A Growing Partnership: iMentor & R/GA

The following is a guest blog from our partners at R/GA in New York City. We are grateful for our growing relationship with R/GA and are excited for future collaboration together!

R/GA continually strives to drive world class innovation for our clients by building teams that reflect our global, diverse, and connected customers. This ongoing commitment to building an inclusive atmosphere manifests itself in many forms, from forming internal business resource groups encouraging and empowering employees to drive change, to hosting events promoting diversity and inclusion, and much more.

One ongoing challenge for the advertising and technology industry is that the pool of diverse talent available to hire should be larger. Over the past few years, R/GA has tried to positively influence this in a number of ways, including through external partnerships. One project that we are particularly proud of is our ongoing (and growing) partnership with iMentor, a mentorship focused, not-for-profit started in New York City.

iMentor partners with public high schools in low-income communities, where a majority of the students served are first-generation college graduates. They build mentoring relationships, which empower students to navigate high school, succeed in college, and achieve their ambitions. Since 1999, iMentor has matched more than 20,000 students with mentors. During the 2016-2017 program year, they will serve 8,000 students in 39 public high schools across 19 cities.

iMentor’s program model harnesses the power of long-term, personal relationships to help students succeed. Each year, they recruit thousands of volunteers who commit to mentoring a high school student for at least three years. They are expanding to serve more students in New York, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay Area. They partner with local nonprofits, a host of corporations and foundations, and school districts to make the difference for every student in every school they serve.

Starting with five mentors in 2012, R/GA has grown its program participants to more than 20 in 2016, with more likely being matched in 2017! This is an amazing amount of growth that speaks to the success of the program. R/GA’s iMentor mentors (who represent diverse skill sets such as tech developers, designers, strategists, and public relations professionals) consistently rave about the positive experiences they have. Kumi Tominaga, associate technology director in our New York office, now in her third year of the program and mentoring at the Academy For Software Engineering (AFSE), said “iMentor did a great job matching me to my mentee. We may come from totally different backgrounds, but soon discovered we had many common interests. We've rarely missed our weekly email exchanges, and committed ourselves to meet at almost every monthly event. I’m really proud of my young mentee, who has a passion for learning and already exhibits professionalism beyond her years. I'm really glad I joined iMentor, and enjoy watching my mentee grow and build a positive outlook on applying for college.

R/GA has also participated in panel discussions, showcase events, and recruiting drives to help support iMentor. Their mission of supporting diverse youth, from low-income communities, on their path to college aligns well with R/GA’s mission. Global Chief HR Officer Richard Mellor commented “R/GA’s goal has always been to ensure we support not only our current talent, but the wider community that encourages smart people to join our industry. Some of these students may not be aware of the opportunities available in the world where technology, innovation, and marketing intersect. What better way than pairing amazing aspiring talent from inspirational, groundbreaking schools, with experienced professionals from an inspirational, groundbreaking company? The students are always fantastic, as are the mentors who devote hours over the life of the program, investing their time to support the success of these students.

A strong advocate of this type of ongoing relationship, iMentor NYC Executive Director Max Polaner said “We value the myriad of talents R/GA mentors have shared with our students since 2012. As more and more R/GA employees become mentors, more and more of our students are introduced to the professional world of advertising and technology. We look forward to continuing to grow this mutually beneficial relationship, which enhances R/GA’s diversity initiative and helps rebalance the odds for iMentor students in NYC, so they can have a fair chance at realizing their dreams.”

Primo Lasana, the Associate Director of Corporate Engagement for iMentor - and previously program manager at the Academy For Software Engineering, where owing to the technology focus of the school R/GA has focused much of its efforts, said of the relationship “Over the past several years, iMentor and R/GA have developed a wonderful relationship. R/GA iMentor volunteers bring their passion, energy, and resources to students across New York City public high schools. With the work of R/GA mentors, more students will graduate from high school, go to college, and enter successful careers”.

R/GA is excited to broaden and deepen our partnership with iMentor in the future, and as the need for mentors is constant, we encourage everyone to check out iMentor and get involved!