CEO Letter: The Power of the iMentor Community

From iMentor's 2018 annual report.

At iMentor, we work to create a future in which all students have an equitable chance to achieve their highest ambitions.

This year, we came together as a community and empowered 8,000 students on the path to realizing their dreams. I am humbled by the gains we have made and grateful to our supporters for making this work possible.

Since 1999, iMentor has created 30,000 mentoring relationships. From initial conversations in crowded high school cafeterias to visits to local college campuses, our mentors and mentees have spent years together building relationships across difference, learning from each other’s perspectives and experiences, and establishing the trust necessary to support and challenge each other during their most consequential moments.

To illustrate why these relationships are so pivotal, I’d like to share a story about Giselle, a student in the Bay Area who was the first person in her family to attend college.

Giselle had long set her sights on going to a liberal arts college on the East Coast, even though that would mean venturing far from her family in California. Her mentor, Jen, understood Giselle in ways she didn’t expect. Until she met Jen, Giselle didn’t know anyone who was as much of a bookworm as she was; the pair started reading books together for fun. Like Giselle, Jen had been a first-generation college student. Jen was, according to Giselle, “another me.”

During junior year, Jen helped Giselle develop a list of schools and a plan for admission. When Giselle was named a finalist for a prestigious scholarship, Jen read her essays and helped her prep for interviews. Giselle’s hard work paid off: She received an offer of admission and a full scholarship from Lehigh University.

Later that summer, she was on a plane across the country to begin her college dream.

This November, Jen traveled to the East Coast and stopped by Lehigh to catch up with Giselle, who is now a first-year college student. College has expanded Giselle’s horizons, and the pair has discussed how Giselle can enjoy literature classes while also pursuing a newfound interest in a marketing career.

When Jen first decided to volunteer with iMentor, she took the first step in a years-long commitment to a single student. Since that moment, her mentoring has been rooted in simple acts and everyday deeds: showing up, caring, and making an effort to help. The power of our work lies in the accumulation of these simple acts over years—the ones between Jen and Giselle and within the thousands of relationships in iMentor communities across the country this year.

What starts as a first step becomes a truly unique relationship in a young person’s life, a powerful model for schools to support every student on their path to college success, and an all-too-uncommon way for our communities to ensure our next generation of leaders represents the full diversity of talent our country has to offer.

In these pages, you’ll find all the ways that iMentor has had an impact over the the last year. As we look ahead, we are profoundly grateful for your belief in what we can accomplish together.

With gratitude,
Mike O’Brien