Mentor program helps Bronx students during COVID-19 pandemic
A national nonprofit that serves high school students by matching them with college-educated mentors, is making sure the needs of its students get met during the pandemic.
iMentor, which was founded in 1999, serves more than 10,000 students in New York City, Chicago and the Bay Area and through partnerships with nonprofit organizations that implement its model in 51 schools. Since its inception, 74 percent iMentor students enroll in college, 68 percent will be first generation college students and 36,000 have matched with mentors.
It works with six schools in the Bronx, which is where it has the highest need for mentors.
Thomas Giordano, 25 of Manhattan, has been paired up with Edwin Olvera, 17 of Mott Haven, since September 2019. Olvera, a junior at Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, told the Bronx Times Giordano has helped change his perspective on life.
“At the beginning of our relationship I was telling Thomas I didn’t really know if I wanted to attend college,” Olvera said.
Olvera is on the varsity soccer team and after missing part of last season due to a broken leg, he is worried about the cancellation of his senior season, and the missed opportunity for a sports scholarship. This has further emphasized the importance of a mentor during such unsure times.
As an immigrant with no family members that can provide guidance on the college process, he is grateful he met Giordano.
Giordano, who works in advertising, heard about the program in the summer of 2019 and it stood out to him. The millennial likes helping others so this was a perfect opportunity.
“It really appealed to me,” he recalled. “I really liked the structure of iMentor.”
While the duo only began meeting in February, they have made the most of it. Typically the mentor goes to the school once a month and they get together outside of school, but since COVID began, Giordano and Olvera have connect a few times a week virtually through Zoom, weekly discussion posts, iMessage, texting and FaceTime.
Giordano has stressed to him it’s important to go after what he wants in life but not to rush into it.
“That stuck with me because just because you want to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it right away,” Olvera commented. “Sometimes timing is all that matters.”
Although he is shuttered home, he credits Giordano with helping him feel ready to apply for college. He noted that unlike teachers or his parents, Giordano is not much older than him, making him more relatable.
“A lot of times when adults talk they sugarcoat things,” he said.
While they miss the human interaction, Giordano said so far the mentor-mentee relationship has worked well.
“I feel like we’ve been pretty lucky,” he said. “The school and the city have set him up to virtual learning and we’re using the resources and tools.”