iMentor Chicago Launch Party

iMentor CEO Mike O’Brien was joined by board member Katie Couric and close to 100 education leaders last week to celebrate the launch of iMentor Chicago.

At a kick-off party hosted by Brown Brothers Harriman at the popular Arts Club of Chicago, O’Brien announced plans to match 400 Chicago Public School students with mentors beginning in the fall, with the goal of serving 2,000 by 2018.

“iMentor has been around for the last 15 years, and we’ve figured out three things,” said O’Brien. “How to get thousands of people a year to make long-term commitments to students, how to make mentors effective in their roles, and how to bring our program to schools and serve every student in the school.”

The launch event included a discussion with Couric, O’Brien, and iMentor pair Anna Neverova and Bukky Kayode. Neverova and Kayode told the crowd—which included President of the Chicago Board of Education David Vitale and his wife, Marilyn—about how their relationship developed over a shared experience of being foreign-born college students.

“My parents were very supportive, but they didn’t know what a recommendation letter was or the SAT,” said Neverova. “I had to figure it out by myself. But I also found a mentor in New York City. She gave me wings and she gave me a perspective on what it is to be a great mentor.

“When I met Anna, I felt very much relieved because I had someone who could give me the one-on-one attention that I needed,” added Kayode, a sophomore at Binghamton University. “Anna was able to guide me through the financial aid process, help identify my strengths, and find schools that were a good fit for me.”

Among the recurring themes of the night was the fact that college has become the new finish line for young people looking to take charge of their futures. Yet for many students, specifically those from low-income neighborhoods, the obstacles to success are magnified.

“The data is crystal clear,” Couric summed up. “A college education is the key indicator of economic success and getting a young person on a trajectory toward upward mobility.”

In Chicago , only 14% of ninth graders in public schools can expect to complete a four-year college degree by their mid-twenties. iMentor will be joining an innovative community of schools and nonprofits dedicated to improving these outcomes in Chicago and beyond.

iMentor plans to expand to one new city a year for the next three years, scaling its program just as college success is taking center stage of our nation’s education reform effort.

“We’re starting from scratch in Chicago, and we’ve had to build a base of early believers to help get us off the ground,” O’Brien concluded, “but if we can be successful in Chicago, it’s going to demonstrate that iMentor is a true national solution.”

Chicago, IL
April 30, 2015
Arts Club of Chicago
8:00 PM

Hosting committee

  • Brown Brothers Harriman