TBB Leadership Spotlight: Kelly Sanders

  1. What roles have you taken on at TBB? What is your current position?

I am currently the Director of Programs. Previously, I was a Program Leader for Latin America Semester Programs in 2017 and the Global Gap Year in 2018.

  1. What initially drew you to work for TBB?

During the spring of 2017, I was completing my graduate program at the University of Maryland. I was finishing my Master’s in International Education Policy and thought I wanted to go into research and step away from teaching. I realized the part of my work that brought the most joy to my life was mentoring and working with students at my job coordinating programs in Leadership and Service Learning at UMD. I was looking for a way to step outside of formal education, incorporate international experiences, and continue working in a mentoring role with college-aged students. I found TBB and instantly felt a strong connection to the values of the organization. The rest is history!

  1. TBB programs encompass many aspects (homestays, field work, mentorship, language class, seminars, etc). Which have you experienced to be the most impactful for students?

I think the homestay experience is one of the most impactful for students. Students are able to really become part of a new family through an incredible cross cultural experience. It’s an experience that will be completely unique to each student every single time. I’ve watched students enter homes with families they could not communicate with, and by the time we are ready to leave our host community there is an unbreakable bond between students and those families. It’s a remarkable part of our programming.

  1. Describe your funniest moment on a TBB Program.

There was an incident in Costa Rica that still makes me chuckle. My co leader and I were lesson planning for an upcoming seminar. I was sitting on the top bunk typing up our lesson plan and my co leader was sitting on the bottom bunk helping brainstorm. All of a sudden, he went quiet and stopped talking. I looked down from the top bunk and immediately knew what had just occurred. My best friend had just pooped his pants in front of me. He swiftly ran away and we quickly went to the clinic to get medicine for his parasite.

  1. Your strangest habit/hobby/obsession

I have been on a serious hobby hunt since returning from the field. I have been taking a lot of classes in order to figure out what I want my hobby to be. Currently, I have really been into sewing. I had never touched a sewing machine before this summer and had never been able to repair any of my own clothing. I have been able to make a pillow,a tote bag, and hem pants!

  1. Why do you think gap years are important for students?

I think gap years are crucial for this age group because so many students are not sure what they want to do or even what their values are. Gap years give students the space they need to explore who they are–what they like and what they don’t like. Stepping outside of their comfort zones and unplugging from the noise of the world around them can allow students to ignite their passions. I believe that TBB helps create more conscious global citizens that can genuinely make their community a better place when they return from the program. I wish all students were required to take a gap year to better prepare them for their next steps after high school.

  1. Which has been your favorite country to travel to and why?

I have had the privilege to combine my passion for travel with my work. Guatemala has had a special place in my heart for many years. I sold everything I owned and moved to Guatemala City when I was 25 to work as a co-director of a bilingual elementary school. I lived with a family during this period of my life and fell in love with Guatemala. I have been able to return to Guatemala several times with TBB and I have loved sharing it with students.

  1. What would you say to a parent whose child is considering taking a gap year?

Encourage them to take a gap year! It must be the scariest thing in the world to send your child around the world with a couple of strangers. It’s okay to be scared. I applaud you for even thinking about taking the leap. We are here to support you through that. We are in this crazy adventure together.

  1. What is your favorite part of your job?

I love the mentoring aspect of this work. As a program leader, I loved mentoring students during their learning and growth on their gap year. I remain very close with many of my students from LAM and GGY. I am now the Director of Programs and I am learning that I am now a mentor in a new way. I get to mentor and support new program leaders in their role, which can be just as fulfilling as working directly with students.