Guest Blogger, Crystal Burch, Director of Strategic Partnerships

In my five years with Career Compass of Louisiana, I have learned so much from my mentors, Kacy Edwards and Julie Scott, who co-founded and continue to lead Career Compass. One of the most important lessons I learned from them is echoed in this Bill Gates quote.

“Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning.”  - Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft Corporation

Collaboration has been one of Career Compass’ core values since we began, and we apply it to our work at all levels. In my job as Director of Strategic Partnerships, collaboration is the name of the game. My entire job is about developing new strategic partnerships and strengthening existing ones.

My main goal in any strategic partnership is for the other party to come out of the alliance better than when they entered it. I can’t give away all of my secrets (ha!), but I will share this with you. I’ve found that the key to building a healthy partnership is honest communication about each party’s objectives, expectations, and our respective strengths and areas in need of improvement. We know that our partners appreciate this attitude, and we think that’s why so many have become trusted friends and advisors.

Some people say I’m a natural born salesperson. Truthfully, I’ve never been interested in sales. I’m one of those parents who will opt to pay out of pocket instead of selling candy bars for my children’s fundraisers. (That candy thing never ends well!) That being said, I absolutely love collaborating and partnering to make things better, especially when it comes to things that I’m passionate about. So, I’m not a born salesperson, but I like to think I was destined to be the chief evangelist for Career Compass! 

So what kind of partnerships are we looking for? Let me show you through a few exemplars.

Boo Grigsby Foundation - Local Foundation. We met the Grigsby family almost ten years ago, when the Boo Grigsby Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity, was seeking an organization to administer its growing scholarship program. The family foundation was created in 2007 to provide financial support to charitable organizations that serve the communities of Baton Rouge and the state of Louisiana, as well as national organizations.

Today, the Boo Grigsby Foundation Scholarship Award has transformed the lives of 77 Greater Baton Rouge area students who would not have otherwise followed their dreams to college. The program has produced 31 college graduates, with more graduating every year. The Foundation also funds much of the college and career coaching work we do in East Baton Rouge public schools. 

The Orchard Foundation – Regional Foundation. The Orchard Foundation,  a nonprofit local educational fund and the educational branch of The Rapides Foundation, is our biggest partner and supporter in Central Louisiana. Back in 2012 the Foundation performed a survey with school counselors, and learned that just 15% of their day on average was spent on college and career coaching.

Based on this data, Orchard knew that schools needed some help and contacted us. At the time, just 50% of 12th graders in Central Louisiana were applying to post-secondary educational institutions. Since we began working with the region, an average of 99% of seniors are applying to post-secondary schools!

Dr. Marjorie Taylor, the Executive Director of The Orchard Foundation, says: “We continue to grow our services each year through Career Compass. We are looking forward to another successful year as we work together to unlock the potential of our young people, one door at a time.”

Northwestern State University of Louisiana - Public Four-Year University. The Louisiana post-secondary institutions we work with are major beneficiaries of the work we do. When we drive the submission of college applications, this translates into increased college enrollments.

We’re seeking more post-secondary partners like NSU, who has worked with us since 2013. Not only does NSU and its Foundation invest in college and career coaching services, but they also host trainings for our coaches and invite them to engage in professional development. NSU realizes that the more successful we are at our work, the higher their enrollment numbers can be, and the more prepared students are for success on campus and after graduation.

Dr. Chris Maggio, the present of NSU, says: “We value our partnership with Career Compass and recognize the outstanding work that they do in helping high school students achieve their post-secondary aspirations.”

Bossier Parish Community College – LCTCS Site in Northwest Louisiana: BPCC is a two-year community college located in Northwest Louisiana. It's one of the fastest growing community colleges in the nation, according to Community College Week. BPCC offers associate degree programs, certificates that prepare students directly for the workforce, and continuing education programs.

BPCC has taken our partnership to a new level. The college implemented “Career Compass Day” over the summer to welcome incoming freshmen from Career Compass schools, and even designated a staff member to work directly with our coaches and students. It’s a unique model with proven success.

