First-year student, San Jose State University in San Jose, Calif.
Ever since I started middle school, my parents have been telling me to keep going, to further my education. They’re always telling me to go to college and to become successful.
My mentor, Antonio, was really helpful. He helped me a lot with my job applications and with my resume. He gave me plenty of interview techniques. One of the most important things he told me is to not just give the answers to questions, but to share more of your story and show your interest.
What really surprised me was the pair expeditions. It's really a nice thing that Antonio would take me to most of the pair expeditions, which was really fun.
First-year student, Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.
When I was younger, I always wanted to be a doctor, and I became interested in becoming a clinical psychologist after seeing students with emotional challenges. That sparked my passion and drive. I want to start a mental health organization, and that's why I want to major or minor in business in college.
Lynnette, my mentor, was my support system. Not just for academics. But also for times when I felt alone and needed to hear some positive words.
Senior, Chicago Military Academy in Chicago, Ill.
I'm deeply interested in military work and criminal justice. My interest came from family who were enlisted in the military. I’d be the first person in my family to go to college.
I really wasn't interested in iMentor until I heard about the pros—that you get a mentor who would help you apply for college, who would give you his honest opinion on what path he thinks you should go down.
My mentor, Marlon, is intelligent and supportive. He gives a lot of advice and has a sense of humor, too. I told him that I was going to go to the military. He went into the branch of the military that I'm interested in, the U.S. Air Force, and he has a degree in criminal justice.
I feel like we’re the perfect match, and I love the connection we have.
The iMentor community is strong because of the power of us—each of us. Together, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.
Meet Hector, a student, and his mentor Altaf, as iMentor founder John Griffin, CEO Mike O'Brien, and other members of our community show how iMentor grew from the seed of an idea in 1999 into a national movement
Sales administrator, Bloomberg; Mentor with iMentor NYC since 2012
Growing up, I had a tough time in high school. I struggled with my classes and lacked focus. Though my mom was a teacher, as a single parent she was just one person. When I was in college, I was dismissed after the first year but managed to be reinstated. From that point on, I turned my life around.
I became a mentor so that a young person who needs direction, like I did, can have a better chance of fulfilling their potential.
I met my mentee, Jeffry, when he was in ninth grade. Jeffry is a very laid-back, cool kid, and we spent the first year just getting to know each other and building trust. I tried not to be rigid in my expectations that first year. If Jeffry just spoke one word—well, at least I got one word.
Over time, I discovered that Jeffry was into video games, similar to my son, and we both liked movies and Marvel comics. We started talking about his classes, exploring the college process, and making plans for his future. During his senior year, he faced a lot of adversity and I was afraid that he would not be able to graduate high school. But he dealt with those issues head-on, and his determination led to success.
Now, Jeffry is thriving at SUNY Stony Brook. He taught himself C++ this summer and is majoring in computer science and mathematics. He shares practically everything about his academics with me, often before he tells those closest to him.
Through our relationship, Jeffry has taught me the virtue of patience. As a mentor, simply being present for your mentee is as important as anything else. Stick with it and keep showing up, even if your mentee isn’t responding. Your mentees are listening. They will remember your words. They will appreciate that you were there. And they will apply your advice at some point in life.
Senior business analyst, BlackRock; Mentor with iMentor NYC since 2017 and iMentor Black & Latinx Affinity Group Member
I’ve learned that I can make a difference as a mentor. I was always busy and there were so many times I wanted to sign up to volunteer but never went through with it. It doesn't really take that much of your time—just two hours a month to connect face to face with a high school student. And yet, it can make such a huge difference in somebody else's life.
I was born in the Dominican Republic, like my mentee Arllin. We connected right off the bat because of our shared cultural background. Arllin’s made tremendous progress since the first day I met her. She was very shy and didn't speak a lot of English because that was [only] her second full year in the U.S. Last year, I took her to a couple of college fairs at NYU and at Jacob Javits. At NYU they gave out these free SAT prep books that had sample multiple choice tests. I said, take this book and just do 10 questions a day over the summer.
