As an undergrad at Bentley University, I started by observing. In silence. I often took the metro car into Cambridge, just to hear what the students at the neighboring top business schools were talking about. I worked late nights in the underbelly of Harvard and MIT’s innovation lab, and listened to what the MBAs would say after their team meetings. (The way they spoke, what they said, how they thought about things would all form the foundation of my future graduate school essays.) I spent long years balancing at least two-part time jobs to make ends meet, all while imagining a life filled with higher education, where dreams and reality would somehow meet. I share this not to boast, but because this type of thing was simply necessary, as it is for so many in this country.

Fast forward several years. I’m now completing a Masters in Management at IESE Business School. I’ve reconnected with my dream of building a more connected world, via education and technology. I’ve worked my way from Revere, a poor community, and Bentley, and non-target university, to a top business school (IESE) and Harvard Business School’s Summer Venture in Management Program. I’ve trotted the globe from Asia to Europe, worn my heart on my sleeve, and fought to be seen, heard, and recognized. I suppose you could say I’m wanted.

Now that I’m here, of course, all I can think about are all the other people following in my footsteps, who are still unseen, unheard, and unrecognized. Someone has to want them. I’ve therefore started coaching others who, like me, come from underserved communities, but who still nurture dreams of top-rated higher education. I coach undergraduates, graduates, post-graduates, and professionals. I coach because I fundamentally believe that we need to democratize access to higher education; that education can break the cycle of poverty, uplift whole communities, and change the world.

Take the Blue Line to Wonderland Station, and you’ll find that the streets of Revere are far removed from the halls of elite institutions like Harvard and MIT. With hard work, a little luck, and some coaching, an underserved kid from a bad neighborhood can make it just about anywhere.

That’s why I coach.

Interested in working together? Click here for my Leland coaching profile.

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