Celine and Chanil
About the Pair
In her junior year of high school, Chanil was faced with two major obstacles to realizing her dream of attending Buffalo State College—low SAT scores and the cost of tuition. Chanil’s family and school were supportive as she started the daunting college application process, but she needed more guidance if she were to meet her ambitious goals. As she looked around her, she realized this was a problem shared by many of her classmates. “With advisors, I didn’t get the individual help I needed,” Chanil said. “What if you have no help at all? That’s what leads you to dropping out.”
GETTING SUPPORT: THE MENTORING MATCH
Chanil joined the iMentor’s College Success Program in the fall of her junior year, along with her classmates at the Bronx Academy of Letters, one of iMentor’s 16 school partners in New York City. iMentor partners with schools to enroll entire classes in its programs to develop a mentoring culture where every student benefits from the individualized support of a mentor during their high school career.
Celine and Chanil will work together one-on-one for three years to help Chanil build college-readiness skills, navigate the college application process, and, hopefully, make a successful transition to the college of her choice. Celine, who works in finance, was looking forward to making a long-term commitment to supporting Chanil’s goals for the future.
Both unsure of what to expect, the pair began exchanging weekly emails through iMentor’s online platform, which guided them through a college-readiness curriculum. They started off by discussing Chanil’s aspirations, their common interests, and Celine’s college experience. “After we exchanged a few emails, I felt like I knew her forever,” Chanil said. “We had so many things in common so I knew she was the right match for me.”
Over the next two years, they discussed everything from exams and college essays to Chanil’s prom dress and raising money for a YMCA trip. A busy professional, Celine came to look forward to Chanil’s weekly emails as a welcome break from her hectic schedule. “Getting an email from Chanil is the highlight of my day,” she said.
The pair also met in person at monthly iMentor events, where they researched colleges, developed study strategies for the SATs, and created a college budget. Celine encouraged Chanil to retake the SATs and helped her find free practice tests and study resources. When researching colleges, the pair concentrated on finding schools that fit Chanil’s budget for tuition, housing, and other costs. Chanil appreciated having the support and encouragement she needed to stay on track and on time throughout the process. “Celine helped me with a lot, especially getting prepared for my SATs. A mentor helps you get it done,” Chanil said.
MAKING THE COLLEGE TRANSITION
Celine and Chanil had more hard work ahead of them after graduation. Chanil had been accepted to college but was still waiting to hear from her top-choice school. Then, one day not long after graduation, it happened. “I found out I got into my dream school, Buffalo State, and the first thing I did--I was so thrilled—I called Celine,” Chanil remembers. It wasn’t all good news, however. The financial aid packages were confusing, and Chanil wasn’t sure she could afford Buffalo State. Celine knew what to do: she pulled up their financial aid spreadsheet and helped Chanil make side-by-side comparisons of the aid packages she was offered. When the results were in, Chanil was thrilled to be able to enroll at Buffalo State with confidence that she was making a sound decision for her future.
Now in the third year of their match, Celine and Chanil still email, talk on the phone, and text each other regularly—even though the distance means they can only meet in person a few times a year. They are finding they have even more in common now, as Celine gives Chanil advice on building good relationships with her professors, balancing a tough course load, and making new friends. “This is really the time that she needs me the most.” Celine says. “I’ll be there throughout her college career and after.”
College is going well for Chanil, and she is feeling confident about her future. She finished her first semester with a 3.6 grade point average and was asked to become a teaching assistant next year. Chanil is sure that in three years, she’ll be waving to Celine in the audience at her college graduation. This kind of consistent, personal support is just what Chanil needed to overcome the obstacles so many students face on the road to college success. If it were up to Chanil, more students would get the kind of guidance and advice she received from her Celine. “If more schools had the iMentor program,” she said, “there would be more kids going to college.”