A Bay Area Teacher Learns from His Mentee

The heart of iMentor’s model and mission is building personal relationships. During these uncertain times, we are compelled to help sustain and bolster these connections. In honor of National Volunteer Week, we are featuring a few of our dedicated mentors. Today, we talk to mentor MG Bertrand in the Bay Area about his connection with his mentee, Edgar.

What inspired you to volunteer as a mentor?

A strong support network is invaluable at any point in our lives and especially critical to success in college!

As an undergraduate, I didn’t make this connection until I had temporarily taken a break from my studies. After coming back, I wrote an honors thesis about equity in dual immersion schools and established my direction. I wanted to pass on what I learned in the process. I also saw two of my best friends, first-generation students keen to make a mark, let go of their college dreams. With these friends in mind, I wanted to be part of the movement for youth empowerment and college access.

Tell me about your mentee.

Confident. Humble. An emotionally connected leader. Edgar is dedicated to bringing his Latinx perspective to technology. His resilience is boundless. During high school, he participated in hackathons. At his first hackathon, he experienced exclusion across race and class lines. He is the kind of person who tries again and never rests.

Despite these obstacles, Edgar sought out another hackathon. His team, which he helped assemble from his high school class, created a program for immigrants to inform themselves about their constitutional rights when encountering ICE agents. The judges awarded them first place in the hackathon. His project attests to his commitment to empower his community.

What is your relationship like, and how has it developed over time?

We shared instant rapport from our first meeting. We were matched as mentor and mentee due to our passion for playing soccer. Like Edgar, I was a midfielder in high school. I had this sense early that he was an energetic collaborator and a cohesive force in a team context. I was right. Our ongoing conversation about his college plans started at iMentor’s planned events and continued during our pair expeditions. I love the fact that he is as excited to see me as I am to see him. I can’t wait to see him blossom as a rapport building leader in college.

How have you and your mentee been navigating the COVID pandemic together?

Currently, we communicate by text on a daily basis. Despite the pandemic, college decisions and financial aid offers are still being sent out. We talk on the phone about his school’s transition to distance learning, and we are planning a Zoom call together during his spring break.

How have you supported your mentee in planning for life after high school?

Edgar and I are building a robust network for him on LinkedIn. Since he received his acceptance letter from UC Berkeley, he has been eager to kick off his career. As a Cal alum, I have loved reaching out to people in my network who can offer him insights and perspectives. He has spoken on the phone with many alumni with first-generation experience, as well as learned about intriguing academic and professional trajectories. It was fantastic to hear from Ángel-Max Guerrero, UC Berkeley's Regional Manager for the Early Academic Outreach Program, and learn that their call went very well. I am impressed with how Edgar takes initiative with any opportunities for growth that I can recommend.

What have you gained from volunteering?

Relationships are based on trust. Edgar and I continue to develop our mentor/mentee bond. Now that I am an elementary school teacher in Oakland, I am proudly connected to my classes. Entering the fifth grade next year, my first class will be graduating from high school in 2028! There are still many years ahead. In the meantime, I have had the opportunity to be part of Edgar’s high school and college journey. My hope is to continue learning from and with him so that in the future I can be a stronger asset to my students when they graduate. I care deeply about them and their families.