Mentor Spotlight: Davendra Brijlall

Davendra’s passion for education stems from his parents and their journey to America. They immigrated to the United States from the Caribbean during the 1980s, and although Davendra’s father already had a college education, employers in the country did not recognize his degree. He struggled to find work that fit his skillset, and it eventually forced him to go back to school, all while raising a family

Seeing his father’s dedication and struggle for a degree really influenced Davendra’s views on education and opportunity. Years later, Davendra has devoted much of his time to mentoring and helping low-income students pursue college.

I’ve mentored with many organizations, but iMentor ultimately got my attention because of its strong focus on college success. Getting prepared and going to college is something many people take for granted, including myself, but it’s not a given for everyone. It’s so important though. A college degree helps people provide for themselves, provide for their families, and even give back to others.

Coming up on his 7th year with iMentor, Davendra has now mentored two students, one currently in college and another with a fresh acceptance. While some might shy away from such a long-term commitment, Davendra openly embraces it. To build trust and a strong relationship between a mentee and mentor, he argues that the years of commitment are necessary.

Between his two mentees, Christian and Michael, Davendra has seen both differences and similarities. Both love basketball, so he made an effort to follow the sport in order to have candid conversations whenever they meet. Moreover, he emphasizes that simply listening is probably the most impactful act he could do for them.

I feel as though people sometimes need to speak to feel comfortable, but listening is actually really powerful. These kids are going through immense challenges, ones that I’ll never understand, but I can listen. I can tell them, ‘I’m here to listen to you.’

Throughout the years, Davendra has seen his mentees grow immensely. He watched Christian go from never talking to asking meaningful questions and attending college. He saw Michael slowly define his goals and apply to undergraduate business programs. And during all this time, he has expanded his own worldview and mindset.

My mentee goes from a full day at school to work at a local bodega, all while providing for his family and preparing for college, and here I am upset about a report not working. [Chuckle] It really puts things into perspective.”

At BlackRock, Davendra is also a huge champion for iMentor and volunteering. In his five years with the company, he has led information sessions and seen BlackRock’s involvement with iMentor grow from 2 or 3 employee volunteers to now almost 50. For his own involvement, he doesn’t anticipate stopping and plans on mentoring again after his current mentor, mentee relationship formally ends.

BlackRock having a social mission is drastically important to me. I do not say that lightly. It goes beyond community service, because our partnership with iMentor is about much more. Our mentors come into the office with a different mindset. It enriches you in such a meaningful way. And [my colleagues] ask me all the time, ‘How could I be a good mentor, I’m not a therapist, I’m not a psychologist…?’ and it’s not about that. If you can listen, if you can have compassion and build empathy, then you innately already have what it takes to be a great mentor.