The Power of the iMentor Community

All of us at iMentor have been reflecting on the role of our work in our current climate. And while there are no easy answers for the challenges we face, we believe it is important for each of us to reflect on the contributions we can make towards building a better place.

Last week, we gathered in New York to celebrate the power of the iMentor community. There are two ideas from that night that we wanted to share with you.

First, our moments of optimism are rooted in the young people we serve, in the generation that is coming next. We are inspired by their idealism and their moral clarity and their sense of urgency. And we are grateful to be part of a community, 10,000 people strong this year, stepping up to support them.

Second, we believe that building authentic relationships across difference—increasing empathy and understanding—is part of the long-term foundation building required to make the place we are in today no longer possible. We believe these relationships have a special role to play in influencing how we see the world and in making issues of equity personal. At a time when relationships across difference are increasingly rare in our society, we are grateful to be part of a community that creates and nurtures these connections. This work has never felt more urgent or more important.

This week, we are asking the people who know our work best to help celebrate the power of our community and the importance of these relationships. Please help us spread the word by commenting on iMentor’s social media posts and tagging someone who has influenced the way you see the world using the hashtag #PowerofRelationships. You can find these posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

I am inspired by what each of you bring to our work. Thank you for everything you do for iMentor.

Speech Excerpt

How incredibly rare is that? That we build meaningful relationships with people whose life experiences are significantly different than our own?

Think about it in your own life.

How many relationships can you count? Someone with a different age, different background, different financial situation, different race. Coming from a truly different place and therefore having an authentically different lens through which they see the world.

I’m not talking about an acquaintance. I am talking about a high stakes relationship. Someone you speak with every week. A relationship which may or may not work, depending on what you bring to it. Where you dedicate yourself to earn that person’s trust and respect. Over years. How rare is that?

I'm grateful to be a part of a community that invests in the rarest of relationships. High stakes relationships with someone who has an authentically different lens. Which gets us back to our original question: When was the last time the way you saw the world was significantly challenged or changed?

We live in a time when relationships across difference are the exception and not the rule. And that matters. It matters because it makes it really hard to move past a vision of the world as we already see it. And getting stuck in this single perspective is a major impediment to moving in the direction of equity. It limits who gets included when we think about “us.”

If we want to get to a better place, a part of the solution is going to need to include broadening the community of people for whom issues of equity are visceral. For the communities iMentor serves, it so often already is. But more of us need to stand alongside them. And we have to feel it in a way moves past just knowing something is wrong. We’ve got to feel that it's wrong. And we need to feel that so viscerally that we actually do something about it.

The space between those two reactions, between knowing it and feeling it, everything that matters is up for grabs in that space. We’ve got to make it personal.

For so many of us who have had the privilege of being in these relationships, it is personal now.

If we want to get to a better place, we have to broaden the definition of who gets included when we think about us. So what is happening in our country is happening to us. All of us. Our kids at the border we may never see again. Our identities denigrated and delegitimized. Our sons shot by the police. Our daughters who are note believed. It is hard but not impossible. It takes intention and effort.

Every single time one of our mentors step off of the sidelines and steps up to one of these relationships, every single time one of our students brings their truth to these relationships—their aspirations and apprehensions and everything in between—that is a truly radical act. It is brave and it is bold and it is inherently optimistic about what we can accomplish together. And when tens of thousands of people a year decide to do this in communities all across the country, that radical act becomes a radical idea.

If you invest in us, this is the work you invest in.

Our work is not the salve for our current situation. It is the long-term foundation building required to make the place we are in today no longer possible. Increasing empathy and understanding. There are no shortcuts for that work. There is no faster way. There’s no way forward where we don’t get into the fray ourselves, to be challenged and to be changed. To forego a little bit of the privilege we have to remain in our comfort, in service of doing something that is right. In service of our personal growth and our collective future. In service of building something better together.