iMentor at Marble Hill: An Interview with Assistant Principal Wanda Dingman

Wanda Dingman is the Assistant Principal at the Marble Hill School for International Studies, which has been a partner school with iMentor NYC since 2013. She has worked with the Board of Education for 28 years and was instrumental in integrating the iMentor program into Marble Hill. She discusses the impact iMentor has had on the students and school culture.

What was your first impression of iMentor when we came to Marble Hill?

[I thought], How are we going to make this work? Will the teachers be willing to take class time out of this? It's a lot of work. I put a lot of time into it. I meet with the program managers every week. I'm here for every event. We wouldn't continue to do it if it wasn't worth it. If you're going to invest in a program like this, you have to be all hands on deck.

How have you seen iMentor’s impact throughout Marble Hill?

Every student has their person – they have somebody that's rooting for them, that's helping them out. We only have one guidance counselor at the school, and a lot is picked up by the mentors [and] the program managers. The kids feel like “I'm worth it because I have this one person coming, and they are devoting all of their time to me and just me.” That's special. I have kids [who] are not super involved in things, but they come to these events.

I really think the heart of this is finding the right mentor for each kid. We have really good program managers here [who] work on making the match the best that it can be, especially for our population of students with IEPs [Individualized Education Program]. We have one boy [who has autism], and they found a mentor who actually works at a school for students with IEPs. He's really helping him through the college process, finding programs and looking at supports within the schools. [It’s] unbelievable, but he's not an anomaly.

What would you say to other school administrators who are considering iMentor for their school?

I would say, it's totally worth it. Every kid gets a mentor, and you get your program managers. Those are two more adults that are at the school a few days a week for them. You have to totally buy into it. The school has to take a big stake in it to make it really successful.

How is iMentor unique compared to other programs you’ve worked with in the past?

We have students [enrolled] in outside programs like Minds Matter, SEO, and Opportunity Network. In some of these programs, the kids also have a mentor, but it's more [like] academic skills [programs] that the kids do outside of school. So many programs are either geared toward the “uber” students or the student who is really struggling; so few programs are based in the middle. The thing about iMentor is everybody gets [a mentor]. It's more equal, and I like that. It's not geared towards one specific type of student.

It also really builds community within the grade, within the school, and with the outside community, too. The mentors come to our international dinners. They come to our other events. Not only did [students] get to know the occupation of the mentor – they get to know their friends’ mentors. You learn about other people. It's not an organic thing where kids from the Bronx get to meet people from Wall Street; it has to be very coordinated, and iMentor does a good job of doing that.

iMentor needs more volunteer mentors to support our school partners like Marble Hill! Ensure that every student receives a mentor by joining us today: https://imentor.org/get-involved/become-a-mentor