When Etienne Bowie was growing up, he didn't have a role model who could help him prepare for college or explore his career aspirations; in fact, "most of the role models I had growing up were gangsters," he says. Etienne had big dreams of a different life -- one in which he might someday get involved in monetary policy or work for the Federal Reserve. "Ultimately, I would like to become involved in politics so I can find ways to help people who are disadvantaged to live better lives," he explains.
As a first-generation college student like myself, Etienne had no one to guide him through the web of college courses and career options to find the right path.
Then StudentMentor.org matched Etienne with a mentor who helped him apply to schools, figure out which classes to take and prepare for what would be expected of him in those college-level classes. Etienne says, "Though I'm ambitious, I needed someone to tap me on my shoulder and remind me of what my dreams are and what's possible. And that's what I got from my mentor and StudentMentor.org. It's allowed me to control my own destiny." Now an economics major at Foothill Community College in California, Etienne is focused on his education as his way to a new life and believes that StudentMentor.org has paved the way for his success.
StudentMentor.org, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the first-ever national college student mentoring organization and is pioneering a path for thousands of college students like Etienne to reach their goals and fulfill their dreams. By leveraging proprietary web technology, StudentMentor.org provides any college student, from any school or major, the opportunity to find a mentor in their field of interest for free and in real time.
Co-founders Ashkon Jafari and Stephanie Bravo were inspired to launch the organization after having positive mentorships of their own that changed their lives.
Both Stephanie and Ashkon saw that, like them, many of their friends and classmates were faced with numerous career and life questions, but didn't know anyone who could provide answers. Ashkon says, "We saw that there was a huge need, and there was nothing being done to address it. I decided to quit my full-time, well-paying job in finance to launch the organization."
Since launching in September 2010, StudentMentor.org has already attracted more than 1600 participants from across the country. "Our mentors include doctors, lawyers, retired business executives and mid-level workers across a wide range of industries," says Ashkon. Students and mentors have the flexibility of conducting mentorships online or in person, and can choose between a short-term or long-term mentorship.
More than 300 colleges and universities are represented as participants in the program. Many of the students have already reported how the program has positively impacted their lives. Mentee Danielle Albright says that the personal attention, encouragement and advice she has received from her mentor, Joseph Illingworth, has benefited her in many ways. Since she began meeting with Joseph, Danielle feels "more positive about her future, less intimidated and more willing to seek advice from other professionals."
Danielle's mentor, Joseph, has always enjoyed mentoring new employees and interns, so when he discovered StudentMentor.org, he jumped at the chance to give something back. The biggest surprise for Joseph has been that mentoring is "not a one-way transaction with most of the benefits being given to the protégé or mentee."
Joseph explains that "knowing a few people on the inside can open up a whole new world to you. They can help you find the top blogs, professional associations, important business conferences and influential people in that profession. The problem with this vision is that most beginning college students don't yet understand how powerful this experience can be. They are missing some of the key dots needed to connect their career path." Both Danielle and Joseph agree that joining StudentMentor.org is an excellent place to start connecting the dots.
Looking into the future, Ashkon says, "We have been delighted with the impact we've made on the lives of students, and we hope to reach thousands of others like Etienne and Danielle who have big aspirations but just need a mentor who shares their vision and will support them."