Roll forward to September 2018, I said, wait, where’s the Arllin from last year? She came in, her English had improved so much that when I started speaking in Spanish, she replied to me in English. She had learned so much over the summer, including improved SAT scores. Next year she's going to the New York City College of Technology. It's a four-year school!
Vice President, Business Manager – Technology, Nomura Securities; Mentor with iMentor NYC since 2008
In the spring of 2008, I was introduced to iMentor at an information session at Lehman Brothers. I was completing my part-time MBA at that time and knew that I wanted to do something to give back. I began my first iMentor match that fall with Nelson, a junior at a high school in the Bronx.
My mother is an immigrant from Colombia. Her parents pushed her to never give up and to work hard. As I was going through my undergrad years, she got her degree from Lehman College in her 40s. She then pushed on to get a master's in business communications at Iona College, earning that degree at night. Watching her do all that, how could I not do well in school?
I consider myself very lucky that I had two parents who were very motivating. They pushed me to do well in school and wanted me to go places, but I always joked that when I faced the challenges of success in college or in Corporate America, they would say “Kick down the door,” but the problem I faced was that they didn't know what to do on the other side. That's where my mentors came in—my high school basketball coach, my teachers, the people who guided me when I started interning at Lehman at 18 years old.
Too often, children get motivated and pushed to do well in school, but then they tend to struggle with making that next leap after high school.
How do you perform on the other side of the “door”? That's what I wanted to be for these iMentor students.
Giselle, a Bay Area iMentor student who is now a sophomore at Lehigh University in Lehigh, PA, bonded with her mentor, Jen, over their shared love of reading.
The connection that I have with my mentor, Jen, is really fun. We get to talk about anything—books, TV shows, certain barriers. We had a session where we read We Were Liars by Emily Lockhart for about three weeks. Which I don't think most people do--just read a book for fun.
I had already read the book, but it was just so interesting that I had to let Jen read it. And she was so interested in it as well. She constantly asked me for new book recommendations, because she really likes it. That just shows how similar we are. We also talked about How I Met Your Mother. She watched it way before me. I recently started watching and finished it, and I'm going to talk to her about it.
It could be personal, it could be fun, it could be really deep. We also talk about how we're first- generation college students and how we can overcome certain barriers that are in our communities.
Laura Tichler, a supervising program manager, has served students at Lyons Community School in Brooklyn, NY for the past five years. She explains how she has paired hundreds of students with mentors in this time.
To match students with mentors, I start with iMentor’s “strength of match” algorithm and look for something the two people have in common.
I look for something that can get a student excited and make the mentor feel a little less foreign and strange. I’ll say to the student, “I found a mentor who also had to work throughout high school, and you guys can talk about how hard it is to balance work and school.” Or “You're interested in studying abroad, and I found a mentor who did that in college.”
I've had so many mentors say to me, “How did you possibly find the right student for me?”
My honest take is it has nothing to do with the actual person. It has to do with the attitude of the mentor coming in and being willing to embrace someone they didn't know.
If you have the attitude of being open minded and curious and willing and knowing that you're going to be creating a relationship with somebody across difference, that's what's most important. The actual characteristics and qualities of the individual do not matter.
Alex, who now studies theater at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, first connected with his mentor connected over a shared identity.
When Alex met his mentor, Brett Taylor, in the fall of 2016 at Chicago’s North Grand High School, the two felt a connection and shared stories about their lives. Brett talked about his fiancé using he/him/his pronouns, and Alex told Brett about his high school experience.
The pair did not build their mentoring relationship around their shared sexual orientation, but Alex was immediately comfortable when he learned that his mentor was also gay.
“I knew that he wouldn’t judge me, I knew that he’d be super understanding, and I knew that it was something else that he could help me with,” said Alex, who has since graduated and is now a student studying theater at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.
