Bronson Cole Teaches Empathy to Build a Bright Future in Schools


Jazz Scott

Sophomore Bronson Cole serves as a team leader, teaching empathy to preschool students in AmeriCorps’ Jumpstart program. | Jazz Scott

Bronson Cole is thinking about empathy just like everyone else. In a recent study by Road Map Project, results showed that although graduation rates are rising, nearly 2,000 South King County students leave high school without a diploma every year. Students are falling through the cracks. Over a coffee break with Cole, the difference between Cole and everyone else becomes clear. He is making tangible changes in Seattle preschooling. 

Cole currently serves as a team leader in AmeriCorps’ Jumpstart program through Seattle University’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE). The program’s goal is “to serve preschool children in low-income neighborhoods” by ensuring that “every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed.” For Cole, his motivations go much further. Cole grew up in South Dakota and as a gay man, he wasn’t always treated the best because of his identity. 

“When I started…I made it one of my goals to make sure none of my kids were looked at differently or marginalized for any reason and treated as scholars working toward a bright future,” Cole said.

When it comes to approach, Cole emphasizes teaching empathy to his preschool students. 

“More connection leads to more understanding they will have of others, the world and themselves,” he said. “In order to create more connections, you must be on the students’ level. It takes a combination of being calm, listening and guiding the students.”

As a team leader, Cole describes his role as having a “wider perspective.” There are a few added roles. It entails more oversight of the classroom and preparing corps members in his team to engage with students.

This is Cole’s first year as a team leader and he expresses how he’s already had a challenge in his new role. His team was severely understaffed for the first classroom session. Cole turned it into a positive moment. He explained, “that allowed me to learn how to be adaptable to plans and multitask to make sure that the kids were not suffering from the temporary setback of not having a full team.”

Cole faces challenges on the students’ level too. He later wrote, “When I saw a kid, who at the beginning of the year was aggressive and didn’t show as much empathy as the other kids, start to learn about their emotions and their friends emotions and actually start to share and consider what others are feeling, that is when I knew that my work was important.” 

Cole enjoys the work and finds value in it, although he is currently in school himself. Cole is studying criminal justice, with specialization in forensic science, and minoring in chemistry at Seattle U.

After college, he wants to pursue a career in federal investigation with the FBI but is also considering other options.

He finally wrote, “As a member of Jumpstart I am constantly learning about people and how to best interact with people in positive and rewarding ways and I hope those skills will be able to follow me into my career.”