Dr. Rick Bateman, Jr., BPCC’s chancellor, says of its partnership with us: “BPCC has been engaged with Career Compass since 2011, and the collaboration has been critical to the college’s enrollment growth. Just last year we received over 1,000 applications that were guided through Career Compass. The students enroll at a greater rate than students recruited traditionally, and they are also retained and graduate/transfer at a higher rate. In short, they are great students. On the fiscal side, they also tend to enroll as full-time students, and thus, they make great business sense.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana – Corporation. Early in 2017, Career Compass was privileged to be selected for BCBSLA’s first Community Fellows Pro Bono Partnership program. Through this initiative, which pairs Louisiana nonprofits with BCBSLA professionals, we have been honored to work with a highly trained and experienced duo of communications professionals to develop our 2016-17 annual report. We’ve been impressed by the level of expertise granted to us through this program. More importantly, we’ve gotten to know BCBSLA better through its talented and compassionate employees. The relationships we have built will last a lifetime. We look forward to working with BCBSLA to accomplish its mission - to improve the health and lives of Louisianans – while achieving ours at the same time.

West Baton Rouge Parish Schools – School District Partner. Choosing one school district feels a little like choosing a favorite child because we work with so many exemplary districts. However, West Baton Rouge is definitely one partner that shines. We’ve been working with West Baton Rouge for a decade, and the district takes full advantage of the spectrum of services we offer, starting with junior high/middle school college & career awareness seminars and the offerings we provide for 9th – 12th graders. The district recognizes the importance of early intervention to allow students to begin planning for post-secondary education. When a Career Compass coach goes into a school, she is supported at all levels by the district, from the central office to school leadership, counselors, and educators. We feel a part of the school community and are treated as valued members of it.

Mary Wilson Arrasmith, the Coordinator of Career and Tech Ed for the district says: “We recognize greatness when we see it. The imperative, for us, was to find true advocates for secondary students. These people would have extensive working knowledge of all aspects of planning for transition to college and careers, and what it means to successfully graduate from our system college & career ready. The answer has been Career Compass for the past decade. They have offered us a great amount of flexibility, and have even piloted a service model with us when there were no other resources available from anyone else, at the time. The options they provide for our students are unsurpassed, and the results are evident in student opportunity and growth.”

Call to Action – More Strategic Partnerships!

Earlier this year, we unveiled our 2022 Vision. In case you need a refresher, we charted a vision that by 2022, Career Compass will have a presence in every single parish in the state. Right now, we’re officially in nearly 40 parishes in some capacity, so we have our work cut out for us.  Not only are we aiming for a presence in new places, but we’ll also deepen our footprint in the communities we currently serve.

We believe that every student deserves to sit across from a caring, knowledgeable college & career coach who will help them overcome and steer around any obstacles keeping them from post-secondary success. If you believe that or some variation of that – let’s talk. You’ll find that our enthusiasm for the mission is contagious.

I've been asked how I can be so passionate and dedicated to someone else's dream. It's simple, really. Julie and Kacy have always welcomed passionate people to share in their dream. Career Compass and the aspirations of these hard-working women can only be as big as those who share it. Their dream is my dream... and they welcome it to be yours, too. Together WE are Career Compass.

Contact me at or (318)730-6950 to get started! 

About Crystal: Crystal Burch is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Career Compass of Louisiana, and is based in Pineville, LA. When she’s not applying her makeup in the car as she crisscrosses the state to evangelize about Career Compass, she is wife to Luke, and mom to Tylen, Braylen, and Jordyn. She’s worked with Career Compass since 2012, starting as a college & career coach and regional coordinator in Central Louisiana. She has a master’s degree in school counseling and is a proud alum of Northwestern State University.  In 2016, she was honored by The Town Talk and the Young Professional’s Group as one of Central Louisiana’s “Top 20 Under 40.”