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BOOST CEO Tia Quinn on Making a Difference

positive change-make a difference

As I walk into the office of BOOST Collaborative I see artwork, inspirational t-shirts, magazines, and vision boards.

I have been interning here for about three weeks now, and I have learned so much about the professional world. Rachel leads me into an open office room, which is freezing cold from the air conditioning. The office has no walls, just windows, creating a cool open space. My mentor Tia and I have worked closely together for the past few weeks, but I am excited to learn more about her past.

Tia Quinn is a passionate professional who created BOOST Collaborative in 2007.  BOOST Collaborative is a purpose driven organization dedicated to creating change within after school programs nationally. Her organization started on her couch and has grown into a beautiful office space in Little Italy in Downtown, San Diego. Sitting down for an interview, you can tell she is passionate for what she does and wants to see change created within after school programs.

HG: Can you start off by telling me how you came to be in the afterschool program field?

TQ: My background educationally speaking is in psychology, however my work experience primarily has been in the afterschool field. I was a counselor for a bit working with high school students, but for the past twenty-two years I’ve worked primarily with after school programs, in Connecticut and California. I’ve done everything from being a site supervisor to a program director. I was the Region 9 Co-Lead working with all the publicly and federally funded afterschool programs in Orange, San Diego, and Imperial counties. I felt that I could make a bigger impact on youth and adults that work with youth if I went out on my own to provide impactful, innovative services.

HG: How did you start BOOST Collaborative?

TQ: So, it started in my living room! I had always done training and consulting on the side for different programs around the country. As that grew I felt like I was able to go out on my own, and start my own company. So I began in my living room, borrowed money from a friend, and started my own company!

HG: That’s so crazy. Look where you are now.

TQ: I know, and I love it. I wouldn’t change it for anything. The work we are able to do as a team and provide for the field, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

HG: Ten years ago, where did you see yourself now?

TQ: Not here! I’ve always loved this work, and in the beginning I just saw it as a job. I never saw it as a career. Even though I loved working with youth, then later on as I shifted into working with educators, I still didn’t see the work as a career. But then I remember I went to my first conference and I met other people who were working in the field, and I was really inspired by the speakers and the workshops and the time to network. I think that was the first time in my adult life that I saw the work that I was doing as a career.

HG: Where did you go to college and what did you study?

TQ: I went to University of Hartford in Connecticut and I studied psychology and sociology, and while I was in college, I started working for an inner-city afterschool program. It was my first experience working with an afterschool program and that’s when I fell in love with the concept of out-of-school time and how we can impact students lives through out-of-school time programs.

HG: What advice would you go back and give your teenage self? Speaking academically and personally.

TQ: My teenage self?! I was always involved in a lot of extracurricular activities like student council, band and sports. I think that those are wonderful opportunities to participate in and really engage in, and although academically I had very high test scores, I had average grades because I wasn’t engaged in the learning process of the classroom. So I think that I would go back and maybe put more effort in my GPA. It wasn’t important to me, and the things that were important to me were actually the extracurricular activities and I felt like I was really more involved and engaged with those things over anything else. Advice I would give to any young person, such as yourself, is just to be open to new possibilities and experiences and have a well-rounded exposure whether it’s through travel or education, it’s really important to be open socially AND academically.

HG: What sort of trainings, programs, and experiences helped you to be prepared for the professional working world?

TQ: I don’t think I’ve ever taken a business class on how to run a business in my life. Like I said my background is in psychology and working with youth and after school programs so that is what I am familiar with. Starting BOOST I jumped into it very blindly. I didn’t know what I was getting into as far as running a company. I’m actually in a program now, an entrepreneur program that teaches me how to run my business and how to grow my business. So I’m doing that after the fact, when maybe I should have done it before. It’s good to network and see how others deal with issues within their companies.

HG: What is your favorite and least favorite part of your job?

TQ: There are so many aspects of our company that I love. I’m really passionate about training educators. I love when I get to travel and incorporate personal experiences into my travel like live music or visiting with friends. Also just being in the room with after school-time educators- that’s what inspires me and helps me grow. Of course my other favorite part is actually the BOOST Conference. Seeing it all come together and seeing people have a good time is amazing. My least favorite part is the day-to-day operations. As the CEO I need to keep my eye on the big picture and the overall vision but sometimes I get caught up in the other little things. It’s a constant learning experience for me to stay focused on what I need to be doing.

HG: You have a very successful company but how do you hope to grow even more in the future?

TQ: Our goal is to be able to create experiences for people in the community. The next project that we are working on, as you know, is the MARS Experience. It’s out of the realm of what BOOST is known for but MARS will introduce an experience with a different audience. The next step with that is to take the systems that we know work well and mirroring that into another audience.

HG: What advice would you give someone my age, who has a lot of ambition, but doesn’t know where to start?

TQ: I would definitely say to travel. I think it’s so important to go to other countries to see different cultures. I think travelling allows you to find out more about yourself and figure out who you want to become in this world. Along with traveling, I think volunteering in your community and giving back are very important to your growth as a person as well.

haley gorman Haley Gorman spent one month at the BOOST Collaborative office as part of an intensive Internship Program in partnership with her school, High Tech High Chula Vista. Tia Quinn is the Founder & CEO of BOOST Collaborative, headquartered in San Diego, CA. 

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