All in the Family: Ariana and Carla’s Story

One major role that a mentor can play in a mentee’s life is to connect them to their networks and expose them to new opportunities. Ariana and Carla are a pair from iMentor Chicago who demonstrate how far a person can go when they are opened to new possibilities.

Family Ties to Mentorship

Ariana attended high school at the Phoenix Military Academy. Although she is a first-generation college student, she is not the first person in her family to join the iMentor program; her aunt attended the same high school and had a great relationship with her mentor. Ariana was excited to reach her junior year for the chance to be paired with her own mentor.

Carla, a recent transplant to Chicago, first heard about iMentor from her husband Adam, who was searching for a volunteer opportunity that they could do together. Carla previously worked with young people as a voice teacher and enjoyed seeing her students succeed. The couple decided to sign up to be mentors.

A New Attitude About College

Ariana was initially hesitant about applying to college and was thinking about career paths that would allow her to travel the world. The summer before her senior year, she was accepted into a program at Boston University where she would take classes on campus. Unsure of whether she should go, Ariana talked it over with Carla, who encouraged her to take advantage of the program. Ariana returned from Boston her senior year with a completely different mindset, ready to apply college.

“It was this really cool switch to see that something as small as going away for the summer and being around other kids who are as smart as her and as motivated as her, and how much influence that had on her,” Carla says. “Everything changed at that point.”

A Life-Changing Scholarship

Ariana and Carla spent the beginning of senior year diving headfirst into college and scholarship applications. Ariana appreciated that Carla not only helped her with late-night essay writing, but also that she shared her own college perspectives with her. “She would talk to me about her college experience and what she liked about it,” Ariana remembers. “That encouraged me to do the applications because I’m like, ‘I kind of want to do that too.’”

The real life-changing moment came in the form of an application for QuestBridge, a program that offers scholarships through a network of colleges across the country. Ariana knew that she wanted to go to school outside of Chicago and looked to her mentor for guidance on how to turn that dream into a reality. Carla recommended that she apply to QuestBridge and dedicated hours of her time to helping Ariana complete the lengthy application process.

Their hard work paid off – Ariana is now a freshman at Pomona College in California with a full scholarship! Ariana is grateful that Carla not only introduced her to the scholarship opportunity, but led her through it to see her succeed. “I could have done the application [but] the outcome would have been different if I didn’t have her by my side,” Ariana says.

“The doors will open for her”

Ariana and Carla’s bond transcends state lines as the two recently met up at Pomona. “We were both in California, on my college campus. It was crazy to think that we were both there, and she’s still by my side, and she’s been there every step of the way,” Ariana remembers.

Carla has also expanded the circle of mentorship to informally include her husband and one of Ariana’s younger sisters. Over the years, they have all become so familiar that these connections were a natural progression and a testament to their dedication to each other.

Ariana still dreams of world travels, but now looks at them through the lens of educational exploration. As an international relations major, she will study abroad and hopefully practice her budding French skills. In partnership with the Pomona QuestBridge chapter, she is also part of the FLI Scholars Program, which is a mentorship program for first-generation, low-income students.

For Carla, none of Ariana’s ambitions come as a surprise. “One thing she’s proven to me is that whatever she puts her mind to, she’s going to do,” Carla says. “As long as she’s committed to something, I think the doors will open for her.”

We need more mentors like Carla to guide students through high school and into college! Become a mentor today: