Ben & Miguel

It has been said that the difference between an obstacle and an opportunity is your attitude toward it. For iMentor student Miguel, it’s all about opportunity.

Miguel was matched with his mentor, Ben, at the start of his junior year of high school. Ben, who has a background in emerging technology and new media, recalls their initial meeting.

“We were both self-proclaimed geeks, and we connected over our shared interest in video games and digital technology. Over the next three months, I learned how intelligent, considerate, and, above all, how incredibly positive Miguel was. That really struck me. Despite a history of tough challenges and personal setbacks, he was so positive.”

At first, Miguel had no intention of going to college. His dream job was to design video games, but he didn’t view college as a necessary path to get him there. “That’s when I really got excited about working with him to develop a college aspiration,” Ben said.

Instead of simply encouraging Miguel to consider college, Ben focused on giving his mentee tangible opportunities to expand his horizons beyond his home neighborhood of the Bronx. To start, the pair toured the offices of NBCUniversal Studios and Rockstar Games/TakeTwo Interactive, a video game company, where Miguel had the chance to meet and talk to software designers.

“There is no reason Miguel couldn’t work at one of these companies,” Ben explained. “I wanted to make sure he knew those professionals were the same as him at his age; that college was attainable; that it would help him land his dream job; and that he had access to the tools, resources, and personal support to make it happen.”

But it wasn’t until Miguel and Ben visited two college campuses that Miguel opened up to the idea of college. “It was inspiring to see Miguel’s excitement level for college grow and to see him be proactive about taking the necessary steps to get there,” Ben said.

During Miguel’s senior year, he worked closely with his school guidance counselor, iMentor’s program coordinators, and Ben to write college essays, navigate the financial aid process, and submit his applications. “I used to panic and stress about all the college application deadlines,” Miguel said, “but Ben taught me to control those feelings by planning and taking my time to do things right.”

Ultimately, Miguel was accepted to several colleges and chose to attend the New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn (City Tech). With Ben’s help, he also secured a fellowship at Microsoft, learning computer coding and entrepreneurial skills during the summer before his freshman year of college.

As part of the program, Miguel designed and built his own mobile app, which he presented to his peers during an awards ceremony on the last day of the fellowship. His app was so creative and well-designed that it won the Audience Choice Award.

Today, Miguel is thriving in college—taking a full class load and working two part-time jobs. He is eager to continue working with Ben as he earns his college degree.

“I’m so grateful for Ben’s support,” Miguel said. “Now I understand what I need to do in life to reach my goals.”