THE BLOG
09/23/2014 01:09 pm ET Updated Nov 23, 2014

An Interview With AIM Founder: Finding Passion and Purpose After a Felony

To look back at the trajectory Garrett Mintz was on his freshmen year of college, it's hard to see how four years later he not only landed on his feet, but has been running full speed ahead with finishing college and starting a number of organizations built around the service of others. The following is my interview with the college senior and founder of Ambition In Motion, or AIM.

What does AIM do?

AIM helps prepare college students for life after college. Currently, there are two areas of focus. The first is connecting college students of all majors with professionals in their local community for job shadows or informational interviews. The goal of these connections is to engender mentor/mentee relationships between students and local professionals and teach students how to network.

Our other focus is helping international students become more employable in western countries by developing their communication and interpersonal skills. Our goal is to help international students converse comfortably about topics that range from sports to music that are typically talked about in a workplace environment, but do not necessarily involve "business." Our system can help improve international students' communication skills and improve their chances of landing the job they desire.

What do you hope to achieve with AIM?

I founded AIM because I believe that too many college graduates are unemployed, too many college students take additional semesters of college, and too many college students pursue a completely different career than what they went to school for.

Why did you found AIM?

I was a drug dealer from age 15 to age 19. I sold various drugs but mostly marijuana. By the end of my freshman year of college, I was implicated in an undercover operation by the Indiana University Police Department. I was charged with multiple felonies. At the time, I thought that was the worst possible thing that could ever happen to me. The big turning point was when I stopped thinking about me and started thinking about my family, my university, my hometown, my country, my friends, and any other person that knew me. I got in touch with my feelings and felt the impact that my actions must have had on the people that mattered to me most.

I decided to move because everyone I knew up to that point was affiliated with drugs. I landed in St. George, Utah and started a non-profit organization that helped young adults with substance abuse issues. This was not a taxably recognized entity but I worked under the umbrella of a company called At The Crossroads. The owner of At The Crossroads, Brian Virgin, gave me the opportunity to thrive and grow. In Utah, I helped young adults with substance abuse issues by helping them prepare their resumes, perform mock interviews, consult with them educationally and professionally, and then help them get hired in positions that aligned with their passions. I discovered that I love to help people get to a better position in their life. I learned the need for young adults to have mentors and the impact a mentor could have on a young adult, especially if that mentor is a professional in the field of interest to the student.

After a year in Utah, I was re-enrolled at Indiana University, was accepted to the Kelley School of Business, and had my felony charges dropped to a misdemeanor. I instantly wanted to make an impact on students so I started CLEAR (College Lifestyles Excluding Alcohol and Recreational drugs) within the first semester that I got back to Indiana University. CLEAR is a student organization that gives college students alternatives to using and abusing drugs and alcohol. We host fun, free events like dodgeball, capture the flag, ultimate Frisbee, scavenger hunts, and many other events. CLEAR is not religiously affiliated and is open to everyone (even non-students). My sister, Caley Mintz, is now the president of CLEAR.

How did you balance starting three organizations with school work?

It was not easy and I am not a good multi-tasker. I also did not do all three at the same time. I concentrated all of my efforts toward specific daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals for myself. I found that it is significantly easier to accomplish defined goals when I have clearly laid them out. My philosophy is that I would rather have a really ambitious goal and not hit it than set an easy goal and become complacent once that goal is reached. In essence, my goals are never complete and are always evolving.

What was your biggest obstacle?

My biggest obstacle was myself. When I first started thinking of problems that I wanted to solve or areas that I could fix, I would at first think to myself, "Would anybody want this? What if people don't like this? Will I look stupid for doing this?" What I eventually learned is that it doesn't matter what I think somebody may think about what I am doing. Now, my philosophy is that you never know until you ask. I have learned that obstacles tend to diminish if I'm not afraid to ask and put myself out there. Sometimes I receive negative feedback, but more often than not I am pleasantly surprised (I sent a writer for the Huffington Post an arbitrary email and now I am being featured!).

What is the future of AIM?

I'm working on developing AIM into a forum to help students all across the US (and potentially the world) connect with mentors in their communities. My vision is a world where students are more worried about whether a certain career will fit their passions instead of whether or not they will get a job.

I have a dream that all students will have mentors in their field of interest. All great professionals have at least one mentor and that students should begin to create mentor/mentee relationships in college as opposed to after graduation. International students should be just as prepared, on a communication level, as American students when applying for careers in the US. Student athletes should not be at a disadvantage in finding a career that fits them best because of all the time they sacrifice training for their sport. High school students shouldn't decide on where they want to go to college based off of rankings, but rather from the students that are actually attending that university. I know that my goals and dreams are lofty, but this is my vision and I am going to do what I can to achieve my aspirations and hopefully make the world a better place.

Garrett is an incredible example of a young man who not only found his passion in college, but also found opportunity for a new beginning in his felony charge. Many people before him have had the incredible resolve to turn circumstance, adversity, decisions into something positive. I profiled a number of these people for the Keys to Success, 8/e and the Keys to Community College, 7/e, such as Dr. Jeremy Estrada, who went from gang member to cardiologist.

Do you know someone who changed their path or dedicated their lives to the service of others? Share your story in the comments. If you're interested in speaking to Garrett or learning more about his organizations, contact him at garrettmintz92@gmail.com.