Rebecca & Jessica

An important tenet of the iMentor program is that we match every student in a grade with a mentor. As our tagline says, we believe every student deserves a champion. Regardless whether a student would ask for a mentor, we match them with one. One student who has certainly benefited from this policy is Jessica who attends Crane Medical Prep High School in Chicago.

Jessica started high school strong. But at the start of her junior year, her grades steeply declined. She began missing school, neglecting her assignments, and skipped her first few iMentor monthly events. Her mentor, Rebecca, consistently logged on to the iMentor platform each week to complete her own iMentor activities, but began to grow discouraged with Jessica's lack of engagement.

"We have about 11 or 12 mentors in my office, and everyone was meeting their students and taking fun selfies," she recalled. "I was feeling a little left out."

When Rebecca and Jessica finally met in December, it was because their program manager, Cynthia De La Rosa, arranged for Rebecca to visit Jessica at school for lunch. That first meeting was pure joy. They hit it off right away, talking and laughing together nonstop. At that meeting, Jessica opened up and revealed that she had gone through some health problems, which is why she kept missing school at the start of the year.

"So I told her," Rebecca explained, "that if you were sick, you can make up that work! You just need to ask, you never know until you ask." It led to a fruitful conversation on self-advocacy skills.

They ended that meeting in high spirits, and rode the wave of excitement about their new friendship all the way through winter break. The pair stayed connected during the break by chatting through iMentor's mobile app. During one conversation, Jessica shared off-handedly that she was considering leaving high school early, or transferring to an alternative high school. It turns out that Jessica had been feeling pressure to leave high school and enter the workforce as quickly as possible, so she could contribute to her family's financial stability.

Unfamiliar with the school transferring process and with what alternative schooling options were available Chicago Public School students, Rebecca reached out to their program manager Cynthia for support. Cynthia gathered as much information as she could after consulting with the school guidance counselor, and sent it all to Rebecca. Armed with both Cynthia's information and her own research, Rebecca went to the next monthly pair event to chat with her mentee face-to-face.

"Right away, I could relate," Rebecca reflected. "I totally understood wanting to help family, I've been there. But I saw this as an opportunity to discuss long-term versus short-term goals."

Jessica is interested in becoming either a phlebotomist (a clinician trained in drawing blood), or a nurse. Knowing this, Rebecca showed up with starting salary estimates and a timeline for achieving both goals. Even though it could take as few as six months to go through a certification course to become a phlebotomist, a nurse can earn more than three times the salary. Jessica left that meeting with a lot to think about, and at the January pair event she shared that she had decided to stay in high school to pursue her post-secondary education.

As a second semester junior, Jessica still has time to decide where she wants to take her career. She and her mentor have explored the option of Jessica working as a phlebotomist while attending nursing school, allowing her to earn an income while pursuing her highest career aspiration.

These conversations would never have happened if not for Rebecca's focused and consistent attention to her mentee's needs and their program manager's ongoing support. Since meeting her mentor, Jessica has learned to advocate for herself and to speak up. She has made up the work she missed when she was sick, and she's setting long-term goals for herself.

Rebecca is excited for Jessica's future. "Oooooh I really hope she goes to college. I hope she finds something she'll enjoy doing, and I hope it challenges her. She's such a smart girl and she has a lot of potential to do great things!"