NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As part of the Student-Athlete Mentor Program within Vanderbilt soccer, Alex Kerr and her mentor Claire Anderson ‘17 were not content to keep their mentor/mentee relationship within the strict confines of career development. As they absorbed the profound cultural reckoning with racism, they sought to grow – together – in further educating themselves.
As millions of Americans grapple with difficult conversations, this mentorship duo has delved head-first into one particular aspect: racial injustice in criminal justice by reading Just Mercy by civil rights advocate Bryan Stevenson. It is one of several books Anderson and Kerr have on their joint reading list.
“We both are in positions of privilege and it is really important to educate ourselves and engage in the dialogue about how to make this country more equitable on all fronts,” Anderson said.
Though the pair only met in January of 2020, they have orchestrated a strong foundation that allows them to candidly address such sensitive and potentially divisive topics. Building trust – deliberately and incrementally – has been the key for them.
Kerr was admittedly nervous to commence the mentorship, as many mentees often are. She was quickly put at ease when she learned how similar Anderson’s experiences as a Vanderbilt soccer player were similar to her own. She found herself surprised by how strong the challenges and lessons have been.
“The focus of the first few months was on development of the relationship rather than trying to push any specific career agenda,” Anderson said. “The soccer culture at Vanderbilt builds trust through vulnerability and our mentor relationship is no different. That takes time.”
As Kerr moves into her junior season and beyond, career planning will no doubt take greater priority in their conversations which they arrange on a monthly basis for an hour or so.
“(Our relationship will) help me achieve my goals both academically and professionally,” Kerr said. “So far, it has already been extremely helpful – and fun. Down the road once I have graduated and move on to my next chapter I want to give back to Vandy soccer as a mentor as Claire is so graciously doing for me because it’s helped me so much throughout my journey.”
About the Mentor Program
A lasting legacy with the Vanderbilt soccer program beyond a career in black and gold on West End, Commodores past offer their time, expertise and lessons learned to current members of the program to help them navigate their time at Vanderbilt while offering first-hand advice and experience for life after graduation.
Head coach Darren Ambrose on the program: “The mentoring program brings together our alumni and current student-athletes in a one-on-one relationship to provide support and insight from a personal and career perspective. It is an opportunity for those who have previously worn the jersey and walked the path to help the next generation prepare for life after Vanderbilt.”