In addition to discussing college and careers, they’ve talked about their families, internal struggles, and acceptance. Brett shared his experiences of being “out” in high school and college to help Alex navigate similar experiences today.
Brett’s empathy has had a powerful impact on Alex.
“I see Brett, and he’s just doing so amazing in life!” said Alex. “He’s so successful, and it’s great to see because I know I can do that too.”
Together through ups and downs the last four years, Jordan and his mentor Doug Leder say they are more than just mentee and mentor. They are now family.
Carol Ashley, an iMentor Bay Area program manager , shares how mentoring changed her life and how her 11th grade students wow her every day.
As a program manager, I make sure these kids are prepared for what life after high school may bring. This work is near and dear to my heart because I'm a first-generation college graduate, and in high school, I had a mentor who helped me get to graduation.
One day, my mentor brought her mentees over to her house, and we all worked on our college essays. She helped us build out our stories of who we are, why we want to go on to college, and helped us show our best selves through these essays.
I didn't have many people to look to for advice or support in the college application process. My mentor played a crucial part in supporting me—having someone work with me for four hours every weekend in the month of October was key to my getting through the college process.
I went on to major in education at UC Santa Cruz. Education was my beacon.
Our students are so capable of so many things. Last week, we did interview prep with students who were applying for a scholarship. One student asked us, “What outfit should I wear?” Another had created a strategy handbook, a notebook of topics he could talk about during the interview. I saw how prepared and excited and appreciative they were for this opportunity. It really warmed my heart to see the kids thriving in an environment outside of what they know.
The students are undoubtedly the best part of my job. They always surprise me with their resilience. Many of these students have been through a lot in their short 16 or 17 years. Some are providing for their families. Some are foster kids. And I see their outlook and perspective change when they know there's someone supporting them.
Jon Harriman, principal at the International High School at Lafayette in Brooklyn, NY, shares how one mentor had a huge impact on a student.
In her college application essay, Janet, a student at Lionel Wilson Prep in Oakland, Calif., shares how she discovered a love for coding. She is now a first-year student at UCLA.
One day, as I Google searched, I accidentally pressed “inspect.” What appeared were several letters and numbers arranged together in lines. A later search taught me that these symbols were the foundation for all apps and websites. I was fascinated with this other side of technology I never knew existed.
From busted Chromebooks to lack of technology instructors, I never had exposure to coding in high school. Because of my school's limited resources due to forced funding cuts on student activities, I decided to take it upon myself to sign up for Codecademy, to see if I enjoyed learning to code.
While I was coding, I discovered that I appreciated the freedom I had to design a myriad of things. I felt attachment to my coding projects. I took initiative and searched for summer programs where I could meet other individuals who were also interested in coding.
I came across Girls Who Code, a program that strives to involve young girls in technology. For seven weeks at Twitter headquarters, I learned different coding languages and built strong relationships with other young women. Through this program, I improved my public speaking and social skills, and strengthened my ability to succeed as a woman in tech.
Coding led me to an internship this summer at OSIsoft. OSIsoft specializes in simplifying and displaying user data. Being the only Latina and student from Oakland, I had to learn to adapt to a new environment and not let my differences interfere with my learning. While I was at OSIsoft, I got exposure to life at a tech company, and collaborated with a team to build a Raspberry PI powered smart monitor that displays different modules, relaying data from OSIsoft's PI system.
I have been able to adapt to new environments whilst learning how to manage my time efficiently around multiple deadlines. I have always wanted to explore all of my academic interests and not allow my school's limited resources to prevent me from further learning. Now, I know that despite having disadvantages because of my background, I can learn anything and achieve my goals.
Shaquinah Taylor Wright, iMentor’s national director of advising, on the support that makes the biggest difference for students as they're applying to college and when they're in college.
Our students need all the supports. Because so many of our students are first-generation college-goers, their parents feel like they can't help in this process. So part of it is helping students understand where their supports are—who can help with this process, whether it's a cousin who went to college, or peers who are in the same process.
