iMentor Employee Spotlight: Jason Batres

iMentor shines a spotlight on Jason Batres, Associate Director of Program on the NYC team.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I'm a native New Yorker from Queens, currently living in the Bronx. My family is from El Salvador. I've been in education for the last ten years since 2014, which is when I graduated from John Jay [College] of Criminal Justice. I started doing peer counseling, and I [thought], I want to work in communities. That's when I landed in education through a nonprofit called City Year. I [taught] a little bit right after in elementary school. After that I've been [working] with high schoolers since 2017 and did a lot of local community service work in the Bronx and New York City area. We even did international work and built schools. [Now] I want to take it to the next level; I want to see what I could do with college advising and mentorship. And that's how I landed here at iMentor for five years.

What is your role at iMentor?

I'm an Associate Director of Programs. Two or three years ago, I took on the fellows project [mentees who become fellows at iMentor]; that's one of my biggest achievements at iMentor. I would meet with the fellows to share best practices and develop them professionally. Everything that they're doing, there is something they're learning, and they can take on to the next job. I'm supporting as much as I can – coaching, guiding, and supervising.

iMentor has several affinity groups for employees. What groups are you a member of? What does it mean for you to be in a group with people who share an identity?

I am proudly part of the LGBTQ+ affinity group. I've always been curious about LGBT presence in education, and how that has an impact on our students. There's not a lot of us always in every space. Are you out? Do your students know that side of you? I know for me, yes – either students might assume, or it comes up in conversation, or sometimes even directly our students identify within our community. I wanted to relate to others in this field that share that part of themselves with students. Twenty years ago, I probably not would not have been out the way I am, but students are very open.

What impact would you say the LGBTQ+ affinity group has had on people at iMentor?

I think definitely different departments getting to know each other; if it wasn't for the affinity group, I don't know [that] we would have spoken to each other. There are things that we [are] personally going through, and we need that support group within work. Sometimes we don't talk about work – we just talk about our lives. That's what's been impactful, especially this year that we're currently in.

June is LGBTQ Pride Month. What does Pride Month mean to you?

I'm still learning about myself every year, every day. I think it's a reflection of how far we've come, especially me; twenty years ago, I was obviously not the same person, and I was lost and confused. And suddenly, here I am, out and proud, and most of my friends identify within the community. It's a time for us to celebrate, let loose, come together, and connect. We all can relate when we were kids and we didn't have the support group. We didn't have educators who were fully out, guiding us. [It’s] reflecting on your own contributions, on how far you've come, and where you want to go.

How do you celebrate Pride? How do you encourage others to celebrate?

This Monday was Queens Pride [Festival]. I'm from Queens, so it's the biggest, most fun for me. We speak many languages, and there's a lot of different foods from different cultures. You also have performances that are playing music from all parts of the world. That's how I love celebrating, how I love showing up for myself and for others and having a good old time.

I definitely want you to find your own way to celebrate who you are, even if it means just showing up for another friend. I always say you [don’t] need to party to have fun. Have that moment with that special person or special group. Go out to dinner. Go to the park. If you feel safe, wear your pride colors too.

Are there any other reflections that you want to share?

I recognize the privilege that I have. I went to El Salvador a couple of months ago. There is an LGBT group, but it’s not as expansive as [in] New York City. Some of the things that I was told were like, “You're so fortunate to live in a city that is so open and embraces who you are, because I sometimes have to go back home and I have to live another life. My family members don't know, or it's not safe. It's very conservative in my town.” I need to remember that in parts of the world, they could only be themselves part of the time. I think people who are coming out right now should understand that you should be patient with different people. They're not going to be out just because. You have to think about your environment, and if it's a country that's not as supportive, it's harder. We're expecting other people to do the same and be proud, but sometimes people can't do that. [These are] things to keep in mind that I want to tell the world.

Check out what iMentor is up to during LGBTQ Pride Month (and all year long) on our Instagram!