Paola and Chanel: Paying It Forward

At iMentor, we have built a community that understands our responsibility to support and uplift one another through difficult times. As the COVID-19 pandemic forces us all to re-order our lives, iMentor will continue to share stories of mentors supporting students on their unique journeys. Some stories—like this one—predate our current reality. We hope you find it an inspiring reminder of the power of relationships.

Paola, 24, has built a career offering the kind of support to first-generation college students that she received from her mentor, Chanel. Paola recently received her Master’s in Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College and remains close to Chanel, who she met eight years ago as a high school junior in the Bronx.

Chanel initially learned about iMentor through her employer, Goldman Sachs. When they met, Paola was planning to attend community college, but Chanel persuaded her to aim higher. “Paola was a great student with endless potential. The only problem was that she wasn’t actively planning for her collegiate future. I pushed her to dream bigger and look broader,” Chanel said.

Paola added more colleges to her list, including Cornell, her dream school. Working on her essay represented another turning point — Paola’s first draft was a recounting of books she had read. Chanel pushed Paola to reveal more of herself: “I realized I was trying to become a person who I thought these admissions counselors would want,” Paola said. “I didn’t inherently see value in myself, or in my community.”

Now the recipient of degrees from Cornell and Columbia, Paola sees her South Bronx-Dominican origins as an undeniable asset, a mindset she credits to Chanel, and one she seeks to develop in her own students.

Check out the 2020 Annual Report for all the latest data about who our students and mentors are, how strong their mentoring relationships are, and how students successfully navigate the college process.