As the world shifted in response to the unforeseen circumstances the pandemic presented, students were forced to adapt their summer plans, some even facing internship and program cancellations, Students Rising Above (SRA) sought to offer additional career development opportunities to supplement students’ summer break.
In response to the uncertainties the summer granted, SRA launched the Summer Mentor Program, a unique 6 week professional development opportunity that allows students to connect with and learn from a professional in an industry or role they’re interested in pursuing.
The program connected a total of 41 students from our SOAR and Rising Stars programs with 37 amazing volunteers who represented a wide range of professions and career paths. Over the course of 6 weeks, mentors and mentees met virtually, working through a prepared curriculum covering career development related topics such as “ways to gain relevant experience,” “professionalism,” and “graduate school,” as well as discussing unprompted topics, offering a chance for student’s questions to be answered, and strong relationships to blossom. “I was able to find an ally and receive the support and guidance I needed in terms of my educational/professional career,” Melissa Cervates shared. Melissa, a Rising Star student and Summer Mentor Program participant added, “the relationship I had with my mentor was professional, but I also made a new friendship. We got to know each other and were able to support one another through all the uncertainty of COVID-19.”
The Summer Mentor Program not only provided students an opportunity to gain information and knowledge relating to their career interests, but also afforded a time to practice networking skills as well as stimulate personal and professional growth. Mentors even sparked inspiration amongst mentees. Amina Gillum-Brown, a Rising Star student and mentee shared, “my time in the Summer Mentor Program was really productive and inspiring. I got to dive into many topics such as professionalism and [found] the next steps to get closer to my career path. Mentorship is important because professionals are making a lasting legacy on their young communities following in their footsteps, and students are receiving a positive role model and support to reach their goals.”
This mentorship program extended a sense of what is possible and the potential that lives within all of our students. “As a first generation Latina,” Edith Gonzalez notes, “I will be the first in my family to be a computer engineer, or any type of engineer for that matter. Voy ser la primera, pero no la ultima, I am the first, but not the last.” The SOAR student and mentee of the program admits that, “the road to be the first is filled with so many unknowns, [and] in all honesty, the journey has been scary and lonely.” Edith continues, “the fear of not feeling enough or not doing the best compared to others is a very prevalent feeling for me. This is not new to women in technology.” Through the mentor program though, Edith found comfort and encouragement, sharing, “having my mentor guide me on how to overcome the imposter syndrome and how to advocate for yourself has made all the difference.”
Rising Star and mentee, Jennifer Mendoza reflected, “my favorite part [of the mentor program] was getting to see a glimpse into the life of someone who shared my career goal at one point. It [makes] my journey worthwhile and my dreams more tangible.” She continues, “Mentorship is beyond important for first generation college students because we are, for the most part, figuring everything out as we go. Therefore, to have someone guide you and bring to your attention key elements to being successful is amazing and feels reassuring.”
The importance of mentorship is uncontested and SRA is incredibly fortunate for the hard work and thoughtfulness our volunteers put into their roles as mentors this summer.