Ross & Julio

The success of the relationships we build largely rests on our ability to meet students where they are, literally and figuratively. Technology is commonplace in our students' lives. It drives how they connect with their peers and how they relate to the world. For Ross and Julio, the ability to connect on the iMentor platform and through our mobile app has become even more important.

Last fall, Ross's work moved him to Southern California, but he wasn't going to let the distance lessen his commitment to Julio. Ross made the remarkable decision to schedule monthly trips back to Oakland to keep attending their regularly scheduled mentor-mentee pair events at Julio's school, where the pair's career dialogue has only continued to deepen. The online component of iMentor's program has enabled the pair to stay connected between visits.

During the first year of their match, the pair took college and career exploration to a new level. They visited Salesforce, where Ross works, and San Francisco State University, where Julio hopes to enroll.

"My favorite experience was visiting Ross's office" Julio said. "He introduced me to his coworkers, I shadowed him in meetings, we played pool in the breakroom, and we talked about what skills you need to have to fulfill the role you're in."

One of the skills that they discussed was reading. Ross emphasized how much of his work day involves reading, which is something the pair had been talking about. Julio's native language is Spanish, which he speaks at home, and he had shared with Ross that he didn't enjoy reading in English. This was getting in the way of important things, like homework and preparing for standardized tests.

"I told him, 'Reading is like anything; you get better through practice'," Ross said. "Choose something that interests you, and read about that as a way to practice." Julio told Ross he liked action stories, so Ross went to a bookstore and asked for some recommendations. He bought Julio a few novels for young adults, the first books Julio had ever owned.

Ross shared, "At first, we would have conversations, and I wasn't so sure if he was hearing what I had to say. I've had teenagers, so I know how they tend to react to advice. For a few months, Julio never mentioned the books. Then one Friday night, he called me at 10 p.m., and he said 'I read those books you got me. They were really good! Do you have any more?"

"They were teenage adventure mystery novels," Julio said. "I didn't know those even existed. Before Ross, I never had someone to intrigue me into reading more."

Julio's visit to Salesforce was another first, the first time he had been inside an office building.

"I think exposing him to new options and career paths is my main role as his mentor," Ross said. "Julio will not only be the first in his family to go to college; he is also the first to go to high school. I hope I have been able to provide some perspective on why it's important to invest in the hard work now, with the expectations of rewards some years down the road. Of course, the most immediate reward is being accepted to college - and he just received is first acceptance to a four-year school!"

Julio shared, "If I'd never met Ross, I would still be struggling with the Cal State Apply application. He's a good guy, a wise guy. He's serious about his work, and when we have an objective, he likes to get on it right away. I really like how he teaches me and tries to help me."