A nonprofit founded in 1992

Boston Business Journal: BELL rings true for helping children excel in school

By Mary Moore, Reporter - Boston Business Journal

The summer between her sophomore and junior years in college, Tiffany Cooper Gueye responded to a classified ad in a campus newspaper. Building Educated Leaders For Life (BELL) was looking for tutors. The ad read, "Do you believe children can excel?" Gueye did - and does. She is now the executive director of BELL, which provides after-school and summer academic programming in six states for youth who come from homes and schools where poverty rates are high. She recently talked with BBJ reporter Mary Moore.

What's the biggest challenge in eliminating achievement gaps among young students?

It's the out-of-school time that serves to differentiate outcomes. As great as our schools could be, if we send kids home for 10 weeks in the summer, we will continue to see achievement gaps. Some kids will go on family vacations and have well-resourced homes. Some kids will sit in front of TV screens.

Do you see signs that the situation will improve?

We've seen a lot of good movement lately. In the past five years, there's been a move to address summer learning loss.

What's your definition of a good day?

It's a good day is when I'm able to stay on time with my meetings throughout the day and deliver on what I've set out to do for the organization. And certainly it's a great day when I get a call from a funder who wants to support our work. I've gotten calls for as much as $5 million in funding. That's a terrific day.

What have been some obstacles in your career?

I have been fortunate to get leadership opportunities when I was very young and still becoming a seasoned professional. I used to get in my own way a lot and was self-conscious about being so young. I used to have insecurities about it.

What are three things people don't know about you?

I played trombone in elementary and middle school and won awards for it. Also, I love to host gatherings and parties so people think I'm incredibly domestic, but I don't actually like to cook or clean. And in meetings, I like to sit in the same seat all the time.

What are your hobbies?

I love to travel. I've been to 17 countries.

What are your pet peeves?

People constantly being on their devices, especially in meetings. There's a time in place to connect with people who are trying to connect with you on your device, and there's a time and place to connect with people right in front of you.

Who are your mentors?

I have a terrific a board chair - Laurene Sperling. She had an early career in finance and was also a professional mom. She provides incredible guidance, perspective and feedback as it relates to running BELL and being a mom.

What book are you reading?

I love reading Dr. Seuss - "The Lorax." (Gueye has an infant daughter named Norah.)

If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be?

I would have lunch with my daughter in the future and ask her if there's something about her experiences growing up that I could have done better or differently, then I'd do them.