National Volunteer Week 2018: Featured Volunteers

Since 1974, National Volunteer Week has been a time for volunteer organizations across the country to come together to celebrate the impact of volunteer service and all that we can accomplish together. The impact from our volunteers at iMentor is real: they are helping to improve the outcomes for our students in New York City, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay Area. We send our heartfelt thanks to each and every volunteer mentor!

During National Volunteer Week, we’re going to recognize the amazing volunteers who take time from their busy lives to support their mentees. We’ll be updating this post with a new Mentor of the Day. Check back every day to learn about someone who is making an impact in their community. We’re lucky to have them all as mentors!

Sunday, April 15
Ola Fadairo has been mentoring Beresford at the Business of Sports School in New York City for three years. They clicked so well at their first meeting that Beresford asked the entire room to stand and applaud their Program Manager, Chris Smith, for making such a great match. The two of them have forged a bond that allows them to engage with each other on many levels. From just clowning around, to dealing with academic struggles, to learning to tie a necktie, Ola has become the older brother that Beresford never had. They’re grateful for each other, and Ola believes that this experience has strengthened his relationship with his own mentors too. They can’t wait for graduation next year, and Ola already has big plans to surprise Beresford!

Monday, April 16

Alex Doolas mentors Lance at Richard T Crane Medical Prep in Chicago. They only met just this past fall, but they’ve already gone on plenty of pair expeditions together. Lance wants to be a doctor, and Alex is a retired surgeon from Rush Hospital in Chicago. Alex has taken Lance back to the hospital a few times so that he can meet former colleagues and learn more about the medical field. This is a perfect example of how mentors can support their mentees as they plan for their careers. Alex is connecting Lance with resources, opening his network, giving him an on-the-ground experience, and offering years of perspective on the medical industry. We’re grateful for Alex, and all the volunteers like him who are supporting their mentees as they prepare for their future careers.

Tuesday, April 17
When iMentor Bay Area launched its inaugural program in Oakland, we looked for volunteers who wanted to give back to their community. Marissa Nakano is from Oakland, had heard of iMentor from friends in New York, and knew that this was the perfect opportunity to support her hometown in a meaningful way. She was matched with Nancy; although they both admit they were nervous when they first met, they quickly overcame their fears the first time they had lunch together. Marissa is excited for Nancy’s future at college and beyond. She shares, “I want her to know that she's really smart…and that she's powerful. I don't want her to ever forget that because it's really easy to be out here in this crazy world and get messages that you're not good enough, or you don't belong here. So I want her to remember, always remember that she's awesome and that she has the power!”

Wednesday, April 18
Nicole Thomas heard about iMentor from her employer, our national corporate partner Citi. She’s volunteered extensively before, saying “I’ve done every New York Cares project at least once, I’ve run the gamut!” but was looking for a long-term commitment where she could build a relationship with someone. Enter her mentee, Fatoumata! Their relationship can be best summed up in Fatoumata’s words. She shares, “Nicole is a genuine person; she’s joyful and you always see her with a smile on her face. She motivates me in school and outside of school, but she doesn’t put me down or try to make me feel bad. It’s always uplifting and that’s what I like the most about her. If I didn’t [have Nicole], I would probably just be discouraged. Junior year is hard, and Nicole is always there to give me advice, to push me to be my best. If it weren’t for her, I probably would have given-up on college by now.” Thank you Nicole, for inspiring Fatoumata and being a mentor!

Thursday, April 19
Jessica Velazquez works for University of Arizona in Tuscon, AZ, so she knows the value of education and the skills needed to excel in college. She volunteers as a mentor2.0 mentor at our partner program, Big Brothers Big Sisters Tuscon. When she was first matched with her mentee, Ana, Ana was a little nervous to meet a stranger. Jessica was patient, supportive, and responsive—all great qualities of a volunteer mentor. As soon as Ana sent her first message using Conversations, our online communication tool that pairs use to chat outside of our curriculum, Jessica responded immediately, proving to Ana that she was ready and enthusiastic about their new relationship. Ana warmed up, and has learned a lot from Jessica. She now speaks up more in school, is steadily improving her academics, and is growing more confident. Ana is a sophomore now, but she’s already looking forward to college. We know Jessica will do everything she can to help get her there!

Friday, April 20
Ola Oladeru is queued up to be a mentor in Chicago this coming fall. He hasn’t been matched yet, but he’s particularly excited to volunteer because he was once an iMentor mentee himself! Ola went to high school in New York City and was matched with his mentor in 2008. To this day they’re still in touch. He told us, “Al and I have a deep friendship. Ten years later, Al is still by far one of the most reliable people in my life. I am constantly calling to run ideas/future plans by him or just to talk, and he is always available.” All his mentor’s advice paid off; Ola now has an MPH from Yale and works as a consultant at Deloitte, one of our corporate partners. Ola shares, “iMentor gave me one of the best gifts of my life – a lifelong mentor. It is time for me to pay it forward and share my experiences with the next generation. I am looking forward to sharing my success and challenges and making a real connection with my mentee. And of course, although I have lived in Chicago for the past three years, I have not gotten a chance to fully explore the city so hope my mentee will help me find the cool spots in town!”

Saturday, April 21
Today is the last day of National Volunteer Week. We’d like to thank every volunteer mentor who has stepped up over the course of the past 19 years to support their students. You are the reason we are able to continue to do this important, challenging, and rewarding work. Thank you! We hope you continue to inspire and be inspired by your mentee. You are all today’s featured volunteers!

For anyone who is not yet a mentor with us, now is the perfect time to start. Join us at mentor orientation in your city: New York City, Chicago, Bay Area