Students need exposure to different career interests and pathways. They need tangible support, like having someone sit down with them, help research colleges, create a list of what they need guidance on, and actually help manage all those steps. To say, “Hey, did you remember to fill out the FAFSA?”
Students need to see that it's a reality for them. The research shows that 95 percent of high school students have post-secondary aspirations, but so many of them are not actually getting there.
This idea of “what do you want to be when you grow up”—we talk about it a lot when students are five and six years old. But by the time they get to high school, somehow their goals have become disconnected from the path that they're on. I want to make sure our students are having those conversations with adults who can encourage them, and also give them real resources to help them with that power.
Mohona graduated from Marble Hill School for International Studies in Bronx, NY in 2019 and is now a first-year student at Wesleyan University. In her college application essay, she shares how she defied cultural expectations and is taking a path to become an engineer.
My father left his life and relatives behind in Bangladesh and decided to move our family to New York for our better education and future. His belief in me gave me the strength to dream.
In my country, Bangladesh, where most girls get married at the age of 13, I dreamed of going to graduate school. Where more than nine out of 10 girls get harassed by men on their way to school, I dreamed to stand alongside men with equal rights and equal respect.
The expectation that I have lived with all my life is that girls are only good for keeping house and focusing on children. The stereotype in Bangladeshi culture is that only boys can become engineers and that haunted me. When I finally shared my interest in becoming an engineer, my uncle said, “Engineering!? That’s for boys. You shouldn’t do that.” It was not the first time my relatives discouraged me from pursuing my dreams.
I began my journey to become an independent girl during the flight from Bangladesh to America, when I suddenly became the caretaker as my parents couldn’t speak English. While growing up as the eldest daughter in a conservative Muslim society, I was considered the treasure of the family. The treasure that always needs to be kept in check, always hidden, always polite and always standing behind the elders.
But it was different in America. Even though the culture I came from still lingers here, my education in the US gave me a chance to break away. It put control of my life in my own hand. When I left Bangladesh, my roots were cut, like a plant torn from the soil. But in my new American school, those roots started growing back, and I thrived, growing branches that never would have been possible in the land where I was born.
I was delighted. Despite three hours commuting daily from school to home and tons of responsibilities towards siblings, high school was still chappan bhog for me, a traditional Bengali plate consisting of 56 different dishes, and I took every opportunity the smorgasbord presented to me. I even created my own opportunities.
I went from the quietest student in the class to a screaming activist leading a crowded protest. I went from a girl who always stands behind her parents to the president of student government. I went from the girl who never went outside alone to the girl who will travel to China next year through the China Exchange Program. I went from the classic Bengali dancer and singer to a researcher at Columbia University.
Due to my diverse interests, I tasted all the 56 dishes in high school, but researching at Columbia University for two summers was like kheer, the best part of the chappan bhog. Kheer is a sweet dish made with rice, milk and a lot of sugar, which I would eat every day for the rest of my life if I could.
Even though I always knew I wanted to become an engineer, I was unsure of the field I wanted to specialize in, but working in the chemical engineering lab and understanding the bigger view of the projects helped me realize how research can contribute to humans’ well-being. These scientific researchers find cures for different diseases and also can provide better health care services. I not only came to love the excitement of learning simply for the sake of knowing something new, but I also came to understand the idea of giving back to the community in exchange for a new sense of life, love, and spirit.
I am the daughter of a man who came from a village in Bangladesh where girls never finish high school, and my dream is to be the woman who helps create affordable cures for the diseases that destroy lives and families in that village and villages like it around the world.
Antonio Cancio, a Siri software engineer at Apple, toured colleges with his mentee, Rein, offered support throughout the application process, and even got in touch with the computer science department at Rein’s top choice school.
I wasn't all that different from Rein when I was in high school. I tried to tell him stories about how I did things and how well they worked out for me. A lot of times, he was like, ‘Wow, really? That's all you need to do?’ Or ‘You didn't get straight A’s and you were still able to achieve that?’ I wanted to make sure he knew that the things he wanted to achieve weren't impossible with where he was.
