iMentor Launches Collective Response Fund to Support Students in Critical Year

The COVID-19 crisis has upended millions of lives, but for communities of color and families in low-income communities, the pandemic is having a disproportionate and enduring effect. The inequities within our economic, health, education, and justice systems are further amplified by this crisis.

The students that iMentor serves are likely to be the hardest hit by this crisis.

That’s why iMentor has launched the iMentor Collective Response Fund. Support at this critical time will have an outsized impact on our students’ ability to remain on track to achieve their aspirations.

The Challenge

The years in and after high school define the trajectories of all young people, and have never been more challenging. The interrelated impacts of COVID-19, remote schooling, an economic recession, and the struggle for racial justice are converging to create new and pronounced hardships for the students we serve.

iMentor students and communities are:

  • Experiencing the most loss and trauma during the COVID-19 pandemic. 38% of iMentor students report COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their mental well-being. Black people are dying from COVID-19 at 2.4 times the rate of white people in the U.S., according to the COVID Racial Data Tracker.
  • Facing growing economic uncertainty. 43% of our students report at least one parent/guardian has lost their job, been laid off, or been furloughed since March.
  • Navigating a remote schooling environment that further exacerbates achievement gaps. 42% of our students report their ability to complete schoolwork has been negatively impacted since the start of virtual classes.
  • Disproportionately carrying the weight of anger, exhaustion, and trauma that comes from bearing witness to endless examples of racism, violence, police brutality, and anti-blackness.

The year ahead is likely to be one of the most critical years in our students’ lives. They deserve the best supports possible to navigate this moment.

Our Response

We are refining our program and mobilizing thousands of mentors across the country to provide the support our young people deserve during the year ahead.

iMentor will be investing in four areas to meet the unique challenges of the year ahead:

  • Adapting Our Program Design
    iMentor must rapidly redesign its program for our work to thrive in a remote schooling environment, amid a changing higher education landscape, and with significantly more of our students choosing to not go directly to college after high school. Investments include moving all core program functionality to the iMentor mobile app and creating new programming for students pursuing jobs or certificate or gap year programs after high school.
  • Meeting Urgent Student Needs
    Our students and families are facing financial hardship and new risks to mental health and social-emotional well-being. To meet these needs, iMentor is making investments, including small-grant emergency funding for students and families, aggregation and promotion of local supports and resources in each iMentor city, and training for staff and mentors to identify and address urgent student needs.
  • Creating New Mentoring Relationships
    iMentor must create 2,000 new mentoring relationships to meet existing commitments to schools and communities in NYC, Chicago, Bay Area and Baltimore. Our investments include student incentives to keep students on-track and to encourage engagement and participation, new training and support for mentors about how to be effective in this environment, and additional staff support, training, advising, and school liaison work.
  • Advancing Racial Equity
    We will deploy a new set of strategies and supports that ensure all mentors engage deeply in their own anti-racism work and that enable mentor-mentee pairs to engage in healthy and important dialogue about race and racial justice. These investments include a new monthly equity education program for all mentors, a new required training for all mentors to build skills around race dialogue with mentees, and rapid response resources to support pairs through current events that challenge our community.

The choices our students make in the 2020-21 year, and their ability to thrive in school and maintain their well-being amid adversity, will have long-term effects on their life trajectories.

That is why we must step up now. We know the support we can provide this year will have an outsized impact on our students’ ability to remain on track to achieve their aspirations.