Cisco and PepsiCo Partner with iMentor Chicago to Empower Chicago Students

At times, Chicago has been known as the Tale of Two Cities, but two of the biggest companies in the city, Cisco and PepsiCo, recently opened their doors to Chicago Public School students from the South and West Sides, partnering with iMentor Chicago to ensure students have equitable access to career readiness opportunities to succeed in a changing workforce.

Cisco and PepsiCo hosted career exploration panels for 150 iMentor Chicago high school seniors and their mentors at the Old Post Office in Chicago. The event included career panels in which students had the opportunity to learn about jobs in marketing and business, while also participating in one-to-one resume workshops provided by mentors for their mentees. Throughout the event, students received valuable opportunities to engage with professionals while learning about technology and manufacturing careers.

“When I learned that we were going to Cisco, and that they worked in IT, I was so excited because I want to study computer science,” explains iMentor mentee Stephanie, a senior at Phoenix STEM Military Academy in Chicago. “I was walking with all my friends and saw the computers and their cool workspace, and I was like, ‘I want to work here. This is something I want to be surrounded by.’”

Cisco and PepsiCo stressed the value of innovative thinking and highlighted the talent within Chicago's public high schools, positioning Chicago as a global leader across professional industries such as technology, healthcare, and food manufacturing.

"I was most excited for the students to see what's possible. Every one of them will have different aspirations and career goals. Companies like Cisco want to give students an idea of what they can do after high school and how they can fulfill their own aspirations,” said Manuel Aragon, Director of Strategy & Planning for Cisco. “I want them to feel how we build inclusive communities, how we build a company that is open to all. I want them to feel that it's absolutely possible to have a very fulfilling career in a great company."

The event reflected the excitement around mentorship and career work in the city and highlighted how the corporate community can partner with iMentor, as Cisco and PepsiCo are doing.

“We all believe in the young people of Chicago, and it behooves us to invest in our young people. What’s encouraging is how institutional partners and individual volunteers are raising their hand, time after time, to do the right thing,” said Nina Longino, executive director of iMentor Chicago. “Because we all benefit when young people are able to achieve their ambitions.”

iMentor Chicago serves as a connector between employers and the talented youth in the local community. Through iMentor’s program, high school students cultivate a one-to-one relationship with long-term mentors, an approach that ultimately empowers students to achieve their professional goals and work toward economic mobility.

All young people need guidance as they transition to attending college or taking their first career steps after high school. For more well-resourced students, this support often comes from personal networks of peers and families. iMentor Chicago seeks to ensure that first-generation students and students of color have equitable access to the social capital, skill-building, and career readiness opportunities that will best position them to compete for high-quality jobs.