I showed Rein where he needed to look for information about college, so he could make educated choices about where to apply, what programs to apply for, and know all the costs and the grades that he needs. I was in frequent communication with him to see how he was doing and answer any question that he may have had but maybe didn't want to ask.
Also, I showed him where I'm at now in my career at Apple. He already loves Apple, so I try to bring him to work, open him to new experiences, and show him what it's like to work at a place he really admires. I took him to a tour of the Apple store and the manager told him what it was like to work there. He got really excited! He met all of my teammates, who always ask about him.
Joshua graduated from Phoenix Military Academy in Chicago, Ill. in 2019 and is now a first-year student at Western Illinois University. In his college application essay, he shares how watching President Barack Obama’s inauguration inspired him.
At the age of eight, I watched the first Black president being sworn into office. The campaign race for president was watched by many because it was between the now former President Obama and the late Senator John McCain. After the inauguration followed the parade from the United States Capitol to the White House.
I watched with excitement with my mother and I asked, “Who are the men walking next to the presidential limousine?” She explained they were the president’s bodyguards, also known as the Secret Service.
I was astonished to see the agents protecting the most powerful man in the world. As I continued to watch the parade, President Obama had reached the White House and entered the viewing stand with his family and colleagues for the next four years. The military men marched in formation giving respect to the president by saluting. This led to a sea of more questions that my mom had to answer.
A wave of curiosity took over and I dove my nose into books and websites to learn more. With each wave of information I pored over, I grew more and more convinced that I wanted to be a “military man, a politician, or a law enforcement officer.” I saw history being made at the age of eight and it was a pivotal moment that shaped who I am today.
Seeing someone who “looked like me” being so influential in American politics also spurred my interest and desire to involve myself in public service and drove me to enroll at Phoenix Military Academy.
Enrolling at Phoenix changed everything about me, from the way I walked to the way I think. Going to an academy of this nature is more than keeping a high academic standard; you have to follow the military uniform regulation, arrive to drill and formation at 6 a.m. every day, and address every adult with manners and a proper greeting. I didn’t learn how to meet these standards overnight; I took the time to observe upperclassmen, I adjusted my lifestyle to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to make it to school by 6, and I purposely stepped out of my comfort zone to expose myself to experiences that would teach me how to lead.
I distinctly recall my experience as a Color Guard Commander freshmen year where I developed as a leader. I learned to not be afraid, to command respect and grab the attention of the room. These transferable skills will help me on a military base, in the senate, or house chambers.
This is not just a personal statement – this is an action plan. I’m working towards a goal to make it to politics in Washington, DC. To live up to President Obama’s legacy or become one of the men that protect great politicians like President Obama. He gave the lower and middle class a voice, he fought for legislation that the American people have been asking for for years, and he delivered.
I am going to study political science and law enforcement to make sure I achieve my goals. I’m glad that I witnessed President Obama on TV at the age of eight, otherwise the impact would not have been the same if it was another white man running for office. I will continue working towards my title as Agent Joshua Smith US Secret Service, as well as US Senator or Congressman.
All of Miah's friends had gotten into college, but she was still eagerly awaiting news. With the support of her iMentor Program Manager and her mentor, Miah began proactively reaching out to schools for updates on her admission status. Watch what happened.
Daisy, a student at Phoenix Military Academy in Chicago, found both a cheerleader and a guide to the college process in her mentor, Sam Lovett. Daisy is now a first-year student at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
When there was a deadline of October 31, my mentor, Sam, messaged me the night of and the night before.
She said, “If you need anything, I'm always a text away, a call away. I'm not busy right now. You can message me. I'll get in touch with you later to see how things are going.” And I just thought, 'Wow, she's giving me a bunch of her time.” That was really cool.
