Today, we wanted to highlight Quinton Callahan, one of our amazing Board Members and Community Teachers!
Born and raised in Harrisonburg, VA, Quinton graduated from Broadway High School before finding his way to Virginia Tech.
After gaining his undergraduate degree, Quinton attended the University of Richmond School of Law before moving to Washington, D.C. to begin practicing law. He and his wife lived in the city for seven years, during which they welcomed their first daughter.
In 2014, as the family was about to welcome their second daughter, Quinton and his wife decided to move back home to the Harrisonburg area and he knew he wanted to make community engagement a top priority.
“I worked at the State Department for a while and they had a big motto: ‘When you move to a new place, jump in immediately,’ Quinton said “Because if you wait six months or a year, you’ll never get involved.”
So, upon moving back, he jumped right in.
When they arrived in Harrisonburg, Quinton began his position at Clark & Bradshaw, P.C. where he specializes in business law with a focus in construction and banking.
Quinton also quickly joined the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) board, which he’s still a part of. He said joining this board was a way to utilize his past experience handling children’s issues at the state department level in D.C. During that time, he also served as a guardian ad litem, representing abused and neglected kids in state court.
Quinton said his experience working with children, and his connections with one of our previous Community Teachers, opened the door to serving with us as On the Road.
Quinton first began volunteering with us as a Community Teacher for our “Mock Trial” Career Enrichment Course in 2017.
As a Community Teacher, Quinton teaches about what it’s like to practice law, and our youth get that chance to practice arguing a case in the Rockingham County Courthouse.
“Doing Mock Trial with On the Road was an opportunity to get back to working with the kids one-on-one in the schools,” Quinton explained. “And [while] On the Road is open to everyone, it’s more often than not at-risk kids. So these are kids that need additional support.”
Quinton said he was excited to step into that mentorship role and help our youth think critically and openly about their futures.
Over the last few years, Quinton has also focused on expanding the way we think of our Mock Trial course to focus more broadly on the legal field.
“I’ve kind of changed the curriculum some with Mock Trial from [discussing] what it is to be a lawyer and how you present an argument in court to [focusing on] all of the jobs in the legal community,’” Quinton explained.
“So, there’s a bailiff, there’s a clerk, there’s a legal assistant, there’s a paralegal, there are notaries, there are all these other jobs,” Quinton explained. “So if you like this [field], but you don’t think you’re going to go to law school … you can still be involved in the legal community,”
In addition to showcasing the various professional roles in the legal field, Quinton said he also sees the Mock Trial Career Enrichment as a class on public speaking.
“This is really a public speaking course,” Quinton said. “At the end of the day, it’s getting kids that are very shy to talk to you on the first day of class. And by the end, they’re willing to stand up at that podium with all those people and make … a persuasive argument.”
Reflecting on past semesters, Quinton says seeing youth grow and develop over that 10-week course is truly a rewarding experience.
““The relationships that you build with these kids … it is very rewarding” Quinton said, as he reached over to his bookshelf and grabbed a thank you card from one of our middle school youth, whom he worked with in a past Mock Trial course.
The note read:
“Dear Chief Q,”
“I told them they could call me whatever they wanted, and that’s what they decided to call me,” Quinton explained, laughing.
“Thanks for teaching me how to argue. You showed me how to use the most important stuff to argue a case. I’m so glad that I was in your class. Thank you.”
“You see, that doesn’t say anything about being a lawyer or the legal system,” Quinton said, remembering that this particular youth was shy in the beginning but as the semester progressed, he got to see, firsthand, how the course empowered her to “stand up and make her point and push back when someone challenges her.”
“I have two daughters so empowering little girls to find their voices and be able to stand up [for themselves] … that was a cool experience,” he said.
Quinton said he appreciates how On the Road is thinking deeply about how to support these youth, on multiple levels.
“On the Road is really about putting [youth] on a path for success. And the only way to be successful is to have diversity of exposure,” Quinton said. “And the more kids that can participate and get different experiences, the more likely they are to find their thing.”
“But I think [On the Road] does a great job, not just with Career Enrichment, but in everything else, like teaching [the youth] how to interact with other people” Quinton added. “That’s one of the greatest tools that we can give them—those soft skills to be successful in life.”
Quinton said this was something that he was taught at a young age and has realized to be true throughout his professional career.
“When I was young, one of my dad’s best friends told me, ‘Be a doctor, be a lawyer, be whatever you want to do. But at the end of the day, no matter what job you choose, it’s all about people and your relationships with people,’” Quinton said. “And so you’re not going to be successful unless you’re successful at making relationships.”
“And I think that’s one of the things that On the Road Collaborative does well,” he added. “It gets these kids that have their own cliques in school and kind of destroys that and forces them into a group based on their common interests and makes them work together to accomplish a goal. And that networking piece is something that, ultimately, is what you’re going to be successful with, in whatever your career is.”
“It’s teaching kids at an early level that you need to diversify relationships, you need to build your network. And that it’s ultimately about people,” Quinton explained of our programs. “So, teaching kids to be good humans is the first lesson and I think that On the Road does a really good job of that.”
Quinton said that while it’s clear what On the Road offers our youth, it’s also important to think about what it offers our community as well.
“I think [these programs] inspire people to stay local and be creative,” Quinton said, reflecting on a desire to expose youth not just to college options but to trade opportunities as well—one’s that have a clear and stable path for individuals who want to work as an electrician or a mason, for example.
But to have those opportunities for our youth, people have to be willing to share their time and knowledge, something Quinton hopes more people will do.
“I feel like the only way to keep Harrisonburg “The Friendly City” … is to have people that are involved in giving back,” he said.
And being a Community Teacher is an easy way to do that.
“You can teach them anything when it comes to these Career Enrichment Courses— whatever your interest is, whether it’s your profession or a hobby,” Quinton said. “And if you have something that you care a lot about, the best way to pass it on to somebody is to encourage other kids … or other people to get involved in it.”
Quinton said this tie to the community, where people from outside of the schools get the chance to interact with and teach our youth, is something that makes On the Road truly unique.
“It’s such a unique idea … and not something I had ever really heard,” Quinton said of our programs. “It’s a very holistic approach… and instead of trying to find where the deficiency is and finding a solution for a problem, it’s more about disrupting [the system] and thinking about a different way of approaching it.”
And Quinton said that when we’re thinking about what success means for these youth, that’s really what we need to be demonstrating.
“Being on the road to success is really about new ideas, new ways of thinking,” he said.
As we look toward the future of On the Road, Quinton said he’s excited to think about the ways we can expand and include additional enrichment opportunities for our youth.
Quinton knows that by exposing youth to more opportunities and hands-on experiences—which is our mission at On the Road— we help youth see the various opportunities in front of them, discover what it is they truly want to do, and guide them in taking the first steps to get there.
“We can connect the dots [for these youth] now through On the Road. And the sooner you can get people interested in what they ultimately want to do … and help kids perform better in school … I think the better for all of us,” Quinton said.
“It’s the rising tide that lifts all boats.”