For Tyler, a quiet senior at Juan Morel Campos Secondary School in Brooklyn, opening up to new people doesn’t come naturally. That’s why his mentor Eric Berger finds iMentor’s program, which facilitates email communication through a custom platform, so valuable.
“Tyler is an introvert, but he’s very expressive, thoughtful, and self-reflective via email,” Eric explains. “He opens up quite a bit due to the online structure of the program, and iMentor’s program requires mentors to open up as well.”
Eric, a Senior Vice President in Human Resources at Citigroup, was matched with Tyler in October 2012 in iMentor’s College Transition program. Over the past 18 months, the pair has progressed from celebrating shared interests (they both have a penchant for music and the arts) to establishing levels of trust, enthusiasm, and commitment, which are key to a successful mentoring relationship.
Eric is one of about 100 volunteer mentors from Citi, which last week announced a $1 million investment in iMentor through the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative, a three-year, $50 million commitment to connect 100,000 low-income youth in the United States to economic opportunity through the development of workplace skills and leadership experience. As part of the grant award, Citi has pledged to substantially increase its number of employee mentors over the next two years.
Over the course of their mentoring relationships, iMentor pairs engage in a robust program model that includes financial literacy events and college and career exploration programs. Those were particularly relevant to Tyler, who knew he wanted to go to college but didn’t know how to get there—especially how to pay for it. Thankfully, Eric was there to guide him.
With Eric’s support and know-how, Tyler was able to navigate financial aid options, complete the FAFSA application, and create a plan for applying to his first job on campus. They met often to perfect Tyler’s resume and to rehearse mock interview questions.
Tyler, who is the youngest of five, will be the first in his family to go to college and is planning to enroll this fall at St. John’s University—with a generous scholarship from the university in hand. “Tyler sees college as an investment in himself,” Eric says, “and I couldn’t agree more.”
Eric attributes their success not just to the weekly emails, monthly in-person events, and college success curriculum but to the high-touch, personalized support that iMentor staff provides to each of its pairs.
“I’ve volunteered with a number of organizations in the past,” Eric said, “and I’ve never been more supported as a volunteer than I am with iMentor. I had all the support to pick up Tyler mid-stream [in his high school career] and really hit the ground running."