Building Bridges to Success: William Blair Scholarship Supports 25 iMentor CPS Seniors through a $20,000 contribution

iMentor Chicago is proud to announce the incredible support provided by their long-term partner, William Blair, of $20,000 in scholarship funds benefitting 25 students across four Chicago Public Schools. The 25 talented scholarship recipients are seniors in iMentor Chicago’s program at North-Grand High School, Crane Medical Prep, Phoenix STEM Military Academy and Chicago Military Academy – Bronzeville. These scholarships provide financial assistance to these students and serve as a testament to William Blair's commitment to education and community development.

Nancy Bonges, Director of Community Engagement at William Blair, was instrumental in facilitating the partnership and making the scholarship a reality. "We take immense pride in our partnership with iMentor, a Global Community Partner of William Blair, and in their mission of empowering first-generation students to achieve their ambitions. At William Blair, we recognize the profound impact that mentorship and education can have on shaping a brighter future, and our volunteer mentors get to witness this firsthand in the lives of these remarkable William Blair Scholars,” said Bonges. “Our commitment to our Global Community Partners extends beyond catalytic financial support; it is about engaging our employees, forging lasting connections, creating opportunities, and empowering students. Together with iMentor, we are investing in their futures, supporting them to graduate high school, succeed in college and their careers, and ultimately positively impact their communities. We are honored to stand alongside iMentor in making a tangible difference in the lives of these outstanding individuals."

The partnership between iMentor Chicago and William Blair began with an initial investment of $200,000. Spearheaded by Britt Trukenbrod, a managing director and partner at William Blair and Co., the partnership has been a resounding success. Trukenbrod, who also served as a founding member of iMentor Chicago’s Advisory Board, played a pivotal role in establishing the partnership and has been invaluable to the organization's accomplishments.

iMentor Chicago’s Program Implementation Leads including Samantha Rodriguez, Director of Program, Cynthia de la Rosa, Director of Post-Secondary Success, and Christian Moore, Associate Director of Partnerships, helped review more than 150 applications from students. Samantha Rodriguez, speaks to the impact on the scholarship:

“The William Blair Scholarship brought 25 students closer to their postsecondary goals. These funds brought relief to all recipients, as it helped to close the gaps in financial aid for their respective schools. For many of the recipients, they felt like scholarships were unobtainable in terms of applying and then never hearing back. Because of the William Blair Scholarship, Program Managers noticed students having more buy-in to applying for scholarships. They realized, "The money really does exist, and teachers aren't just giving me busy work."

Samantha Rodriguez continues, “The William Blair scholarship helped push students into feeling like the transition into their desired postsecondary institution was possible. It will help iMentor students cover books, classroom supplies, and commuting expenses. It will also help iMentor students start on their path toward becoming future healthcare providers, computer scientists, educators, and cosmetologists.”

The William Blair scholarship not only recognizes academic excellence and helps create a cornerstone partnership, but also gives students a platform to showcase their accomplishments. Our students are at the focal point of our program, and their success is a true indicator or the impact iMentor strives to create. Two students that were recipients of the scholarship are Stephanie Sangabriel Riviera and John Delgado. Both students recently graduated from Phoenix STEM Military Academy. Here are their stories.

Stephanie Sangabriel Riviera

Upon joining iMentor, Stephanie was initially uncertain, having grown accustomed to programs centered around participation. However, her uncertainty was quickly quelled when she encountered her 11th grade program manager – Hilary Bond, known to her as Ms. Bond. Ms. Bond would constantly push her students to be greater and unlock their full potential, she would tell them, “I see potential in you, just keep pushing.” It was through this encouragement that Stephanie became one of the most active members of her class, which helped her see the benefit of the iMentor program. It was through this relationship, and her relationship with her soon to be mentor, that she made the decision to attend Trinity Christian College in the fall of 2023.

Stephanie was matched with Monisha Mundluru, a senior analyst at CME Group. Before this match, Stephanie was lost in the whole college process. She wasn’t sure what FAFSA was and did not have enough information on the variety of colleges to be able to piece together what she wanted to do after high school. However, through her hard work with Monisha, she was able to explore different career pathways. They spent hours taking virtual tours, researching different types of colleges, and envisioning what different career pathways would look like. Monisha made sure to never let Stephanie settle for the bare minimum and made sure she was thriving.