"Sam always made sure that I updated my iMentor college list, and she recommended colleges to me. For example, I wasn't really considering Loyola as much, but the more Sam talked about it, since she attended Loyola, the more I became interested in the school. We met up almost every other week at different coffee shops to share a hot drink while we talked about colleges. I thought it would bother my mom that I was going out a lot during that time, but on the contrary, she was very proud of me and grateful that I had someone like Sam, who invested more than she needed to in me. "
Sam made this whole Google Doc of notes, and she put down every single school I was interested in, what their requirements were for applying, if I needed a personal statement, if I need extra essays, or if they had my major. And she told me straight up, “Well, I know that you're interested in this school, but it doesn't have your major. So, let's see if we can maybe move that school to the last one you apply to.”
Having a mentor really de-stresses the application process. A mentor becomes someone that you don't just rely on, but is also your friend.
Chris, a student at Crane Medical Preparatory High School in Chicago, will attend Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. this fall. His mentor, Jon, gave Chris this shirt to celebrate Chris’s commitment to Bradley. Chris is excited about Bradley because the school has one of the top 50 game design programs in the country. Jon has been helpful in considering the challenges and changes that college will bring. The hardest thing about choosing a school, said Chris, was determining cost and distance away from home.
Leovia from James Lick High School in San Jose, Calif. will attend Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif. She was admitted by schools including Sacramento State University and San Jose State University. Leovia, pictured here with her mentor Djuna, is excited because she will be the first one in her family to go to college and plans to pave the way for others in her family. Leovia wants to study kinesiology.
Nyasia has known she wanted to become a pastry chef since she was in junior high, baking by her grandmother’s side. Nyasia set her sights on a top culinary college – and was well on her way when she encountered a significant setback. Watch what happens when her tenacious mentor Trina and her loving family join forces—backed by the iMentor program—to ensure Nyasia accesses the opportunity she deserves.
Mentor Lynnette McRae on why she’s proud to know her mentee, Alaysia.
I'm just so proud of how Alaysia has really come out of her shell. She gradually got to the point where she's more comfortable using her voice, advocating for herself, and in the most literal sense, pushed herself to do things like enter into her high school talent show and sing and perform. She writes a lot of poetry but had never shared that with other people, so she did that, too, in a school performance. I've been so proud to see her challenge herself.
I'm so glad that we were somehow magically paired together and I've learned so much from Alaysia. From her outlook, her desire to pursue the things that she wants and work on overcoming the obstacles in her life—both the things that she can't control as well as things she can. She’s been a huge inspiration to me and I'm really proud to know her.
We all know adolescence is a wild and crazy time. To be there and to witness Alaysia’s growth, her maturity, to build that relationship with her, not just as a mentor but as someone who wants to continue to support her through her career and her education and beyond. I know this relationship won't end after graduation.
Camila, who graduated from Bronx Leadership Academy II in 2019, thanks her mentor.
Berna is my mentor and she supported me through my toughest challenges in high school, including passing my geometry regents. She gave me confidence, telling me that no matter how many times I failed, I shouldn’t give up and there are still plenty of ways I can achieve my goal.
Thank you so much for all the effort, the trips you made to get to me, the time you took to talk to me, all the support to push me to do my best.
These four years with you have been the best, and I hope there’s more to come—all those fun activities we did together were awesome. I’m glad I got to meet a person like you and I just hope that when eventually we stop meeting, or if the program ends, you’ll still remember me, because I’m definitely always going to keep you in mind. Apart from all the help I got from my teachers, you were also there, and I appreciate that so much. Thank you so much.
Addressing the graduating class of 2019 at the International High School of Lafayette in Brooklyn, NY, Claytoya Tugwell, associate director in iMentor’s Post-Secondary Success Program, encouraged students to own their future. The following is an excerpt.
When you graduate and you leave this place, the world is going to begin to tell you new things about who they think you are and what you cannot be. Even with all the success, at times, you are going to be disappointed, discouraged, and even enraged by the lack of compassion, support, respect and love you receive from people who are supposed to lift you up and help you make a way for yourself and your family.
