Blog Post

Champions Benefit: Honoring our Mentor Community

Each year, iMentor NYC’s annual Champions Benefit is an incredible celebration of our mentors, our community, and all that we’ve accomplished during the past program year. This year was particularly special because in addition to raising key funds that will go towards supporting 3,600+ more students and mentors next year, we also honored one mentor from each of our partner schools with the Champions Award. These 14 mentors are exemplary in their dedication to their mentees. They went above and beyond the usual expectation for volunteers, and we were thrilled to show our appreciation. Their mentees each had grateful words to share as well. Get to know a few of them below! 

2018 Champions Award winners
All smiles at the 2018 Champions Benefit at the Bowery Hotel in NYC!

The 14 Champions Award Recipients: 

Manish Nair | Antonio Rodriguez | Patricia Lilly | Davendra Brijlall
Maria Perez | Julia Kapoor | Sterling Lambert | Jennifer Paone
Elise Kim | Sean McBride | Cristina Boquin
Michelle Kim | Claire Olsson | Ashley Dieck

Claire Olsson

Claire, who graduated from Columbia and currently works at Mastercard, has consistently gone above and beyond as a volunteer. She's worked with multiple mentees, participated in panel discussions, and always attends every iMentor event we throw. Claire's current mentee, Imani, sings her praises, saying, “There is nobody more deserving of this award than my mentor, Claire. She is nice and funny and brings me Shake Shack all the time. With Claire, I know I have someone in my corner. Claire has inspired me to work harder being that she's able to travel and see the world as her work.” 

Antonio Rodriguez

Right from the start, Antonio and his mentee, Bralyn, shared career aspirations. Bralyn wants to be an NYPD officer, and Antonio already works for New York City, in the Mayor's office. During Bralyn's senior year, Antonio consistently went out of his way to meet his mentee for lunch at school. They used their time to align on graduation timelines, plan for the Regents exams, complete FAFSA, and finish the college application process. With Antonio's encouragement, Bralyn is now attending Bronx Community College and majoring in criminal justice. He's on track to meet his goal of becoming an NYPD officer! He shares that, "Antonio is a positive influence to me. When he says he is going to do something he does it. In the years of him being my mentor, I have accomplished 90% of my goals. I appreciate all he's done for me.” 

Sterling Lambert

Sterling graduated from Duke University and now works at KBS. Before he signed up for iMentor, his mentee, Seymour, was not on track to graduate high school. He struggled academically and wasn't interested in school. But with Sterling's encouragement and consistent support, Seymour has grown into a more engaged student. He has shadowed his mentor at work, using that opportunity to discuss career paths, and improved his academics in school. Now Seymour is planning to attend Guttman Community College in the fall! When describing their relationship, Seymour shares, “Sterling is a great mentor, he has helped me with personal issues and education. I was lucky to be paired up with him because, in all honesty, without his help, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the things I have.” 

Cristina Boquin

Cristina, a volunteer from J.P. Morgan, immediately was able to relate to and bond with her mentee, Nicole. Neither Cristina nor Nicole were born in the United States, so they both learned the ins and outs of the U.S. higher education system together. Cristina dedicated a significant portion of her free time to understanding the detailed intricacies of the New York State graduation requirements, including the Regents examinations. Her hard work paid off, and Nicole graduated on time! She is currently working with Nicole to finalize a comprehensive, long-term plan for Nicole's post-secondary journey from Borough of Manhattan Community College to a 4-year school so she can earn her Bachelor's Degree. Nicole describes their relationship as supportive and Cristina is always there with any school or personal problem she may have.  

Maria Perez Maria comes to iMentor from Pearson. She has been instrumental in helping her mentee, Grethel, adjust to life in the United States. They bonded over similar experiences, like moving to the US and coming from immigrant families. Their relationship truly blossomed when Maria met Grethel's family—they all get along so well together! According to Grethel, "For me, Maria represents not just a mentor but a friend who knows me both inside and out. It’s great to know I not only have someone who supports me with college, jobs, or life, but a true friend who can listen to me without judgement. She has made my transition to this country much easier and I love her for that.” 

We are grateful for these volunteers, and all our 2018 Champions Award winners. Thank you, everyone! If you've been inspired by these mentors, and want to get more involved yourself, join us for mentor orientation in your city soon. If you're already a mentor, reach out to Jamie Novak for more opportunities to support our work.