Alumni Profile Cervante Burrell

Cervante Burrell '12 came to Seattle University to play basketball and figure out life after college. Now as the founder of The Unforeseen and dean of students at Sacramento Charter High School, he is making a difference in the lives of hundreds of students.

As a student athlete, Burrell had the advantage of mentors on the court and in the classroom.

“Coach Dollar was all about preparing us for basketball and for life,” he said from his office in Sacramento, “and my advisor Luci Masredjian helped me decide to major in sociology. She showed me how to be a successful student.”

After graduation, Burrell was drafted into the NBA D League and traveled throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas.  He returned home in 2014 to become dean of students for 9th graders at Sacramento Charter High School and the assistant basketball coach. From his experiences as an athlete working with youth in basketball camps and tournaments, he found it easy to connect with teens and mentor them. His academic background in sociology gave him greater understanding in human interactions across cultures, classes, races and genders. 

With more than 400 students in the 9th grade, Burrell regularly meets with parents, counselors, and students to keep students on track to graduate, but his day doesn’t end at 5 o’clock. Burrell is the director of The Unforeseen, a nonprofit organization that acknowledges the achievements of students who have experienced adversity.

“The Unforeseen starts with a full day experience created for high-achieving, high school students who generally go unrecognized for what they’ve accomplished in spite of tremendous adversity,” Burrell said. “We give them a day they will never forget, and after that day, they are given resources, mentors, and scholarships that last several years after high school graduation.”

Burrell has created web episodes of these adventures with the goal of motivating more kids to do well and to “touch students, keep them pushing. That’s what I’m here to do.” 

With t-shirts emblazoned with “SEEN,” the students embark on a day of unforeseen adventures, like   horseback riding or water skiing. They eat at top restaurants. They may meet with the mayor or a professional athlete. Throughout the day, Burrell serves as guide and mentor, bringing in other students to talk about the transition to college and beyond.

“I have a mantra: I want, I grind, I get,” he told one student. “Only with all three can you become the person you want to be and reach your goals.”

Burrell works with a small team of colleagues to enlist community support to make an extraordinary day happen for extraordinary students: “They are such good kids with such high grades, they deserve a reward for all they have accomplished in spite of adversity.”

You can visit website here theunforeseen.org to learn more about The Unforeseen and watch the web episodes. 

Watch the latest episode here.

Published June 14, 2016