Operation Mentorship: Helping America’s Heroes Realize Their Professional Dreams

Michael Roney

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Captain Brandi Hamilton, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force scheduled to retire next spring, has an uncommon civilian career dream that is well on its way to becoming reality, thanks to a special mentor supplied by American Corporate Partners (ACP). This national nonprofit connects transitioning military personnel with business leaders for free, yearlong mentorships.

“Most people retiring from the service tend to go into some type of military contracting work, but I’m interested in entering a creative field: fine art photography,” Hamilton explains. Support for her kind of career transition isn’t as common as it is for vets pursuing more conventional business paths. But after she applied for a mentorship through ACP’s website, Hamilton was put in touch with mentor Kris Kouyaté, an experienced video production pro who for the past 11 years has worked in the Media Services department at Harvard University.

How did Kouyaté get involved? “I had already mentored for some time with Year Up, a program designed to empower and prepare lowincome young adults for professional careers,” she explains. “Although this is a bit different, when I saw an article about ACP mentorship on an internal Harvard employee website, it really resonated with me.”

Reflecting the Dream

Mentor and protégé settled into their productive relationship easily. “Kris and I started talking on the phone and then Skyping,” Hamilton recalls. “I took a trip to Boston, where we had lunch and really connected as I explained to her the nuances of fine art photography. Since then, she has provided great guidance, connections and ideas. Kris reminds me why I’m pursuing this path, and because of her background as a mentor and creative professional, she brings a lot of ideas to the table—new things for me to think about and incorporate into my work.”

Says Kouyaté, “I’m reflecting her dream back to her, while holding her accountable for what it is that she wants to do and supplying the resources that can help.”

“Kris has been focused on my creative goals, and that’s not something that we come across very often in transition assistance, so it is very valuable,” Hamilton adds. “She is my cheerleader. Sometimes when I’m in doubt, she’s there to tell me, ‘Definitely you can do it!’”

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Brandi (left) and Kris at the Harvard Art Museums 
"Kris has been focused on my creative goals, and that's not something that we come across very often in transition assistance, so it is very valuable." - Captain Brandi Hamilton, U.S. Air Force