Whenever you are feeling alone and overwhelmed, any time you feel like the academic pressure is too great and the financial burden is too high, I want you to remember these two things:
Number 1. You are the author of your own destiny and you have the power to be your own advocate. Beyond the ugly politics on immigration in this country, you will thrive because everything in your family culture and community history has made you strong, special, resilient, and unstoppable. Your personal story, your native traditions, your passion, your work ethic, and your intellect are your greatest gifts to any college classroom and any workplace – the reason America has been great and will continue to be great again and again and again for generations to come. Make new friends, be open to new experiences, don’t worry about being perfect, just focus on becoming excellent at the things you care the most about. With a smart plan, you can do anything you dream of.
Number 2. You are not alone. You are a part of one of the biggest and baddest families in all of New York City—iMentor is rolling 10,000+ staff members, mentees, and mentors deep, and we will always be by your side, ready to collaborate with you, advocate for you, and make professional connections for you and your family.
Now, my bold, brilliant, and beautiful, students, the time has come for you to own your future like it’s your birthday. Walk into your own success without asking for permission or waiting for others to welcome you. For in the words of the great French West Indian political philosopher, Ibrahim Frantz Fanon: “I should constantly remind myself that the real leap consists in introducing invention into existence. In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.”
To the class of 2019, you are amazing and you will change the world! iMentor loves you and wishes you all the best in your future endeavors. Congratulations!
Joe Mastrolia has been Danny's mentor since Danny was a freshman in high school. In this audio slideshow, Danny reads the letter he wrote to Joe just before heading off to college.
After a major achievement, Hamlet can’t wait to start his career.
When Hamlet crossed the stage at graduation this May at Niagara University in Niagara County, NY, he became the first in his family to graduate from college.
“I have a younger sister, and I can see she wants to go to college too. My parents are really proud of me, and I’m so grateful for this opportunity,” said Hamlet, who now holds a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism.
“In my neighborhood, my options were either to go to college or be in the streets,” said Hamlet. “I told Paul, ‘I don’t want to live that life. I want to go to school.’”
Paul Diamond is Hamlet’s mentor. According to Hamlet, he’s also “the most cool person ever.” The two met six years ago through iMentor NYC when Hamlet was a junior at the International High School at Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, NY, and they still talk regularly. Sports is one topic that comes up a fair amount, since Hamlet is a Yankees fan and Paul roots for the Mets.
“Paul helped me by telling his story – what he did in college,” said Hamlet. “He told me about clubs, about opportunity programs. He was always a resource whenever I had a question. He taught me about getting a bachelor’s degree from a private university. He taught me about going away – you have to do your own laundry. He told me about loans for college.”
It wasn’t long before the two were going to baseball and basketball games together. Paul introduced Hamlet to his family, and also helped Hamlet get a summer job with a contractor working on renovations in his building. The contractor, said Paul, praised Hamlet for being a great leader and a hard worker.
When it was time to decide on a college, Hamlet chose Niagara because of its opportunity program and the financial aid package he received.
College brought unexpected challenges. During his first semester, Hamlet struggled with the freedoms and responsibilities of being on his own. “Paul would guide me about how to spend my money wisely, how to manage my time, how to be organized. He told me to get a planner to stay organized. Little things like that,” said Hamlet.
By the time it was sophomore year, Hamlet had improved his focus and gained a better sense of his priorities. He earned a spot on the dean’s list twice. He pursued an interest in hospitality through his major, and lately he has begun exploring finance careers within the hospitality industry. “I want to get my foot in the door and start my career,” said Hamlet.
“Hamlet’s become part of my family,” said Paul. “I really care about him. Once he gets out in the business world, hopefully I can help him. I think with his personality, he’s going to excel.”
When Yvonne met her mentor, Crystal, 10 years ago, she never would have guessed that Crystal would become such an important part of her life.