It was through iMentor and the guidance of Monisha and Ms. Bond that Stephanie's passions and aspirations were explored. Led by her own unwavering dedication, Stephanie discovered her interest in computer science. This culminated in a visit to William Blair where Stephanie was able to see what it would be like to work in the computer science field and ask professionals questions about their jobs. She further fell in love with the industry and knew that she wanted to be a part of it.

“iMentor presented me with opportunities to visit companies such as William Blair that were related to computer science. After that visit, I came to the realization that computer science was the path I wanted to take. When I visited these new places, I always looked around the room and realized that most people in the workplace did not look like me,” Stephanie said.. “I know going into computer science that there are many obstacles ahead for me, especially as a Hispanic woman. I was apprehensive but became even more determined to take on the challenge. iMentor has already had a significant impact on me and I am excited to continue with their post-secondary program.”

One of the key factors that has shaped Stephanie’s high school and soon to be post-secondary journey is that she will be a first-generation college student. Being a first-generation college student can be overwhelming, there are less people with shared experiences to guide people down the college process and most of the work can fall onto the student. However, Stephanie finds solace in reflecting on her original goals and dreams. She has a clear vision in mind and has no intentions of settling. She knows there were times she struggled, but she wants to use those struggles to help future generations of first-generation college students, such as her siblings.

“Going to college has been one of my goals since I was a little girl. I would always remember saying that I wanted to take advantage of everything given to me to have that successful career that my parents dreamed of but could not have themselves,” said Stephanie. “This is so I can repay them one day for all the sacrifices they made for me to receive this opportunity. By going to college as a first-generation student, I intend to be the spark of motivation for my two younger brothers to further their education as well.”

To maximize her opportunity, Stephanie has some goals that she has set for herself. The first has to do with her computer science passion – she wants to be able to problem-solve and create new experiences through coding. She wants to open the door for more people like her to fulfill their dreams.

Another one of her goals is to broaden her social connections and gain insights from diverse career paths, fostering collaboration that can contribute shaping her future. She wants to become an expert networker and meet new people. This will also help her challenge herself and break stereotypes while empowering other girls who face societal barriers, proving that as a daughter of immigrants and a woman, she can become just as successful as everyone else.

“I feel college will change me and help me become the better version of myself and who I have always wanted to become. One day, that little girl will look back and tell herself: ‘You did it!’ It is an opportunity not only to gain more but also the opportunity to become someone in life. It will help me accomplish my dreams and in the near future, inspire someone else in theirs.”

John Delgado

John Delgado knew the significance of going to college. As a first-generation college student he knew that a college degree was his ticket for stability for not only himself but his family.

“Going to college means everything to me, it will ensure a better future, not only for me, but also for my family and my future family. I want to ensure that my grandma and my parents sacrifices do not go in vain,” said John. “They gave me everything, even when we had nothing. I want to make sure that they are proud of the sacrifices that they made, and I also want to be a role model to my younger relatives, especially since I would be the first male in my entire family to go to college.”

For John, iMentor has equipped him with key tools and resources, bolstering his academic performance and overall emotional resilience. The support he has received has opened doors to opportunities that would have been much more difficult to achieve.

One such opportunity was the chance to visit William Blair’s office, where he was immersed in the world of AI and programming. This eye-opening experience further solidified his passion for computer science, cementing his determination to pursue a related major and career path in the future.

“iMentor has impacted me in a positive way. It has given me an extra resource to help me both academically and mentally, which has been great. It has also granted me opportunities I otherwise would not have gotten the chance to get like getting to visit the William Blair office and get a lesson on AI and programming, which was very cool since I am planning to study a computer science based major in the future."

Being the first male in his entire family to embark on this educational path, he recognizes the importance of becoming a role model for his younger relatives. As a first-generation college student, John knows he can be the person to have shared experiences with his siblings that can help them with their high school and post-secondary pathways. John wants to inspire and demonstrate that with dedication, perseverance, and access to education, they can break barriers and create a better life for themselves and those who follow. By seizing the opportunity to go to college, John is laying the foundation for a stable future, not just for his own family, but also his sibling’s families.

Although John has dreams of providing for his family and creating a life of stability, he is already far down that path. In the fall of 2023, he will be attending Northwestern University, near Chicago, and will be studying computer science. This is a first step in his journey and one that will provide him with essential skills and networking opportunities to further develop his career aspirations. With Northwestern University as his launching pad, John is prepared to embrace the challenges, seize the opportunities, and create a future that will inevitably provide him with the stability he desires.

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